Monday, December 31, 2012

The Last Ride - A Story to Share

The year has ended. To some terminally ill the feeling is there is no tomorrow and what's left of life is what's in today, or tonight. The moment to end all moments and to go away knowing that in the insignificance of our lives someone, not necessarily family, but a stranger, cares enough to share his or her time. This story was shared to me and I thought how appropriate it is as we bid 2012 goodbye to enter the new year with a caring spirit. Who knows we may one day need it ourselves.

The Last Cab Ride

I arrived at the address and honked the horn. After waiting a few minutes I honked again.

Since this was going to be my last ride of my shift I thought about just driving away, but instead I put the car in park and walked up to the door and knocked.

'Just a minute', answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor. After a long pause, the door opened.

A small woman in her 90's stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940's movie. By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets.

There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.

'Would you carry my bag out to the car?' she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman. She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb. She kept thanking me for my kindness.

'It's nothing', I told her. 'I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother to be treated.'

'Oh, you're such a good boy,' she said.

When we got in the cab, she gave me an address and then asked. 'Could you drive through downtown?'

'It's not the shortest way,' I answered quickly.

'Oh, I don't mind,' she said. 'I'm in no hurry. I'm on my way to a hospice.'

I looked in the rear-view mirror. Her eyes were glistening.

'I don't have any family left,' she continued in a soft voice. 'The doctor says I don't have very long.'

I quietly reached over and shut off the meter. 'What route would you like me to take?' I asked.

For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator. We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds.

She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl. Sometimes she'd ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.

As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, 'I'm tired. Let's go now.'

We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico.

Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her.

I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.

'How much do I owe you?' She asked, reaching into her purse.

'Nothing,' I answered.

'You have to make a living,' she said.

'There are other passengers,' I responded.

Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly.

'You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,' she said. 'Thank you.'

I squeezed her hand, and then walked into the dim morning light. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life. I didn't pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly lost in thought.

For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?

On a quick review, I don't think that I have done anything more important in my life. We're conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unaware - beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.


Sunday, December 30, 2012

Bad News as the Year Ends

As I read THIS news this morning I have a growing sense of disquiet that the days of gross dependence on foreign labor has just about ended. Year after year as we see nations we depend upon to send us cheap labor overcome their poverty and strengthen their economies here in Malaysia we fail to secure our foundation, our people, who either keep us moving forward or keep us stagnant, or worse back slide in petty quarrels and political back stabbing and fear mongering. The cauldron is burning around us but we seemingly enjoy the slow heat as if it is a sauna. The people don't deserve it, the government does and must be booted out. This is a clear a message I want to send on the last days of 2012. We know that 2013 will be the election year and what happens to the nation depends on who will lead us and how will it steer us away from the looming iceberg that smashed and sunk the unsinkable Titanic. We can no longer boast that we are unsinkable because if we leak within, even in calm waters we can sink if no one plug the leaks. Our past glory cannot save us in the hands of corrupt and inept leaders. Next month is likely to see a new people uprising movement in Kuala Lumpur. The signs of change are on the walls. At no time in our 55 years of nationhood has the citizens become more vocal and more impatient over the continuing silence towards demands for better governance.

The biggest problem facing us is in our labor intensive industries that cannot be automated. With higher labour cost, be it local or foreign, can they stay competitive if productivity fail to improve? Can local replace foreign workers at short notice? Or should I say, WILL local replace them? There is an unwillingness to work in non-air conditioned environment. We have tasted the 'good life' and is unprepared to return to the days of 'hard labor'. Sometimes I think we need to be taught the hard lesson, that reward without hard work and patience is but a temporary passport to pleasure and comfort. True foundation that stand the test of recession and setbacks reside in having the right philosophy towards healthy and gracious living.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Preparing Andrew for Nursery

Andrew is just 2 years 11 months but is both physically and mentally ready to join a nursery class next year. Older sister Grace at 5 years 4 months will be in pre-school and he will join her in the same kindergarten. A year ago this picture was taken.

Yesterday we got back his nursery uniform and last night his mother tried it on him. It was a struggle to pin him down, button up his shirt and collar. The boy's uniform is more elaborate and harder to wear especially for an active kid like Andrew. He has been to the kindergarten several times and like the environment, especially the playground. We don't expect him to have any trouble integrating. In fact we are more concern if he were to become the trouble maker since he is quite boisterous and talkative. On the other hand he may just become a very popular kid to both teachers and nursery mates. At home he is really adorable and helpful. Sister Grace is pleased little brother (not so little in size) is coming on board so she can call on him to protect her should any boy in her class bully her.

