Monday, 11 October 2010

"DON" Razaleigh Hamzah leading the charge

I got this from Malaysians unplugged uncensored. It's ironical that UMNO has called upon him to lead the charge in the Galas by-election(due to the death of the state assembly man). Hitherto, he has been persona non grata in UMNO. But those UMNO leaders who wouldn't even touch him with a ten foot pole have suddenly welcomed him with open arms, gushing with enthusiasm that he would win back the state seat from PAS. Having appointed him as the state election director, a position traditionally reserved for the big wits in UMNO, they even threw him a challenge to stand for the by-election as well.

The Galas by-election is seen as the bellwether to how political power will be played out between the ruling coalition and the opposition.

Would he be the knight in shining armour, rally the voters to UMNO? Or would he, as the caricature above suggests, end up being ridiculed and disillusioned?

Sunday, 10 October 2010

The Rape Of The Sarawak Forests

Debris and logs covering about 50 kilometres of Sungai Rajang

Well, all these years of indiscriminate logging of the Sarawak forests and its attendant ecological damage have finally caught up with the Sarawak state government. Once again fingers are pointed towards the big logging companies. In the first place, who allowed them to log in the upper reaches of rivers, who ensures that these loggers adhere to stringent conditions laid down in the approval given to them?

Today's major newspaper reported hordes of people gleefully swarmed the choked river to grab dead or dying ikan patin or lulong.

Pic from the Star newspaper

Friday, 8 October 2010

Afghanistan: 1946

Another good book to read as basis for understanding modern Afghanistan. A book that recorded the transition of Afghanistan to nationhood, albeit through the eyes of Michener. It's free too. Some vivid insights:

1. Afghanistan was once invaded and razed by the Mongol hordes, but they left behind a pillar of corpses encased in gypsum as testimony of their terrifying presence;

2. Life of the Pashtuns, a major tribe of Afghanistan and their fascination with the travelling dancing troupe of feminine boys

3. The lives of the Povindahs, that nomadic tribe that traversed the deserts and mountains of Asia;

4. The powerful influence of the mullahs in the life of ordinary Afghans;

5. The stoning to death of an adulterous woman;

6. Afghanistan as a centre for learning and teaching Buddhism centuries before Prophet Mohammad was born;

7. The covert jostling for influence among the Russians, Americans and the British, and much more.

The funny thing is that there is no mention of the 'Talibans'. Presumably, they belong to another dominant tribe, the Afghans.

Go here for free downloading of the book.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

The Si Mata Sepet and Si Botol

Quote of the week:

The Assistant Director of the National Civics Bureau, the institution responsible for promoting and inculcating patriotism and unity among civil servants called the Chinese 'slit-eyed' and the Indians 'alcoholics'

“The ‘si mata sepet’ that has never gone to a mosque or surau only has one vote. The ‘si botol’ that only knows how to go up to Batu Caves up and down only has one vote”.

In the meantime, the Prime Minister in his maiden address at the UN held up Malaysia as a shining example of a country that celebrates her racial and cultural diversity.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Revisiting some pre-war buildings

There has been a spate of refurbishment or renovation of prewar buildings recently. Some have been torn down and completely rebuilt, while others have their interiors redone and given a new coat of paint. It is apparent that the Chinese character of the old town itself is slowly but surely changing. I suppose it is a sign of progress as the old will have to give way to the new. But sadly, that sense of uniqueness and timelessness which these buildings evoke will be lost and the people will be poorer for that.

The rather sorry state of Tai Kong, the iconic goldsmith cum pawn shop belonging to one of the richest families in Batu Pahat.

A new coat of paint, and new signboard to advertise its new pawn shop business

This block of building which used to house a coffee shop, a barber shop and a tailoring shop at Jalan Sultanah has been torn down to make way for a high rise building.

