Saturday, August 30, 2008

Merdeka and Merdeka!!

I have been asked a number of times what MERDEKA means to many of us, not it's literal meaning but what does it invoke in your psyche because we are on the eve of it's 51st Anniversary and yet many seemed not to care about it's connotation to our freedom and harmony. Once upon a time, the brash and abrasive leader across the Causeway sarcastically passed a remark which pointed a picture in not so palatable term that our Independence was given on a silver platter. He was looking from the context of other Nations who were born after a revolution of sorts either in the physical sense or otherwise. India and Pakistan were born out of a struggle by freedom fighters such as Mahatma Gandhi and Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Indonesia fought for it's Independence from the Dutch when the Japanese Occupation ended. The Republic of the Philippines saw the famous Jose Rizal fighting the Spaniards and later the Americans for it to be free, and there's a score of examples in Asia and Africa to support such a view. How did we achieve our Independence? Was it true that we never had to fight the British? I think LKY was upping the ante when he said that, we got it for a song! Flash back to the British Intervention with the signing of Pangkor Treaty whereby the State of Perak was the first to be invaded without the British having to go to War, albeit it's their gunboat policy of going up the Sungai Perak and firing a few salvos to frighten the daylights out of people like Tok Sagor and Dato' Paduka Maharaja Lela and Co. How did the Ghee Hin and Hai Sans could be so strong as to defy the Sultan of Perak by going to War with each other? Was there a conspiracy between the Secret Societies and the ordinary tin-miners to sabotage the Sultan so that they could be the reason for the British to send their gunboat perhaps only to find that they could not go further than Sitiawan because the river silted so badly owing to the tin mining tailing's that were thrown into the river. In fact LKY said the history of the Malays is nothing more than that of Piracy. How does the Malays could simply swallow the machinations of the Secret Societies and brought anarchy in Larut. What happened to Dato' Panglima Bukit Gantang and Long Jaafar who collected the taxes on behalf of the Sultan. Did they become "Pirates" as well and pocketed the money and left the Sultan not only speechless but hopelessly vulnerable to the skirmishes that dotted Kinta Valley, surrounding Ipoh and Taiping. Not only in Perak the miners fomented trouble, but also in Selangor and Negri Sembilan and to a certain extent its fallout in Pahang where the war of succession was also fought by rival groups of Bendahara Wan Ahmad and Gang. Now it seemed that Malayan History was full of Wars but not fighting for Independence, but Wars over who could have control over the rich resources and power to command war materials such as man and weaponry. So when the nascent movement that was sporadically found in various parts of the Peninsula, it was just a repetition of those tribal and clan Wars in the Malay States which led to the British Occupation, neatly referred diplomatically as " British Intervention" so that the picture would look as if it was the Malay Sultans who requested the British to come and thus sold their rights of becoming an absolute ruler under the pretext of bringing peace and order to the people. When did we start to demand Independence from the British? Looking at past history, written records seemed to point out only to Dato' Onn Jaafar who managed to abort the Malayan Union in 1946. In point of fact it started before the Second World War, when the Malay Left started it's campaign to demand self-rule but they were ignored by the British and later detained as collaborators to the would be invaders from the Land of the Rising Sun. I think we ought to rewrite our history, so that our future generations are aware how the twist and turns made us look so silly and we just swallowed everything with what was written by historians who were schooled by the British and strengthened their influence by brainwashing the Malay Elite in the so-called elitist institution known as "The Malay College" who boasted to have been the Alma mater of our distinguished Rulers and National leaders such as Tun Abdul Razak and Co. The silver platter which was referred to by LKY was in fact a myth and it was meant to belittle our people of the Malayan race. Malaysians must be proud that the Independence which we received from the British in 1957 were not fought by guns and bullets, but nevertheless we had gone through thick and thin and it was through the wisdom of our forefathers such as the Tunku and his counterparts in the Alliance Party and also those who agitated for freedom from the colonial yoke whom the British looked upon with suspicion such as Pak Sako ( Allahyarham Ishak Hj Mohamad ), the late Ahmad Boestamam, the late Burhanuddin Al-Helmy and many others who suffered internment whom I had forgotten to mention here were also responsible to bring to bear the call for freedom and Independence. So when the crowd on Dataran Merdeka shouted hoarse Merdeka! we know that many had given their lives in order to secure our Independence or Merdeka but they never for once asked for anything in return, except to be remembered that they too contributed a lot to what we enjoy today. May ALLAH bestow upon their souls Peace and Blessings so that they are contented because we the latter generation could live in Peace and Harmony with ourselves and with others. Merdeka and Merdeka should go deep into our souls and let it bloom into a united Nation with a common goal and direction so that we could be counted upon as one of those who not only achieved independence but had to struggle for it, albeit thorugh our brains and not just brawns. MERDEKA!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