A few days earlier at mommy's birthday he literally took over the cake.

And he enjoys feeding his popo (grandma) a slice of mango as she fed him rice recently.

Lately he has been helping to bring out the margarine and jam for breakfast. I think Andrew is more than ready than most kids his age for nursery. For the record he is 100cm tall and weighs 14kg.

Year of Losses and Gains

I am not reflecting over financial losses or gains but over people I know I lost this year and people I celebrate their new additions by marriage and by birth. This has been a busy year on both counts. And remembering other reasons to celebrate a memorable 2012.

People I know but unrelated. Singers, actors, strangers and church member - Whitney Houston, Andy Williams, Larry Hagman, Wong Bentong, Hurricane Sandy victims, families of victims of Newtown, Connecticut massacre, Tun Dr Lim Keng Yaik. Their passing reminds me of the frailty of old age and danger of emotional instability and substance abuse. Losses are sorrowful. They must be balanced by celebrations of gains.

Several marriages took place this year to the extended family. Mayleen was married to Brian, Kok Liang married Macey, Hua Yew married Lauren. Outside we attended weddings of Victor and Syet Winne and Suzane, office colleague, and Daryle. As well as weddings of sons of old friends, Seng Nion and Ronald.

Births are joyful too. Winnie gave birth to Joshua, Christine gave birth to Sharon, Fond Née gave birth to Benjamin.

Other Reasons to be Thankful and Celebrate
I got to listen to Bob Fitts sing in a 'live' church concert. He is like a pop star of the 70s except that he sings gospel. Hitting 70 he looks youthful, like Sir Cliff Richard.

I got my iPad3 in April shortly after it was launched. Great feeling.

Mother turned 87 and my father-in-law scaled 95.

The opportunity to meet my old classmate Aaron and enjoying North Island with another classmate TCS. Truly memorable week.

Meet up with other classmates - Jimmy, Raman, Chu King, and annual friendship lunch.

Time out with my wife in Kota Kinabalu and our son in the States after Joshua's birth.

Watching our grandkids grow including skyping or face timing with Julian, Winnie and Joshua.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Pastoral Transition

Yesterday was special for two reasons. Firstly it was Christmas Sunday traditionally honored as the Sunday before Christmas. Although no special event takes place during service on a normal Christmas Sunday service, yesterday was different for another reason. It was pastor Paul Christie final sermon to us before he leaves for his new appointment in another church in Penang. Preaching in his typical booming voice he took us to the manger where Jesus was born and how three people were affected. Joseph, the father, or rather the husband; Mary the mother and wife; and the shepherds who were the first to be told of the birth. Joseph had concerns about the child not humanly conceived by him and worried over gossips and public condemnation of his wife's 'unfaithfulness'. Mary pondered over the huge significance of the event that would made her supremely privileged and honored among mankind, the conceiver and bearer of the child who was God-sent into the world to save men and women from sin. And of course the lowly shepherds in the fields who were probably the only people in the city of Bethlehem awake at that time. Angels came upon them to proclaim the birth of Jesus Christ that would change the world forever.

After his sermon pastor Paul gave his farewell message during which he noted the many changes and improvements in the church, his family and community during his 8 years tenure as pastor. He was thankful to be leaving the church united to his successor, pastor Ronald. Towards the end he sought forgiveness for any hurt by words, action or inaction, he might have caused the church members, and in response the congregation sought the pastor's forgiveness likewise. It was a touching moment when pastor Ronald invited the family, Gladys and two sons, Silas and Lucas, to the altar area and call upon a spectrum of church leadership to step forward to lay hands and pray for pastor Paul and his family. It was a fitting sending off for a pastor we've gotten used to and learned to love and appreciate for his faithful ministry.

