Friday, December 27, 2013

One -handed Man


we are so used to doing work with both hands that left with one hand, you can hardly do anything. Losing both hands would of course make you a cripple, especially if the loss was permanent. Yet we see people with no hand being able to cope with life magnificently or courageously. However losing the use of one hand temporarily can be an interesting experience and can teach you many wonderful things.
I injured my left hand while working in my one-acre orchard or "kebun" about a month ago. It happened while trying to get my heavy lawn-mower into the truck using two pieces of planks as a sloping platform to pull the contraption up. While pulling it up it slipped and fell off. I stopped it and lifted the mower up onto the truck with both hands. No sweat. But a day later my left wrist began to swell like a cake in the oven and it hurt like hell. I nursed it for a few days applying traditional massage. It got worse and I finally went to see the doc.

A wrist bone was fractured as the X-ray film showed. Since it was not broken and only fractured only a strap was applied but my left hand became entirely useless for even picking up a cup or glass brought a spasm of pain running up my entire left arm.From thence on I became a one-handed man.

Wow. Can't even put on or take off my pants or sarong without help.Can't button my shirt or open a door with my left hand when the right one is carrying something else. Praying became an ordeal since you have to move your left arm up and down and help to hold your weight when bowing low on the floor (sujud). God. You can't even clean your bottom with the left hand or hold the spray pipe so that you can do the work with your right hand. Any slight movement of the left hand or the fingers on it would give you a shot of pain that cause your eyes to water although you weren't crying. Playing with the grandchildren or even fooling around with the wife because a great hazard. A slap on the left hand would make you cry with pain.


Hey, you suddenly become a VIP with your wife, kids, relatives and friends giving a ready hand in whatever you do. I have to sit in the back seat of the car with a toddler when travelling around as the wife or the toddler's mother does the driving. Can't use the folk and spoon when eating and you get help in getting whatever you want into your plate. You can't chat on th phone or iPad while laying in bed nor read a book which you've to hold up. God, there were so many things you couldn't do.

So, I know fully well now why God gave you two hands. Try living for a day with only one hand and see if you can manage to survive, less so enjoy it. Many things are happening in Malaysia, may beloved country, that caused a lot of concern and unhappiness. Prices of consumer goods are just shooting up like crazy in spite of the so-called price control, and so are the charges or rates for services and rentals. Prices for houses and land are putting the lower middle-income group out of competition for ownership and giving the rich an open field for expanding their estates. The increase in prices far exceeds the rise in salary for the common workers and public servants although private sector Chairmen,Directos etc and politicians holding public posts in government are getting huge pay jokes. Tenaga Nasional employees are to get a five-months' bonus this year while electricity tariff will increase next year by about 14%.

More disturbing, fishes, crabs and shells are getting out of the sea and coming onto the shores in Sabah, Terengganu and elsewhere. Why is this happening? What disaster lies ahead? Let's pray that Malaysia will remain a peaceful and progressive country with the leadership caring more for the common denominator of the population rather than promoting the greed and ambition of the rich and powerful. Wealth would mean nothing if the country ends up in protests and chaos as a result of the chase for a developed and high-income status.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Picking up the pieces

After about two months of absence from yhe country, doing pilgrimage to Mecca and recovering from jetlag and spiritual readjustments (readjusting from a life of prayers and supplication to Allah then crashing back into the material world is not quite easy), I find myself rather disoriented. There were too many things that didn't maku much sense to me.

The first thing that baffled me was to see a notice from Citihall addressed to a relative imposing on him aa assessment tax of RM131,200 a year for an acre of undeveloped agricultural land in Sungai Pencala. I understand tha the value of land in that area has been reevaluated, the status othe land having been changed from agricultural to industrial. The previous year he had to pay about RM400. The new charges almost gave him a heart attack, and indeed he had to undergo an operation for a minor heart attack later. A evaluation or cess tax of RM131,200 f year for an acre of lang isjust ludicrous to. There must be a mistake somewhere in the caculation although Citihall blendly talked of a 300% raise in the tax. Even a tax of RM12k or RM13k would force the old man to sell the land...

On reading the papers I saw that the new rate imposed by Citihall has shocked people in many areas in Kuala Lumpur including Jinjang and Kepong. A 300% raise in evaluation tax is certainly somethi g never heard in the history of thiscountry.

Then I heard the overall cry of anguish. "The price of almost everything has gone up by leaps and bound, especially that of petrol. Electric and water charges will also go up and so will the toll rates. The only thing that comes down in this country is rain...rain and more rain causing the worst flooding in Pahang and Trengganu." Then there was the announcement about the raise in the allowances of Prime/Chief Minister, Ministers and parliamenterians in xpite of the millions needed to help the flood victims.

We hear also that lands for new indusrrial and commercial purposes are being sold to foregner in the new development corridors, at fantastic prices. It follows tha the coomercial buildings and shophouses (including residential homes) will be built an sold at fantastic pricess, far beyond the financial capacity of the non-superrich Malaysians to buy. Yes, there are rich Malaysians too but very few Bumis. Even now the luxury homes in commercial areas are not affordable to the Bumi middle claas. So, how is the economic status of the Bumis going to be improved vis-a-vis the incresing strength of the non-Bumis?

The country is making haste to become a developed nation by 2020. The Per Capita is supposed to shoot up to RM15,000 or more. The income of workers are to be raised. But what we see is prices of consumer good going up faster than the rise in the personal income of workers. So is the charges fo public services now taken over by the private sector and the taxes or avaluation rates.

Is the standard of living and level of comfort in life really improving? Are the citizens getting more for the rinngit they earn or there's just more ringgit but of less value? We can only ask questions. Ghe leAders must provide honest answers and not reply to the hard questions in equivocal platitudes as we often here in parliament.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Pilgrimage to Mecca.

Muslims are required to undertake a pilgimage to Mecca if they can afford to do so. That is the fifth mandatoey reqirement of Islam after reciting the syuhada, praying five times in a day and night,fasting in the month of Ramadhan and paying the zakat. After the pilgimage, a Muslim automatically becomes a Haji.

I was most fortunate to have the opportunity of doing the pilgrimge last October. I've heard and read a lot about it and even did the umrah ( pilgrimage to Mecca only) a couple of times. But the experience of doing the full Haj is entirely different, especially this year when the Haram Mosque is undergoing a thoruogh renovation.

I'm not refering to the religious and spiritual aspect of the pilgrimage but the life experince that one goes through for the 45 to 48 days pilgrimage. The religious and spiritual experince itself is most illuminating but the life experience is to say the least, traumatic. It's most behumbling and humanitizing.

The training given before the pilgrimmage by local community mosqoes and by Tabung Haji (The National Pilgrimage Fund Board) would prepare one wirh all the prayers and recitations (do'a)that the pilgrimage would require. There's no possibility of learning all by heart since some could be very long, unless one has already read and memorized them a few months ahead. There's no necessity to do so anyway since colorful and easy-to-read pamphlets had been prepared for easy consultation while on the move. It's the simularion of the actual activities, ceremony,and procedure involved in performing the Haj that is most edifying. More importantly it's the act of doing things in a group of people you have't met which is most interesting. Adults and senior citizens when grouped together to perform certain activities that require spontaneous cooperation and synchronization can create quite a strange scene. The training and rehearsal only involved a few thousand at a time and a total of 22,000 would-be hajis from Malaysia. The pilgrims from all over the world whobwill congregate in Mecca will run into several millions.

The procedures and activities focused on involveD wearing the ihram - flat unsewn white cloth- and observing its prihibitions throughout the performance of the pilgrimmage's rites, performing the tawaf ( walking around the kaabah, performing the sae (walking and running between two mounts ie Safar and Marwah, stoning the devils at three sites and, of course, performing the various prayers at different places. Actual performance was simulated by the course partipants to get the "feel" of the actual experience.