The new block under construction

The old Ong Ban Hong Leong vehicle spare parts shop

After renovation, the windows of this building resemble pigeon holes

Part of a row of shop houses near the old market. I am not sure if it is going to be torn down or renovated. Only the other hand, at the opposite end of the row, the owner has given it a new coat of paint, and the motifs that embellish columns and beams of the shops have been carefully painted

After repainting

Note that the owner has retained the wood slatted windows. None of those aluminum glass windows for him

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Sri Medan, the iron ore village town

I recently paid a visit to Sri Medan, Batu Pahat to attend a close friend's funeral. Given the well known historical fact that it was once a hive of mining activity, it is now, sadly, a village town with little to show, of its importance as one of the richest iron ore mines in Malaya during the colonial era. A Japanese entrepreneur was quick to seize the opportunity to exploit the rich iron ore deposits to feed imperial Japan's ever hungry industrialization programme in the 1920s. What is left now is a huge hole, which is now a lake, and the vestiges of a once ambitious plan to build a recreational park to attract visitors to this sleepy hollow. Little of its history is known to Batu Pahat residents, except the older generation. Another similar fate befell Tasik Bukit Pasir, which was once a bauxite mine. An ambitious plan to convert the lake into a water theme park has also fallen through, and the place remains empty of visitors, except for occasional love birds who wish to sit and gaze dreamily at the shimmering lake. I wonder who foot the bill for its development? The District Council? Or some entrepreneur who probably lost a lot of money on the project? I suspect the former.
A nursery

The walkway to view the lake

Just about the only people who come here are newly married couples for wedding photos

An interesting account was written about Sri Medan by Malaysia Land Rover Owners' Club.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

TV3 's Gaffe

Ho Ho Ho... The Malaysian government's TV3 station people must have patted themselves on the back for using the latest computer generated (cg) production techniques in producing this advertisement for the Hari Raya celebration. Hey, why don't we try something in the mould of 'Avatar'? That would be cool, they thought. Little did they anticipate that it would whip up a storm of condemnation from the Malay-muslim population. The ad was subsequently pulled off the air amidst a flurry of police reports made against it for insulting Islam.

A blogger added his thoughts on why Malays reacted the way they did.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Is This Really Happening?

An email has been circulating the cyberworld condemning the indiscriminate slaughter of pilot whales in Denmark. The gory, blood soaked sea of whales is a horrendous spectacle, enough to turn one's stomach. But is it really true?

According to one report it is true, but the 'perpetrators' defended the hunt as a practice that has existed for hundreds of years. In short, it is part of the culture of the Faroe Islanders, but it has raised the heckles of conservationists who have railed against Japanese whaling.

The manner in which a whale is dragged from the shallow water and killed is cruel, but the islanders claimed that it is painless:

Men gather on the shore to kill the beached whales. Ideally, most of the whales will strand far enough up on shore that it is unnecessary to secure them. However, those remaining in the shallows must be secured and hauled closer. Traditionally, this is done by driving a steel hook, or gaff, with a rope attached to it into the back of the whale. A new blunt hook inserted into an airsac in the whale’s blowhole has now been widely tested in practice and it is hoped that this new equipment may eventually replace the traditional gaff as the standard method for securing whales. The whale is killed using a sharp knife to cut down to sever the spinal cord, which also severs the major blood supply to the brain, ensuring both the loss of consciousness and death within seconds.

Judge for yourself.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Malaysia's Tragicomedy Court Case

Apart from NameWee's video clip that has provoked a storm of protests as well as and outpouring of support, the video clips that have become immensely popular, all for the wrong reason, are the antics of the Deputy Public Prosecutor for the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission during the inquest into the cause of death of Teo Beng Hock, a political aide to a Member of Parliament. The question that persistently pops up in the mind is why didn't the MACC send someone more capable in arguing the case that has generated so much negative perception for the MACC? What is the real intention of MACC? To show that the ongoing inquest is a charade? Whatever the intention, it will be a shameful reminder of the incompetence and lackadaisical approach of MACC. The first part alone had 147,000 hits.