Earlier this month at the church's Christmas dinner participants were surprised by the announcement that pastor Paul would be leaving Seremban end of the month. Two cakes prepared by trainees of PBSNS, the job skills training centre for the learning disabled started by the church, were cut on the stage. One by the outgoing pastor and the other by the incoming one. Below is the cake cutting 'ceremony' by pastor Paul (left) and pastor Ronald (right). Although pastor Ronald officially takes over from January 1, 2013, he will effectively be in charge of the pulpit on Christmas Day service as well as during the Watch Night service in the final hour of December 31.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Goodbye Dr Lim Keng Yaik

We don't know him as a Tun, a title bestowed upon him after he retired from active political life, but as the Minister of Primary Industries he had graced several official functions of the rubber glove conferences and meetings with leaders of the glove industry and rubber export promotion council and his style of interaction and off the cuff remarks often leave the audience in stitches. Of those meetings I attended Dr Lim had always been the source of humor and enlightenment although his jokes could sometimes be saucy but were all shared in good spirit without malice. Dr Lim always challenged the glove manufacturers to be the best in the world and always ask this question, tell me what do you want me to do to help you achieve this? As the minister in charge he is keenly interested in the development of the industry. It was under his watch that the Malaysian Rubber Export Promotion Council (MREPC) was formed to help the industry combat negative perceptions and crusades by synthetic glove producers against latex gloves because of protein allergy issues (now negligible). Dr Lim fighting spirit and firm loyalty and confidence towards Malaysian made gloves made us the no. 1 world leader today garnering over 60% of global consumption.

I understand Dr Lim had been ill for over a year before he passed away yesterday afternoon in his home surrounded by family members. His dedicated service to Malaysian politics will always be fondly remembered and I pray that his family will overcome this moment of bereavement and loss through the grace of God. May Dr Lim's soul rest in peace in the bosom of his Lord Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Waking Up to a Home without a Maid

It has been awhile I blog about maids. Not that I have no issues. Rather the maid market in Malaysia over the last 2 years or so had been too volatile to see a trend emerging. But now the direction we, the maid dependent families, are taking is becoming clearer. In short, adjust. The good days are over. Unless you are wealthy and can afford to employ premium maids chances are you are, like my family, stuck with problem maids that we have to suffer in silence.

Firstly let me state this. We are not getting a maid for luxury as some families are likely to do. Nice to pay someone to order round the house like a personal slave. Even if not meant to be treated this way but with civility, a maid is a personal assistant to do laundry, upkeep the house, answer the phone, open and close the gates, carry bags to and from the cars, even bath and play with the pet dogs. Oh yes, I forgot the children, they have someone to lord over too.

We get a maid because we need one. We help to look after grandchildren, not one, not two but because there will be three to look after. We are in our mid 60s with physical limitations. Grandchildren don't understand grandparents aren't horses or Hercules. They expect them to stoop or squat and pick up their toys. They expect to be lifted up. They expect us to be their playmates. How we wish we can, we are. But at the risk of straining our backs we sometimes oblige but carefully. We want to build relationship with them. We want to feel and be young at heart, and in body too. But our age difference is too vast. We try and will keep trying. But with an infant due to join her older siblings not getting a maid is not an option. We have to set that condition.

Since we terminated our last maid who even after being with us for exactly a year couldn't pick up basic skills including understanding common instructions, we had been hunting, literally, for her replacement for the past 18 months. We chose a Vietnamese lady we met on our Hanoi holiday. We thought it would be a good match but we were luckless. Her mother met an accident and she was forced to turn us down. The next 3 candidates either had cold feet or, we suspected, intercepted by other applicants who paid under counter.

All this while the maid market grew tight. Indonesia restricted her maid export to Malaysia and set many new terms and conditions alien to the local employers. Granted they were in denial mode, not realizing maids are leaving us for greener pastures, including going home to work, and fewer maids want to come over because of negative reports about mistreatment, many continue to hope for improvement which never come. Indonesian maids are soon replaced by Cambodian maids and when they became problematic Filipino maids came into greater demand. One by one these source governments laid down strict conditions to prevent illegal recruitment of their nationals. This result in a hike of agency fees without a corresponding assurance of better service and better maids. Families that really need maids must fork out more than RM10,000 now to get a maid and even with that no guarantee the one chosen from whatever few bio data viewed will definitely arrive to start work. We fell into this category. We were fortunate the agencies agreed to refund our paid fees. Like other families we were put under much inconvenience. But we believe we weren't fated to match with the maids we chose and took the disappointment philosophically.

The 18 maidless months made us less reliant on maids. It is only because looking after 3 children becomes an enormous task that a maid becomes necessary. But when they grow older and more independent very likely we won't keep a maid but then other issues will arise. We will surely be less mobile, less strong, more vulnerable and injury prone that a maid will be necessary to look after us or our house.

Many families are in our situation, some even worst. Many are forced to send children to daycare or aged parents to nursing homes. The quality of family life is affected and stress abound. Alternative solutions akin to those available in developed western societies must be found so that we are less maid dependent. Or ideally to develop our human and intellectual skills to become a high value society, by which I mean one in which income far exceed expenditures so that one partner can afford to stay home or work part time or self employ to choose the path they desire to balance their financial security and family stability.

