Sunday 31 July 2011

Greetings for Ramadan

My salam and best wishes for a contemplative and peaceful Ramadan to all.

It's a time for reflection while the throat is dry and the belly is empty.

While Malaysia is bountiful and blessed,  I hope the hotels and restaurants will take in fewer punters and less profit during the Ramadan Buka Puasa extravaganza.

Especially at this time of year, my thoughts are always with  the oppressed and dispossessed all over the world, especially in Palestine.

Wednesday 27 July 2011

Recess Time at Langkawi

The best place to start is at the end - our last day in Langkawi.
34th  Anniversary  of Rainbow  Girls  and Teech
24  July  2011
This Langkawi escapade to celebrate their special birthday had been meticulously planned since last year.  The Rainbow Girls came by plane from Singapore (except for Rohaya from Perth) -  and by road -
and by Ferry -
Laughing all the way to the Ferry
and by buggy at the Resort.

The accommodation was 5 Star - two persons to a chalet resting on water.

We had long lazy breakfasts.

They wanted to re-live their old days at Jurong Secondary School when they ponteng school and had roti canai at the mamak stall at Jurong Market - but of course with a different ambience.

They took to the rain like dried  ikan bilis to water.
Well, maybe, only the two.  If you kopet  ( not taking a morning shower)  you can bring the morning rain.  But as this is the season of the South-west Monsoon, it can be assumed everybody had a shower except for .......???

I was hoping and looking for sprinklings of magic stars to enhance our holiday.
I thought I saw a fairy in the foliage but it turned out to be a Langkawi leprechaun.
Maybe a gathering with the tall Scottish leprechaun might do the trick.
 But the magic occurred at ...
........after  a stomach-churning ride on the cable car and a walk on the Skybridge.

While enjoying the breathtaking beauty of the gorges and canopy of trees surrounding Gunung Mat Chinchang,  I reflected on these former students of mine from 34 years ago -  these four Rainbow Girls.  Despite the passing years they are still  loyal and constant friends.  They have changed in some ways but remained untouched by the wear and tear of life.

Here's Oi Bek as serene as ever then and now.

Demure and gentle Rohaya became more demure and gentle and sweet - a lovely and loving mother and grandmother and friend.

Rukhsana looked just as angelic - with chocolate in her mouth.

Lely looks very 'stylo-wylo' in her hat ........
......but she's still the irrepressible scamp she was years ago ..... again with her hat on.

To seal the magic we proceeded to the yummiest little restaurant at Pantai Cenang ......
.......and the world famous Minyak Gamat shop. Well, that's what we think because the man in the shop patiently answered all our questions.  We now hope, with Minyak Gamat and all its by-products, all our health and beauty problems will be solved.

However, you four girls do not need any magic for the rest of your life.  You have enough, stored in you, and of your own making to bring joy and enchantment to the people around you and especially to Uncle and Teech.

P.S.  Except for Images 1, 2, 3, 9, 10, 11, 13, 15, 17, 18 all the rest are by courtesy of Lely aka pickledherring.

Wednesday 20 July 2011

With the Rainbow Band

Lely, Rohaya and Ruqxana will be here tomorrow.  Early Friday morning  they  will leave for a weekend break at Langkawi with AsH and spouse in tow.  Oi Bek will fly into Langkawi from Singapore on Friday as well.

Some weeks ago when my sister asked Lely whether Iain will be joining them, she replied,  "Bawa saja, lah."  That had my sister and Hidayah rolling with laughter.  We're quite touched that these youngsters wanted us along for their special celebration - all expenses paid!

Oi Bek and Lely  have arranged it to the smallest detail and here is where we will be from Friday to Monday. 

These two geriatrics, Darby and Joan, really look forward to this break which will help us to recuperate from a spell of poor health.  I hope these dear girls will remember to supply us with hot water bottles, walking sticks and perhaps a Lamborghini wheel chair!

These girls know too well how Uncle the Scotsman, much prefers the simpler, humbler AND cheaper holiday abode.  Anyway he has no choice for this is their special holiday.  If he had his way, this picture by him illustrates the sort of place he would choose.  You girls have been warned.

Click to get a larger image.

And here are snippets of what could lie ahead

And he hopes this will give you the sinking feeling and  stop you from taking up the offer.

