Friday, July 31, 2009

Bribery Cannot Be Justified

When society practises bribery without even feeling guilty about it and a government does little to stop its decay we have reasons to worry how as a nation we have degenerated . Worst, when we treat corruption as a necessary evil that is untouchable by the laws, especially to the powerful and the rich. The survey as reported HERE is not surprising. In fact I am surprised the percentage is not higher given the view that honest citizens are actually discouraged from doing what is right by making it easier to do what is wrong. For example if you refuses to bribe a policeman who stops you on flimsy excuses that you have commit a traffic offence that you cannot prove you hadn't, the system requires you to prove your innocence and that will take up a enormous amount of time and effort. And maybe direct and unashamed offers to 'selesai' (settle) the case. A typical person will just want to bypass this incident and palming money to the officer is the easiest way to have him overlook the event ever occurred. The law does not severely punish law enforcers from breaking laws. The country has yet to instal video recordings of police investigations to document proofs of procedurally correct handling of violations. And the police fraternity actually protects each other from becoming prosecuted by manipulating with or even fabricating evidence. It has become an art in itself. This encourage many police personnel join the bandwagon and create opportunities to hound the unfortunate public to settle the cases through bribery. The public soon think this is the norm of getting things done, and consider bribery as the inescapable way of dealing with the authorities.

A sizeable number of the respondents are willing to use money to facilitate business deals and to cancel any legal actions against them. It show how little power our laws has become to many people. Those who follow the laws may actually be the minority. I confess that I sometimes beat traffic lights at night or when there are very few vehicles about because it make no sense to wait 30 seconds when you can cross the road safely with no other vehicles in sight. In days before traffic lights were installed, this would be how we drive: cross when it is safe to do, and in many developed countries they still allow this even when the roads are controlled by traffic lights.

The root cause of dishonesty begins with temptation to use authority to set aside a law. A system that penalises corrupt practices will discourage both parties to even think of breaking the laws. The problem is there is no respect for the laws by even the police whom earns no respect from the public for their bribe taking reputation.

A society that has no respect for laws signals the decivilization of a nation. When people have no faith in law enforcers then they design their own laws to fit their needs. To one it is OK to steal because he justifies it as his right to survive, to another he will work hard because he believes in the principle of honesty. You can say that principle does not feed you but it will certainly make you a person of character, which is such a rarity today. Speaking of which, if young people like the students surveyed believed it is not wrong to be dishonest, it is because they learned the wrong values from the adults at large, teachers who did not teach them the difference between right from wrong, and the police who themselves are guilty of breaking the very laws they are the guardian of.

An example of how a law is conveniently broken and the police close one eye. Some 35 years ago a law was gazetted requiring all motorcylists and pillion riders to wear safety helmets for their protection. Today more and more riders are riding without such a device, only wearing when they think the police are about in their patrol cars. In other words, these offenders trade off their safety against the inconvenience of wearing crash helmets. They break the very law that is meant to protect their lives. Today people want to outsmart the laws and the law enforcers. They play the cat and mouse game. If caught one can always negotiate his way out with a bribe. After all it is just money that can be made again, even dishonestly. A society and a legal system that do not acknowledge the importance of laws to their survival is doomed to a state of disorder.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Splendour of Heaven, My Heaven

A friend of mine likes to forward me powerpoint files of exquisitely beautiful nature scenes of China, the Artics, Europe, Americas and Asia, scenes that calm the spirit and feast the eyes, places that most of us in our lifetime will never have the opportunity to visit. Such are places on earth that many of us equate to how heaven will be like, and more.

But heaven is a place not just physically beautiful but also therapeutic to the mind and the heart. It is a place we long to take refuge and to be in eternally. When asked where will we want to be in our afterlife, who would choose hell when there is a heaven to go? We all want to be permanently established in a place where no evil reside, where there is no illnesses, nor human envy, plots to harm nor fights for power and wealth but where happiness reigns. And in a place where there is music to entertain the ears, sights to feast the eyes and food to whet the appetite. Surely no one will object to be in such a heaven where everything is PERFECT! You don't own anything but you can use everything!

But to the restless spirit that strive for overcoming other human beings to excel, to conquer, to attain set goals, not doing these things in heaven are really living without purpose and vision. However, going to heaven is leaving this earthly life behind. It is entering a new realm of being one with other residents of heaven no longer in competition but in common cooperation of helping and restoring community that seems so alien to this worldly life where selfish goals take precedence over doing good for society. Such a culture is the norm of most nations and races but in heaven they disappear and is replaced by an almost communist lifestyle where people work and live for the common good of everybody. There is neither rich nor poor, no powerful nor oppressed and no superior race over others since all in heaven belong to one race, the created people of God, and all stands equal before Him.

My heaven is a place that is half reflected by the spendour I can see on earth. These earthly splendors give me a peep into what my heaven have in store for me and I look forward to be there in person one day. My heaven is a place where I suffer no bodily pain or illnesses that we succumb to on this side of life. My God promises me that I will inherit a perfect body in perfect health and to this I look forward to. My heaven will not have any sorrow, tears, heartache, memory loss. My heaven focuses not on me but on God. And it takes away the pressure of striving for myself. It is indeed tiring to work hard for a better future here when the real future is working for my place in heaven. In my heaven I don't work for myself, I work just like everyone else to serve our God who provides for all of us. He is fair and just, loves everyone equally and show kindness and patience as a matter of routine. In my heaven there is no fear, just love. Best of all, in my heaven there is no judgment because to all who enter the gate of heaven God has already restored a new life to them, one that begets no envy, anger, frustrations, hatred, covetousness nor anything evil. If you believe such a life is boring, just consider how frightening hell will be: a life in perpetual suffering, pain and strife. All these we are familiar in this life, the only problem is in hell, it will be a million times worst.

My heaven is peaceful, is lovely, is a balm to my spirit and is filled with gentleness and joy. Anything I do I will have no motive except to worship my God. This is what everybody in heaven will be doing. How wonderful, how marvelous, how majestic is this heaven of mine. I hope it will be yours too.

Lastly, heaven is a place where no sin exist; but in hell every conceivable sins will be found. It will be a curse to be found in hell but a true blessing to be in heaven.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Teoh Beng Hock's Death Must be Thoroughly Investigated

These bloggers also investigated the suspicious circumstance of Teoh Beng Hock's death. Read HERE and HERE. The public expect nothing less than absolute truth from the Police, Royal Commission of Inquiry and the Inquest into TBH's death.

Update July 29, 2009: Inquest started this morning but was postponed by a week to August 5 on appeal by deceased family. Read HERE. Family insist that the RCI be authorized to investigate the cause of TBH's death instead of the limited scope of method of interrogation. This appeal was conveyed to the PM Najib Tun Razak reported HERE.

Level 2 Attack

Since I last posted on the A H1N1 virus on 16th July, the number of cases reported in Malaysia has crossed 1000 with just one death. (Correction: 2 deaths. Updated 28 July 2009. Read HERE and HERE.) It also appear that the number of imported cases has dropped significantly and that local transmissions has risen to overtake the imports (now 47% of total 1075 cases). What does this signify? It means the virus has waned and has begun level 2 attack locally due to poor containment against its spread. Locals are now infecting locals through close contacts. As there is no preventive vaccine to protect a person from becoming infected the best practice is still avoiding crowded places as far as possible as well as staying away from people with known fever and related symptoms like coughing and sneezing. Having said this I now worry if being trapped in tight squeeze in the train yesterday had compromised my health. Thankfully I did not hear anyone cough or sneeze in the coach I was in. I feel well so I hope I was not exposed to this virus.