A Failed Nation

If I am not mistaken that's the title of the book written by Allahyarham Rustam Sani, the son of Allahyarham Ahmad Boestamam, that venerable opposition politician who thrived on the failings of the first PM whenever there were slip ups of the former in Parliament. Of course the world knew that the Tunku was a Cambridge educated Prince from Kedah who in his own ways won the hearts of all people irrespective of race. But this condescending attitude were taken advantage of by unscrupulous rascals and this led to his political down slide after the May 13 Riots which shook the world because he was always known as the happiest PM. The greatest tragedy that could happen to this beloved Nation of ours is that we did not learn anything from history. The tragic event which took place more than three decades ago must be a lesson that must be learnt by all, irrespective of their ethnic origin or political affiliation. The main cause as portrayed by the official account which was tabled as a white paper in the Parliament was basically hostilities between races which was fanned by racist statements by politicians of all hues and colours, beginning with tension being stoked up when Singapore was still part of the Federation of Malaysia. Going by some accounts which could be believed, if not all, at least some, it was the fire that was started by certain individuals who were inciting a certain ethnic group to rise up against what was then intepreted as a discriminatory action by the PAP Govt. This group of people who were affected by the urban renewal programme in Singapore happened to be not only Malays but also Chinese who were Singaporeans. But somehow, the Malays from Singapore felt they were the only group that was discriminated. And with the oil being poured into the angered community from across the Johor Straits, it became a dangerous and ugly conflict between the Malays and the Chinese who were largely the supporters of PAP Govt led by Lee Kuan Yew. The opposite personalities of LKY and the Tunku overflow into politics and it became fodder for opportunists who were looking for a battleground and they were as the Malay proverb call it, " Orang Mengantuk disorongkan bantal". And thus perceptions became reality and truth was of no significance to everyone in Singapore and the Peninsula. When trouble broke out in Singapore between the Malays and Chinese, the Tunku was away and Tun Razak had to deal with it firmly. LKY and Tun Razak had an uneasy relationship, because there was no trust between the two, unlike Haryy lee and the Tunku. If these lessons from the past were to be of any benefit to present day generation, one of the most important ingredient that fueled a failed State is distrust of one another either on the personal level or at the National level. Trust had to be earned and it's not a commodity which can packaged and sent by post. Trust between the races in this country had it ups and downs but we have been able to stay on even keel for as many decades we want it to be. Racial tension could easily become explosive,like a tinder-box with a lighted match, just waiting for it to catch fire! One way to defuse such a tension is to go back to basics whereby our schools must represent the racial composition of the country and so does the private sector of Malaysia must represent the distribution. Unfortunately we have heard of racial discrimination amongst those who work in aChinese dominated PLc's, whereby however good a Malay is, he'll be assigned one of the most insignificant positions in the firm. Therefore I am not all surprised after reading Rustam's book and compare the scenario around me, that we have failed as a Nation in the psychological and realpolitik sense, simply because we think of ourselves first not as Malaysians but Malays, Chinese and Indians. Even when you make a police report, say of a burglary, the first question asked by the I.O. would be, whether one suspects that it was a Malay, Chinese or Indian, and mind you we had been an independent nation since 1957!! In many forms which we use to apply for things like passports and other similar documents, we are still being asked for our ethnic origin, and this mentality also prevailed when filling up forms to register your phone with private companies! When I was still a student in the then FMC, I had an article written about the establishment of a Malaysian literature as a prelude to a Malaysian Nation, because a Nation without a mind of it's own through it's literary tradition using Malay as the main medium and English as a second language would be doomed right from the start. I had in fact moved much further whereby if we still think in terms of Malays, Chinese and Indians, then we would be like a bunch of Lunchai's paddling hard in a round dnghy without a rudder and not moving from the spot where it began. It just moves around aimlessly no matter how hard one paddles. Of course we can't shed our colour overnight by being Malaysians, but the least we could do is to mould our minds first and followed by our hearts. Our future leaders must be forthright on this score and no matter how much slogans are being bandied about, a successful Nation is one with it's own identity and our destiny as well as our dreams must be the same. Otherwise a united Nation of a plural society like in Malaysia is just a pipe dream.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Fly away Peter, Fly away Paul.

This morning,on a Friday 22 August 2008 I had a breakfast appointment with Hank, my class of '64 organiser who told our former classmate who now owns Westport that we would like to have a proton each as door gifts ( sic ). I had been fascinated by his partner Jodie's latest proposal to start a birdhouse and if you have read his blog at then you might want to know more about the project.So I arranged this appointment so that I can get a clearer and bigger picture of it. It seemed to be a viable proposal, but I told him to be cautious because I knew that Hank is a well meaning person and could get easily carried away by money spinners who abound the business fly by night world, and when the chips are down, they just disappear into thin air. I do not claim to be any wiser than him, because he ought to know better after being in the money spinning business for more than three decades! But as a friend it's my duty to remind him of the pitfalls of such a venture, but he assured me that he shall not be disbursing hard cash, as he only provides the land where the birdhouse will be sited. Two years ago he signed an agreement with Jodie so that he and him could see a housing area coming out on Pasir Ambor road, wherever that place may be, near Juasseh, Kolopilah! But owing to the slow progress of his partner's project being completed in Rompin, Pahang, the project is not off the ground yet.So in order to get things moving faster, apart from bridging finance, he's looking for faster method of improving his cash-flow, so to speak.So that's how the idea came about, and it started with the duress test. As always, being a former bureaucrat that was, I was looking at the downside first, before that money which does not grow on trees vanish with the dream of becoming rich! It's a natural desire wanting to be rich, except for weirdo's like me who looks at money as a means rather as an end in itself. I am always reminded by Mdm Connie Chang, a family friend who once worked in the same office as Nasimah, that whatever money you have is not yours until you spend it. So, after an exhaustive question and answer session with him over breakfast ( he only had coffee and a burger, plus a hash brown which I insisted that he try), it finally dawned upon him that he needed an independent input from outside his Jodie's circle for a more informed decision. I said to him, what if the birds suddenly refuse to roost in the birdhouse due to some inexplicable reasons, what would become of the investment which could be another white elephant. Now his grandchildren would be reminded of that phrase in the rhyme, two little Dicky birds sat on the wall, one named Peter the other named Paul, fly away Peter fly away Paul, come back Peter, come back Paul! But once the investment goes down the drain, it just flow into the Muar river which starts from the Sungai Muar Dam near Talang, Tanjong Ipoh, Kuala Pilah district of Negri Sembilan

