Saturday, 27 September 2008

Top Ten Karaoke Songs

I got this from cakap tak serupa bikin, which I find quite humorous.

I think Syed Hamid's song should be read as "What Kind of a Fool I am".

Who Makes A Better Leader?

Who is perceived as a better leader? A recent poll conducted by the independent Merdeka Centre revealed that Malaysians are just as divided over who makes a better leader. Anwar is slightly ahead of Najib as to who is a better leader. A racial breakdown of the respondents revealed that Najib has more support from the Malays, while the Chinese and Indians are for Anwar. It is indicative of how fractured the nation is politically. For Anwar to become the prime minister, he has to win over the support of the Malays.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Tun Dr Ismail Wet Market

Tun Dr. Ismail wet market is a modern market unlike the typical smelly, dirty and chaotic markets in small towns. It was a pleasant experience buying groceries and fresh food.

The wet market at Tun Dr. Ismail

A man selling dukung, a sweet local seasonal fruit, outside the market

The dukung fruit. Obviously, the man has a problem with spelling

The well laid out stalls selling a variety of things, including orchid plants

The Ramadan season sees a huge variety of cookies being sold

Home made cookies and biscuits

Lemang, glutinous rice baked in bamboo. It is usually eaten with beef rendang

Orchid plants for sale

A Malay lady selling soybean curd and soy drink

One of the stalls selling vegetables

A fish stall

There is even one selling clothes

In deference to Muslims, stalls selling pork are located at the basement

Ham, hot dogs and bacon are also sold

Roast pork and char siew

The Navel Gazers

The Malaysian Insider has an interesting article on Malaysians' perception of the Internal Security Act (ISA). Of particular interest is the Malay perception of the ISA and the New Economic Policy(NEP). 70% of the people polled by the Merdeka Centre disagreed that people should be detained without trial to safeguard national security.

As revealed in table 2, what is significant is that the majority of the people from the various races are united in their objection to detention without trial.

Although the majority of the Malays believe that as the original inhabitants of the country, they should be accorded special rights, a significant percentage felt that all races should be given the same rights (Table 3 below).

How do the Malays feel about the NEP? Only 42% felt that it benefited the ordinary Malays. Four years ago, 60% felt that it benefited them.

The results of the survey seem to indicate a significant shift in Malay perception as to what they want, but the government is still trapped in its old assumptions and the "navel gazing disease" according to Malaysian Insider.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

I went to a hawker food centre at Taman Mega, Petaling Jaya for breakfast this morning. We stopped by a provision store to buy some stuff and I saw this Indian man selling putumayam, a traditional Indian food. The putumayam is actually balls of cooked rice vermicelli sprinkled liberally with grated coconut and brown sugar.

The putumayam vendor

The putumayam is made from rice vermicelli

Grated coconut

Brown sugar powder

Nearby is a wet market.

Later we went to the Taman Mega hawker food centre. It was crowded and we had to wait awhile for a table.

The hawker food centre

Workers busily making coffee, tea and other beverages

We ordered this: bee hoon (rice vermicelli) soup with pork balls, Chinese sausage and minced pork fried in black soya sauce. A very popular hawker food, famous for its springy pork balls.

Then we went to check out an apartment which my sister and her husband had bought two years ago at a cost of RM 198,000. It is only about slightly over 900 sq feet. The selling price now is about RM240,000.

Some apartments face the swimming pool

Monday, 15 September 2008

"Give Schools Option To Teach In English"

The debate on whether to jettison the policy of teaching maths and science in English continues. Some parents have suggested that schools be given the option to teach both the subjects in English. A comparison between the English and the Malay dailies predictably reveals two schools of thought, one for and the other against. The latter is concerned with how the Malay language has been robbed of its status as a language of maths and science, in other words a language of scientific discourse. Voicing this fear, a committee member of the Association of National Writers said,"Menghapuskan bahasa Melayu daripada isi dan kandungan ilmu Sains dan Matematik yang tinggi akan menjadikan bahasa kebangsaan itu satu bahasa rendah, pasaran dan hanya untuk kegunaan golongan rendah."

A PTA vice-chairperson advocating the continuation of the policy at a round-table discussion with the Ministry of Education

The other view urged the government to continue with the policy so that their children will be able to compete in the job market and on a global level. They have seen how thousands of graduates most of whom are Malays, have remained unemployable because of their poor command of the language. These debates were fuelled by a recent study conducted by Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris which concluded that the Policy was flawed and should be scrapped. However Bakri Musa has pointed out several flaws in its design among which are:

- lack of any control group
- the convoluted English in some of the questions
- exclusion of other variables, for example teachers' proficiency, parents' educational level.