Updated: July 28, 2009, 4.30pm - 3 deaths (read HERE)
Updated: July 29, 2009, 2.45pm - 4 deaths (read HERE) Government admits situation getting worst and seeks public co-operation. Read HERE.
Updated: August 1, 2009, 2.00am - 4 deaths but sharp rise in new cases. Read HERE.
Updated: August 2, 2009, 2.40pm - 6 deaths (read HERE and HERE). Interestingly all 6 deaths cover age group from 10 to 46 and are spreaded all over the nation. The government hospitals must not selectively take throat swabs but make it mandatory for ALL flu-like cases reported to them to ensure no H1N1 cases are missed out since the virus is now very stealth in propagating. Read HERE and HERE). Latest deaths are mystifying as the victims did not show severe symptoms. We have reasons to worry.

Are Parents Disposable?

Looks like modern society is applying the use and throw culture even to parents if the latest Starprobe HERE is indication of the latest trend of handling ageing parents by a growing number of families in Malaysia. It is the unkindest cut to discover that your children whom you have sacrificed your life to nurture them now find you an inconvenience and burden that they without a conscience decide to abandon you to the care of government hospitals, welfare services and old folks home. Why?

In my mind, 4 contributing factors stand out glaringly.

1. An education system that glorify knowledge and self ego but not love, respect and compassion for parents and the elderlies. That is why many youths are rude and indifferent to the needs of seniors struggling to open doors, climb stairs, cross roads, fill in forms, etc. Some even ignore well-meaning advices and admonition for wrongdoings in public places, and worst reprimand such older persons.

2. A lifestyle that stress on materialism and pleasure, impatience against anything or anybody that obstruct such pursuits, and that include older persons who are seen as obstructions since they either slow them down or force them to provide resources to keep them alive and going. Isn't it a fact that we sometimes regret that our parents are not as independent as they should be? We want our 80 year old father who walks with a limp or require frequent medication, or to be taken out daily to meet friends, to do everything by himself. If we cannot be there then we just employ an Indonesian maid to proxy our role for him. Of course this is not as bad as abandoning the old man in a home to fend for himself, unloved. But the message is still the same: you are inconveniencing my life!

3. No time. It is such a convenient excuse. If your parents had said the same to you when you were growing up, not providing for your education, not loving you and not teaching you to differentiate rights from wrongs, would you have been the person you are today? Perhaps he did not do enough so you turned out to be unkind, uncaring and unloving towards them! The truth is that time is a gift. Giving time to your parents by attending to their needs, talking and listening to them, cheering them on and returning the favors they gave you 30-50 years ago, these are the 'duties' expected of you. Look into the mirror of yourself 20-30 years from now and ask if you want the same treatment from your kids to you.

4. No money. To the poor certainly this is a valid but inexcusable reason for throwing out their parents for society to care. Heck, this is worst than throwing out your pet dog to fend for itself among the strays. At least dogs eat anything but not old and helpless people. We talk about human dignity and esteem. It is cruel to throw away our parents even on the excuse that we don't have enough money to maintain them. If we really love them and respect them then look for solutions and sacrifice what we have to give them a dignified ending to their lives on earth. A simple bed in one's own home, family help round the clock, shared financial assistance and taking turns to love the sick parent are ways to tell him "I really do love you, dad" and "We will never let you be under the care of strangers and unloved".

God made fathers and mothers as foundations of families. In their old age, one will look after the other; in difficult cases, maids are employed to care for both. Usually one will die ahead of the other, then the surviving parent go stay with one of the children, if he/she is willing; otherwise his/her wish is respected but an arrangement must be made to let him/her live out his/her last few years peacefully and with dignity.

It is a sin, and a crime to abandon our parents. It is ingratitude of the worst degree. Only people without conscience dare even think and apply their decision to turn their back from their old parents. They are not toilet papers. They are our flesh and blood. Even animals have greater feelings and love than such ungrateful sons and daughters.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A Chanced Meeting

The crowd waiting at platform 6 of the KTM Komuter station at the KL Sentral was a little restless as they waited for the delayed arrival of the next train at 3.40pm. As usual when an earlier train is canceled the next train will have to take on a larger passenger load. Today being Sunday made the problem even bigger. My wife and I fortunately found seats and waited for the announcement to inform us the Seremban train arrival time before we dare get up. An elderly Caucasian man who looked like a retired planter came into view carrying a red canvas bag. He was accompanied by a much younger Chinese lady. We wonder if she was his wife, daughter or companion. Perhaps his secretary.

As soon as the PA crackled alive with announcement on the arrival of the train, all of us got up and rushed towards the waiting line, including the elderly man and his companion. All of us squeezed in and were fortunate not to miss the closing door. There were just standing rooms for us as the train was already quite full from its earlier stops. Over the next 40 minutes I managed to strike up a conversation with the gentleman whom I learned is a retired German professor from the University of Hamburg and specialised in forestry. We chatted about environment and people's power while the younger passengers who are mainly Malay looked on. Just before the train arrive Kajang where he and his wife got off I learned that he was responsible for opening up the Bako National Park in Sarawak. He is past 80 years old and had been serving under the British government in Malaya in 1954. Earlier when I asked if he is Malaysian, he said no but a world citizen. For someone this old and who still retains a great sense of humour, and gentlemanliness (he refuses a seat offered to him by a young Malay girl) I think those who stood in the train watching and listening to us talking must have felt admiration for this kwai lou (white man or orang putih) who carrys himself above the local culture of over-politicization, environmental destruction (he amazed me by claiming that it is cheaper to produce goods in a well managed environment, citing Germany as a good example of low cost and well managed environment) and lost values for the human race. We shared our cards and as we parted he said 'selamat jumpa lagi' in near perfect Malay. Who is he? Check HERE.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

New Life in Old Books

Many parents lamented when the government recently took away the teaching of Science and Mathematics in English although it also decided to increase English lessons in a bid to stem the deterioration in the mastery of English language by both the students and teachers. At least the government acknowledges the global importance of English which ought to have been recognized much earlier.

But studying English without spending time nurturing it through reading and speaking is not going to be fruitful. Students must have easy and inexpensive access to English books to read as well as acquire new knowledge. It is with this thought that I suddenly realize that many households have collections of English novels, magazines and reference books that if not made use of will soon find their way into the paper recycling plants. It is a real shame if this is to happen because many of the books are hard to source and many are really expensive. Some may even be out of print!

I am wondering aloud if we should be setting up private libraries in every town that consist of donated books from families that find them irrelevant (ageing parents unable to read, grownup children preferring the Internet or lacking time to read) or taking up space they need to store other stuffs. Imagine the vast resources such libraries can tap into if appeals are made for donors who will surely be keen to participate as it will be for a good cause (apart from cleaning up the rooms!). I for one will donate my books to such a cause when I can no longer read as I don’t believe my children will want to inherit them. None of them have book collections except perhaps technical, management or how-to books.

Starting such private libraries requires both vision and dedication to service the community, in particular the lower income group who are hungry to read and learn English but unable to afford buying them. It also requires money, space, volunteers, perseverance and love towards this project. If there is anything that is life transforming or soul satisfying it must be to commit part of our wealth, skills and ministry towards this noble cause of salvaging precious book resources from becoming consigned to the dumps, making them available for the needy users and readers so that new generations may benefit from such community work. Bookshops may have less business but think of the wider reach such libraries have to the unaffordable group.