View the 8 part video here.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

NameWee On Racism

Here is the video that kicked up a storm of controversy. NameWee has been hauled up for questioning. He may be charged with sedition. Judge for yourself if it is seditious. Vulgarity of course is his trademark.

This is an interesting response to NameWee' s video.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Free E-books

I was googling for free ebooks as books have become expensive. And they are aplenty. One that I have read recently was "Son of Sparta". I guess not many of you might have heard of Sparta, but you would have heard of the Trojan Horse from which a computer malware derived its name.

Obviously, the book is not a bestseller, otherwise it would not have been available for free. But it was an interesting read for its sociological insight into the life of a spartan child given to military training since the age of 6. An unusual aspect of military training for young boys was the accepted practice of sodomy by the boy's mentor who would take him under his wings to prepare him for the life of a Spartiate (full fledged spartan soldier). Ancient Sparta enforces strict segregation between women and men; and a Spartan soldier is not to marry until he has reached the age of 30. Even after marriage, they spend most of their time in army camps away from the womenfolk. Many Spartiates having boy lovers for most of their military life have not been able to adapt to a normal heterosexual relationship.

A good place to start to look for free e-books is The Burgomeister's Books.

Monday, 12 April 2010

The Inter-religious Committee - A Small Fry

So said the Deputy Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin. Can you believe that? It is just incredulous. He dismissed. rather contemptuously the nascent committee that has been approved by the Cabinet to solve religious issues and conflicts as a "small fry". He has apparently aligned himself with the right wing PERKASA which has vehemently opposed the idea of an inter-faith council unless it is directly under the control of the Islamic Department. PERKASA views it as a sign of Muslim weakness, of giving in to non-Malay demands. To allow such a council to exist independently would mean a threat to Islam as the official religion. By aligning himself with the right wing group, Muhyiddin is slowly but surely chipping away the Prime Minister's 1Malaysia model; he is slowly but surely pitting himself against the Prime Minister.

Being forced to state his position in relation to the 1 Malaysia concept, he has declared himself as 'Malay' first and 'Malaysian' second, which is contradictory to 1 Malaysia which is “a nation where every Malaysian perceives himself or herself as Malaysian first, and by race, religion, geographical region or socio-economic background second”. We could never deny who we are but the fact is that we live in a country called Malaysia, so we should think of ourselves as Malaysians, and solve our problems as Malaysians.

The proposal to set up an inter-religious council has been mooted many times in the past, but it has been shot down. The fact that the government has realized the need for one is a breakthrough. It is time to give it a chance, however slim, and in this pressing times to resolve our religious conflicts. And the DPM has by his callous remark thrown cold water on the committee.

I cannot help but feel that for every step that the Prime Minister has taken dogs are snapping at his heels.

Postscript: Well, it seems that the DPM did not use the phrase "small fry" and the various online papers have issued their apology to the DPM.

Friday, 9 April 2010


Within a week of its launch by the Prime Minister, My Procurement portal, which lists government contracts awarded, was subjected to intense grilling in the parliament by parliamentarian, Tony Pua.

The most glaring error was the contract to supply food worth Rm 6.5 billion to the army stationed in the north for 3 years, a sum equivalent to buying 4 submarines, according to Tony Pua. The Defence Ministry subsequently amended the figure to Rm 6.5 million.

A contract to build a 200 room hostel for students in Trengganu had a price tag of Rm 78 million, which works out to be Rm 390,000 per room. The contract figure was also amended to Rm 7.8 million. The same company which was awarded this contract was also given another contract worth Rm 39.9 million to build affordable houses for Trengganu folks. Pua further revealed that this company was set up in Dec 2007 with no revenues in his books as at 31 Dec 2008. The said company which has no track record has been awarded contracts totalling Rm534 million in the last 6 months, and the main shareholder and director is someone who turns 23 this month.