But nothing is like the actual thing. When we arrived at the alotted hotels im Mecca, the place was teeming with Haj pilgrims, some in ihram others wearing normal though Arabized clothes - the jubah and headcloth. The crowd around and (as ascertained later) within the Haram Mosque was jampacked and almost impenetrable. One immediately realised that the Muslims of the world who congragated in Mecca during the Haj season ( October and November)easily ran into several millions. Almost all were dressed in white.

The routine involved in performing the tawaf and sae need not be discussed here but the behavior of people from varios parts of the world in performing the routine is a very edifying lesson in human behavior of people seeking the grace of Allah. The frantic shouts and recital of various doas, the pushing and jostling to keep in the company or group or friends,the frenzy of heightened emotions and spirituality in calling out to Allah for forgiveness, blessings and love, the crazy rush to kiss the hajal aswad (sacred stone), the wild hacking of the crowd for space to pray or move in and out of the human fiord etc makes one feel that your existence in this world is a mere accident and the world can easily trample on you.

But the more challenging experience was the night spent in Muzalifah collecting some 70 pebbles for the " lontar jumrah", stoning the devils and their friends, sitting around in the crowded space teeming with people in your ihram, with the cold wind blowing in your face. You're required to stay there for nothing less than five and a halh hours emulating what the Prophet (pbuh)did during his pilgrimage to Mecca. It was past 2.00am when we were taken to our tents in Arfah where the wukuf will take place. That's when the Muslims in Malaysia and elwhere celebrate Eidul Adha or Hariraya Haji. Three nights in the crowded tents in Arfah we moved on to Mina where the "lontar jumrah" (stoning the devil) takes place. The first throw involving a 5km walk to and fro with a few walkalators to ease the tired legs, involved throwing seven pebbles at the Jumrah Kubra only.
This must be followed by three more throws on separate days involving all three Jumrahs ie the small, the medium and the big jumrah. All the walks involved thousands of people filling up the roads, the tunnels and the walkalators.

Staying in the crowded tents and sleeping in rows with feet almost touching each other, eating food served in styrofoam trays, waiting in long lines to use the toilet and bathrooms, walking some distance to get hot water to prepare your own breakfast of maggi mee and biscuits, praying in groups in your own tent following an unseen Imam but only hearing his voive over the mike, formed the major chores of the day, choosing your own time to perform the "lontar jumrah" in the morning, afternoon, or night. The campsite and the road to the Jumrah were at all times crowded and jampacked with people, including roadside paddlers selling all sorts of wares from food and drinks to trinkets and clothes.

After four days in Mina, we were brought back to Mecca for the final part of the Haj routine ie performing the "Tawaf Haji" and "Sae". It's the same as doing the umrah but after the first "lontar jumrah kubra" amd the compulsory cutting off a few strands of hair or shaving the head completely ( which I did for the first time in my life) you are allowed to take off the ihram and dress up freely. The ladies however must continue to wear their usual "telekung" (robe) though not necesarily in black or white.

The entire experience of living and perforing the Haj pilgrimage routines for more than a month is really an experience that one can never forget. It's the experience of a lifetime and a Muslim who has not gonebthrough the process even after doing the umrah a couple of times will not know what becoming a full Muslim really means. Subhallah.


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Democracy and the Election of Leaders.


The troubles in the Muslim countries today seems to spring from a lack of consensus on what a good and desirable leadership should be.In simple terms, people are not sure what type of people they want to govern the country. Is an effective and a desirable leader a person who can keep everything in order in the country while the people enjoy a steady pace of development and progress although he (or she) has to exercise a strong and firm hand, or should he be one who has no strong conviction himself and just listens to his friends and advisers (including those from outside the country) to determine what action must be taken in any situation? the strong and weak hands

Modern political theories and philosophy of management tell us that a leader must be democratic, listen to and be guided by the advise of leaders at lower levels, and be responsive to the feedbacks that he or she gets from the public in regard to the effectiveness of his policies and programs. He/she should be able to get the best from those working under him/her, be it in terms of ideas or work productivity. He or she doesn't have to be super intelligent but is able to tap the minds of others under him/her. He or she should be very friendly with the people working under him or her and the people that the government serves. He/she should be popular with all and must be easily approachable.undefined desirable qualities

But a very popular leader following the above prescriptions can be easily persuaded by his close friends and powerful allies both within and outside the country. He or she can easily loose touch with the common men-in-the-street for he depends on his friends and the leaders below him to report and interpret what is happening. His "advisers", official or otherwise, can easily convinced him that everything is okay and arranged for him to be given a rousing welcome wherever and whenever he goes out to see the people. He can be effectively 'shielded' from the reality of things on the ground.
the popular outlaw
In contrast is the leader who wants things to be run in his way, finds out the truth himself (or herself), and holds a firm hand on everything that happens in the country.He/she doesn't allow anything to go out of control and nips all problems in the bud. He or she might even appear a little despotic but everything remains under firm control leaving people to live and work in peace. The welfare on the many is given more consideration than the interests of the few who are already rich and prosperous, or the views and advice of his close friends who are thriving under his aegis. He or she will not allow outside interests to disturb the peace and welfare of the people, even if the country has to undergo a somewhat strained relationship with some other countries. He or she rules with a rather firm hand, even if he or she is not quite popular but well respected.

The muslims in the trouble-ridden countries seemed to ba uncertain on what type of leadership they want. Many strong but a somewhat undemocratic kind of leadership had fallen, with the help of outside forces, leaving the country in a worse shape than before. Many are now tottering and on the brink of falling, leaving the country in a state of self-destruction. The people seemed to want a new leader with certain qualities but failed to define those qualities or agreed among themselves on those qualities so that they can agree on the best candidate available. It is a disagreement on those undetermined qualities of a desirable leader (or leaders) that led to conflicting choices and a bitter and blooding bickering among themselves. The disagreement is often exploited by outside forces with a special interest of their own.

Thus the sooner the people decide on what type of leadership they want, and agree on the qualities that are required to meet the need of the day, the faster they will be able to agree on the leader most suitable for the country. Their indecision on who will make the most effective leader to pull the country and people together, will continue to cause havoc and turmoil in the country.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Weak Majority and Strong Minority.

The voice of the majority is the determining factor in a democracy. It's supposed to be the voice that determines who rule the country, what laws are to be adopted and what policies are to be implemented. It's the voice that sanctioned everything or put a stop to what the majority don't want. the golden charioteers

But do things really work that way, even in a democracy? Yes, the general election will determine who will become members of the Legislative body at the Federal, State or other levels as the case may be. The party will select the candidates for the poll and the electorate will determine who will be selected and from what party. As usual the Legislative body both at the Federal and State levels will comprise of the Government and the Oppositon sector- the Government representing the majority, the Opposition representing the minority. Again, is that what the reality of the day is?
residetial paradise
The government in power representing the majority of the electorate must accommodate and cater to the needs and demands of the minority, to prevent the Opposition from capitalizing on them to win the election in the next round.It often has to bend backwards to accommodate and satisfy the demands, especially when the so-called minority is numerically and economically very strong. While the majority has voted the Government into power, the grass-root populace is economically weak and will no be able to provide the needs for rapid development. The Government has to depend on the stronger minority to strengthen the engine of growth and development. And make sure that that engine will not be cajoled and commandeered by the Opposition. In the end, the needs and demands of the stronger minority can be attended to more than the need of the numerically superior but economically weaker majority.the poor majority

Confusing, isn't it? Well that's how politics and government work.Things often don't work out as the theoretical blueprint says it would, and reality may not be as what you see on the ground. Why so? Because it's not politics that rule the world today but money and material wealth. Both can buy politics to work for their interests. It's a blessing that there is always the right and the left wings in government and politics, the contending forces, the countervailing powers, and the check and balance. If the needs and interests of the weak majority are not taken care of and satisfied, the majority will dwindle since much of its support will move over to the Opposition. If the needs and interests of the stronger minority are not attended to, their support for the government will weaken and it's hold on power may be threatened.