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Down Sepang Way

Yesterday I decided to travel back to PJ from Seremban after sending my Dad back to my sister's house in Paroi where he's residing now, via the Labu and KLIA road. But no, it was an impulsive decision while suggesting to Nasimah, why not we divert to Sepang instead of going to F1 circuit way, and lo and behold ! what a journey it turned out to be. As we passed Sepang, that out of the way sleepy hollow, we found that things had not changed much about the place. That sharp corner (just like the one in Rawang town) is still there, inclusive of the cowboy town ambience. So we continued our way to Bagan Lalang looking for the Seri Malaysia Hotel, but alas we must have missed the notoriously absent signage showing it's location. Instead we had our refreshments at the public beach of Bagan Lalang where we could see the "Sepang Gold Coast" being under construction. I had the sights before on what the heck was it all about whenever I read the adverts on it. Now it unfolded right in front of our eyes! I just wonder whether the State Government was aware what untold damage the project would bring to the pristine beach of Bagan Lalang and those fishermen who depended on the harvest from the Straits of Malacca. The catch from the seas seemed to have fallen very low as testified by the Fisheries Dept., particularly on the west coast of the Peninsula. Now what with the behemoth of the so-called " Sepang Gold Coast" would bring? For whose benefit are those ugly structures stretching for half a mile into the ocean, which reminds us of the Palmyra project in the United Arab Emirates? ( or is it Abu Dhabi). We don't need such luxuries meant for those who wanted the sea for themselves, the selfish few who wants to flaunt their wealth by reclaiming what is not their right and deprive many of their meagre livelihood, by destroying the environs which supported the marine life within the neighbourhood. I think the previous State Administration must be taken to task for approving the project and when I saw the state of affairs in the villages along the road towards Klang, then I knew that the spurrious claims made by the former MB was actually a sham! If one only looked at Shah Alam where the MB has his office in that impressive building, of course it might make him to think that Selangor is a already a developed State. But what about Jenjarom, Beranang, Kuala Kubu Bharu, Sabak Bernam and Kancong Darat? All this godforsaken rural areas are still much the same as 50 years ago, and this was vouched by an Exco member who gave us his perception as the " State of the Union" sometime last month during a high tea arranged by BAKIKJ or Badan kebajikan Islam Kelana Jaya. As I cruised down the road to Klang, then it dawned upon me if this is what's happening in Selangor, it could well be the same as in N9, my home state. The present MB of N9 is much touted as a corporate man who would lift the people and N9 out of the doldrums, but he only managed to destroy my ancestral home in Rasah due to the midddle ring road project which traversed Rasah and completely wiped out it's rich history as the base of the Sungei Ujong Wars in the 1880's. We thought development was the only way to happiness, alas we are sadly mistaken. We should have sustainable development as our battle-cry and not indiscriminate development which destroyed the environment and it's rich history. Our leaders have a lot to learn and time is not on their side. We might as well travel the way the past civilisations of Babylonia and Mesopotamia where the only heritage we could salvage is the desert. Maybe the world would end before our rain forests become desertified. Malaysia Boleh!