I am no librarian, just a visionary. Will this be a project that I am looking for to leave a legacy behind so that kids in my hometown can go pick up books to borrow, read, return and later donate new books? If other concerned residents also pick up the same interest then we can surely develop chains of private free libraries manned by volunteers to help our children be English literate. Retired English teachers and librarians are especially welcomed to be part of this purposeful work to reclaim our lost command of English. Eventually this concept can be expanded to include other languages.

I am keen to hear of helpful suggestions. WikiAnswers has an interesting writeup on setting up a school library HERE.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Torn Back Pant

In the preceding post I started off with 'Teoh Beng Hock died mysteriously'. However I never expected the recent development to unveil a possibly sinister twist of events that can point to anything but suicide.

As a teenager I liked to read Sherlock Holmes and Perry Mason and later Matlock, a TV series starring Andy Griffith. I like the suspense these stories create when the detectives and lawyers solved crimes through careful examination of evidence. When I first saw the picture of Teoh Beng Hock's body lying face down with his body twisted at the waist I did not suspect anything amiss. I noticed the torn back pants but carelessly dismissed it to be due to his fall. My first thought was that he really committed suicide through pressure of the interrogation. But now I worry otherwise ..

Some of the latest evidence revealed are disturbing:

1. He never left the MACC office. The CCTV footage showed him entering but not leaving, therefore the MACC is still accountable for what happened to Teoh. Read HERE.

2. Teoh's handphone was not with him. It suggested the interrogation was not over, otherwise he would have been given back his belongings and discharged to leave, even at 3.45am as MACC claimed.

3. The police also said certain parts of a window from the 14th floor of the building were found on the 5th floor, the same floor where Teoh’s body was found on Thursday. MACC is located on the 14th floor.

4. What is the connection between the 'window part' and the ripped back pant of Teoh? Forensic analysis should be able to come up with a plausible theory of what took place. From Malaysiakini's report (subscribe to read in full) HERE I extract the following:

Selangor police chief Khalid Abu Bakar today said that police revisited the site where Teoh Beng Hock died and found window components believed to have come from the 14th floor, occupied by the MACC, next to his body.

It was previously speculated that Teoh had fallen from the 9th floor, said to be unoccupied.

The 9th floor had all window intact, apparently.

"We were checking the 14th floor window because we found components of a window on the 5th floor. We will take a closer look at the window. We suspect it is the window handle," he said.


Big question: Was Teoh pushed? Did he fell accidentally? What made him want to open the window? Are the windows locked and can only be opened by authorized personnels?

5. Suspicion was aroused when visitors to MACC office found its entrance closed from 1.15 - 1.35pm on July 16, the day Teoh's body was found. The time his body was found was reported as at 1.30pm. Is this sheer coincidence or is there a flurry of activities behind the entrance door that we don't know yet? Read the full Malaysiakini report HERE. You need to be a subscriber.

Partial extract of the report here:

1.30 was the time when some one discovered Teoh's body. Why did MACC take the unprecedented step to shut down the office briefly, closing the door between 1.15 and 1.35, and re-opening the door at shortly before 1.50? What did the staff do behind that timber door at that crucial moment that they would not want outsiders to see? The mystery seems to deepen.

6. There was no blood from Teoh's body. Falling from the 14th to the 5th floor it is unbelievable that the impact did not caused severe trauma and bleeding. It is really a mystery that perhaps Perry Mason or Sherlock Holmes would love to solve. Did someone moved his body? Cleaned it?

7. Pathologists suggested Teoh died 4-5 hours before his body was found (1.30pm) which place the fall between 8.30-9.30am that morning, which is about the time other MACC staff should be reporting to work. Did no one notice Teoh jumping or hear any sound? Or maybe, I say maybe, the pathologists were wrong and that Teoh actually died much much earlier, like at 3.45am? It would not be possible for anyone not involve in this crime to hear his cry as he fell/pushed to his death at that time.

Whatever that took place at MACC all the efforts must be applied to uncover the truth and the culprits bring to judgment. If it is a crime it is a most despicable one. Teoh did not deserve to die the way he did. His unborn child would not get to receive his/her fatherly love and his unwed wife never to feel the love or enjoy the support of a responsible husband. Malaysia indeed mourn July 16 as a black Thursday when a witness became a victim of circumstances only the perpetrators know.

Teoh was buried yesterday but the story continue to unfold in the coming days and weeks. His death both unite and divide the nation. Some have even taken the dangerous view that Teoh's death is politicised against a Malay dominated institution, so an affront against the Malays, which is highly irresponsible. By his demise may we hope for healing of how Malaysians treat one another, for no crime, perceived or real, is too great to cause a death to occur. Malaysia need to learn lessons in compassion, love and respect for the human lives in whatever color they come in. RIP Teoh Beng Hock.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

What Killed Beng Hock?

Teoh Beng Hock died mysteriously. I remember seeing his picture (on cellphone here) last Thursday in a local newspaper report about the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission or MACC going out to interrogate several politicians belonging to the opposition coalition Pakatan Rakyat in Selangor for misuse of development funds. Teoh is not one of them but just an employee of a state assemblyman. He was his political secretary and he was just 30 years old due to be married the following day, Friday. Even at 30 he appeared like a fresh graduate with a very non-aggressive and nerdy look. The report said that he was called by MACC to help in their investigation. His laptop was seized. Also reported was several colleagues of his comforting him not to be worried over the interrogation. So it seems Teoh is a newbie in the world of Malaysian politics and hardly able to withstand the pressure of harsh treatment by the law enforcers.

The next day he died. He fell off (jumped or pushed, it is still inconclusive) the MACC building and landed on the rooftop of an adjacent building and died on the spot. MACC immediately denied any responsibility as expected. In the hours following Teoh's strange death, hundreds of concerned Malaysians protested MACC's role in this incident. How can a simple interrogation caused Teoh to die? Why was Teoh put to such stress over an extended interrogation late into the night if he is just a witness as claimed by them? The BN government promised a thorough and transparent investigation by the police. But the public have their doubt over the independence of this investigation since the police will be investigating MACC which are on the same side. It may be possible that the person(s) responsible for Teoh's death may be charged but even more likely is that the blame will be shifted to Teoh that he committed suicide because he was depressed. The big question is this:

What made him depressed and suicidal?

Teoh might have been psychologically abused by the grilling he underwent in the 9 hours under MACC's custody. The manner he was grilled, mentally tortured, even threatened to confess to crime he did not commit, could have drove him to the edge of despair. Any normal person in that lonely moment can behave abnormally. So even if MACC is right to say that Teoh is no longer in their custody at the time he fell to his death, they must be accountable for planting fear and disturbing his mindset. For that the interrogating officer(s) will be held personally responsible for applying aggressive methods to extract information and confessions from Teoh.

Teoh may have been the sacrificial lamb but certainly his death is not in vain because it has set in motion a wave of grief, anger and vengeance in caring Malaysians that enough is enough.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Najib's 100 Days

Tengku Razaleigh gave an excellent talk on the above topic that you can read in his blog HERE. Although it was a week ago I want to express my thoughts on what he spoke about.

Najib took over the leadership amidst grave concern over his character suitability. You know what I am talking about without mentioning names. Unfortunately we do not have a requirement that the prime minister-to-be be subject to background vetting for any criminal or immoral conducts before he is confirmed. Najib will always be associated with the crime he denied and this unresolved issue will forever tarnish whatever good performance and reputation he build up in his tenure as the 6th PM of Malaysia.