So, how can the problem of a weak majority (WM) and a strong minority (SM) be managed since some problems can never be overcome. That's the question the leaders of developing and newly developed countries have to answer since the WM -SM issue is strongest in these countries. The rich and wealthy form a very small minority while the vast majority of the people are still living just above subsistence level. This becomes more complicated when the rich and the poor also fall along a racial divide in a multiracial country. When the weak majority feel that their interests and needs have really been neglected, the country will have to face the forces of instability biting its butt.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Smoke Signals and War Drums

I used to enjoy reading comic books with cowboys and red Indians, smoke signals,war drums, and lots of fighting. We don't see those comic books anymore, all replaced by video games full of war stories using destructive weapons and death defying heroes. Deaths and destruction on a massive scale become the focus of attention, the fun and the excitement. All sorts of fancy weapons of death that the creative minds of the authors can create, are displayed and used with awful ( or awesome?) results. Our young people, children and young adults just love those videos with true-to-life cartoon characters.the smoke signal of yesteryear

So, the smoke signals and war drums culture is not actually dead but transformed into modern modes of causing destruction and deaths ss promoted by modern technology and electronics wonders. Even tiny tots are provided with toys and playthings that resemble heroic characters from war stories at earthly or intergalactic levels. For the bigger boys and girls including some adults, the video games can be so filled with deaths and destruction that the DD factor is the main center of attraction, more attractive than love and romance.video game of today

Yes, the world today is built on a love for human conflicts, enmities, deceits, fightings, wars, death and destruction. The smoke signal and war drums culture is still alive and elevated to an astronomical scale.Anyone walking by a video room in the house or at a video center will be hearing the sound of explosions and battle fury crowned by shouts of excitement and horror from the players. That's the no. 1 form of entertainment today among the young beside fast cars and motors. (I don't want to mention pornography!).

So, should we be surprised that the adult world has also not succeeded in suppressing or discarding the smoke signal and war drums culture? The smoke signal and war drums roll on in the Middle East, in the West and in the East. World leaders want peace and freedom for the people. But peace and freedom can only be gained by sending smoke signals and rolling the war drums to scare the smaller leaders fighting for their own survival in their respective countries. War had been launched before with disastrous results which could not be stopped even now, and new threats have been issued.The smoke signal gets thicker and the war drums roll louder. All because someone is using or alleged to be using 'chemical weapons' in fighting a local war. The same allegation had been used before to launch a full scale war which ended in a disaster....the war game goes on

Yes, the adult and sophisticated world loved smoke signals and war drums, as much as the war itself, like the young people love video games with lots of fighting, deaths and destruction. The war machines had become more and more sophisticated with lots on invention to make death and human destruction a pleasure to some screwed-up minds. If politics had become just a game for many world leaders, war had become like a sports event with many gold medals to be won.

Like the comic book lovers of old, we just have to watch the smoke signals get thicker and the war drums roll louder. The war chiefs now fly around the globe to pow=wow with blood brothers to support their quest for a war to end the bickerings of the smaller tribes, to bring them peace and freedom.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Respect for Religion.

It is ironical that the more religious a person is, the more critical he or she tends to be of another religion. It follows that the less religious a person is the more tolerant he or she is of the religion of others. Why is it ironical? Because a religious person should be well aware of the fact that they are many religious faiths in this world and even people holding the same faith or religion can belong to different orders or sects. Islam is predicted by Prophet Mohammad (Peace Be Upon Him) to break up into 73 sects while Chritianity could break up into 72. Only God knows how the religions of the world will end up one day. What we Muslims believe is that Allah let people adopt different religious beliefs so that human beings will learn from each other. Almighty God can certainly allow only one religion to survive if He so wishes.
The world is for all Human Beings
Respect for one another's religion is the mark for true religiosity.You hold on to what you believe and let others do the same. It's the intervention of the State to tolerate only one religion or one religious order and force all its citizens to follow that order, which can cause turmoil and disorder. It is that spirit which in the past led to senseless wars and the killing of innocent people in the name of religion. Should we allow that spirit to be revived when it is very clear now that you cannot force people to adopt any religion other than what they believe in and chose for themselves? Religious freedom or freedom to practice the religion one believes in, has been accepted by most countries in the modern world. To belittle or insult the religion of others is the most irreligious behavior one can think of. On the other hand showing a deep respect for the religion of others is a reflection of your own religiosity. One source of information indicates that people of the world are divided into five different religions as below:


Five largest religions: Adherents in 2007 as % of world population.

Christianity 2.0 billion 33%
Islam 1.2 billion 19.6%
Hinduism 811 million 13.4%
Chinese folk religion 385 million 6.4%
Buddhism 360 million 5.9%

The estimate is certainly out of date since there has been a lot of reports on religious conversion in recent years.One estimate puts the number of Muslims in the world as approaching 2 billion. On the other hand many Chinese are known to have adopted Christianity or Buddhism The five major as their religion. The above figures can only be accepted as indicative.
A Muslim Woman should cover everything but her face and hands

But the fact remains clear. The five major religions as shown above, especially in the case of Christianity and Islam can be broken down into various orders or sects.The total shown falls short of 100% indicating that a high percentage of the world population has been left out, probably coming under the category of "free thinkers" or atheists. The world would be in a terrible mass and hell can break lose if people cannot respect each other's religious belief and live in peace, leaving the final act of judgement to God Almighty.

We should respect the religion of others as we revere our own faith. The beliefs that underpin our religion hold the same significance as the beliefs that others hold for their religion. If that truth is appreciated much of the misunderstandings between people holding different religion can be removed. The Muslims for example cannot question why Christians pray at alters with the effigy of Lord Christ in as much as the Christians cannot question why Muslims pray five or more times a day or fast in the month of Ramadhan. Nor should both Muslims and Christians question the offerings of food and other symbols of wealth and prosperity to their ancestors as done by the Chinese. Our religion is our personal business and others should respect it just as we should respect the personal business of others.
The Human Ego is hard to control
Finally, politics should not and should never be allowed to interfere with the sanctity of or our choice of religion. If we allow political interests to dominate religious beliefs as it does in all other aspects of our life today, we will surely end up in the political melting pot as already experienced by some countries.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Illusion of Wealth

Reflect a while on how your life was ten years ago, twenty or even thirty. Are you really far richer than you were then? Some of us will remember the days when RM10 (or US10 in USA) was quite a lot pf money and can buy us many things. You could have a good meal for just RM2 or RM3, see a film at the cinema, and still have enough money for the bus fare to go home. You could buy many items for the kitchen at the sundry shop or even the wet market. Now you can't even get enough of one food item for that amount of money in the supermarket. And don't walk into a shopping complex with that modicum of dough unless you only wanted to do some window shopping!exquisite but cheap furniture available on credit

Today, your income must have increased five to ten times, from RM200 to RM1k or RM2k if working in the village as your cooly and your own boss, or RM2k to RM10k or RM20k if employed in the city. ( You can't live in the city with an income of less than 2k). So, you can consider yourself to be rich, belonging to the upper or lower middle class. Your standard of living has improved tremendously with flashy cars (obtained on loan), a big comfortable house ( obtained on loan),lovely and expensive furniture (secured with the help of a credit card), with no fear of walking into the supermart or shopping complex because you're armed with a gold or platinum credit card. No luxury hotel or connoisseur restaurant is too expensive for you for you don't need to have hard cash in your wallet. No fear of having to wash dishes for not being able to pay the bill.protons can look like a BMW