AsH will be home by Monday fatter, healthier and chirpier, InsyaAllah.

And - I will be bootlegging about 20 bottles of Minyak Gamat, by special request of friends and relatives.

See you later and have a lovely week-end.

Monday 18 July 2011

Simon Tisdall's Lecture

Here we go again!  Years and years ago, British colonialists, missionaries, travel writers and academics were too happy to rap us on the knuckles for not doing things according to their schemes.  Now the "white man's burden" has fallen on the likes of Tisdall (Guardian 13 July) to lecture us about our erring ways with an instruction that the Malaysian PM should abandon the Mubarak model, in the wake of the Bersih 2.0 demonstration of 9 July.


For Simon Tisdall, the assistant editor and a foreign affairs columnist of the Guardian, here are a few pointers he has ignored.

1.  The Kempen Bersih was not a platform for 'democratic reform' in the style of Tunisia or Egypt or Syria or Bahrain or Dubai or Burma.  It was, as claimed by Datuk Ambigar Sreenivasan, the Chairperson of Bersih 2.0, to seek electoral reforms on seven items.  It's a bit like the recent referendum in your country, Mr Tisdall, where the people voted (not demonstrated) on whether to change the electoral system to proportional representation instead of 'first past the post'.  If you take a poll from the protestors on 7 July, how many of them can tell you the seven electoral reforms that their leaders were demanding?

2.  You say,  "Najib reacted with ..... with heavy-handedness when ...... demonstrators took to the streets of Kuala Lumpur demanding reformasi  - democratic reform - and an end to a defective electoral system that guarantees Najib's party representing the Malay majority, UMNO stays in power indefinitely. (para. 2)

In the first place, reformasi was the battle cry of Anwar's party (PKR).  Why use this party slogan for a protest demanding electoral reform?  It is hard for those millions who were at home that weekend to be convinced that this yellow T-shirt campaign was not being used as a party platform for the opposition parties' agenda, even though they had won over three states during the 2008 General Election.

We know Malaysia is of little consequence in your little black book but you, Mr Tisdall, don't do yourself much favour by stating that UMNO alone rules the roost.  The Malaysian Government at present is comprised of a coalition of Malay, Chinese and Indian parties.

It might have been valid 10-15 years ago, to categorise UMNO as the party representing the Malays.  But today, the Malays in Peninsular Malaysia especially, have split threeways, between PAS, Anwar's PKR and UMNO.

3.  The death of one demonstrator in KL is a cause for regret.  But you and others in Malaysia are way off the mark in comparing this to the death of Iain Tomlinson, an innocent bystander who was shoved and pushed to the ground by a Metropolitan Police officer.  We still do not know the facts of Baharuddin Ahmad's death and until then, you and Amnesty International should hold your guns and not jump to self-righteous reprimands.  How long did it take the Police and the British authorities to get to grips with the demands of Tomlinson's family for justice?  And was it not too long ago when the Metropolitan Police shot a Brazilian, Jean Charles de Menezes seven times in the head at Stockwell Tube Station?

4.  You quoted Amnesty International's report that  the Malaysian Government's action during the demonstration  "..... flies in the face of international human rights standards ...... David Cameron should tell Prime Minister Najib that these human rights violations are unacceptable."

The Right Honourable David Cameron is hardly in a position to reprimand anyone in his or any other country.  His Government, his Police Force and his nation's Media are flailing like headless chickens with the unfolding of the incestuous relationship between his ( and Brown's, Blair's and Major's) government and Murdoch's media and the Metropolitan Police.

If Britain is not a 'failed' country like North Korea, Pakistan and other Muslim countries, it is most  certainly a nation with rotting values.  What is Amnesty International's take on this corruption and abuse of power in Great Britain?  Will they condemn Cameron, Murdoch, Rebekah Brooks and the Police top brass?

5.  To connect the Bersih Campaign in KL to Tahrir Square is an insult to Egyptians who were protesting not only against Mubarak's repressive regime but also for economic reforms.  For Egypt, according to the CIA World Factbook 2011, the unemployment rate was 9.7%  (3% in Malaysia and 7-8% in UK).  The percentage of population living below the poverty line in Egypt was 20%  (5% in Malaysia and 14% in UK). 