Malaysian prime ministers are fond of sloganeering and Najib is no different. I have no issue with this but feels the 1Malaysia concept smacks of cheap sell. We all want the various races to live in harmony and yet all the prime ministers from Tun Mahathir onward failed to ensure sound policies and implementations towards this objective. Creating a nice sounding new terminology will not endear himself to concerned Malaysians unless he boldly undo the many malpractices that created ill will and distrust among the races. Najib need not look far for answers. They are all over blog commentaries and even in this speech by Razaleigh. He even asked for ideas to his blog. My question is whether he is really bold enough to step out of his comfort zone and implement reform sweeping ideas.

One matter of grave concern is protectionism of wrong-doers from within UMNO if such wrong-doers can harm the political careers of the leaders above. Some of the known corrupt UMNO leaders continue in their entrenched positions in the party and government because they are using their powerful voting block to perpetuate their positions. Can Najib dismantle this destructive culture so that he can implement whatever policies that are noble and just without fearing his political downfall by these warlords? Tun Ahmad Badawi failed but can Najib succeed? Will he want to dismantle this very UMNO system for the sound performance of the nation?

Tengku Razaleigh raised the very crucial security concern. Public perception of our police is record low. It is not some of the police are not working hard but the general impression is the police are taking sides and not enforcing the security laws fairly. Perhaps the public, especially those critical of the government, tend to be overly sensitive and over-reactive when police actions are seen to be pro-government. While it is hard to be seen to be neutral, the police has not done anything to improve their image as law enforcers by arresting government related protestors, dissenters and vandals who are obviously challenging the authorities. The Perak legislature break-in to manhandle the speaker by the police is clearly an example of taking side. When Karpal Singh of the DAP was accosted inside Parliament the police declared they cannot act within the House. So there is obvious inconsistency. Would the police ever side the Pakatan government act against errant BN politicians or supporters?

The anger concerned Malaysians feel against the police is that of wasting their resources in arresting peaceful protestors than snatch thieves. So when the government decides to extend for the second time the tenure of the retiring Inspector General of Police, many people are naturally unhappy. It is not that there are no better successors so why the extension?

The judiciary may declare they are independent but recent judgments are anything but fair and strictly accordance to the law. This has infuriated the retired judge Mr NH Chan who wrote several articles blasting the unprofessional way these verdicts were handed down. Can Najib say that he did not have a hand in leading the judges to rule in BN's favor? Or were these judges playing politics to earn themselves promotions and Tan Sri ships? A truly independent judiciary must dissociate itself from the government and while a few judges did rule as the law prescribed, their rulings were hastily condemned and overturned by their senior comrades. It made Malaysian judicial process a circus and a laughing stock all over the world.

The BN government has been associated with sandiwaras or dramas. This means putting up a grand show and then not acting on the recommendations. The Royal Commissions on the Police and VK Lingam Case were created but when the recommendations were made they were conveniently abandoned with lame excuses. Why then have commissions in the first place if there is no political will to apply the recommendations? Is it really meant to be sandiwaras and to pull wool over our eyes?

Trust is a valuable relationship that is built up not by money but by honoring words with deeds. The BN government is very short of this trust from many Malaysians by the manner it discharges its duties. We entrusted the BN government for 51 years to build up a prosperous and united Malaysia but look where are we now? We could have been much more prosperous if not for the inefficient usage of tax and oil royalties earned that is tainted with signs of corruption and misuse of funds. We could have been more united if they government had done their best to foster goodwill rather than divide by emphasising our differences and creating feelings of insecurity, jealousy and envy. The regular turnaround of our education policy is another issue that made parents annoyed. What will Najib do to visibly restore trust from the people to the BN government and himself? Without trust the people will switch loyalty. The 13th General Election due between now until 2013 will pit BN against the new kid on the block, Pakatan Rakyat, which although struggling with internal politics, is obviously a different government material that the voters will consider as a viable alternative to BN. It is a painful maturing process for PR but I am confident the component parties will grow out of their self-centred policies to look at the larger national interests. If we really want Malaysia to not fail we must pray that PR survive its internal crises. Otherwise we will be doomed.

I would like to end by quoting Razaleigh's ending remark:

I don't know about you. I am embarrassed that after fifty years of independence we are still talking about bringing Malaysians together. I would have wished that by now, and here tonight, we could be talking about how we can conquer new challenges together.

Coming from a very senior politician, a rare breed indeed, and a respected UMNO veteran who offered himself to lead the nation but through lack of nominations failed, I feel sad that our nation is being led by mediocre leadership with myopic vision. As of now I think nothing of Najib's 100 days. Because he did not volunteer to have his background cleared I suppose he need to prove himself in 1000 days at least that his 1Malaysia concept will take off and become a reality and not stay as a tagline in his blog.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Have A H1N1 Lost Its Sting?

I think people have slowly lowered their guard against the A H1N1 virus that seems to be spreading faster and faster but not killing its victims as expected. Fatality is extremely low so the impression is that this may just be a little worst than the common flu. But is it? This unguarded concern is so widespread that it may be the birthing ground of a new strain that is deadly and incurable. The WHO ceased to update its website after July 6 when they cannot track accurately the confirmed cases. They said this flu is Unstoppable. The above map gives the situation then. In Thailand, 435 schools will close in Bangkok to contain the spread of the virus. Read HERE. Suffice to say that the pandemic has not abated. It has actually grown sizeably. According to Wikipedia Update HERE, the total global confirmed cases and deaths have reached 127,307 and 737 respectively. These figures will have changed in the coming days.

Malaysia has recorded over 772 cases but no deaths. We seems to be better than Thailand with over 4000 cases and 24 deaths to date. Local transmissions here now exceed imports but we have become indifferent. Complacency has grown into our mindset and that allows the stealth virus to multiply quietly. People in hospitals and public places are hardly wearing face masks. I just hope this is not a global trend especially in airports where I hope vigilance will still be maintained to screen all inbound travelers. Overall we need to play our individual role to force the H1N1 virus weaken its infection by cutting off its pathway through minimizing human contacts. Feverish people must self quarantine until healed.

Visiting Mother

Mother will be 84 next month. The past year had been rather traumatic for her when her health deteriorated. In July she was a jovial person when her children gathered to celebrate her 83rd birthday, then a month later she hurt herself at home. Over the subsequent 4 months she was moody, depressive and negative. It is hard for someone as independent as her, who used to ride a bicycle to church, to suddenly find herself needing to be driven there in a church van. It was a sign of the time that she is losing her independence and must give up her privacy and strong will to allow a caregiver to help her around the house. Her mobility was limited to using a Zimmer frame.

Mother refused to live with any of us 5 children, or 4 if I discount the one who is in the USA. She wants to stay put in her own home. This I can understand as I would feel the same way under the same circumstances. Living away from one's own comfort zone and privacy is like being under obligation even to one's own children. Plus the familiarity of one's own bed, room, toilet, kitchen, living area and neighborhood cannot be traded this easily. To top it off there are friends around to visit and chit chat to pass time.

In September mother found a church member to look after her. It was a toss between getting an Indonesian maid or a local one and eventually mother opted for the latter as there will be unknown risks of employing a foreigner. In October mother suffered bouts of vertigo and depression and thought often of death. On top of that she also suffered from severe shoulder ache (developed from a fall off her bicycle a year ago) that made her more bedridden and less mobile. I had to move a bed from her bedroom into the hall so she can minimise her movements. Of this arrangement she was grateful to me for having thought of the idea and she would often thank me for this. The caregiver she employed was an uncouth and manipulative person with little concern for mother's poor health. Over the duration she was in mother's employ from September till May this year, she had 'bullied' mother often berating her for forgetting to take her medicine or forcing mother to eat when she has no appetite. It was truly a testing time for mother to be emotionally abused but it made her a better person. In April the caregiver threw in the towel and decided not to work for us anymore. We have to revisit the subject of an Indonesian maid but again found the idea unworkable since without a supervising adult mother is likely to be bullied or taken advantage of by a total stranger. Added to the fact that mother is rather forgetful she can easily misplace her purse and house keys so we need a trustworthy known person to replace the outgoing caregiver.