So, you do feel very rich. But are you? Unless you're a business tycoon, a rich real estate or property owner ( mostly inherited from your rich father or forefathers), a powerful political leader holding public office or a top executive in a very successful and wealthy company, you still worry about paying the bills or making the monthly deductions from your bank account at the end or the beginning of every month. They keep increasing, always faster than the increase in your monthly income. Every now and then you've to apply the brakes on spending or tighten up your belt, although you don't starve like the villager who can't earn enough to feed his family.kids can be dressed up like a millionaire

But you certainly don't feel much richer than before. In many cases among the lower income people, you just feel much poorer off. It is the scintillating glass and steel buildings filling up the city, the huge shopping malls and supermarkets, the modern transportation systems and the millions of cars bought on hire purchase jamming up the roads, the sprawling housing complexes with houses bought on long-term mortgages, the branded and fashionable clothes, household appliances, furniture, toys and electronic games made available by the modern factories, that make us all feel rich and enjoying a very high standard of living. Even if you're still struggling to make ends meet, to keep your bank balance in a healthy state of preparation for a rainy day ( and it rains often in Malaysia), often miss your installment payment for the house or the car but not often enough to cause the property to be auctioned away or the car to be repossessed,you still enjoy a modern and comfortable life with your family. The richness and high quality of life around you make you feel rich although you are not.

That's what I'm referring to as the illusion of wealth. Modern life makes you feel rich and sophisticated even when there's hardly any surplus in your bank account every month. You can afford to furnish and decorate your home like a rich man, buy smart and branded dresses for yourself and family, buy food from the supermarket like the wealthy guys, and enjoy the shows in town like the well-to-do, even though you can hardly afford it. So long as you can service your loans and pay the monthly installments on all the things that you've acquired on credit, you will appear as rich as the next guy.

That's the illusion of wealth in modern living. The economist will, of course, explain it in a different way. Put it in anyway you want, the illusion is still there. It will only stop when you can no longer pay up your monthly dues in full.

Monday, August 19, 2013

If Politics Rule Humanity...

Politics like modern firearms and weapons of mass destruction seem to have many commonalities as illustrated by the world wars and current development in the Middle East. Both have to do with power- -power to protect or destroy. Both can be a blessing or a curse. Those who hold political power can dictate terms to those who don't, even when they are in the minority. Those who hold the power will utilize it to retain that power for as long as possible with little concern for human life. And those who hold the power always think that they are right and the others are wrong....the smoldering and shredded sky

Politics, in the hands of the "wrong" hands, can be as dangerous and deadly as the modern weapon of mass destruction. What is 'wrong' or 'right' can be determined by those in power. Thousands upon thousand of lives can be vanquished in the process of the struggle to gain control of the power or trying to retain it once secured. Once political and weaponry power assumes control over a society, human ideals and consideration, human values and sensitivities, and human faith in God and fear of purgatory seem to be entirely forgotten. Men become like animals, willing to kill whoever they consider as enemies without question or conscience. Nay, they become worse than animals, for animals do not kill their own kind on a massive scale, although they have no religion, no reasoning power, and no conscience.weapons of death

This seems to be the moral of the story as told by the world wars of the past and the bloody political unrest tearing the Muslim countries in the Middle East.It's not a story of trying to gain freedom and independence from the superpowers of the world anymore. It is a story of people professing the same religion and praying to the same God - Allah the Most Beneficent and Merciful- allowing political power and the destructive forces of modern weaponry which they have acquired in the past to retain that power and force their will on their fellowmen who don't agree with the way they run the sate. They are killing all those who oppose them, those who appear as a threat to them, and those who stand in their way, committing some of the most bizarre acts of savagery and cruelty in the interest of holding on to the power - and doing it in the name of Allah the Most Beneficent and Merciful. Iraq (which has been returned to the Iraqis), Syria, Egypt, Afghanistan etc are in the grip of such a calamity now, when political interest rule over religious and cultural affinity and human life is held to ransom. The political power in Iran is reputed to prosecute Muslim activists from the Sunni mazhab(sect) and if found guilty send them to the gallows, including women who normally follow the mazhab of their husbands or parents. In all these countries, the age-old enmities between the Shiah and Sunnah groups of Muslims seem to be intent on destroying each other, using political power and the destructive force of modern weapons to weed away the "enemies'. the powers in control

No one can actually say who is right and who is wrong. Left to political and military judgement, affinities and mutual interest determine whose side you are on. That's politics and the need to control power. What should disturb the conscience of a Muslim more is the fact that politics has ruled human mind more than religious faiths and beliefs. All Muslims subjugate themselves to the same God i.e. Allah. They read and obey the same holy book - the al-Quran. Yet, they do not hesitate to kill each other because of the differences in mazhabs as already anticipated by the Prophet, Muhammad SAW.
They do no hesitate ro kill each other because of the love for power over men and the material world. They feel that they are strong and powerful enough to rule over their fellow countrymen even against their wish.

More importantly, they have friends who support their hold onto power because it serves their own interest. That support is their excuse for holding on to power even if they had to agree with killing off all their foes, although they are as much a Muslim as they are. There is no more fear or repulsion in the shedding of human blood, the blood of their own fellowmen, a fear that Allah would punish them for doing so at the end of the day or in the afterlife. Their friends and supporters give tham a wrong impression of their right to rule over other people and decide on their fate, that they have the right to kill off all enemies.

That's when politics ruled humanity and the fear of God and Allah has been displaced by the greed for power, political, military or both.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Aidilfitri - Return to Human Fitrah.

Like all other good Muslims with just an average knowledge os Islam, i've always celebrated Aidul Fitri as a day of festivities to celebrate the end of Ramadhan, the month of fasting. For a whole month we have been denying ouselves food and water in the daytime,from about 5.30 am to 7.30am in Malaysia, without excusing ourselves from undertaking the normal daily chores. And at night we must perform an additional 11 to 23 rakaats of prayers in addition to the five daily prayers of 2, 4, 4, 3 and 4 rakaats which are compulsory. The 'tarawih' and 'Witr' prayer are voluntary like many other additional prayers but highly recommended as performed by Prophet Muhammad (Peace be Upon Him).

So, everyone knows how trying the fasting, additional prayers and additional stringency in the observation of good conduct for the Muslims in the month of Ramadhan can be. Thus when the month drawa to and end, the muslims are ready to celebrate and feast around until the tummy groans with indigestion.

Beginning with the 1st of Shawal, there will be a month long feasting and festivities,with open houses and get- togethers of family members and friends.a typical hariraya gathering of family members

That's what I used to know about and enjoy when Aidil Fitri comes around. Like others anticipating and enjoying Christmas, CNY, Deepavali etc. i love the festivities and the feasts that the auspicious day bring. The beautiful clothes and warm well-wishes that greet us are something to wait for, a whole year.

Then I learned about the true meanibg of Aidil Fitri. It means comiNg back or returning to the original nature of human beings - the human 'fitrah'.and what does that mean? As far as i'm concerned it means a return to the original nature of Man as created by Allah with all the perfection and good aatributes that only Allah knows how to create. The human being is so perfectly created both physically, mentally and spiritually that no human creation can ever match. The soul breathed into the lifeless form of the child in his or her mother's womb in the fourth month of pregnancy is a part of Allah's breath (roh), and is both pure and incontaminable. It only bocomes encrusted ( some say not even contaminated) by the the banalities of temporal life to the extent that human being cam be entirely consumed by his greed and material interest.exchanging smiles and family news

Fasting and the other religious prescriptions imposed on the Muslim in the month of Ramadhan are supposed to cleanse the Muslim from all the worldly encrustment or contemination of his soul so that he or she becomes as clean as when he or she was born. In other words it is as if he or she is reborn, without any of the sins that the temptations of life had brought upon him or her.