He has also dug up a nugget of information pertaining to the background of the university which carried out the study:

UPSI in its previous incarnation as Sultan Idris Teachers’ College
was a hotbed of Malay nationalism. This study is less an academic
research and more political polemic camouflaged as a pseudo-scientific
study to justify its authors’ nationalist bias. Their data and methodology
just do not support their conclusion.

The government will announce its decision after the results of the national Primary school assessment at the end of the year.

Given the intense lobbying by UMNO and other Malay non-government organizations, it is highly improbable that the policy would be continued. Another policy which will suffer a pre-mature death.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

The Internal Security Act

Teresa Kok, Raja Petra, Tan Hoon Cheng

The three were detained under the ISA as a threat to national security. Tam Hoon Cheng, the Sin Chew reporter who first reported that Ahmad Ismail, the Penang UMNO 'warlord' had labelled the Chinese as "squatters" who do not deserve equal rights in the country, was released 18 hours later. Later in a news conference, the Home Minister clarified that she was arrested for her own safety as the Police had information that her life was threatened.

Teresa Kok, a state assembly woman and a senior Selangor state executive councillor was arrested over allegation that she was involved in a petition to ask a mosque to tone down its 'azan' call to Muslims to pray. These allegations were subsequently disputed by mosque officials who stated that the P.A. system failed. Mosque officials have lodged a police report against the former state minister, Mohd Khir Toyo who, in his blog, accused Teresa Kok of inciting racial hatred by petitioning to have the 'azan' call halted. A mosque official said, "I see all of this as slander and an attempt to give rise to prejudice among the various races in Kota Damansara, an act of provocation to divide the community".

For Raja Petra of Malaysia Today, he has long expected that he would be arrested under the ISA, and he was not surprised when he was picked up for his articles that to the government, insult the Malays and Islam.

Those picked up could be detained up to 2 years without trial. The ISA was originally enacted to deal with the communist threat during the British occupation.

Rumours are swirling that there will be more arrests of opposition leaders and activists in the days to come. Meanwhile, Ahmad Ismail, the mamak who started the fracas remains scot-free, not losing sleep over what he has done to the nation's fragile racial harmony.

One hypothesis that seems to take hold in the public consciousness is that the Ahmad Ismail episode and the chain of events that followed are orchestrated to bring about a second Operation Lalang: start a bush fire of racial resentment, and the fire will spread with a will of its own. Invoke the Internal Security Act in the name of national security and public order. The Operation Lalang in 1987 saw the arrest of 106 opposition leaders and activists under the Internal Security Act and the revoking of publishing licences of a few dailies. An interesting hypothesis, the parallels are too obvious to be completely ignored.

Friday, 12 September 2008


The answer to Ahmad Ismail calling the non-Malays "pendatang" who do not deserve equal rights. Excerpt taken from Malaysians unplugged Uncensored:

Here is the full text from Syed Imran's blog.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Don't Handicap Our Young Ones

For the past few days the debate on whether the policy on teaching Maths and Science in English should be continued or scrapped has continued to hog the pages in a local English daily. The astonishing thing is that the people who wrote in to the daily voicing their support for the continuation of the policy were Malay parents. One would expect vocal support to come from the English educated non-Malays. It wasn't so; and it is a positive indication that Malay attitude towards the English language may have undergone a paradigm shift. The main argument has been that they do not want their children to be handicapped by a poor command of English when they enter the private sector job market. They also exploded the myth that using the language would make them more an 'orang putih' and less a Malay.

A columnist also commented that the recent absurd advertorial must have dealt a terribly embarassing blow to Her Royal Highness. He described the blooper as "a howling shame". To add insult to injury, the institution is named after the third prime minister of the country, the father of the present Minister of Education. How's that for a double whammy? Undoubtedly, the advertorial was picked up by foreign readers and institutions on the net, and by those who are considering studying in our tertiary institutions. I shudder to think what must have crossed their minds when they read it.

"Wah, your Englis so powderful!"

Many have argued that improving the command of the language should be done by increasing the number of periods alloted to the teaching of English and not by learning it through Maths and Science. As it is, the teaching timetable is already heavily loaded, and increasing it for English would be at the expense of other subjects.

The long term objective of the policy however, is not only to expose students to the use of English for communication, but also English as a language of Maths and Science as the primary objective. But "Malay nationalists" as one parent wrote, have vehemently opposed the move as one that downgrades the importance of Bahasa Melayu as the primary language of instruction. Further, the present government under tremendous political pressure would most likely bend to the populist demand to revert to Bahasa Melayu just to appease both the Malay heartland and the vernacular educationists. As Pragmatic Revelations commented on my earlier post, when political expediency becomes the over riding concern, the educational system becomes a political football.