In the period from December mother health improved. So with the caregiver throwing her threat to leave mother was not upset but took it as an opportunity to look for a better replacement, who would again be a local lady willing to keep company with mother at night, cook for her, wash up and upkeep the cleanliness of the house. In April itself mother found the person she liked although she is already 71 years old. Frankly I had my misgivings, what can such an old lady do to help when she is most likely to be needing help? I was wrong of course.

Over the past few days when I went home to visit mother I found for myself that this new caregiver is a 100 times better. The house is a lot cleaner, mother put on weight and is very cheerful, the personality of this new caregiver is concerned, caring, responsible and motherly. Plus she cooks excellent meals!

Upon reflection I am grateful to God for this new gift to help mother live a comfortable life. The experience under the first caregiver provided us a stark comparison between the acceptable and the unacceptable. The first caregiver apparently regretted leaving but we are more than happy that she left as we were given the opportunity to employ this new lady.

One day I too will go down this path and I wonder who will look after me? An Indonesian or another foreign maid? Worse, old folks home? I suppose the grand vision is have a personal caregiver like mother's. The life cycle is always to look after the young before they can look after themselves, then to be looked after by someone else when we can no longer look after ourselves.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Hello, Ling!

My grand-daughter Ling will be turning 22 months in a week. She is the light of my life (apologies to my wife for losing out momentarily, I know she won't mind) and source of great pride. Her intellectual growth since I last blogged about her in April (Pangkor trip) has been spectacular. Although her speech skills are just developing her understanding of what goes around her surprises us. Ling can be quite stubborn and strong minded but her character borders that of lovability. Some kids are unlovable but Ling takes the anger out of you even if she messes up her food. She teaches us patience.

In the picture she was imagining calling up her cousin sister Victoria on my cellphone. She gets upset when I lock the keypad to prevent accidental dial out. She knows I was denying her privileges. When I take away my digital camera from her hand, she seemed to tell me, 'why can't I learn how to use this thing?' How do I explain to a 22 months old kid that I cannot trust her not to press on the lens and kill the camera in the process?

Ling loves to help out in the house. I was amused yesterday when she turned off the front loading washing machine herself, opened the cover and began unloading the washed clothing into the pail for her grandma (po po) to take out to sun. I expect this from a 2 year+ kid but not from my Ling at this age. I asked myself to what intellectual development she will achieve on her 2nd birthday in September. Already she can piece up simple zigsaw puzzles with ease. She doodles on any piece of paper she finds. She enjoys seeing her pictures load up on my computer as screensavers. She wants to shoe up whenever she goes outdoor and shoe off when she gets inside the house. She loves the outdoor and find companionship in the meow meow next door or wow wow (her real name is Lipton that Ling calls when she wants to feed her) under one of the cars.

Ling's favorite soft toy is Turtle (papa bought for her from MAS redemption points) as seem in the pic above. She had no emotional attachment to Turtle until a few months ago, her love is for toys that stimulate her orientation skills. She enjoys train sets, toy cars, lego toys, building blocks, zigsaw puzzles, doodling, imaginative conversations, humming songs, watching TV, kicking balls. A little tomboyish you may think but Ling is 100% girl who hugs, waves and fly kisses easily. She was cautious with strangers even friends of family but lately has opened up a fair bit.

I am thinking what to get her on her upcoming birthday. It will not be a regular toy or book but something that she will be able to enjoy for the next year at least. Maybe a cellphone of her own? Nah!

Thank God It's Saturday!

It used to be TGIF when office workers longed to break off from the tiresome work week to do nothing over the weekend or have a drink with friends, take families out to the beach, or the zoo, or Disneyland (or equivalent), or organise a BBQ party in the backyard for close friends and associates. Or play golf.

I for one would rather it to be TGIS as the real day when a person is truly free to squander his time as he wishes. If I had been 10 years younger and still unretired and having to follow regular office hours, Saturdays might still have been a half working day (it was only some 7 years ago that the government introduced the 5 days work week to the civil service, and the practice was slowly caught up by the private sector) but at least we have the afternoon to 'abuse' to our heart's content. Unfortunately many have to run errands they delayed due to absence of opportunity to carry them out so it will be like a full working day for them. Today, with the 5D week quite established and me semi-retired, Saturdays are full holidays to me.

How do I usually spend off my Saturdays? Truthfully, nothing beats refreshing my soul and resting my body instead of traveling around or shopping for stuffs I do not need. I'd rather just stay home, punch my keyboard as I connect to the various newsfeeds and blogs to read what others say of the current affairs of the nation and the world. And write my own blogs or comment on others. I am blessed to be staying in a neighborhood with relative stable and fast Internet connection and which is relatively quiet with few vehicular traffic, except that for the past 2 months my immediate neighbor's house is being renovated so the air is quite polluted and noisy. All these should be over in a fortnight hopefully when work ends so that we can again open up the windows to let in fresh air.

Saturdays is also opportunities to have our breakfasts out, usually with our daughter and family, and in the evening private dinner for my wife and I as we 'surrender' our grand-daughter Ling back to her parents for the weekend. When she is not around Saturdays can be uncomfortably quiet as we miss her antics, laughter and propensity to make us happy. Ling is truly the light of our lives now.

But Saturdays can sometimes be crowded out for meetings that I have to attend, especially church meetings. One is coming up this afternoon. But I always make sure that dinner time is reserved for family. Being home is my best refuge, not in a faraway hideaway or on a strange bed in a strange place. Would this be a sign of growing old? Or rather displaying tendencies I inherited from my mother and her mother? Both dislike going outstation or traveling. Familiarity of their houses is the assurance that life is good and safe. I cannot agree more.

Christians the world over consider Sundays the day of rest, a time to celebrate God's creation and worship Him. I cannot agree more also. But thank God that we can afford to reduce our work week by a day to make Saturdays an additional day of rest. As I write this, soft music plays in the background while the fan whirl above me and the computer fan hums quietly nearby. I cannot ask more from God than the peace that envelops me this beautiful Saturday morning.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Click of No Return

Nowadays we use our fingers a lot more than our feet by which I mean instead of walking to mail that letter we rather click off a note to someone we know. Technology has made it too convenient to do what used to be a laborious process. Because things are being done in a jiffy nowadays we can get careless or sometimes unaware of our slipshod attention to details that come back to haunt us. If such acts can be undone or reversed before they cause harm or damage it will save the senders some embarassments but sending emails is an act that almost does not allow you this choice (but Google Mail has come up with an option to let users delay sending out a mail by a few seconds to provide a safety net to change his mind). Much like a careless word that slips off your tongue into the wind that can no longer be retrieved.

This NEWS I read revealed major mistakes that should not have been committed by executives. Perhaps they were too busy to notice or they trusted the software too much! 80% confessing to sending mails to unintended recipients. That is a major issue for such highly educated people! Admittedly technology has not keep up with the trend of sending mails to multiple recipients. With Send, Send All and Forward functions a person can be confused when he reply an email. It does take some organizing skills and careful thinking on who should be actually receiving the mail you write.

My personal guide says this:

1. If I want only the original sender of a mass email to receive my reply, I choose Send and double check that his email address is in the To: field and no one else.