Telling Najib to "abandon the Mubarak model' is quite laughable and reveals the lazy thinking of this reporter from the venerable Guardian.  Mubarak ran a one-man show for over 30 years, subsidized to the hilt by American and Israeli money and patronage.  Under Mubarak, Egypt did not  support the Gulf War of 2003 but he was against an immediate American pullout.  Together with America and Israel, Mubarak enforced the siege in Gaza.

As for the Opposition in Malaysia, they had the right and privilege of wresting away three states from the ruling party.  And they not only lived to tell the story but to widen their election campaign by way of street demonstrations.  More worrying for the Malaysians who did not support the Banana Revolution is Anwar's warning that "We will have to pursue free elections inside and outside of Parliament."  (para 9)

If more street protests are inevitable, as Anwar has suggested, what do the opposition dare hope to achieve?  Articles like Tisdall's and others from the West  make the Banana revolutionaries believe firstly that Britain and Europe will be 'persuaded' to impose economic leverage on a country that "is not politically immune to the the international zeitgeist, any more than it's economy is immune to global trends"  (para 11).  My, oh my, is that a promise or a threat from a nation whose external debt is only second to the US at 8,981 billion US dollars ?  For comparison, Malaysia's external debt is 72.6 billion US Dollars.

As for 'Najib touting for UK trade', British Universities and English Language publishers have been soliciting (mostly through the British Council) for customers in Malaysia for donkeys' years.

Secondly, and heaven forbid, does the Opposition hope for a situation like Libya?

6.  Tisdall advises that Malaysia should learn a lesson  from the 'north' (Thailand).  But Malaysia does not have a quasi-military government.  And Thailand does not have a large non-indigenous minority that they have to cater to and negotiate with for political and economic power.  And a lesson from the 'south' (Singapore) is a delusion.  Street demonstrations like the one in KL will not see the light of day!  As for Aung San Suu Kyii's 'twin imperatives of freedom and democracy'  (para 12),  I don't think she is that conceited to claim that she 'speaks for an entire region.'

Furthermore, I don't think Malaysia has any desire to 'be a paradigm for South-east Asia'  (para 13).  And anyway what gives ignorant and pontificating reporters, from a morally-bankrupt Britain, the right to even suggest such a thing?

Finally, let's just remember one irrefutable fact: there is no more police brutality, or racism, or corruption, or denial of human rights in Malaysia than there is in sweet old England.

Wednesday 13 July 2011


AsH's biosystem is down again.  It was hacked by the same virus as last year's , causing hacking coughs and many aches and much frustration for a geriatric who wants to squeeze in a lot of living in KL before September.  As a result, I could not make it to Singapore for Tanjong Pagar's shutdown - 'twas one of the reasons I came back this time.

Last year I sought treatment from Klinik N...... up the hill. Despite me telling them that I had an allergy to penicillin, the two quacks were obviously not savvy or careful enough to give an alternative antibiotic.  The infection went on for 4 weeks accompanied by an allergic rash that made my life such a misery  for much longer.  Finally, Tung Shin Hospital's Outpatient Clinic sorted it out with steroids - a treatment I try to keep at arm's length - but I had no choice.

This time I knew where to go.  But the Yellow T-shirts' Walkabout stopped me in my tracks.  There was no way we could get to Tung Shin during that weekend.

Our street-cleaner friends, Aisha and Osman could only balik kampung - to visit her sick mother - by jumping from one local bus to another so they could get to Kampar.  They could not get the usual Express Bus, which would have saved them an additional 2 hours of travelling!

There must be loads more stories of  disruptions and chaos for the ordinary folks who have no time for the brouhaha on KL's streets.  And when I saw on TV the big guns, who had been comfortably ensconced in the luxury Hilton Hotel, making a big tamasha  (a spectacle or show in Hindi) at Central it made me see red.

When we were learning the rules of crossing the road during primary school we were taught this little song.

Red, yellow and green,
The traffic lights are seen.
The red says we stop.
It stands at the top.
The green stays below.
It says we may go.
The yellow stays right in between.
(It) says, wait for the red or the green.

At Pasir Panjang English School, we  coined another colourful ditty, a 'war-cry' in the battle between the Red House, Green House and Yellow House for supremacy on Sports Day.

It sounded like this. 
Red, Red, Botak Head.
Yellow, Yellow, Dirty Fellow.
Green, Green, 'curi' Ice-cream.

How symbolic I thought!