Maid dependent families are further burdened by income gap. They need double income to support higher living costs and therefore, must find caregivers for their children and/or old parents. This push up expenses. It is little wonder why many couples choose to start family late until they are financially stronger, which in itself create another problem of late pregnancy risks and reduced fertility rate. Some young people even choose a single life minus the worry and bother of caring for children. This is already a global trend. What this lead to is population shrinkage. Singapore is in such a crisis and no amount of incentives will encourage higher birth rates, unless childcare becomes a state responsibility, which requires a huge investment. For survival of a nation it may be seriously considered, even then locals must be willing to be child minders.

A total relook is important to keep population reproduce itself at least and for families to be meaningful. From this perspective we can understand how important maids play their role in society building, be they local or foreign. Otherwise starting families may become too challenging that young adults no longer view marriage as necessary.

Now you see how important maids are in our lives. Because lifestyle has overtaken our priorities that we are no longer mandated by values but materialism and comfort.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Finding Joy in Christmas

The recent mass shooting by a mentally deranged man in a primary school in Newtown, Connecticut, USA killing 20 children and 6 adults before committing suicide himself has shocked the community, the nation and the world that such senseless killing on innocent children in a supposedly safe environment can take place in a civilized society. It is totally unexpected and raises the fear that such murderous acts can happen anywhere, as long as dangerous people and lethal weapons co-exist. And happening so close to Christmas in the Advent season which reminds us of the coming Christ, and therefore a reason for celebration and joy, made a mockery of the celebrative mood. Anyone who have a heart and conscience will certainly react in anger and even shame that such crime can exist in the 21st century. This is not a condemnation of Adam Lanza, the killer, but at the human state of mind that made him a dangerous person that he even shot and kill his own mother earlier. Our civilization has not made mankind better but worse.

In a world, and for many, a life, that is a constant struggle against injustice, conflicts, personal crises and a search for perfect happiness, Christmas promises joy to us who understand that joy exceed what sufferings made us a pitiful creation. Even the birds are better off than mankind. The sorrows the families and community of the murdered victims felt cannot be immediately be replaced by the promised joy which lay hidden. Forgiveness and reconciliation will heal the hurt and pain and if called upon this joy that Christmas offers will be there to soothe and strengthen. Losses can never be replaced and memories of good times will always bring on tears and heartaches. But reflecting on how God lost many millions of his people to sin He still made it His purpose to rescue those who seek a returning path and accept His open hands.

Life on earth is not what we want. Heaven constantly bid us welcome as a place where no pain nor disease exist. We long for heaven on earth. It shan't be long for this to happen. It may be in our lifetime or later. But in the meantime God offers us the gift of joyful living. He is looking out for us. He is no Santa but the sovereign almighty God whose desire is peace on earth and goodwill toward all men (and women and children).

I pray that those suffering people in the aftermath of the massacre will find strength to forgive, restore their lives and find peace and joy this Christmas.

Merry Christmas should be changed to Joyful Christmas as a reminder that it shouldn't be a time to wine and dine, but in the year end spirit and reflection, to be grateful and thankful for a reasonable good year, and find in our hearts every reason to be joyful.

My 2013 Wishlist

In just 2 weeks we shall bid farewell to 2012. Looking back I have few regrets and much to be thankful for. For this blog at least I have been able to maintain the momentum of writing as often as I have materials to write. Checking the live traffic feed I feel honored to be read by visitors from all over the world which prompts me to write more responsibly. I realize that blogging is no longer about myself but a way to engage my readers, sharing my happiness and my concerns, which in return have encouraged some of them to comment.

Retirement is something new for me and is much welcomed. It came upon me 2 years ago and I am still relishing the freedom of not having to follow a fixed routine. However my Google calendar sometimes look like an appointment list but thankfully there are days when I can title my daily journal, Easy Day. Most certainly I don't want every day to be like that but 2-3 days weekly when I am busy outside the house would be fine. Once a month I would find myself mowing the lawn. I don't know for how many years my back will allow me but each session would make me feel sort of victorious that I can still perform physical activities including car wash and leisurely walks. To be able to move about as I get older is a privilege I accept day by day. However my knees sometimes get in the way. When I see seniors, some younger than me, struggling to kneel or walk, some even wheelchair bound I just thank God that my day has not come yet for me to be needing caregiver assistance. It can be depressing to lose one's freedom and independence while the mind is still active. This reminds me of my 94 year old father-in-law who is experiencing a similar distress.