2. If I want everyone in the group to receive my email I choose Send All, that should be pretty obvious. My email will get into the recipients list so I will delete it manually.

3. And if I want someone outside the original list of recipients to be informed of the chain of events who is not a party to the thread I choose Forward and add my comment. Some senders are just too lazy to add a comment which leaves the recipient bewildered why that email was forwarded to him.

4. A 4th guide is about adding new recipients to a chain email who were not in the original list, either because the sender overlooked or was unaware that they need to be in the loop. I would include them in the Copy list. Occasionally, if I believe the new recipients need to know about the developments but I don't want others to know that they also know, they get their emails via the Blind Copy list which I use rarely except when I do a mass mailing and hide everybody's identity from each other. This also give every recipient privacy and stop their emails from being mined for junk mailings.

5. Last but not least is to be very clear on who actually gets the email you send by going through the list of recipients. Sometimes in a 'Reply All' mode the original sender gets 'downgraded' into the 'Copy' list rather than to 'To' field. Depending on to who that email is addressed you should revise the recipients field accordingly. This is part and parcel of emailing etiquette.

6. About attachments, how often we click a second too fast and realise we forgot to attach a file that we refer to in the body text? A quick re-read of our email to correct grammatical and spelling errors, refine our language or rephrase the points that were ambiguously stated, rewrite the subject title to make it specific to the theme of the matter under discussion, making suitable emphasis where needed, if it is a team email, to draw specific members to their action requirements, and make sure you've attached the correct files.

I have made some mistakes before. A few were on forgetting my attachments. Some were on using tones and vocabulary that demean the recipients that I regretted. So far I have not sent an email to a wrong recipient. However, several went to defunct email accounts or email accounts that overflowed due to users not accessing and cleaning up the Inboxes.

One function I refused to configure is force recipients to reply a read receipt to me. I find this feature irritating. I assume if my emails were not kicked back as undeliverable they must have been successfully sent. I know some of my emails have gone into the junk mailbox but the likelihood is remote since I use 'safe' email addresses and my subject matters do not raise any suspicion to junk detectors.

The next time we click Send, Send All or Forward, it pays to re-read that email one more time. The most important configuration (I use Outlook Express) is NEVER set your email client to Send Message Immediately. It give you no chance whatsoever to retrieve any mail in the outbox for editing.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Slip Slidin' Away

I'm a lover of Simon & Garfunkel songs because the lyrics are ever so thoughtful, touching and contemporary. Sometimes they can be used to represent different situations, like this song, which I produce the lyrics below.

Chorus:
Slip slidin' away
Slip slidin' away
You know the nearer your destination
The more you're slip slidin' away

I know a man
He came from my home town
He wore his passion for his woman
Like a thorny crown
He said Dolores
I live in fear
My love for you's so overpowering
I'm afraid that I will disappear

I know a woman
Became a wife
These are the very words she uses
To describe her life
She said a good day
Ain't got no rain
She said a bad day's when I lie in bed
And think of things that might have been

And I know a fa-ther
Who had a son
He longed to tell him all the reasons
For the things he'd done
He came a long way
Just to explain
He kissed his boy as he lay sleeping
Then he turned around and headed home again

God only knows
God makes his plan
The information's unavailable
To the mortal man
We're working our jobs
Collect our pay
Believe we're gliding down the highway
When in fact we're slip slidin' away

Slip slidin' away
Slip slidin' away
You know the nearer your destination
The more you're slip slidin' away

Slip slidin' away
You know the nearer your destination
The more you're slip slidin' away
Mmm...

The nearer your destination the more you slip slidin' away. I wonder what that really means. I thought maybe Paul Simon meant we let our lives determine their directions and made no attempts to rectify the errors we made along the ways. And we regret many things that happened as we watched our lives slip sliding away. Don't you sometimes have the same feeling that you could have made things better if you had tried a little harder?

I'm trying to relate the context of this song to my beloved Malaysia. Over the past 25 years I sensed that we have been slipping, sliding down the slope. We made some progress which can easily be rebuilt, like tall towers and long highways. But we caused harm in our society when we failed to nurture the very delicate balance among the various races, the various faith, and the widening gap between the rich and the poor. We boast of achievements that the world can see even without our broadcasting them but we deny the existence of serious problems that create suspicion, fear, envy, anger and frustrations. These sadly did not exist more than 25 years ago. As we creep closer to our destination, the vision 2020 goal of becoming a developed nation, I am sorry we are no better in terms of becoming a more matured society than when the idea was mooted about 20 years ago. So we had slipped, we have slided and it will take much efforts to get up.

God only knows
God makes his plan
The information's unavailable
To the mortal man
We're working our jobs
Collect our pay
Believe we're gliding down the highway
When in fact we're slip slidin' away.

Can Malaysia Follow?

Indonesians went to the poll to elect their next president a few days ago. Results are being tallied. When I was in Bali in April recently my tour guide was excited that he and fellow Indonesians get to elect the top gun of the nation. I feel envious here. I am waiting for the day that we Malaysians can elect our Prime Minister instead of having him chosen from among the UMNO delegates. Even BN partners have no say in who they prefer to lead the coalition since it was agreed that whoever is the UMNO president shall be automatically the BN chairman and Prime Minister. No wonder we are no moving confidently towards a developed status with just 11 years left when the selection of top leaders of the nation are still not being decided by the citizens but by a selected group. It is little wonder that corruption is still rife and our political culture is not based on excellence but on patronage.

One Man's Meat Another Man's Poison

What is good to Dr Mahathir in 2003 is obviously not good to Muhyiddin Yassin in 2009 who disbanded his policy of teaching Maths and Science in English. Without getting emotional the question asked was and should still be 'Will using English to teach our children help in preparing them for a fiercer and more challenging world?' A secondary question may be 'Is using Malay going to help our children compete with other world citizens who have acquired their education in English?'

We can get carried away by sentimentalism. Yes, we must never let our language die as it is the soul of a race. But no one is suggesting that all subjects are to be taught in English, only the important ones that affect our ability to compete globally. Not only must Maths and Science be taught in English but other subjects like Economics, Accountancy, Medicine, Pharmacy, Engineering, Architecture and Law as well, in stages of course. These professions thrive using English so we must get real that studying them in Malay will not put us in greater demand. Except for those who wants to pursue careers in the arts, the use of Malay as a teaching medium is retrogressive.

Yes, the government in placating those who wants English as the medium of instruction decides to increase the number of hours to make students more proficient. I am never hopeful that learning English as a subject will change things. Actually studying language is boring. Unless a student loves English I have my doubt he will do any better even if the number of weekly lessons are tripled and the best teachers engaged. To improve one's command in any language he has to be using it deliberately at home, in daily conversations and in studying the various subjects.

After 2012 we will be producing a crop of rojak (mixed in Malay) students who is neither good in Malay nor English; whose esteem in the job market will be low because he cannot deliver to the standard expected by the stiffer employment requirements. July 8, 2009 will stand in our history an ignominious day when the government experimented the future of our children like guinea pigs.

I have never doubted the usefulnss of English as a globally accepted mode of communication. It no longer belong to the British, it has been accepted by the Chinese, Russians, French, Spaniards, Germans and Japanese. So why not Malaysians? Wherever I travel I found most locals speak English. Do you expect them to understand you in Malay? No offense but this is my meat.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Back to the Drawing Board

It has finally happened. The government had decided to stop using English to teach Science and Mathematics from 2012. Read HERE. So our education system was in experimentation for the past 7 years? Does it means the policymakers at that time did not study the language issue seriously before implementing it? Or was the implementation weak that leads to what the Education Minister admission that students did not perform well in these 2 subjects over the past 6 years when they studied them in English? Perhaps the underlying reason was the unwillingness to stretch our determination and resources to make the switch work. Perhaps there was an underlying reluctance to depend on a foreign language to master these subjects.