We do not need to go very far back to know how a switch in the medium of instruction could lead to either success or failure. The early 80's saw a switch in the medium of instruction from English to Bahasa Melayu. Teachers, who in the past received their education in the English medium were provided with only bilingual textbooks to teach and they did a remarkably successful job for the simple reason that they somehow had to be a role model to their charges and they worked hard to fulfil the role of a committed teacher, even though initially handicapped by a weak command of the language.

What has happened to that commitment, the drive to do a good job, to provide the best education for their charges? It is this commitment to do a good job that is sadly lacking in the teaching profession. Moreover, how many teachers are really proficient in English to explain mathematical and scientific concepts properly? Was the crash course they had undergone sufficient to equip them to teach effectively? It is not as though these teachers do not know English. They have studied the language for at least 11 years, so they are not exactly strangers to the language. I have seen how admirably quick the American Peace Corp Volunteers picked up Bahasa Melayu after one month of study and to this day, some if not several could still speak and write the language. Once my American friend, Nancy wrote to me in Bahasa Melayu and she acquitted herself remarkably after a lapse of so many years. I believe that behind their success is their spirit unfettered by prejudice, their desire to learn and their love for things unfamiliar and wonderful. And above all, their willingness to serve and contribute.

Below is what she has written to me:

Kepada sahabat2 yang jauh, Lee Chang Ngee dan Ng Yew Moi, dengan surat email ini saya hendak beritahu anda bahawa saya akan pergi ke Malaysia dalam Januari. Saya akan jumpa Sarah di Singapura, boleh jadi makan angin di sana semasa satu atau dua hari. Lepas itu pergi ke Malaysia ke Batu Pahat dan tempat2 lain. Mungkin saya hendak pergi ke Sarawak, hendak jalan-jalan ke Kuching, Miri, Brunei (?). Umor Sarah tahun 21 atau 22 dan dia bahru keluar universiti di Lyons, France. Saya belum dapat rancangan kapalterbang, tetapi akan gunakan United Airlines sebab ada "Mileage Plus" award yang sudah naik dan sekarang saya boleh pilih flight bebas antarabangsa. Berharap anda boleh faham bahasa Malaysia saya--lah!

Students are no fools; they can spot a phony a mile away. I contend that the failure of the policy lies squarely on the shoulders of teachers who accepted the change with lukewarm enthusiasm and taught with even less enthusiasm.

A Cold Crab Dish

I was fascinated by this cold crab dish served up by Jia Wee Restaurant. In fact it was my first taste of crab prepared in this way. Regrettably, I only had shreds of the crab meat as only two crabs were ordered for a table of 12. But I had the perfect excuse as I wanted to blog about this dish, so I needed to know what it tasted like. It was fantastic! Never have I had crabs that tasted so fresh and succulent before. The crab was first steamed with sliced ginger, spring onions and egg white; it was then left in the freezer for about one and the half hours to firm the flesh. I did not try the sauce that accompanied it; instead I opted for wasabe mixed in soya sauce. It was fantabulous. The restaurant has to be notified earlier so that it could prepare the dish.

The sauce for the crab

Jia Wee is wedged between two tall buildings, diagonally opposite the famous pet fish shop, Xian Leng. It is open for business only at night. Apart from the crab dish we also had others.

Jia Wee Restaurant

Deep fried 'kampung' or farm chicken. Every body is into kampung chicken as it is considered to contain less fat

This is guaranteed to raise your cholesterol level by many bars: steamed sliced belly pork

Close-up of sliced belly pork

This is my favourite fish: fried 'Kembong' or mackeral

The last dish: fried beehoon with bitter melon

Bald Heads

Nancy alerted me to this news item in the BBC News. We felt that this novel way of advertising would interest the readers.

(Pic from BBC News/Asia Pacific)

Bald-head adverts

for NZ airline

New Zealand's national airline is looking for bald passengers to head up a new advertising campaign.

The carrier said it wanted 50 passengers to be "cranial billboards" and publicise a new check-in service on their heads.

The fliers will be offered money to have their pates temporarily tattooed with the message.

The airline said it would pay NZ$1,000 (£380; $666) per head, making it easy money for bald frequent fliers.

The airline's marketing manager Steve Bayliss said in a statement: "How better to tell our customers that Air New Zealand is going to do something about [long check-in queues]... than through messaging they can read while they're standing in a queue themselves?"