Well, the concept is most appealing but whether a month of abstenance from thefrom this pointnonward. temptation of life can clean up years of indulgence is another matter. Of course you've a chance of doing it every year and a good Muslim is supposed to continue the good things he had learned to practise in the month of Ramadhan in the other months of the year. A Muslim who doesn't benefit from Ramadhan is considered a tragic case. The month is considered as a training period for inculcating all the good values of a Muslim.

So, let's hope that Muslims all over the world who had just completed an intensive character training and will be a much better Muslim from this point onward. Let's hope that our brothers in the Middle East will stop all kinds of enmities between each other and come back to the basic fitrah of being peaceful, considerate and kind to each other. Otherwise the objectives of Eidilfitri would have no meaning for them.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Housing and Food - actual determinants of living standard.

You can list down all the things that determine one's comfort in life and standard of living, from a palatial home to luxury cars, expensive wardrobe and a beautiful wive (or wives/mistresses). As your earning power increases and more money pours into your bank account, the list will increase. One thing you can be quite sure of, the list will expand faster than the figures in your income account, unless fortune had been smiling on you all the while. I say it's fortune that makes one super-rich and wealthy for many astute businessmen,traders, whiz kids, film stars, musicians, conmen etc work just as hard as their counterparts, but never make it rich. The super-rich, of course, do not worry about their bank account for others are working their asses out to make money for them. It's those who have to work hard to attain and maintain a comfortable life, who find that the cost of modern living is eating away at their bank account faster than the increase it enjoys.millionaires' abode

That's certainly true of life in Malaysia with rapid development and urbanization. The super-rich have no problem for their fortunes sometimes ride on the crest of the developmental waves, if not on the misfortune of those who are overtaxed,underpaid and over-worked to generate the wealth of the nation.The wealthy barons, mandarins and 'towkays' (magnates and businessmen) , for instance, harvest a great fortune everytime a new legislative measure or a major development project is launched by government, such as the imposition of using seat belts in cars, the use of safety helmets, expanding the use of computers throughout the country and in schools and offices, the modernization of roads and the transportation system, the raising of standards in housing and commercial buildings etc. Every such new law usually makes certain financial imposition on the common citizen, shrinking the value of his or her earnings.only for the rich and wealthy

With the constant reduction of the worker's savings, the acquisition of the essentials of life becomes a more strenuous job. The price of these essentials in the market keeps going up, sometimes at a ludicrous pace. Most essential among the essentials are housing, means of transportation and foodstuff.New laws and regulations usually affect production cost, causing the market price of these essentials to go up like a hot-air balloon. In the case of housing, the price has reached the million ringgit mark even for a modest home while even the locally produced cars are now causing the common worker to be in debt for up to nine years. Studies have been made to show that housing and car purchase had made the Malaysians with a four-figure income a heavy debtor. Those who can be classified as "middle class wage earners" before have found it almost impossible to buy a house in KL while luxury cars are out of question. You must be a millionaire to own a condominium in Mount Kiara, Seri Harta Mas, UK Perdana, and many of the new posh housing areas.the prices can be astounding

On can of course regulate one's expenditure on foodstuff. But how can you go without some of the most ordinary items like chicken, beef and vegees when the price of these items keep escalating, especially at times of insufficient supply. During this month of Ramadhan when the Muslims are fasting, the prices of goodies at the Pasar Ramadhan are almost unbelievable. You certainly don't get much for RM10 and RM50 is insufficient to buy enough food and delicacies for a family of four. Chances are the prices of foodstuff as set by the Pasar Ramadhan hawkers will be carried over to the normal market after Hariraya. There doesn't seem to be any control at all over prices although government is well aware of the price hikes on all food items. The most disturbing increase in the price of food items is for beef, chicken, and fish. This is not to say that the price increase for food grains and vegetable is not hurting the average wage earner.

Since Housing and Food are the two items in modern living that makes the difference between rich and poor, comfortable and miserable, dignified and shameful, something must be done to ensure that the average wage-earner in this country can afford them to maintain a decent level. As for transport facilities, we do have local cars that are quite affordable and public transport that is quite dependable though far from praiseworthy.Unless these aspects of life in Malaysia is looked into the quest for becoming a high income nation may end up in a flurry of inflation and the impoverization of the average wage earner.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Law of Diminishing Value



We all know the law of diminishing returns in economics. Simply put it states that adding another factor to a process of production will increase the cost per unit output, or will even reduce output as in the case of using too much fertilizer in farming. Thus the more of the factor used the less the gain per unit of input.
But we are not talking economics here. We are talking about human satisfaction. Why is it that people keep buying more and more things everyday- and in many cases they are the same thing but maybe different in brand - and yet feeling less and less satisfied with what they have? Let's take some examples. A family had just one car before and everyone was happy sharing it to go wherever they want. A member of the family finds it too difficult to share and buys another one when he could afford it. Soon another member will feel dissatisfied with with the kind of sharing that takes place and buys another one.That goes on until there are too many cars in the family and everyone is not very satisfied with his or her car as compared to the one owned by the parents, brother or sister, especially with the parking facility. So, there is less satisfaction all around with the addition of every car.
You don't agree? What about the house you stay in itself. Before you all stay happily in your parents home. Then you and your brothers or sisters split up and buy your own houses. Visits and get togethers were very satisfying at first. Soon they become less and less and the visits, even to the parents' home become lees pleasing, becoming more of a chore each time. Visits between brothers and sisters also become scarcer and scarcer, with reduced satisfaction each time over little things that the separation and the competition in life had brought about. I don't even want to raise problems with in-laws which can make such visits less and less desirable. So the many houses and homes as one factor in human life had brought less and less or reduced satisfaction to the family.
You don't agree with that too? Let's check our own habits. I had only two or three good shirts before and one or two pairs of shoes. I was very happy with them. As my income increases I could afford more shirts and shoes. especially since the fashion people keep offering new and expensive designs to flatter my ego. My wardrobe becomes fuller and I soon don't care much about which shirt or pair of shoes I wore, becoming less satisfied with each after some time and wanting to buy more. Clearly the value I attached to each shirt or pair of shoes had decreased so much than before.

Well, agree or not that's how things are. The more we have the less value we attach to the thing that we used to treasure when there was only one of it. Perhaps that will explain why the kids of today don't value much the things that we most desire and treasure before, and the possession of which made us feel like a million-dollar boy (or girl). Fashion changes and we keep buying and piling up almost everything that we must have in modern life, going for the newest and most expensive brand to outdo each other. In the end we end up with a plethora of unvalued things, cluttering the wardrobes, the cupboard, the bedrooms and in fact the entire house. The only things with real undiminishing values are the memorabilia from old times which really might have no intrinsic monetary worth. The rest will all become junks one day.

Especially to our kids of the next generation.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Integrity Unit in All Government Agencies...

The setting up an Integrity Unit to combat corruption in all government agencies (STM July 14 - Sunday) in Malaysia, is a very heartening news. While the MACC has been very active and had achieved much to reduce corruption in Malaysia, the country remains high on the list of countries plagued by this degenerative socio-economic malady. The interesting thing is that we also hear much about law enforcement officers "on-the-take" in many other developed countries. But the country as a whole remains low on the list. It reminds me of the legal joke very popular in the US, that a crime is only a crime if discovered and brought to court. (Otherwise it's not a crime, seems to be the obvious conclusion!).