Read here for more discrepancies spotted by Tony Pua. Well, all I can think of is that the government's coffer is one big juicy plum that the well-connected have sunk their teeth into.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

KTMB proposes women only passenger car

The last Malaysian train I rode in was 30 years ago, and it was slow, I mean really slow. But it suited my purpose; I was young with plenty of time on my hands. I recalled climbing on to a train at the Kuala Lumpur train station at 9.30 pm and arriving at Butterworth 7.00 in the morning. Presumably Malaysian trains are more comfortable and much faster now. But what is this thing about KTMB proposing women only passenger car? Why the segregation? Is it one of those things again: separate swimming pool for women, separate payment counter for women in a supermarket, separate classrooms for girls...etc, etc? But it is not women only passenger car, families and senior citizens will be given separate cars. According to KTMB, it is for the 'keselesaan' or comfort. of woman commuters. So I guess women are more comfortable sitting among themselves, rather than with strangers of the opposite sex. But could there be another unstated reason? Could it be that chikan has become common on Malaysian trains? If that is the case, by all means have separate coaches for women to prevent sexual harassment. The problem as I see it would be that if there were more men than women on a particular day, the men would be packed like sardines in the men's only coaches. What if a lady prefers to be with her man friend? Would they be separated?

The Tun and his not so strange bedfellows

It seems our most respected elder statesman has lately missed the limelight so sorely that he has deemed fit to pitch whatever remaining influence he has behind the newly formed right-wing Malay group, PERKASA whose overriding objective is to continue to press for the retention of the NEP, demanding that the target of 30% of the economic pie should in fact be increased to more than 60% to reflect the racial composition.

His declared reason is that UMNO has become a toothless tiger to defend Malay rights and privileges. Yet 9 years ago he was castigating the Malays for continuing to depend on the government for handouts: "How much longer must the Malays depend on the government and the privileges accorded to them? How much longer must they remain mediocre?".

This is what he said 9 years ago:

Lim Kit Siang said Mahathir has come full circle, from an ultra back to an ultra, and that is the greatest tragedy.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

20 Years Without Water and Electricity

This is how the government treats the orang asli. Is it so difficult to provide even the most basic amenities to them? Yet, recently a government official in an international seminar trumpeted that Malaysia treats her indigenous people the best. The Bernama report below shows how well they are taken care of from 'womb to grave', as the official proudly put it.

Mar 29, 10 6:56pm

For over 20 years, 30 Orang Asli families residing in the Kampung Pelam Hardcore Poor Housing Project, near Rompin in Pahang, have lived without electricity and clean water supply.

The village chief, Husin Dagang, said the residents had to purchase a generator and depend on rain and well water to carry out daily activities such as cooking, bathing and cleaning.

Husin, 50, said each family spent RM500 on diesel to run the generators and those who could not afford one would live in darkness.

"We have to spend part of our income on the generator, but we don't have the academic qualifications and only work in the village so we can't afford to fork out this much money," he said when met here.

He said the villagers had voiced out their woes to local leaders, but had yet to see any action taken to provide the basic facilities.

"When we ask the local leaders they say water and electricity will be available soon, but the matter has yet to be resolved," he said.

A villager, Halim Abas, 38, said the lack of basic facilities caused residents to experience stomach-ache and vomitting because they had to share well water and use rain water.

Having no electricity made it difficult for the children to revise their studies at night as they only had oil lamps, he added.

"We hope the government will do something soon to overcome this problem as the residents cannot wait much longer," he said.


Sunday, 28 March 2010

The Batu Pahat River Hawker Centre

It has been ages since I ate at the river side hawker centre, and that too was due to an invitation from a Singapore friend who loves the congested centre. Apart from the many dishes we ordered, I found these few to be palatable.