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Modern Florence Nightingale

My friends from HNP ( Home Nursing Providers ) or rather who were serving there before caem to my house last sunday. I was really happy to see Yacob who had been away in Germany and he looked teutonic as before! But it's Mona, that venerable modern day Florence Nightingale who suggested to me about writing about this subject. I had been through quite a few Hospitals, public and private and could say with confidence that 9 out of 10 are unfriendly. The reason I say that, is simply attributable to the lack of friendliness of the people who are in the business of dealing with the sick and suffering, as well as their families. I have a father who is in his late 80's and had been in and out of hospitals many a times and I had the occasion to talk about this matter. Why did I find the people in the profession unfriendly? Perhaps I was expecting too much. Oh no! All I was looking for was that professionalism which is declared to be one of the Health Ministry's corporate culture. When I was interviewing those who had just completed their training in the nursing colleges, they have not heard of the so-called " Corporate Culture ". Little wonder they could not comprehend my question. No, I am not exaggerating, only very few could answer the question well. Have you ever seen those posters pasted on the walls of the General Hospitals? The answer would be in the negative, because I think they had thrown it into the garbage bin. Now let me recall. If I am not mistaken there are 3 slogans, first is Professionalism, second is Caring and I have forgotten the last, but it had to do with helping out one another. Now, if there's a score card, they would fail in all quarters! And do the Hon. Minister brifed on this, the first day he assumed office? Not for the light of day. The modern day nurses might not have heard of Florence Nightingale. No, she's not a bird, but a human being and she was associated with that symbol which nurses wear on their badges, the lamp. It was during the War in Italy that she won the colours of a caring lady who went from patient to patient, assuring them and comforting them. That's basically the duty of the lady with the lamp. The word is CARING, and how many in the profession really internalise this into their bones? Hardly any I think, except for people like Mona and those in her category. To top it all, for people like us, going to hospitals are like going to war. The Hospital is a battleground right from the start, where to park your jalopy! I rather use public transport, but that would mean I had to walk home after visiting hours, and that means I have to put on my rollerblades, which I have thrown away. Apart from being in a war zone, having to fight inconsidertae vehicle owners who blocked others, I had to contend with indifferent security guards. Now this is only the few examples of how traumatic one could become when you enter a public hospital, mind you, and you have not reached the registration counter as yet or worse, the hospital ward. Now we must go back to basics, as I was fond of saying when I was the Head of Dept where we must become human beings again and not simply being machines or robots. This dehumanizing process had taken the most out of our people and this spells disaster for the Country. We would join the club of Primitive Africa or the Mongol hordes of Jenghiz Khan and his marauders if this state of affairs is not put right. My apologies to those Nightingales who had done a great service to patients, but this is being addressed to the Hospital Director right down to the security guard who had no care whatsoever in the welfare of the patients and their families. The Minister of Health was right when he said he was enetring the Ministry of Hell.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

My Rasah Clan

People thought only the Malaysian Chinese are fond of forming Clan Associations in order to look after the welfare of their members. The Malays at one time thought UMNO was their saviour until of late. Actually PAS was a breakaway branch of disgruntled ex-UMNO members who felt that those from the Sekolah Pondok were being sidelined by the Tunku. Well, I am proud of my heritage from both sides of the divide, namely my father's roots from Riau and my mother's side from the original tribe of " Biduanda" suku in the Nine States. When I asked my venerable late Grandma of a loud lady, she unwittingly said that her "biduanda" clan originated from original tribe who inhabited the Nine States before the entry of the waris suku Minagkabau from Sumatra came on our shores. So in fact, the other suku or clan were actually "Pendatang" so to speak.No wonder when I lived in Pekan Rembau in 1957, my neighbour who later became an academic told me that my suku qualify me to be an "Undang" or the Four Lawgivers, who in turn elect the Yam-Tuan or the Ruler. Unlike other states in Peninsular M'sia, only N9 practice the true meaning of democracy since time immemorial. Well, my Rasah roots is more colorful because Fakeh Muhammad Saleh a.k.a. Tuanku Tambusai is Indonesia's Nationa Hero. It was only conferred to him at the turn of the last century by the Govt of The Indonesian republic. Now my Rasah Clan forms the backbone of BERKAT which stands for " Badan Rumpun Keturunan Tuanku Tambusai". Recently we had a meeting on 10 August and for me it was truly satisfying. If only the Central Governing Body or the Majlis Lembaga Rumpun could be conducted in the same manner, I would still continue as President. But once I have made up my mind, I shall not backtrack unless it's a matter of life and death. My Rasah Clan of which I am the "Ketua Waris" is of the opinion that we could go it alone if needs be, but for the time being we have not reached that point yet. We still abide by the kindred spirit. But if I think to carry on as of today for the Governing Council, we shall be dragged to the centre of the whirlpool and be drowned altogether. I don't think that's wise. So before we could disintegrate, we might as part ways, for a temporary period say for three terms of twelve years. If and when the Setapak Branch can pull themselves together, we just continue without their participation, and be rid of the bad rubbish.Well, my Waris Rasah, what say you?

Friday, August 15, 2008

An Eye Opener

This week beginning Monday 11 August is an eventful week for me, not because of my elation following a successful meeting of my family association in Rasah, Seremban the day before, but more so due the current developments connected to my father's eye surgery. The appointment for my father's eye surgery was supposed to be last March 2008 but due to unforeseen circumstances it had to be rescheduled to 12 August 2008 and the surgeon was initially to be performed by Prof. Dr. Mimi of the UMMC. When I took my Dad for the preliminary eye examination following a referral from the specialist clinic of UMMC(Univeristy Malaya Medical Centre), the doctors told us that my father was afflicted with AMD, or age-related macular degeneration, meaning the slow process of vision loss would take place due to his age (presently 88 yrs old ) and it could only be slowed down with special vitamins intake, but still there's no guarantee. My father begged them to operate his right eye to remove the cataract because he was getting disturbed by it but to no avail. By the next appointment, Prof. Dr. Mimi took over and she had a different opinion. She told us that surgery is recommended and when I told her what had transpired, she told us that at least we can take a chance and see whether it works. Now that's what I called an " Eye Opener" because this Professor obviously knows what she's doing and good at that too. Come the day for admission to the ward the day before the operation( surgery) my brother dr.Hazim and I brought my father to the admission counter of the Hospital and we had to go through the rigmarole of something like a "Banduan" going to jail, with us tagging along with the other patients who were to be admitted on the same morning to Ward 7E at Menara Timur. I went early on the day which my Dad was supposed to be operated on. After parking my car in the basement, I went to the food court and bought breakfast for the maid who stayed back to attend to him, because he's somewhat dependent on a pair of crutches to move about the ward. It was the second time I was at the food court and this time I knew how the system works once you have made a selection. The queu was fortunately short at the cashier's counter, and I seemed to be one of the early birds. I waited for about close to an hour outside the OT(operation Theatre) and then I went to my Dad's room in Ward 7E because I felt tired. Then, about half an hour later, my father was brought back to his bed and I was greatly relieved to see that all was well. Now my father is with me, waiting for his next appointment on monday 18 August 2008 at 9.00 am. As for those who have eye problems, are advised to go to the Specialist Eye Clinic ( not after 5.00 pm) because it's worth your effort, time and patience which you must have in the plentiful. My gratitude to ALLAH S.W.T. for making the "Eye-Opener" possible.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Meeting in Rasah