At one time the Anti Corruption Agency or ACA as the central government agency dealing with corruption was known, was reputed to take action only on the small time law breakers - the little fries. The big sharks holding prominent positions in government or in the Malaysian society, were never brought to court. Why? Nobody knew for certain because sharks have the whole ocean to run around and hide while the ACA was only a small government agency. On becoming a full scale Commission with wide powers and investigative capacity the MACC had succeeded in recent years to pull in some big names in the government, including an ex-chief Minister. But as usual when the big fish are found guilty of a crime, the ocean of legal processes offer a lot of whirlpools and eddies to prevent them from receiving the full blast of the punitive waves. The big fish always escape from being caught and dried up in the sun like the small fries.

The Integrity Unit will offer a CCFTV effect within the agency it is set up. Provided the officers operating the Unit are really 'clean individuals' and free of any suspicion or protected against charges made by their compatriots within the same agency or outside of it, the Unit can certainly become a big scare - the fist thing in any preventive move. The second part of the scare is in the punishment accorded to those found guilty. We must take into account the general knowledge that intelligent criminals do no work alone. So, if all officers involved in a certain case were to be dismissed, government agencies might run the danger of losing many officers with every case brought up for investigation. Nevertheless, it is better to run a smaller agency with no corruption than a huge one with a lot of money going 'under the table'.

Now comes the big question. If all government officers have been cured of the disease through fear and the CCTV effect, yet corruption goes in national and international monetary transaction involving huge sums of money, whom must then be blamed? On must remember than governmental bureaucracy nowadays is not ruled by officers chosen and selected through the bureaucratic processes. Public Officials include those who come through the elective processes, elected by the people and the parties in power. Is the Malaysian public ready to take action on those that it has elected into power if they are found to be guilty of corruption? Especially when the legal processes are so intricate that the public cannot understand how the legal department works,such that many suspected officials cannot be brought to court for lack of 'substantial evidence'.

Clearly, integrity is an ethical thing. A crime against it cannot be enforced just at the agency level. It must be enforced at the national level involving officers both selected and promoted through the bureaucratic processes as well as those installed through the elective processes at both the State and party level.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Ramadhan is Here Again....

Ramadan , the most sanctified month in the Islamic calendar, is just around the corner and will be here before you can get the old bone-shaker out of the workshop. We here in Malaysia enjoy peace and stability, despite some protests against the result of GE13. But elsewhere in the Islamic world especially Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Pakistan etc., the Arab Spring scourge continues to take its toll in the lives of the so-called Islamic brethren. Allah's prescription that the blood of a Muslim is 'haram' to another Muslim, seemed to be totally neglected.Right or Wrong, the Final Outcome

Over here the Muslim are excited to usher in the month of piety, forgiveness, reticence in food-intake, wayward behavior or verbal criticisms, and in contrast to the restraints, the plethora of food and delicacies which will be on sale. In no other month will the supermarkets, the malls, the shops and the car-park or road-side stalls in Malaysia be so packed with goods and goodies to cater for the Muslims who fast by day and feast by night.Of course the non-Muslims can also enjoy the myriads of traditional Malay dishes and delicacies that will suddenly fill the markets. Come afternoon in the month of Ramadan, the food stalls will be so jam-packed with people buying food for breaking their fast, while the aroma of chicken, beef and various delicacies being cooked in situ, can make breathing a little difficult but most appetizing.Allah can certainly see your face


It's most saddening to think of what will happen in the countries where the Muslims are at war against our just quarreling among their own countrymen? Will they have time to fulfill the requirements of Ramadan, both physically and spiritually? Couldn't they forget politics, power struggle and the different approaches in their understanding of Islam (such as the Shiites vs the Sunnis)for the period of the holy month at least? Before they start killing each other can't they think of themselves as Muslims first and that they are just killing their own brothers? Don't they realize who are smiling at them and perhaps saying to themselves: "Go ahead, kill each other. We'll have less enemies to be bothered with."Face of Sadness n Misery in Ramadan?

Look around ye Muslims. Call yourselves peaceful people but who are creating the problems now? Even if you realize that some foreign elements might be sowing the seed of enmity and dissension between us in the name of fighting for freedom and democracy, we are the ones who are destroying our own unity and brotherhood. Prophet Mohammed (Peace be Upon Him) had said that the Muslims will be broken up into 23 different groups and would be fighting each other for supremacy. Are we, therefore, not helping to make the prophetic warning become a reality faster than the warning of the prophets of doom that the world will run short of food and humanity will perish? With the coming of Ramadan - the month of intensifying our prayers and seeking Allah's blessings- wouldn't it be most appropriate to take a hard look at ourselves in the light what Allah has designated the Muslims to be on this earth, and make peace with ourselves and our brothers of the same faith. If the Prophet (PBUH) could make peace with the enemies who wanted to kill him, couldn't we at least make peace with our brothers to honor Allah's injunction "kullu Muslimina ikhwatun."

Let's begin the month of Ramadan with a prayer and a pledge that we Muslims will not kill each other for whatever reason that our minds can create to justify our action. Let's talk things over peacefully as we proceed to observe the restrictions of Ramadan and not insult the month when Allah delivered the al-Quran to us through Gibrail and when the gates of repentance are thrown wide open and Satans are all held at bay. While we in Malaysia will celebrate Ramadan in peace with our non-Muslim countrymen,we pray that out Muslim brothers who are at war among themselves to fight for a worldly cause, can turn their attention to the spiritual pursuit of peace and forgiveness from Allah.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Blue Sky and Sunshine Again.

After a week or so of thick haze and gloominess, the API reaching a hazardous level when people have to wear masks, we are happy to see blue sky and sunshine again. The cloud seeding efforts to produce rain undertaken by Indonesia and Malaysia (?) to wash away the haze seemed to have worked. Congratulations to the Authorities concerned. The arguments and damage done by the spell of gloominess and haziness can now be forgotten and the culprits who understood the open burning in Sumatra can be forgotten. Until it happens again....

The attitude 'let things be until people start to complain and scream..' seems to become a habit with us in Malaysia. Yes it's good way of getting things done with maximum impact. If things are done before people cry out for action, they never notice the action taken, accepting things for granted. After things hit them in the nose, then any quick action to stop it will be met with applause. It's a simple children psychology. Give them only those that they have begged and screamed for to make them really happy. And also give them a little at a time. Give them too much and you spoil them.

The haze has been happily done away with. Now how about the water woe? This has become a prolonged malady because, at least in Selangor,the blame can be shifted elsewhere. Solving the problem quickly will bring an applause for the wrong party. This is another strategy to bring an enemy to terms, even if thousands must suffer the consequences. It'a sad that public convenience must be traded to gain political mileage, but as Shakespeare said, "Everything is fair and foul in love and war." Enemies don't cooperate until the very foundation of a nation starts to shake. The fear is, nothing can be done to save the situation, when the pillars of trust and confidence begin to crumble. Let's hope that that doesn't happen just because of the water woe...the drinkable water tanks running dry because of dispute in ownership and control. Even in the Arab countries the days are gone when the tribe who owns the water well owns the land around it.

There certainly are many other things that need to be reviewed in this country. The cost of things - everything from the supply of modern equipment to the price of a loaf of bread - needs to be reviewed if the status of a high income nation and providing a higher income level for the Malaysians are to mean anything at all. Every time a mega project is launched or a huge purchase of modern equipment or weaponry from a foreign country is made,the deal is fraught with doubts in respect of it's cost and transparency. One can always hear of a possibly cheaper cost and better quality. The same may be said of building and construction costs. The overheads seem to be just ludicrous but no one can prove anything. Even the Auditor-General would not be able to suggest a more acceptable costing or cost standard beside commenting on the overblown expenditure for certain purchases.