Clams fried with curry powder

Fried osyters with eggs; the oysters seem to be getting smaller and smaller

The 'jiu he eng chai', still as good as ever

"Malaysia Best in Handling Indigenous people's Rights"

....said the Malaysian government representative, Datuk Dr. Marcus Mojigoh at today's Asia-Pacific Parliamentarians' Conference on Environment and Development. His claim which came at the back of the recent historic protest by 2000 orang asli at Putrajaya, the administrative capital of the country and a doctor's public disclosure of malpractices and misappropriation of resources at a orang asli hospital must have raised not a few participants' eyebrows. According to Dr. Mojigoh, the orang asli must be a contented lot as the government has cared for them from 'womb to grave'. The reality of this marginalized people, numbering only 141,230 is far from the rosy picture he has painted. Perhaps he should have claimed that in the Asia-Pacific region, Malaysia is the least worst country in handling her indigenous people.

Some statistics:
  • (2004) while the national poverty rate is 6.5%, that of the orang asli is 76.9%,
  • (2003) while the national hardcore poor rate is 1.4% that of the orang asli is 35.2%,
  • (2003) they make up 53.6% of recorded Malaria cases,
  • (2002) 19.63% of the population has leprosy,
  • vast majority of orang asli children are undernourished and stunted,
  • although more and more orang asli children are enrolled in primary and secondary schools, the dropout rate is high; for instance for every 100 orang asli children entering Primary 1, only 6 will be expected to reach Form 5.
And the list goes on. Below are some excerpts from papers highlighting the plight of the orang asli:

Not only are they the most marginalized, they are also facing the spectre of losing their claims on their ancestral lands. Their way of life has also been threatened by a government bent on converting them:

Read here for further anecdotal account.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

More Photos of Orang Asli Protest

Reading through some of the documents found at the website, Centre for Orang Asli Concerns, I felt that the Orang Asli are but one of the many instances which have shown that the present government cannot be trusted. For 52 years, the Orang Asal have been treated rather shabbily by the government which is supposed to protect their interest. The government has reneged on its promise to gazette their ancestral lands so that they could continue to live the way they prefer; instead it has converted some of these lands as government reserve lands for development. Invariably, some of these lands have been leased out to oil palm and timber tycoons.

Photos from Center of Orang Asli Concerns

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Are Orang Asli Bumiputras?

Yesterday, more than two thousand orang asli (some would prefer to call them orang asal), complete with their traditional gear converged on Putrajaya to protest against a new land policy which seems to shortchange them and demand recognition of their rights to their ancestral lands. Under the policy each family is to be given 2.4ha for agriculture and 0.1ha to build their houses. Prior to this protest, a Gombak orang asli hospital doctor who went public with her allegations of mismanagement and cronyism at the hospital was prevented from carrying out her duties and was later transferred out of the hospital. Coincidentally, after her transfer, the hospital director was also removed from the hospital.

Are the orang asli bumiputras? The constitution seems ambiguous on their status. Some would argue that it includes the orang asli in the peninsula (the defacto Law Minister for instance) while others contend that bumiputras refer specifically to Muslim Malays and the natives of Sabah and Sarawak. The interpretation of 'bumiputra' by various public institutions seems to exclude the orang asal. For instance, the Higher Education Ministry defines a bumiputra as:
  • in Peninsular Malaysia, if one of the parents is a Muslim Malay the child is a bumiputra,
  • in Sabah, if the father is a Muslim Malay or an indigenous native, his child is a bumiputra,
  • in Sarawak, if both parents are indigenous natives, their child is a bumiputra.
Where do the orang asli fit in? It seems that they have forgotten about the orang asal, the presumption being few if any would make it to colleges or universities. So what's the big deal?

The upshot of of this is that even the marginalized orang asal who have been suffering in abject silence have for once decided to stand up for their rights. Were they emboldened by the recent success of their counterparts in Sarawak who were successful in legally wrestling back their land from the Sarawak State government?

Read here and here for more.