My grandchildren at home provide the ambience that makes a house a home. And when their cousins visit I sense they are growing up too fast. One day when they have grown up and no longer stay with us or visit us that will be when we will miss the noise and untidiness they create. Little Andrew now 2 years and 11 months is a joy to look after even though he is mischievous sometimes. What joy it is to have him lead me by his little hand to the television to explain whatever is happening to Donald Duck or Jerry (of Tom and Jerry cartoon) in his unclear intonation. Or the antics of Mr Bean. To have to pick up after him and give him bath will one day be remembered fondly because he will soon be too heavy to be carried or too conscious to want to bath himself. But the years our grandchildren live with us since we deliberately decided to help look after them from 2005 will fill each room, bathroom, kitchen, dining hall, my office and little nooks and corners with laughter and cries. Some pencil drawings on the staircase walls will be retained to help us remember the special moments with us. We won't mind spottiness and scratches made by the kids. Time spent outdoor in the garden watering the plants, watching airplanes fly overhead, looking at the night skies, watching the birds fly home and the lizards gather around the garage lights for their preys as well as bicycling in the recreational park provide me inner joy of these God given children in our lives. Hugging after dinner and saying goodnight, goodnight through wound down windows even as their parent's car move away from the gate will be remembered always. They made us feel very blessed indeed. As grandchildren they have fulfilled the role of keeping us young at heart and we dread the day when we grow old and pining for their companionship.

What is my wishlist for the new year? All past resolutions made have fallen into the waste bin unfulfilled so I shan't try to make any. One thing I try to though, is to live as happily as I can and to be in a love relationship every day. To live harmoniously and stress-free. My first wish is to stay healthy and not be struck by any serious illness. Any form of serious illness will be a test of my faith and ability to deal with life and death issues and my wish is to have it delayed as long as possible.

My second wish is to have many more opportunities to travel before my physical condition and health makes it inconvenient. I am a selective traveler and prefer only destinations that are naturally scenic and clean. Top on my destination list are Canada and New Zealand. But from my Pinterest board I discover many new places as desirable.

2013 will mark the 40th anniversary of marriage of my wife to me as well as our 65th birthdays. That makes our joint life 2/3 of our time on earth. Family reunion is getting harder and my third wish is to have all our children and grandchildren get together for a grand celebration as well as meet up as often as possible.

My Pinterest has gotten off to a great start. Now with over 11,000 pins and 130+ followers, my day is usually spent on searching for interesting pins to my board collections. I have no idea when the number will stop but it has begun to slow down. Just as it is with my blog I want my Pinterest profile to be a good collection of interesting materials that more users would like to follow. For me it is a very senior-friendly hobby that require little efforts to indulge in.

My next wish is for my Malaysia to complete her 13th general election next year without any incidents and any transition will take place peacefully. Winner should be magnanimous and loser take defeat in good stride and with honor. The way it should be for a civilized society.

And my final wish is for world peace and recovery of many nations in recession. Although the world economy seems to be sinking faster than it is rising my hope is that the human race will rise up to challenge the decline and re-prosper our lands. Instead of outdoing and sometimes destroying one another, to remember the Christmas wish for everyone that there is an abundance of goodwill throughout the year.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Should Betrayal of Public Trust Be Forgiven?

Below is an excellent and timely article by Steve Oh, to be read by every Malaysian voters with a conscience for the future of their nation, and by other readers to understand the truth and reality that all is not well with the manner the country is being governed.

Corruption is at the heart of what's ailing Malaysia and much citizen discontent but the biggest issue is one of public trust.

The Americans loathed the charismatic and capable Clinton not because he had a sexual tryst with an intern but that he lied to those who trusted and defended him.

The public has certain high expectations of those in high office and in public service that they may not expect of private individuals. It is the proper way to safeguard the integrity of any high office.

Former US president Bill Clinton had big dreams of reform to make his mark in his last term in office but now he will be remembered for the lost opportunities, and his betrayal of the public trust of the American people.

What of the betrayals in Malaysia and will Malaysians be as forgiving of their leaders?

What is happening in the country seems to parallel what is happening to the government. The government suffers from a credibility crisis as it fails to explain what is happening to it, the corruption scandals and all.