I had planned for this meeting of my family association, with the acronym called BERKAT since I resigned as it's President with immediate effect on July 16, 2008. There are two levels, one the centre and the other the Branch. Many thought the centre is most glamorous and visible but actually for me, it was the most frustrating and full of venom. So yesterday , Sunday August 10, 2008 I convened the Branch meeting in Rasah, about three kilometres from Seremban. I am still the Branch leader although I had relinquished my post at the Centre. For the first time since being elected as the leader of BERKAT, I had a quorum and started right on the dot, more or less. The agenda was entirely focused on the coming "Kerapatan Waris" or our Branch EGM in December this year. We have to identify the likely people to be elected as office bearers and they in turn will go en-bloc to the centre to form the governing council. In any family association, there's bound to be laxity of members and a certain forebodings of what the future would be like. Someone told me if the association lasted for more than five years, we are lucky! Well we are going to the 7-year itch now, and I am preparing for my withdrawal from the scene and groom someone to replace me. So the meeting lasted for one and the half hours as scheduled and I " conscripted" a few young members into performing " National Service" for the preparation of our AGM in December and it was proposed that it should be the " Family Day " for the Rasah chapter of BERKAT. Now it dawned upon me, where our problem starts and where it ended. The meeting was conducted in a friendly and congenial atmosphere and we made several resolutions. I hope they could be implemented, as soon as possible because come Ramadan almost everything come at a standstill.

Friday, August 08, 2008

The ISO Obsession

Hello everyone! I hope those who cared to read what I had written so far, knows that I write from the heart. I do not prepare drafts, which to me is the least important. What is ISO? I came across this term when I was on secondment to SIRIM from 1986 till 1988. It stands for an identification with regard to standards whih has its HQ based in Geneva. Their main objective is to ensure that every product or service conforms to a certain standard in order to make sure that it's quality is the same the world over. I paid a visit to the standards body in the UK which is on the outskirts of London, precisely in a newly built up area called Milton Keynes. It is built in a newly acquired area which housed the British Aerospace and many military hardware manufacturing industry of the UK. When I came back, at one of the senior level morning meetings chaired by the Comptroller of SIRIM, I asked this gentleman who was the deputy head of the Standards Division of SIRIM whether he had heard of the BSO. It stands for British Standards Office which has a Head Office in Central London. His answer was somewhat vague and opaque despite the fact that he's been there for umpteen years! The Comptroller was also wondering why his answer was non-committal. The Director of Standards SIRIM was away at that time and he was covering for him. I thought it was rather strange for him not to know his counterparts in similar bodies in the Commonwealth. I left the Standards body of which it is the only one found in our beloved Nation, way back in 1988 after a 28 months stint in what I believed to be one of the most enlightening experience of my career in Government Service. The wonderful people whom I met there were more than often willing to educate me on what they were doing. As an example one of the officers who were engaged in testing electronic goods and products which needed certification by law, befriended me till now, because his lab was one of those which made one of the most requisitions for testing equipments. When I came back to the mainstream govt service, the quality frenzy was in top gear. I was wondering why on earth, MAMPU was deep into this exercise which to me was totally superfluous and lacking imagination! I could still recall what the BSO official told us in his briefing that the ISO was confined largely to manufactured goods and services so as to provide the competitive edge for countries mainly from the industrialised world or even the developing countries who are obsessed with joining the club of a developed first world! I supposed no one advised MAMPU on the basic issues pertaining to ISO to be applied in government across the board. Even if there were, no one was hearing because almost the whole bureaucracy were obsessed and possessed by ISO as if it was a magic cure for all the problems facing govt depts and ministries. Actually when I first joined govt service, I was told that there's this division called O&M Office which is an acronym for " Organisation and Methods" found somewhere in the recesses of that old Secretariat Building fronting now Merdeka Square. Now the work was actually cut out for them because one of the first things that we are introduced when dealing with govt depts are filling of forms before any service could be rendered. Recently I went to perform the "Umrah" or the lesser Hajj through a Tabung Haji subsidiary company called " Tabung Haji Travel & Services " or in short only known as THTS. It has been conferred the certification of the ISO which was proudly displayed almost all over the country where Tabung Haji offices could be found. Although I enjoyed the relatively hassle free and a smooth journey to the holy land from 25 June till 05 July, but there were moments which could make me hit the roof owing to communication breakdowns and bad attitude of the people who manned some of the critical components of the Umrah Package. Upon my return from Makkah, immediately I called the CEO of THTS and related to him some of the unpleasent episodes to which he thanked me profusely.Later I came to know that he was in the Armed Forces with the rank of Major, and after 14 years he left to take up law and then joined the Legal and Judicial Service. He was seconded and later opted to remain in Tabung Haji ever since and asked to revamp THTS because it was focussing on the wrong things rather than satisfying the clients. The lesson here is that paper certification is only useful if it's translated into a way of life. The trouble in many organisations are that the ISO becomes an end in itself and not the means to an end. See you later alligator!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