Objections from activists who want to preserve the use of their vernacular languages in the teachings of these subjects had forced the government to turn their back on a policy that can well become critical for our global survival. Looks like after 2012 our children and grandchildren will be made to learn these subjects in the language of their choice which may not include English unless there are qualified English science teachers then to teach them. It is likely that these students will become mediocre citizens with no mastery of any language skills. Perhaps what they learn cannot be communicated effectively across the global forum because it will not be universally understood.

I find it distressing that with every change in government ( and that includes leaders) some important policies are dismantled. This sort of disruption is very damaging to our national development and once again project a wishy washy flip flop attitude of our leaders. If after 2012, and if Pakatan wins the general election, will we see this policy reversed?

Judge Well or Be Judged

I use to accept verdicts handed down by judges to be absolute, fair and final. I also hold them in high regard, that even though they are as human as I am they are called to a higher duty of making impartial decisions based on the laws. Even if they disagree they must give a verdict consistent with the laws. That was my expectations and I was proud judges of the 1960s and 1970s conducted themselves professionally and ethically.

However the recent political fiasco in the state of Perak (not so recent if you consider the political fever had now been replaced by the H1N1 fever) had exposed many judgments that made many of us shake our heads in disbelief. When judges 'deliberately' invent verdicts to suit a particular situation we can get upset, just as Mr NH Chan, a retired appeal court judge who dare to take up the cudgel to beat up some of his brothers on the bench for ignoring the obvious provisions of our Constitutions when passing judgment in the Nizar versus Zambry case. Was it a deliberate attempt to fool the public or did they really not fully comprehend the law as well as Mr Chan because of their poorer understanding of English which began deteriorating some 35 years ago?

I admire Mr Chan's guts for his dissenting opinion published openly on the Internet. His latest article HERE criticized the written judgments of two appeal court judges as goobledegook and regurgitation. Mr Chan also took a swipe at the Sultan of Perak for asserting that the sultan has no power to dismiss a Menteri Besar (Chief Minister) and that only the State Legislature in session can remove him through a vote of no confidence. He also said that the Sultan was wrong to depend on the outcome of the interview of the three independent assemblypersons to determine that the incumbent MB had lost his majority support in the SL. Well, just as some of the judgments had made us upset Mr Chan's criticisms will also make certain parties upset too. The big question is whether there are ulterior motives in arriving at the sort of judgments that Mr Chan disagreed so strongly.

If the various parties can accept constructive criticisms and not react with a vengeance it augurs well our political maturity. Otherwise Mr Chan may find himself in a hotspot. Ironically he is a Perakian.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

R I P Now

Why do we only use the expression R I P (Rest in Peace) for the departed and not for the living? Can't we have rest in peace while we are still living and not dead?

This afternoon as I was resting I had a deepest peace as I let my tired body melt into the soft mattress and lifted my mind to tune into the quiet surrounding. I find myself totally rested and understood what R I P means. To the dead it means eternal rest from earthly toil, as if this life is not meant to be enjoyed. I believe that God does allow us to enjoy the rest He blesses us if only we cast our burdens upon Him. There are things I could not do, problems I could not resolve, dreams I could not achieve. And I don't really care about their consequences in this life because struggling and fighting to achieve them would not result in more peace for me. Instead I would rather let the wind blow where it may and sway with it. You can call me what you like but I see many human wants in a different light today than, say, 20 years ago. Maybe I am countable years away from being physically and spiritually rested and I am beginning to see my end time on earth under a different light. Yet I refuse to believe that rest will be denied me until that time but claim the promise that Jesus gave when He ask us to cast our cares upon Him and He will give us rest.

There is nothing more precious to me than to be at peace. The best greeting to receive from anyone is 'Peace be upon you' which is how the Jews, the Christians and the Muslims greet each other. Take time to dwell upon its deep implication. It is not wealth, position or health that is of greater value to us than peace: between each other and inside our hearts, and most importantly, with our God.

Is is good if we can enjoy that priceless R I P feelings now and not wait for that day when a headstone bearing these initials and our obituary is planted over our grave, for that would be too late to truly enjoy peace on earth.

Which Blogger Type Are You?

I caught this off Romerz's blog:

There there are 3 types of political bloggers in Malaysia.

1st type - those who live in the past and keep on talking about the past.

2nd type - those who understand current issues and dissects current affairs intellectually and alert others to them.

3rd type - those who can offer solutions to present and future problems of this country.

I am no political blogger but do make occasional observations. I felt that I belong to the 1st and 2nd groups, probably more of the 2nd group since I've passed the stage of reminiscing my past but rather try to look at current events and offer my thoughts and perhaps some solutions (3rd type) which I am not truly qualified to do so. But I am also a casual blogger who write on any topic that interest me, such as the pandemic issue that is of global concern.

Most of us bloggers, even if we do offer solutions, are opinions really. I don't believe there are real solutions to the many woes we face today. Take for instance Malaysian politics, race relations, religious freedom and managing our economy. There are thousands of views and hundreds of suggestions how the nation is to be run. Which is the best model is anyone's guess. We may all agree that, yes, we ought to disband with race based politics and go for multiracialism but is that not rather idealistic? Will all the races realistically be able to work together harmoniously? Self preservation will dictate who eventually take the cake and the constitution is lobsided in giving special preference to a particular race. Can there be real equality in religious freedom and economic opportunities to all races? Again self survival and fear of being overtaken and losing control will determine how much equality can exist. We talk of mutual respect and tolerance yet these exist merely on our lips and rarely go beyond words into real practice. It takes great courage and sacrifice to step in faith into trusting each other. Can we trust each other to open up our fears and insecurity?

We can blog our anger up but there is nothing we can do except create greater awareness among our readers with the hope that they will be wiser in deciding who to put up the next government. We blog about ourselves to feel good. Socially we blog to expand our thoughts that other may come to the same agreement, especially if the issues are of grave national importance. Whatever we do I believe we must blog without tainting our neighbors.

Blogging has become not just a pasttime as it used to be for many people. To many of us, and that includes me, blogging has become a mini mission to help do good. Whatever readership we enjoy from our blog(s) we hope to impress upon them what are right, in our own experience, that are to be encouraged. Blogs is a medium of influence, good or bad, as well as an archive for information, tips, memories, private thoughts and places to sell goods and services.

I am prepared to predict that one day soon blogs will overtake websites in usefulness and popularity. Blogs are alive while websites are like museums.

Friday, July 03, 2009

If You Are Worked Up, It Must be Good

I just came off commenting on this BLOG. Romerz was pretty upset over how Malaysian politics has turned into a circus when it should have been a serious affair of nation building and reconstruction. He contemplates running away, a softer term for migrating, an ugly word to some people. I followed his blog regularly and could feel the rush of adrenalin in him everytime something was not right. I guess he has let politics drive his life, which is good to some people.

I am an apolitical person. I told my wife that I am too honest, too direct, don't know how to lie with a straight face, don't take bribes, too hardworking, poor social skills, and dislike working long hours and on weekends. Added to that I am a family man who cannot see sacrificing my life for a political pot of gold my cup of tea. I was so apolitical that I was quite ignorant of the going ons of Malaysian politics and was quite uninterested about the Who's Who especially during the Mahathir Era and in particular the Anwar Downfall and his criminal hearings. Politics did not work me up, except once in about 1985 when Mahathir got me so upset that I too considered migration. Fortunately I did not succeed.