There is a loathing uncertainty and sense of despair and many feel change is the panacea to the country's troubled and troublesome government they blame for many of their own troubles - rising crimes and costs of living.

Thus more and more Malaysians are openly asking and working for change and even the incumbent government promises change but has little to show of substance.

It does not look good when someone unelected and not in government speaks for the government and asks in a supercilious manner, "What more do you want?" and then boasts about his ability to get the government to put it into effect ‘immediately' when the government itself drags its feet.

People will be wondering who is really in charge of the government and if they have misplaced their trust in the last elections. They thought they voted for someone else to lead the country.

"If it ain't broke why fix it?" is half the story because Bert Lance, Jimmy Carter's budget administrator who said it in 1977 while trying to save Uncle Sam billions, explained, "That's the trouble with government, fixing things that aren't broken and not fixing things that are broken."

It makes people feel that a change of government is the panacea by getting rid of the whole lot and starting anew with a fresh government. It is the only way to clean out all the skeletons in the over-crowded closet.

Citizens should feel betrayed and humiliated when they have to beg for something that they expect any good government to do for them on its own initiative.

Sooner or later corrupt politicians fall on their own swords or at the hands of a Brutus who murdered Julius Caesar.

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim vows to slay the corruption dragon and it can be done if there is the political will and political clout to do it. Every single BN leader who has said they would tackle corruption has failed for obvious reasons.

Every single one of them has been ‘tainted' and time will tell if they are guilty or unfairly pilloried.

A new government after GE13 whether formed out of the ashes of the old one or a different one drawn from the fresh faces of the Pakatan Rakyat coalition - who can predict the outcome of GE13 and what happens after? - cannot continue to betray the people and allow corruption and the abuse of power to continue.

What people want is a good government that functions as a good government should without all they see today of the corruption scandals, accusations and counter-accusations and the inability of those in power to clear their names or for the government to take decent action.

We may not care about sick politicians but we should care that the government as a public institution serves the people and not the politicians and is in good health.

It cannot be corruption as usual by any government not only because it is wrong but there will be nothing left to steal or for the people when a country is broke. Reading about the wealth of the politicians while the citizens eke out an austere living does make one feel sick.

And the people most likely to suffer are those in the low-income group and with little savings, mostly the Malays.

An extract from an article by Ahmad Fuad Rahmat in Centre for Policy Initiatives is revealing: "We are often told of how the bottoms 40% of Malaysian households earn RM 1500 or less on average. But we don't hear as much about the fact that this is equivalent to 2.6 million households, or to be more exact, 12.4 million Malaysians. We even hear less of how 56% of that total, nearly 1.3 million households, are Malay households.

A recent study conducted at the Malaysian National University's (UKM) Institute for Malaysian and International Studies (IKMAS) reveals more: an average bumiputera can only rely on one month of financial reserves in the sudden event of unemployment. 50.8% of overall bumiputera wealth is concentrated in the top 20% of bumiputera earners, while the bottom 40% can only claim a cumulative share of 7.6%. It is not surprising then that 66% of Bumiputera households have no financial assets."

Another report placing Malaysia at the top in "a Transparency International survey of 30 countries where companies felt they had lost deals because they did not pay bribes," reflects what Malaysians already know.

Malaysians are not Americans and they do not like to impeach their leaders.

The political ‘birds of the same feather' do not expose one another's ‘sins' either because they won't know who has the thicker file on them. It is safer to keep a poker face while plotting someone's downfall and relying on a Brutus.

Still the country risks being labeled the ‘Sick man of Asia.'

Many Malaysians feel betrayed and that justice has not been done as in the court's overturning of the guilty verdict and exonerating the killer of an innocent Malay boy Aminrulrasyid Amzah, shot dead so mercilessly by excessive and brutal police force.

Like Clinton who initially saw his expose as a political plot and not his personal moral failing, there are politicians who cannot accept their faults and blame others for their problems.

How do you expect change when someone points the finger at others and says it is the fault of the ‘ungrateful Malays' or the ‘greedy Chinese' or ‘George Soros' or ‘Anwar Ibrahim' or the ‘PAS extremists' or the ‘chauvinist DAP" but never his fault behind Malaysia's economic, social and political woes.

Even a tennis champion serves double faults and has many unforced errors and the Pope no longer claims to be infallible but someone who never admits his mistakes because he believes he has made none must be out of this world or his mind.

Malaysians want a future without sick politicians in power.

They do not enjoy picking on the government, any government. If a government performs it can't boast about it because it is merely doing its job and the people know that.