What the public can actually feel to be the result of uncontrolled or unchecked pricing, is the rising costs of household goods and consumer itsms. The price of the so-called controlled items such as rice, beef, chicken etc may be quite understandable though still arguable. But the vegees, the chills, the onions, the fish including salted ones like 'ikan bills' have more than doubled in prices. I was amazed to see the price of bread, before selling at a ringgit plus per loaf, now going up to three ringgit or more. A box of self-raising cake flour and a small round box of margarine costed me nearly forty ringgit. Oh, my God, I thought. I might as well just buy a ready made cake at that price, although just a slice of cheese cake at a reputed restaurant can cost up to ten ringgit. Imagine what a RM100 increase in salary per year means too a worker. Just ten additional slices of cheese cake,and your earned that increase after a year of hard work.

Prices of consumer goods and food items in the market must certainly undergo certain form of checks and control. When RM50 is not enough to buy food items for the kitchen to feed a family of four for one day, an earning of less than RM3000 a month is really living in a state of near poverty.NST's Report on July 7 p.4



Monday, June 24, 2013

The Haze....Clime or Crime?

It's very sad to see everything in Malaywsia wrapped in a whitish pall. The API reading has reached hazardous levels of over 800 in certain areas and hovered around 200 in other areas. Many schools in Johore Bharu and Selangor have been closed. Warnings have been issued to Malaysians to keep indoors and wear a mask if you've to go out into the street. Streets are becoming deserted, an eerie silence creeping into the Malaysian scene, especially at night. Except for a car or two breaking the silence in residential areas, they are becoming almost like ghost towns. One can expect the walking dead to totter around seeking a victim....

This has been happening to Malaysia year after year since the 90s. A lot of discussions and so-called negotiations between Indonesia, Malaysioa and Singapore have taken place but no results. In fact the haze gets thicker and more dangerous each time around. Now people are beginning to suffer saw eyes, sore throats etc in greater numbers. Cloud seeding has been started in Indonesia it is reported while the authority in Malaysia says there's no thick cloud to be seeded. Singapore has brought up the matter with the Indonesian government and the same reply has been given: that some land development companies with link to Malaysia have been undertaking open burning. Malaysia keep saying that the Indonesian government has been offered help to put off the fire outbreaks in Sumatra but no response has been received. The Indonesian government had already identified a few companies as suspects for causing the haze. But Malaysia has not undertaken any investigation itself on these suspected companies nor issue any warning to them, if they are indeed owned by Malaysian.

To us, the victims of the opening burning infraction of the environmental law, it doesn't matter who the culprits are. They should be hauled up under the law as quickly as possible, and perhaps kept in a smoke house to taste their own medicine for a few days or weeks. But that is easier said than done. Aside from the legal procedures involved to convict these slippery, big-time, land developers what happens to land development if they're stopped from doing their thing. The easiest way to clear up the jungle and the wild undergrowth is to cut, pile them up and burn them. Huge areas of land can be cleared up that way in a jiffy and at minima cost. If that is not allowed who'd bear the cost of clearing up the land in other ways? Have the government experts thought of that problem and not just issue orders to stop open burning. This reminds me of how the police try to avoid traffic jams in certain area by closing the road and diverting traffic elsewhere. You just create traffic jams elsewhere without solving the problem.

What's the alternative to open burning when clearing up the forests? An easy answer is to dig up some huge holes and bury the unwanted forest residue. If tree trunks and huge branches are buried that way, we might be even be creating coal for future generation.We can also create artificial fertilizer (compost) by burying the leaves from trees and ilalang. And how about chopping up and grinding the unwanted wood residue of the forest to make papers and other useful things? Hey, the government want people to be innovative but can't even solve the problem of clearing up the unwanted forest product!
Between Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia, certainly something can be done quickly to solve the problem of open burning and stop the haze from burying us in a white pall. Undertake cloud seeding if you will. If there's no cloud, employ cloud machines to create the cloud.

As it is the haze is rumored to last until August. Can we all take it with Ramadhan coming up fast? This is the time to see how fast the new (or old) government can act. If it can't clear the haze enveloping the country quickly- a mere physical thing - can we clean up the nation of its ethical haze - corruption?

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Awards and Rewards....

There's no doubt that the awards and rewards given out by a country to its citizen are meant to be a form of recognition and an incentive for others to emulate the recipients. The awards can be in the form of an honorary title such as Tun, Tan Sri Dato etc in Malaysia. It could also be a title given for specific achievement such the 'Father of Independence', 'Father of Development','Exemplary Father, Mother, Teacher', Sportsman of the year, Sportswoman of the Year, National Laurette etc. It may carry some cash awards with it or otherwise the recognition and incentive just takes the form of a cash reward with no lifelong title attached to it.
some award recipients

The significant thing about such award or reward is that it establishes or affects the social value system in the country, and may even influence the cash value of certain skills and choice of vocation.In years gone by the Datukship and other higher titles awarded by the Federal and State government were only given to those who have served the Nation or the State as a public servant in an outstanding manner. Now, they have been rightly extended to citizens who have promoted the good image of the nation or State or contribute a lot to its progress. A very pronounced extension of the awards is made to film stars and singers and other entertainment personnel, sportsmen and sports women, and foreign dignitaries who have contributed to the good name of the Nation or State although they have not served as a public servant.a winner of many awards and rewards

Aside form the general complaint that too many of such awards are being made each year and we are being entertained everyday by Datuks (both male and female) through the radios and tvs or through the sports arena, there are also grumbles over the fact that some recipients are too young to be called a Datuk ( which literally means grandfather).With the rapid expansion of trade and business in the country, almost all business leaders have of course been awarded a Datukship or a higher title. Their number is only exceeded by the number of politicians who have received the award. The only noteworthy grumble over the matter is that some very worthy personnel with no contemporary in a position of power in the government to recognize them, have not been duly awarded. candidates for a RM250,00 reward

But more disturbing is the cash rewards given to entertainers, sportsmen and women, writers and academicians and outstanding artisans in many fields of expertise. We see that the rewards for entertainers and sportsmanship have been increasing by leaps and bounds while rewards for literary and scholastic talents have not increased much. The most outstanding example of an award far outstripping that given for literary talent is in regard to comedy performance on TV - the Maharaja Lawak competition. The reward for the first place winner is RM250,000 compared to the the National Laurette recipient who gets only RM30,000 before and increased to RM60,000 in 2003. Today, we cannot, of course, compare what a star footballer or a star golfer gets as compared to a winner of a book-writing competition who spends at least a year to produce his or her work. Little wonder that young boys and girls would rather become a footballer or a golfer rather than a teacher or professor, while a writer can hardly live on his literary earning in Malaysia.

Talk about academic recognition, we also have a plethora of honorary PhDs now,awarded for anything from political achievement to achievement in the fieled of entertainment. Thus, even after the scamp of PhDs being bought from some oversea universities is over, the real academicians become less and less recognizable unless he or she is teaching in the university and is, therefore, called a professor. So, why study hard to become a doctor with a PhD now? Why blow your brains out when you can get an honorary PhD by just singing, politicking, doing business and anything else that can make you rich and famous. Some even say that you can buy an award. If you can do so, you certainly don't need a cash reward for anything at all.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Beutification of the Villages...