Who Is Ahmad Ismail?

Oh, oh..Ahmad Ismail is not such a pompous nonentity after all. I got this from The Malaysian Bar. It reveals among other things that

- he is the Executive Chairman of Peninsular Metroworks Sdn Bhd (with a paid up capital of only RM 50,000), which was given the RM 1.02 billion Penang Outer Ring Road concession, but the project was recently put on hold by the federal government

- he is the Director of Nadi Senandung Sdn Bhd (a hundred ringgit shell company) which holds a 55% stake in the above company

- he was declared a bankrupt in May 2006

- a police report was recently lodged by the Penang Development Corporation against him as a Director of the now defunct Popular Profile Sdn Bhd for not returning RM 500,000 belonging to the the state.

So much for the champion of the Malays.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Malaysian Wrongfully Detained For 11 Months

Today's news, more shocking than the ruckus kicked up by one pompous insignificant UMNO division chief is the wrongful detention of M. Rajeshvari in an immigration detention camp for illegal immigrants for 11 months. All because she forgot her identity card number and unable to speak Bahasa Malaysia. She was six months pregnant at that time and gave birth while in detention. She was freed last Friday.

Pic from Star Online

I just wonder if there is any legal recourse that she could have to compensate for the 11 months' of suffering she had endured in the camp. Couldn't the Immigration people find a Tamil interpreter to determine her status? But the Immigration Department has been known to be less than humane in its treatment of illegal immigrants.

What was it like to be detained for 11 months? Someone should interview her and write an account of her experience on her behalf. She might become the next celebrity after Ahmad Ismail, the hero or racist, depending on what colour your skin is.

Hongkong TV Reporter Arrested For Public Indecency

I stumbled on this in the Singapore Straits Times today. The television reporter explained that he did it to relieve stress.

That reminds me of a time long past, but indelible from the memory: the May 13 incident in 1969. Tun Dr Ismail was the Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister during the state of emergency. Immediately after calm was restored in the country, the cinemas, at least those in Batu Pahat, were flooded with pornographic movies, not the triple X of course, but those soft porn that would lull people into forgetfulness of the dreadful consequences of the May 13 incident. It was a time when people of all races flooded the cinemas. I can't remember how long the cinemas ran these movies; a week? two weeks? But they were removed soon after. Was it a conscious design on the part of the government at that time? Or did the cinemas take advantage of the situation to profit from it? No one will ever know. As Karl Marx said, religion is the opiate of the masses, but in this case, could it be sex is the opiate of the masses in turbulent times?

Monday, 8 September 2008

Sabah And Her Forgotten People

I am a sucker for maps. I love to pore over maps, especially those designed for tourists. Here is a beautiful tourist map of Sabah. I wanted to know where Kota Marudu is after reading Dr Hams' account in Malaysiakini. Kota Marudu, it seems, is quite a tourist attraction; it has the Sorinsim Waterfall, an agricultural research station at a lake, and - surprise! surprise! - South-East-Asia's largest solar power station. And to add another feather to its cap, its annual Maize Festival which concludes with the crowning of the Maize Fashion Queen. Not many towns in Peninsular Malaysia can rival its attractions. Not to be left out, it is also wired to cyberspace.

But hidden behind this facade of a prosperous township, are the poverty-stricken, illiterate people in remote villages around Kota Marudu. Dr. Hams' account has revealed the reality of a Sabah that many, particularly those from Peninsular Malaysia, do not know, or choose not to know. His account is disturbing: a poor pregnant mother from a remote area of Kota Marudu, in her final stage of pregnancy, had to make a long trip to Kota Marudu to seek medical attention. According to the doctor, it cost the mother RM 50, the equivalent of her husband's one month's wage, to get to town. Some remote areas are even inaccessible, especially during the rainy season. And we in Peninsular Malaysia have beautiful roads serving remote and sparsely populated kampungs where teenagers ride on motor-cycles without road tax or licence, and needless to say, without lights on well lit roads. And poly-clinics to take care of their basic medical problems. No wonder the Sabahans have felt that they have been neglected all these years.

And to think that our government has spent RM 2.37 billion on Malaysian National Service since its inception in 2004. 2.37 billion and what do we have to show for it? Several deaths in the camps? How many kilometres of roads can we build in Sabah? How many poly-clinics? How many mothers can be educated on child-care and basic hygiene so that kids can grow up strong and healthy? How many kids can we educate in these remote areas? Or for that matter, how many street urchins can we help? The list is long, but as Confucius said, a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.

Street urchins: begging in Kota Kinabalu