March 8, 2008 changed my political awareness. Online news websites like Malaysia Today, Malaysiakini and Malaysian Insider gave me a grandstand view of the ugliness of Malaysian politics. I grew up politically and can today recite the names of the more glamorous personalities of Malaysian politics. I would not feel lost in coffeeshop gossips or at a wedding dinner. In fact I could even dominate the table conversation and awe the guests with some latest news I read hours earlier. I was politically naive to realise I was voting for the wrong coalition all my life, but that was because there was a Hobson choice. Today we rejoice that a real opponent had come onto the ring and BN is getting worried and start playing dirty.

I guess becoming worked up by the inept and corrupt BN government is a natural reaction from any concerned Malaysian who wants a secured future for his family and their offsprings. Many developed nations have become developed because their citizens are politically keen on how their elected representatives discharge their duties. We are just 11 years from our developed nation dream. A short period to becoming more politically aware but it beats not being on the starting block. We can no longer let the next person decide our future.

Who Cares About Languages?

We are concerned about the falling standard of English taught in schools that most Malaysian school goers cannot string together a grammatically correct sentence or speak grammatically correct English. Although I was educated in English I have fallen off my good command of English over time. And although I studied Mandarin and Malay in school I too have given them back through lack of use.

The problem of poor language proficiency is rooted in both bad teaching and bad application. We sometimes look at only one aspect, which is that we do not have good language teachers. So what if I have Professor Higgins (of My Fair Lady) to teach me flawless English but I failed to apply what I learned in both my speech and in writing? This is the problem we all face today, not just affecting Malaysians but it is a global concern. We have all become knowledge chasers and as long as we can communicate we seldom care about the accuracy of the language used.

Malaysians are disadvantaged in a sense because ours is a multi-racial nation. The Chinese is further burdened by the dialects they speak, especially if a family consists of parents from 2 different dialect groups. Malays have it easier. They have no dialects. Almost the same goes to the Indians, the Sikhs, the Ibans, etc. Throw in the education policy that we must study Malay to pass our public exams, and the tradition of learning your mother tongues lest you forget your roots, and the demand of knowing a global language for survival, you can understand why Malaysians must be proficient in at least 3 languages and dialects: Malay (for exams), Mother Tongue (tradition), Global Language (in Malaysia, it will be English) and if you are a Chinese, your native dialect (probably your mother’s since she spend most of the time with you when you were growing up, but father’s dialect will be taught if his own family tradition is dominant).

Learning four languages and dialect is distracted by our education policy of rewarding those who excel academically, so students are drawn toward acquiring knowledge at the expense of doing it with proper language. It is like racing down the aisles of a supermarket to grab as many goodies as you can with a wobbly shopping cart. In this comparison the wobbly cart is your language.

Some of us are concerned with studying good English, and good Malay, as requisites to a good education. Which takes priority today? Would you be left behind because you want to perfect your language before you learn science, mathematics, geography, etc? If we want to excel in both we must have both good language and knowledge teachers in the language we choose to apply, be it English or Malay. Sadly this is an unreal expectation and we now have knowledge teachers who are not language proficient and this problem is being passed down the generations. Language study has become the sacrificial lamb.

For practical reasons, few would want to learn languages for the pure joy or studying their forms and structures unless they go into language teachings as a profession. Most would want to be using languages for what they were ultimately evolved for: that is to communicate with each other. Effective communication requires both parties to be proficient in understanding the common medium used. Sometimes one would be forced to use ‘rojak’ or ‘mixed’ language. As an example, a person may use both Mandarin and English simultaneously because he is not proficient in the primary language of the conversation.

A person living in a country where one language is universal, like the United States, England and France, is less likely to struggle with language. Malaysians will have to make up their mind the means of communications to follow and that decision will affect their competitiveness and opportunities. My family opted to speak, write, think and dream in English, which fortunately is a global language that we can use in many situations and context.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Latest Global Snapshot of Pandemic

You don't have to read the papers or watch the evening news to know how bad this pandemic has become. Wherever you are, this WHO map just released show the whole Americas from north to south is INFECTED with over 500 cases reported per nation. It may not be a large number but considering we are dealing with microbes that are spread by air and contact we are dealing with the invisibles the infection can multiply exponentially when conditions are right.

Australia, N. Zealand, China, Japan, Philippines, Thailand and part of Europe are unsafe destinations to go or to arrive from. This is no time to be polite but to be firm that global health is at stake. Beware those light brown countries (51-500 reported cases) which can quickly deteriorate into the dark brown hotspots. Worrying is densely populated India and Central Europe. Africa is surprising clear. Perhaps this flu virus cannot survive easily in hot and dry weather.

Click on the map to download a larger picture. Map courtesy of WHO.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Beware Selective H1N1 Outbreaks

I just took a look at this WHO Website that provides periodic updates on how the pandemic is spreading worldwide.I am particularly interested in the right column on 'Newly confirmed since the last reporting period' and noticed the following sharp rises in:

Australia (18.8% of cumulative total, left column)- 4 deaths
Bolivia (62.3% of cumulative total)
Canada (13.4% of cumulative total)- 2 deaths
China (24.4% of cumulative total)
France (18.7% of cumulative total)
Israel (13.6% of cumulative total)
Japan (13.4% of cumulative total)
South Korea (29.7% of cumulative total)
Malaysia (39.3% of cumulative total)
New Zealand (22.8% of cumulative total)

Peru (30.0% of cumulative total)
Philippines (48.3% of cumulative total)
Singapore (47.4% of cumulative total)
United Kingdom (15.4% of cumulative total)
USA (22.6% of cumulative total)
- 40 deaths

Curiously, Mexico from where this pandemic flu originated recorded ZERO confirmed cases since last reporting. Mexico recorded the second highest death casualties of 116 after the USA's 127.

Recent cases of imported viruses have come from Australia but the health authorities did not appear to target stricter vigilance on arrivals from there. Locally transmitted viruses have begun to appear which means the imported viruses have established a foothold. Granted that mortality rate globally is relatively low at about 300, it is not an excuse to slacken our surveilance at every point of entry, not just airports. The fact that Singapore also recorded a massive increase of over 47% is worrisome since many Malaysians and Singaporeans cross the border by motor vehicles besides flying in. The proximity of these 2 nations is akin to USA and Mexico which have the largest death casualties to date. Mexico have somehow brought the flu spread under control through strict border controls as well as enforcing curfew in the early days when this flu virus (known then as the swine flu virus) first originated there.

I am disappointed by the slackening interest in scanning incoming travelers as well as poor adherence to home quarantine. While only a few schools are forced to close so far because of locally transmitted cases, this can easily explode in the coming weeks. It is irresponsible for anyone who return not to self-quarantine even without symptoms since A H1N1 is a stealth virus. It is equally irresponsible for them to socialise with families, friends, workplace colleagues and be in public places when they are at possible risks to infect. If any of them is found to be a carrier, many of those he came into contact would have become infected too, who also multiply the infection unknowingly.

The greatest fear is should this virus mutate everyone who have these virus in their system can be at serious risk of dying since no vaccine is yet available to combat a mutated virus. I advocate strongly to curtail mass people movement as the most effective way to weaken the effect of the A H1N1 virus.

Malaysians should avoid popular tourist destinations highlighted in blue above in the light of the sharp rise in this viral multiplication. In fact traveler arrivals from these same countries should be rigidly screened at their exit airports as well as on arrival in Malaysia to contain this pandemic problem. Not taking this matter seriously will lead to uncontrollable consequences.

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