As-Salihin, The Pious

Yesterday, the guy from the "Pious" came to discuss with my wife and me with Haniff being present about the details in the "Will". I wasn't happy because the previous draft did not convey our intentions. In our Faith, " Niat" is the most important of all. When the "Niat" or " Nawaitu" is not translated clearly and concisely, then the thinking becomes muddled. A muddled mind is of no use to anybody. This time, after a veiled threat of calling the CEO of As-Salihin Trustee Bhd, Mr. Aziz Peru Mohamad, things are falling back into place. The items which we wanted to include in the will were incorporated and a few amendments made. This time we hope, the going shall be speedy and smooth. I asked the guy when could he furnish me with the amended draft, and he promised me this Friday. I will hold him to his word, and if nothing comes in my mailbox, I shall follow up. The trouble with some people is that they are either too lazy or complacent to follow up and follow through. Being a former bureaucrat, I do not brook any nonsense, and I was known for being a hard driving task master. I just had no time for slackers and time-wasters because to me, it is worth more than gold. I was a fastidious worker, always being the first arriving to the office because I hated the jams and it made my blood boil. I wasn't a road bully, but if anyone tries to be funny, I knew how to react with decorum and with the expletives at the same time. So far I had not encountered anything more than a scratch on the paintwork and just let it go because a motorcyclist was in a hurry perhaps to the loo. I told the guy that once we have a final look at the will and ready for attestation, we would like the presence of all in the immediate family so that we could announce our true intentions and the implications of the written word. This time I would want my grandchildren to be included as beneficiaries. The "sadaqah jariah" should be continued after our passing whenever the Fund is in excess of meeting its obligations. The creation of a "Trust Fund" is the central focus after the basic obligations in accordance to Shari'ah has been fulfilled. The will should be complementary and not at odds with it. I hold the view that good intentions must be written down and be complied with in accordance with the Shari'ah, because as believers we cannot just follow the "nafs" or our internal desire which might be confused and offtrack. I hope when I die, there's be justice to all my dependents and members of my family. I have gone through many long years of heartaches when I saw how my mother was sickened and breath her last, still hoping for her rights in accordance to the Shari'ah but to no avail. It's a great lesson in life for me and I do not want it to be repeated when my family's turn come around. The mundane will perish come Doomsday but at least what's more significant is that I have done my duty to my Creator and to those whom I am responsible for. Allahu Akbar Allahu Akbar Walillahilhamd!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Will the Will Work

I am about to write on something which to many is not welcomed. It's about Wills. I am given to understand that writing a will is "Sunat" as when one is about to travel, such as going to perform the Hajj in Mecca, it's "Sunat" to write a will, in case you unexpectedly pass away during the journey. Furthermore some people regard the matter as "Taboo" as Yaakob Rahman Wilhelm who managed the HNP Service, a home nursing provider one day said to me, because it's not nice to talk about one's demise.Well I am in the midst of drafting a will and I contacted a local trustee company whose existence is just about three years old. They have a very impressive Board and also Advisers, many are experts in their fields and well positioned in society. I was impressed at first and called the Company. I talked to someone at first and then I was directed to the Legal Dept. I was told to expect a guy who would come and see me at home. How wonderful, I thought at first as going through the traffic in Kuala Lumpur is the most dreaded thing for a retired person like me. At the appointed date, the guy came to my house and in fact I told my sons and daughter to be present. But since the timing is not suited to their working schedule, only my wife and Haniff listened on what service is offered by the Company.It was a refreshing experience because the guy is knowledgeable in the Shari'ah compliant business of which the Company is operating. So he promised to deliver the draft the following Monday. I thought this is a super efficient company, because my late father in law had to deal with a person who was an executive in the Trustee industry many many times even before a draft could evolve! When I called up the guy to remind him of his promise, he was profusely apologetic as he was occupied and could not deliver his promise and he would send me the draft as soon as possible. I waited for several days and he promised to come and see me again, but he did not. When the first draft was e-mailed and I could not retrieve it due some technical glitch of my browser, I asked him to send me the hard copy. But it was another person who rang me up wanting to make sure my address. I began to question the efficacy of the Company as what this guy did. Then he spoke to me over the phone apologising for the inability to meet me and discuss the draft. Today when I opened my mailbox, there is this draft which had been revised in accordance to my so-called wish. I wasn't impressed this time around. Now I have second thoughts and am thinking of calling up the CEO of the Company. But he might be thinking whether I am loaded and have a Swiss Bank account and properties in London and Melbourne. I am as poor as a church mouse, and I survive on my govt. pension alone. My assets could not even qualify me to be in the million-dollar club, as even the house in which I am staying is only 50% owned by me and the other 50% is my wife's. I have a thin bank account and a less than maximum amount invested in ASB, plus a tiny fixed deposit with a shari'ah compliant foreign bank which is incorporated here. I have sent my note to the Company that I would like to contact the CEO on this subject matter of Will. I thought the Company had an impressive line of Directors as well as Board of Advisers. But sometimes you should not judge a book by its cover. If this question of Will is taboo to many, will it finally work out as I had imagined? Only time will tell.