With all the heehawing about development and modernization, urbanization and technological advancement, do Malaysians especially the Bumiputras often ask themselves what happened to the villages and the rural abode they hailed from? Even if they visited the "kampungs" once in a while during weekends, have they really noticed what's happening to the land and the village folks? Do they often think of those who have gone and those who remained behind to form the elderly population of the village? Have they realized that the young friends they left behind before had become white-haired and haggard looking old geeks, grandfathers and grandmas?the eyesore

It's most sobering to hang around in a popular coffee-shop in the morning or evening, and meet these old friends coming around for a cuppa. Those who come on foot, on a bicycle or an old Honda Cub with many modern names and variations, will certainly look older than you are, even though they could be younger than you by a few years. Some might look very frail and pathetic for they did not enjoy the benefit of modern medicine as you did or could not afford the price of special attention by private doctors. At the government hospitals and clinics they could only get the usual few-minutes attention and medication.The popular belief that the village elders are healthier and stronger than their city counterparts because of the healthier food they imbibed cannot be further away from the truth. Except in a few case they look much healthier and younger than you because you have neglected to take good care of yourself.another eyesore

In spite of the many rural development projects we hear of, we seldom hear funds being allocated for village beautification and landscaping. Those terms seem to be the prerogative of only the urban folks.Walk through the villages (not just drive through although even that might be enough to give an idea) and note the lush greeneries of wild elephant grass and thorny weeds overgrowing almost everywhere. Note the acres and acres of unutilized lands which were once productive paid fields. Observe the uncared for housing compounds with beautiful but dilapidating houses probably not occupied because entire families have moved to the towns and cities. The kampung scene is more often one of neglect and haphazard construction rather than the scenic gardens and sculptured landscape that one can see in the neighborhood of towns and cities in the west, in Japan and in China.With few exceptions, the villages in Malaysia had been left to become eyesores. Even children playgrounds constructed in some new housing areas often look more like a secondary rubbish dump and a haven for wild weeds. When even personally owned housing compound are often lifted uncared for what else could be expected of company or publicly owned properties, when the authority concerned could not be bothered to maintain them?the desired

The river banks and their surrounding areas in many cases had become a no man's land. Who is responsible for clearing and landscaping them? Is there any funds at all allocated for their maintenance and development? With flash floods becoming a regular phenomenon nowadays, the flood plains of many rivers had become a repositories for river pollutants.

It appears to me that village beautification and maintenance has never become an item in the local authorities development and management budget. I wonder if the State and Federal Budget has any allocation in this matter. When such matters are hidden in the budget for rural and village development in general, one can rest assured that actual beautification and landscaping program had never been specifically identified. While many villages had been made a tourist center throughout the home-stay program, only a very few villages had been really beautified and groomed for the discerning eyes. Most of the rest remained a testimony to underdevelopment and neglect, although the nation is on the brink of becoming a so-called developed country.



Monday, June 3, 2013

Is Religion supposed to be Divisive?

Prophet Muhammad SAW once said that Islam would break up into 23 sects while Chritianity would break up into 22. What we see today is that not only is the world being divided up by religious beliefs more than racial origins, but people of the same religion are going against each other. Be it in the same country and nation or between countries and nations.

Religious beliefs or faiths, therefore, seem to be the most devisive social element in society today, causing open violence and deep seated hatred between people, as it used to be in the days of ignorance and brutal intolerence between people of different racial stocks and cultures. We see instances of such violence and brutalism in both the west, the middle east and the east, with the middle east capturing the limelight.

Is religion supposed to be such a social element in society? Is it not supposed to be the bridge between human beings and their Creator, the compendium of human goodness and ethical excellence, the source of human kindness and benevolence, the source of righteousness and divine justice etc. So what has human beings turned religion into? An excuse for destroying and killing each other, a dogma that sanctified the shedding of human blood and taking away innocent lives and sowing the seed of hatred among fellow human beings?

As people living in the age of knowledge and wisdom,high technology and culture, refined in customs and ethics, the reality of religion today defies what we believe ourselves to be. There is so much of ruthlessness, violence, barbarianism going on that can make us ashamed to be considered as human. There are animals that show more love, kindness and consideration for each other than what some humans are are doing to each other in the name of religion although the evils of politics seem to hide behind all such action. We speak about religion in the most reverent and God fearing manner but we often act in a manner that negates those show of piousness.


In many of the Islamic countries,the age-old war between the various mazhabs such as between the Shiites and the Sunni, the Sunnah wal-Jamaah and the followers of other mazhabs like the Wahabbis, continue to break up people and nation. They are all supposed to be Muslims, praying to and prostrating themselves before the same Allah. But they never seem to be able to tolerate each other let alone live in peace and harmony, each claims that their approach towards attaining Allah's grace and Jannah ( heaven) is more in line with the teachings of the al-Quran and the Prophet Muhammad SAW. The problems they raised in society far outweigh what religion is supposed to do for society.

While the teachings and prescriptions of religion seem to bear less and less influence in the everyday decision-making of the modern Man, the pride over one's religion seem to be on the increase. So much so that religion ceases to become a moderating factor in our attitude towards each other, a pacifying factor in our search for internal peace and external relations, and a universal torch for leading us to world peace, but rather a magnifying glass that highlights differences and incompatibilities, and the rationale for fighting each other.

When, therefore, is human beings going to put religion in its rightful place as a common bridge towards seeking the love of our Creator, no matter what structure or shape the beige takes. It's just the bridge between our terrestrial life and the kingdom of heaven, between our selfish self and our our soul wherein the feeling of Godliness lies. When can we modern people of the world make religion an instrument of world peace rather that an adjunct to the pursuit of human bickerings and warlike tendencies?

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Happy Majority....

Most Malaysians are very happy that the election is over and everything is back to normal. Even if they don't know who the new Ministers and State Excos are, or whether they represent the electorate or not let alone be happy with their selection, someone is there in the seat of power to look after the interest of the people and nation. Only the buddies of the ex-Ministers and Exco members will really feel the lost of the big cables they have been hanging on to in order to help them achieve their goals. For the men-in-the-street, they have fought their own battle with little or no help from the powers that be.

Yes, everything is back to normal, including the traffic jams on the main highways and roads. A few hours journey from one point to another may now take half a day or a whole day. Bumper to bumper and not a single traffic policeman to help smoothen the traffic. They are perhaps too busy controlling the traffic flow on the city streets or directing traffic at some of the big national celebrations like The Colors of Malaysia and the Youths Festival. While enjoying the very slow ride on the roads, observe that some of the election posters, banners and buntings had yet to be removed although more than two weeks have passed after the election. Many are blue in color with the 'dacing' (weighing machine) prominently displayed. No wonder the authorities concerned could not take the offenders to task. Who dares touch the 'dacing' people? - the power behind the throne, so to say.

It is at the time when the political leaders are sorting things out and getting the Cabinet in order that the civil servants are left pretty much to themselves. They have to get things done while trying to get to know their new bosses, if they are new and of an unknown quantity. The top civil servants themselves must make some adjustments, especially when the new boss had not been a real favorite or friend while he was serving in another lower capacity. Some will have the unpleasant experience of finding a person you once rebuffed or refused to cooperate with suddenly becoming your own boss. In politics the villain of yesterday can suddenly become the power-that-be of today, (It might also work the other way around). In the bureaucratic organization itself, a nobody of yesterday might suddenly become your superior since he or she enjoys the trust of the new boss. Well, that's the name of the game and you jus t have to play it.

Be that as it may, a change of the political leadership at the top of an organization offers a good opportunity to rescrutinize the organization's past and on-going programs. Many weaknesses can be removed since the new boss will only be too eager to set his own mark and standards. Many will want to bring about a big change. to stamp his or her personality on the organization's book of record. That's when civil servants can make their own recommendations to "remove previous weaknesses." Must be careful though or you yourself might be removed. Those who have moved up the scale before based on favoritism, will find themselves in trouble.And that is good for the 'apple polisher'(or bottom fanner) can now be removed.

Come to think of the 'transformation' (transformasi) that the PM has been harping on. Is there a real change for the better or will it be more of the same like before. The civil servants can be in the best position to judge. But make peace with your new bosses first or you will end up in pieces. When most Malaysians are happy with the leaders that they have voted into power, who are you to say that you don't like the new boss. Yoiu're the lot that's supposed to be innovative and creative. But do or say something that the new boss doesn't like. No matter how innovative or creative it is, you'd better get ready to be phased out. It's better sometimes to just smile and dance to the new tune set by the new boss.