Through my swollen red-eyes (because of the head cold) and a head full of phlegmy gunge I visualized several types of yellow bananas in that pageant at Central.  There was Pisang Rastali, a Pisang Berangan with headgear, and a Pisang Raja draped in short-sleeved shirt a la  David Beckham's or Prince William's summer style.  There was one member of that distinguished entourage, tucked away discreetly at the rear, who was not in yellow.  Perhaps that was the Pisang Goreng.

I told you my head was clutched in a tight vice because of the infection.  I was hallucinating bananas or was I going bananas?

Anyway we did get to Tung Shin on Monday but then the Internet gave up the ghost the same day.  And I also lost my voice on that day , much to the spouse's joy.

Why me??????

Sunday 3 July 2011

Flogging Horses

In the mid-1970s at London University I learned a new sentence.  Protest with your feet.  We had a lecturer who was a real skiver and waffler.  One of my classmates who was fed up with this character said,  "Why don't we protest with our feet?"  I looked a bit nonplussed and the chap sitting next to me said, "Walk out of the class!!"

University life in UK in the 1970s was ridden with layabouts, hash, and loads of protests.  Anything could be the excuse for demonstrations - from the Vietnam War to the price of beer.

One day while we were waiting for a lecturer (in this case, a decent teacher) to turn up, a couple of undergrads turned up at our door and suggested we all leave the class and join them for a demonstration.  Most of us didn't quite know how to react.  As I was the only foreign student in the class I told the 'instigators',  "I'm paying  a lot of money to study at this University and joining your demo would not serve me any good."

I must admit to being some sort of radical during my undergrad days at Singapore University. But that's the usual teething problems of youth. 

Looking at this, with me marching like a samseng  - 45 years later - oooh, how embarassing, how naive.  Disraeli's words :  "Youth is a blunder, manhood a struggle, old age a regret" come to mind.

Demonstrations and protest marches seem to be de rigeur for 2011.  After years and years of bloodshed and violence in the Middle East - and the resulting quagmire - the young and not so-young men and women in that part of the world are seeking an alternative.  For them the streets remain the only available arena.  The western world is not spared either - the loss of jobs, the cutback of services in education and health,  diminished pensions , and rising cost of living have forced people on to the streets to get their government to listen.

As an oldie I often discover scenes from the past to relate to the present.  This is from F.D. Ommanney's  Eastern Windows  (1960)

He was writing about the riots in Singapore when the Labour Party led by David Marshall, then Chief Minister of Singapore was battling for complete independence and full internal self-government  for Singapore.

..... meanwhile the Communists were busy in the Chinese schools.  There were schoolboy riots led by schoolboys well over twenty-one years of age, and inspired strikes which made people wonder where Singapore was going under its first elected Government......
At the end of 1956, about the time of the Suez crisis,there were more riots brought about by Chinese schoolboys.  The actual rioting was done by about three thousand hired trouble-makers, who mostly ran around smashing traffic-lights.  The vast majority of Singapore's million and a half people only wanted to be left alone to live their lives in peace......

There must be a lesson to be learned somewhere from that little episode from the past .  And  Ommanney had this to say about lawyers.  Of Mr David Marshall :

He was a very clever lawyer and a persuasive speaker who professed a loathing for the colonial system under which he had made his reputation as a lawyer.   In cases involving Asian individuals versus Europeans, or versus Authority, or versus Big Business he accepted briefs for the Asians and often won with dramatic displays of oratory.  This gift of oratory stood him in good stead during the election when he .....  thundered against colonialism, working himself into all the symptoms of towering rage.  It was an easy horse to flog.

Ommanney is a classic colonial who believed that rulers should be nominated, and 'not elected by voters who can neither read nor write and certainly do not understand what they are being called upon to vote for.'  Of course he would think this way - but I certainly do not agree that  people who are literate and educated  know what they're voting for.  Our friend and street cleaner Osman has got more of his wits about him where the politics of his country is concerned.  And he knows how his travel to work  from Puchong to Setiawangsa for him and his wife Aisha will be disrupted by the Bersih  campaign and make his difficult life even more trying.  All he wants is his freedom to  carry out an honest day's job peacefully -  of keeping the streets bersih !

But, I  heartily agree with Ommanney's view of  clever lawyers ... and 'easy horses to flog'!!