Friday, October 30, 2009

Solat Hajat & Doa on 29 October 2009

The announcement for the Solat Hajat & Doa on Thursday night of 29 October came from the Old Putra Association's executive secretary, OP Azudin Fuad when I received the notice through the mail in mid-October.

As usual I made the arrangement with my ex-classmate of the Class of '64, OP Hamzah Pilus to pick me up from the house at 6.15 p.m. on the designated day to attend the " Solat Hajat & Doa " at the OPA Secretariat, off the Old Airport road near Saujana Resort. OP Shaharudin Bahaudin also came along, and it was a pleasant surprise as I have not met him for quite some time. When we reached the OPA building we met OP Mike Tan at the basement car-park and he told us that OP Dato' Termidzi , the OPA President was already upstairs and talking with OP Shuhud in London via Skype connection. We were the early birds to arrive for the function and with the rain, quite a number were caught up in the traffic congestion on their way to the Saujana.

The Old Putera Association informed us that OP Shuhud had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and he made the request for the Solat Hajat and the President had consented. I met OP Shuhud in 2007 when the book " The Port Dickson Years " was launched by OP Dato' Radzi Sheikh Ahmad who was then Home Minister. He was requested by the OPA to write the book about the early years of the formation of the College and he spent six months in Malaysia to complete it, because he is a permanent resident in the UK.

In early October this year OP Abdul Kadir Kassim and OP Che Md Noor Mat Arshad visited him in London and they came back with the sad news . When he was speaking to OP Shaharudin and OP Hamzah on the Skype I could see that he put up a lively conversation despite his illness and he was pleased to see that his request is being entertained. I did not have the heart to continue the chat because only God knows what is running in his thoughts because I have read the tone of his mail which he sent to his contemporaries namely OP Wahab Nawi and OP Muslim Ayob requesting their presence for this function.

After the recital of the Yasin following the Maghrib prayer, OP Azudin brought the laptop to the front row of the congregation and asked OP Shuhud to speak and see his close friends. It was a touching scene, and OP Shuhud just could not hold back his tears. He spent about ten minutes expressing his gratitude and appreciation to all present for being able to spare the time to perform the Solat Hajat and Doa.

I could see the emotions and eyes brimmed with tears from his colleagues who knew him well, and they were mostly retired generals. I could also feel the depth of their comradeship which most Old Puteras have for one another because the experience of sharing the joys and sorrows of life in a Military College could never be understood by those who studied in other day or residential schools in the country.

From what he had written in the book " The Port Dickson Years " it was not only about his life but also of others, his colleagues, teachers, instructors and all those who made and shaped his life and for that matter all of us who went through the portals of the FMC/RMC. OP Shuhud is the hallmark of the vintage product of the FMC years in Port Dickson and his courage and example as an upright and a man of integrity shall forever be remembered. We pray that you have the strength in facing your illness and May ALLAH S.W.T. bestow His Mercies and Blessings on you always.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Perak in The Limelight

The Silver State is in the news again this time not so much as having a sitting of the State Assembly under a tree opposite the building where the august chamber is housed but about the tragedy involving schoolchildren who were attending the 1 Malaysia camp just across the Kampar river not far from the school in Kuala Dipang near Ipoh, Perak.

Some years ago Kuala Dipang was also in the news where an orang Asli settlement was swept by a swollen river, perhaps by the same name, and by coincidence the swift currents caused havoc where precious lives were lost. When that incident took place, my good friend Dato' Yusop Yahaya was the DO of Batu Gajah and Kuala Dipang came under his jurisdiction. Since Perakians love to be in the limelight, now the focus is how did the suspension bridge which straddle across the Kampar river came to an abrupt end.

The Minister of Education as usual had directed an investigation be carried out and even the Raja Muda of Perak had visited the site where the bridge had collapsed. I am sure the people responsible for organising the 1Malaysia camp are now very worried about as to who would become the scapegoat. In the first place, I just could not see the reason why the children had to cross the bridge at night, since the camp is sited just not far from the school. Under normal circumstances the camp commandant should ensure that all participants be in their tents after dark, unless there was a night march activity going on and if there was such, it should be under strict supervision because the participants are primary schoolchildren. The teacher-in-charge should now be answerable.

What is most perplexing is that the suspension bridge was not built from government funds but from somebody's or a group of people who were kind enough to defray the costs. But most important of all since it is built near the school, it should be under the responsibility of the school headmaster.