But if a government hears of wrong, sees wrongs done, and even does wrong itself, then if it has any self-respect it should do the right thing and not continue to stymie those who are merely doing what any concerned citizen would do and helping it.

Many of us serial letter writers merely state the facts, as the late Tunku Abdul Rahman would say,"As I see it."

And he was among the first to cry ‘betrayal' when he saw his country fall into a state of repressiveness, as Operation Lalang 1987 happened and the police state came into prominence, so Pak Lah can't be credited for creating the ‘police state'.

Betrayal is when a political party fails to govern properly and abuses its government powers to commit wrongs and punishes anyone who dares bring it to account.

The persecution of Suaram illustrates the point.

It is a betrayal of the voters' trust and the nation's Constitution and oaths of public office. Politicians may politick but governments are supposed to govern.

It is a betrayal and abuse of power for a political party to use the powers of government to persecute some other political party, NGO or even an individual.

It is a double betrayal when this is done in the pretext of upholding some law. That is why a change of laws is deceitful when the old habit of applying the law unfairly and for political purposes is still there.

In short, betrayal is a corrupt political party in government, wittingly or unwittingly, making itself the people's enemy by its unjust acts.

Such betrayal then sees the degeneration of a country's moral values into a society where people take the law and matters into their hands to commit ridiculous and criminal acts that outrage its citizens.

If the government is sincere in its confession for past mistakes it should grant the stateless Indians their rightful citizenship. It should not continue to direct the police to harass democratic activities.

Politicians do not need a lesson on graft avoidance but a reminder that "You shall not steal, or deal falsely or lie to one another" if they honestly believe there is God, then start living as if they have to give him an accounting besides the voters.

Not every member of parliament is corrupt, and not all politicians can be tarred with the same feather or needs a lesson in Morality 101 and it is an insult for the honest to be lumped in the same bandwagon as those who are brazenly dishonest.

You treat the sick not the healthy.

As GE13 looms the question then is will Malaysians vote for those who have betrayed their trust?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Is Later Retirement Good or Bad?

Come 1 July 2013 when the Minimum Retirement Age Act 2012 is enforced, all private sectors employers must extend the retirement age of their employees from 55 to 60. This news comes with mixed reactions and feelings. On the surface it would appear to be a good thing, that employees get additional working life to earn more income as well as keep themselves occupied. The flip side of the coin is that senior employees get less time to spend on themselves and their families, which many feel they deserve the right to do so. To many health problems start to surface around 50 and to 'force' them to work longer is tantamount to extending their suffering years. Although the Act allows for early retirement at 55 or the age as agreed in the contract of service, some will opt to continue if they need the money even though if the employer wish them to leave because of higher staff cost. This puts the employers at grave disadvantage especially if their businesses are not doing well or suffering from low profit margins.

Often extending the retirement age has to do with meet the rising cost of living and medical care. It is a known fact that one can never save as fast or faster than these cost escalation. Investment products like hybrid insurance scheme that build in return from investment and unit trusts are being dangled before would be retirees, and even to the younger employees with families to save for a rainy day (which appear to be wetter in the future). This is on top of the employee provident funds they have to contribute to provide a saving nest to fall upon later. Somehow the equation between income versus expenditure + investment doesn't match. It is a known fact too that expenditures rise much faster than income and the government has failed to slow down inflation and raise the productivity of the workforce to keep our products and service competitive globally. In a nutshell employees are being cornered and have to continue working longer and nearer to their graves to survive with less dependence on children and the state. The children may want their parents to work longer to reduce their financial support on their parents, and the state would want to reduce their healthcare burden by passing the responsibility to private healthcare schemes such as the stalled 1Care which had many citizens raise up in protest.

We can blame on the individual employee for not managing their finance well but there are many external factors beyond their control. It is human nature not to work long into their life. If possible many would want to retire at 45 and live reasonably well until they die on their own savings and investment. Of course this is just pipe dreams now to most of the employees in both private sector and public service. The government has mooted the idea that it wants to develop the nation to be a high income society. It is a concept with no road map to show the people how.

Later retirement can destroy small businesses now required to keep their long service workers at higher pay (and higher healthcare cost) than younger recruits. Older employees are less agile, slower, and maybe even harder to retrain, beside being more expensive to retain.

The government has recently gazetted the Minimum Wages Order 2012 which when effected in phases from next year will be a double blow to employers. At the time when there is a global recession that hurt the demand for locally produced goods, rising manpower cost without an increased in efficiency and productivity will surely make buyers look elsewhere for cheaper goods. The timing is bad but it appear that we have been caught unprepared and is now paying the price of becoming a high cost nation.