Monday, August 04, 2008

The Scenic Route Revisited

Today 04 August 2008 which is a monday, I drove to Seremban very early accompanied by my son Haniff Azlan Shah who's back for his summer holiday. Since he's flying back this thursday 07 August 2008 via KLIA and transit at Heathrow on his way back to Cork, I brought him to Seremban to say goodbye to his Grandad. At first I wanted to take the scenic route once more, just to show to him that there's more to life than just a rat race. What's more, with the efficient methods applied by my Pest-Control provider, the elimination of home pests is becoming a lucrative business.The rats had almost been eliminated from my house, but one can never know when infestation will begin, because you cannot get to their breeding place. So when I arrived at the Makam Tuan Hj Said, I rang up Uncle Dol and told him my plan.I rang him up when I stopped at the R & R just about twenty minutes from Seremban southbound.When I neared the Makam, I saw a notice board that says no vehicles are allowed to go up to the Makam. How absurd! I had been using the funny road leading to the Makam from the main road going towards Sikamat. And upon exiting I had to be careful when entering the fast traffic flow on my right to make a turn to the inner lane to go towards Kuala Pilah. This time I took the road going to Jelebu and after about five minutes from the traffic light junction going to KP and Jelebu, I turned right to exit the KP road near Kg Dato' Dagang. I was told by my waris, the Kampong was previously called Kg Belacan coz there were many settlers who originated from Melaka. But on his initiative he got the name changed to Kg Dato' Dagang in memory of my late Grandfather who was the Dato' Dagang and he died in 1929. Our family holding company is called Syarikat DD Mohd Akil Sdn Bhd. That ""DD" stands for Dato' Dagang. I recalled my grandmother telling us that when he was holding the post, he was such a feared local leader who looked after the interests of the migrants, mostly Chinese tin-miners prospecting for tin in the Paroi area. After stopping by at my sister's house in Taman Seri Telawi near Paroi, on the way to Kuala Pilah, we stopped for a short rest. Then after twenty minutes proceeded on our way to Kuala Pilah. The winding road at Bulit Putus is for me a well travelled path. I remember when I was about five years old, I used to ride the motor cycle " Royal Enfield " with my father going back to Terachi, my mother's kampong. There's always this road block near the top of the pass, manned by British Fusiliers and Gurkha Rifles. They knew us by sight coz my father goes back and fro Seremban and Terachi often. I always enjoyed the ride, cruising down the valley road to Ulu Bendol and after the "Kedai Kurung" where the Chinese Resettlement area was located was my the Grandmother's house near the corner. It was the sixteenth and the quarter mile, where there was a bouginvella tree with it's red flowers always seen from far as the " Union" bus headed towards Kuala Pilah then. It was almost ten o'clock in the morning when I arrived at the former old road near the KP Hospital called Jalan Melang where Uncle Dol's wife house is situated. He was waiting for me, and I looked at him with satisfaction because I had always wanted to visit him, but there were too many commitments. He was alone in the house as Auntie Esah went to teach at the branch of a Nursing School nearby. I am greatly indebted to both, because when Mak was hospitalised I stayed at their Quarters a few steps from the ward of cluster Hospital which was then a new concept to the people of KP district. Mak passed away at the ward with Abah by her side, and I wanted to come that friday 13 june 1997 but I arrived too late. The road leading to Kuala Pilah from Seremban on any day is always teeming with traffic.People as far as Pahang travelled along the road when they exited the Keratong Highway to Bahau and then kolopilah and to KL. I was lucky because the peak hour had passed, and we saw a colony of monkeys frolicking on the grass verge at the blind corner, where they seemed to get their daily supply of food trown by passing lorries which ply that second scenic route. I could see at some points where the present road almost encroached the construction site of the new highway from Panchor to Ulu Bendol. By next year, we would be able to savour a new vista along the corridor towards Kuala Pilah or towards Seremban depending upon your destination. Uncle Dol is a generous person, who had the Rambutans plucked and mangosteens too. Several durians completed the whole bundle to travel back to PJ. I did not realise I spent almost one and a half hours talking to him. Then we took his leave. When we went back from my sister's house, I asked my Dad and sister how to get to the road to Labu.Last fortnite I took the down memory lane trip from LCC terminal towards Kg LBJ, Batu 9, Tiroi and exited near the junction with the traffic lights facing towards Seremban. But this time I took the different stoplights to go to Labu. For a while I was confused coz I did not recall seeing the Labu estate. But when I saw the milestone saying Labu is another 13 kilometer I knew I was in the right direction. I took the drive along memory lane once more and showed how pleasing a drive which could only be equalled when I first started to drive in 1968 along the lonely roads to Kg LBJ and Sendayan. We came out near the F1 site after an hour's drive and I went to the KLIA highway towards Shah Alam. But I decided to exit to Putrajaya coz I wanted to show how the Maju X-pressway is to Ippi (Haniff)and I was not happy to see the congestion at the Toll Plaza as one enters the Maju Xpressway. But cruising down towards KL was exhilariting, and I exited to Subang and Petaling Jaya on the NPE highway and straight home. It was partly a scenic route revisited and when I joined the traffic along the federal highway, it was back to the daily grind.

Friday, August 01, 2008

The Head Hunter

Yesterday I was at the GP's clinic to ask for a referral for my current asthmatic ailment, which only developed very recently. My close buddy called me on the mobile during the consultation and told him that I would return his call later and he obliged. Since the "head hunting" days of conducting interviews to recruit applicants to govt service a couple of years ago are over Datuk Ti asked me to dwell on this touchy subject. The reason I say that it's a touchy subject is plain and simple, my views are way above the other colleagues of ours who were just following the wind and whatever was given, just swallow them hook, line and sinker. The recruitment method in the public service was wholly based on the scheme of service which became the mould cast in granite, and no one could vary or modify it, least of all to disagree with it. Well that's the way things were and we were not supposed to question the scheme, It's some sort of unabridged copy of the specs for determining the qualifications and experience as well as other conditions that must be fulfilled even before the shortlisting are done. The methodology have not changed for a very long time. Only the forms keep on changing, whereby either you fill them up or they can be done online, the application for jobs in govt that is. So if we were to revise the scheme, it would be taboo, because that's some other people's domain and woe betide the person who tries to be smart. Even the tables and chairs used in the interviews cannot be changed without getting permission from the Head of Department where the interviews are conducted, or else one can be surcharged for unauthorised disposal of govt assets. In the five years we sat every monday mornings where the meetings to endorse the recommended candidates and to discuss other papers that were tabled (now done paperless, and every member is expected to have read all papers for discussion in a small computer disc) seemed somewhat meaningless because there were hardly any debate. Almost all, if not for a few who seemed to have a mini discussion beforehand either at the lounge where refreshments were always provided or even in the toilets, where dissent is almost nil. With such an atmosphere prevailing in the building which is occupied by the gatekeepers for people who are interested to become public servants, the mould had already turned to worse than granite, perhaps one day it would turn into precious stones where the mad scramble would not be for the jobs offered online, but the rubies, amethysts, zamruds,pearls and perhaps diamonds abound. Once we were directed to recruit outstanding graduates who were exiting their finals for the elite diplomatic service, and the tall order was get them fast, and find ways and means to cut short the process so that the govt would attract the best from the top universities of the world, where their worst would easily be our best when compared to their counterparts who came out from the mushrooming public and private universities. From my experience in conducting interviews, almost invariably we honed everything down to gut feeling after all the criteria are met. Whereas things have changed in many parts of the Commonwealth, where recruitment is done by appointed agents who specialised in head hunting, we still plod along the path which were travelled half a century ago. So it's an axiomatic truth that bad currency drives out the good ones. Candidates mostly who appeared in front of us were either rejects or recycled material who appeared before us more than twice sometimes. I had a candidate who had attended our interviews more than he could ever remembered, and when I pressed him further, he counted ten times! So how does one expects to recruit the promising ones coming out the production papermills here and abroad when the system we practised is outdated and obsolete. When I proposed to the Chairman that it's high time we sit with the people from PSD, Treasury and Wismaputra as to how best to carry out the Cabinet directive, it just fell on deaf ears! How frustrating and I remembered at one monday morning meeting, I simply walked out after letting off steam because no one dared to support me when I called for voting which was provided under the PSC regulations. The trouble is that those who are themselves doing the interviews are the have beens, "pensioners" who looked at the job as a pastime and not as a profession. No wonder what we get mostly into the public service today are mediocres and nincompoots, because the system does not kepp up with the demands of the times. So once a candidate who's competence is in doubt began his career in the public service, he remains as passenger for the rest of his working life until the mandatory age of retirement is reached. In the meantime, the garbage who were taken into service infected the whole govt machinery with bacteria and viruses of all hues. The gatekeepers like us are partly to blame for just keeping quiet and seldom allowed to question the system. As one famous dictum from a platoon commander who perished in the charge of the light brigade during the Boer Wars in South Africa, " Ours is not to question why, but to do and die", and sure enough many are brought down by this "Ba Ba Blacksheep Syndrome" where all they are good for is " Yes sir, yes sir, 3 bags full". I feel somewhat guilty for contributing to this state of affairs. But as the majority of the members were contented to collect their allowances at the end of the month and their conscience well intact, no one seemed to bother. But wait till you get unanswered queries and dumb dolls who are just good loafers in the prestigious buildings in Putrajaya managing the critical services for the people, then as always we just sit quietly and never compalain because it's all part of the racket where we once was. May ALLAH save this nation from being ruled by court jesters and fools who keep on singing the same song all over again to the satisfaction of their superiors who are only interested in counting the gold that fill their till instead of the govt coffers. I dont have to be apologetic Datuk Ti, since you asked for it.