We have to learn to worker harder and smarter to catch up with less developed countries around us that are attracting more foreign investments because of their lower costs to the investors. For now it appear that only well managed companies and businesses can survive the coming years of adjustment and there will be many that will have to close their businesses. In retrenching their workers there will be more unemployment and higher dependence on those family members who still hold jobs. This will surely stress the families and society even more. On balance it seems we should not rush into extending retirement age until we have cure our productivity problem as well as change the mindset of young graduates who demand high pay with no commensurating experience.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Auspicious Date

In case you are unaware, today is December 12, 2012, which if written in the short format is 12.12.12. Many folks couldn't care much of its significance except that it is a repetition thrice of a number, but many readers too will give it some reflection because it is no ordinary date and doesn't come every other year. In fact we are all unlikely to see it again in our time, unless you miraculously survive to well over 100 years old, for this short date will only come again in 2112.

People have chosen this day today for something significant or memorable, like to give Caesarian birth, to get married or if too early, to propose to his beloved lover. Just like others had done in similar dates before on 1.1.01, 2.2.02, 3.3.03, etc. Last year was rather unique and special as the number 11.11.11 was exciting which like in a game of Poker and drawing quads or 4 cards of the same number or figure. Furthermore the numeral '1' is highly revered as it imply first or excellence. Last year many young couple chose to tie their knots and I can expect the same today, otherwise there is no 13.13.13 to wait next year, which even if it can come about, will not be welcomed since many people are superstitious of the numeral '13' as being unlucky. In the Chinese pronunciation '12' sound like 'harmony' which is good. Furthermore '12' is much used in the historical and mathematical context. We are familiar with 12 months, 12 hours daytime, 12 disciples of Jesus Christ, 12 inches to a foot and even in the popular Christmas carol, 12 Days of Christmas. So there you go, the number 12, is meaningful so it is acceptable to be doing something memorable even if you are not the superstitious type.

As I blog this there is another 11 hours left (or up to 23 hours for readers in other time zones) before this significant day expires into history. If you are reading this please do something that is extraordinary and make a note.

For me, I wish the government had chosen today, although a weekday, to hold the 13th general election. Perhaps it would be lucky for it since many Malaysian voters feel it may fall to the Opposition led coalition. Doesn't 13th ring a ominous bell?

Happy 12.12.12 to all my readers and may today be the beginning of much blessings and prosperity to you and your family, career and business.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Church Christmas Dinner with a Bang

Last Saturday was indeed a very memorable day for my church. It was the day the annual Christmas dinner was held to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and it was held at the S2 City Park Restoran. Response was great. A total of 49 tables was taken up, taking up the entire restaurant space that it became a private function. We were blessed with good weather even in this monsoon season when rain will suddenly fall anytime of the day.

The smooth running of the various presentations and speeches testify to the deep level of cooperation and understanding by the various contributors. We could see and feel the deepening commitment and love for one another. Indeed this Christmas dinner added to our emphasis on Loving God and Touching Lives, our mission statement.

I took a table for my entire family to participate. It was close to the rear and couldn't be the best spot as we could hear but can't see what took place on stage. But thanks to a lovely youth from the church who posted many pictures on Facebook we get to see them now. I wish to post a few pictures here.

As you can guess this dinner function was also to honor our outgoing pastor Paul and welcome in our new pastor Ronald.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Congratulations, Hua Yew and Lauren

We were overwhelmed by both the simplicity and grandeur of the wedding of our nephew on my wife's side, Hua Yew, and his long time girl friend, Lauren, on Saturday at the Pantai Baptist Church, Petaling Jaya, followed by tea serving and wedding dinner the following day at the 5 star Kuala Lumpur Hilton grand ballroom. Guests from all over the world flew in to celebrate the happy occasion. Hua Yew is just a few months younger than our son and to see him eventually surrendering his bachelorhood in favor of sharing a life long journey with Lauren is a testimony that an enduring friendship will help seal an everlasting marriage. We are happy for both of them and their parents. Here are a few pictures taken of the events. Unfortunately I wasn't able to take many. Our best wishes and congratulations to the couple and their families and may good news follow in the coming years from them.

This last picture taken at the birthday of our youngest daughter in the middle had Hua Yew standing on the right and our son on the left. That was some 28 years ago.


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