In many instances where such a tragic incident happened resulting in loss of life, the aggrieved party can sue the authority who is responsible and in this case is the headmaster and the Education Department. Since this is a clear example of lack of supervision it would not be difficult for the investigation team to finish its work and submit a report to the Minister within a short time. It would be interesting to know its outcome, because by and large most Perakians or for that matter all Malaysians have very short memory.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Public Service Reforms

I would like to continue my conversation with Datuk Z last sunday with regard to the delivery system which had always attracted a lot of criticism from the public in the past as well as at present and perhaps in the future.

What intrigued him most is the state of reforms that had been started in the eighties with the issuance of government circulars on the improvement of all government agencies especially those serving the public directly. The period of the nineties saw a torrent of PKPA circulars which focused on the "Quality" improvement and the at the turn of the new millennium saw the adoption of ISO certification of the delivery system. The pace of reforms was such that before these circulars could be implemented at the departmental level in the whole public service of the Federation, new ones were launched.

In fairness government departmental heads tried their level best to keep up with tempo set by MAMPU, that government department which issue and oversees the implementation of the reforms contained in the circulars, but somehow only some of the departments could really show positive results.

From what Datuk Z told me, it seemed that what was introduced during his time with MAMPU had lost its momentum from what he experienced in trying to get a report in order to make claims for health insurance which could only be delivered in four weeks. He just could not believe that it could take that length of time just to obtain a report, which would normally take at most a week! What happened to all those reforms which were introduced by MAMPU he wondered.

From my past experience in implementing change in any organisation, the most critical factor in ensuring success is the rationale and methodology to be applied, since dealing with human beings necessitate a change in the mind-set followed by the behaviour. If it is just changing one type of form to another in any transaction of government it is simple and easy. But to change attitudes is the most difficult, unless drastic measures are instituted but it would be short-lived and in the end little would be achieved. A time-table must be drawn up in implementing change and continuous monitoring is essential so as to see whether the steps taken are practical or otherwise and thus modifications might be required. Since the Public Service is huge and unwieldy, one circular cannot cover all the peculiarities of the people and the needs of every department and thus the importance of leadership is vital at all levels of the organisation.

Unfortunately owing to the varying nature of departmental needs and requirements which sometimes involve frequent transfers of officers, this could become a serious obstacle in ensuring the success of any improvements being carried out. Thus we find that whatever reforms being introduced and implemented during the tenure of the Head of the Public Service may not be assiduously pursued by his successor. And this is part of the reason for the failure of any initiative towards reforms.

However all is not lost as yet because we do see improvements in the departments delivering direct services to the public such as the National Registration Department, The Immigration Department and the Road Transport Department.

I believe if the top leadership in the Public Service is dedicated to continue the reforms until the end , we should be able to do much more provided a running audit of performance is done annually and the reward system is not flawed by cronyism or worst by corruption.

Blogging and Public Opinion

Yesterday I met Datuk Z who served as a fellow PSC Member at a wedding invitation in Putrajaya. In our conversation with the host, I told him that we should try blogging as an avenue to express our thoughts and share past experiences as public servants and in so doing contribute to a platform for " Public Opinion " based not just on perceptions but on facts which were once privy to us without breaking the law.

Of course there are those who abuse this new found freedom and liberty to put across views which sometimes can be categorised as "fitnah" and lies to vent out venom and vexations to the extent of being slanderous. In a plural society like ours the inherent dangers of racial incitement and prejudices if given much latitude in cyberspace are always there and could be damaging but those who go beyond the boundary of our laws would have to face the music as evidently made clear by the authorities in recent reports where a few were charged for sedition.

The "Blogs" when used as a platform in developing a " Public Opinion " where "bloggers" can make themselves heard is becoming a powerful tool to check the excesses of the authorities in the performance of their role and functions and also acts as a feedback for the improvement of the delivery system. It is just an extension of the print media but in an electronic form. The idea of setting up an electronic government should also incorporate blogging by members of the public.

One must be selective as to distinguish which blogs are beneficial to read and just ignore the blogs which are detrimental and destructive to the development of a moral and civil society. Being ex-civil servants who once contributed their services for the well-being of the country, it would be a disaster if we allow the good work of the past be destroyed by those who lack the integrity and competency in moving the country to higher planes of achievement with honour and dignity amongst the sovereign nations of the world. Let us not waste the noble efforts of our past Statesmen in making Malaysia a shining example of a developing country steeped in a proud tradition of a civilised society with the Federal Constitution as the sound basis of good governance for posterity.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Are We Prepared for Crisis?

I spoke to Azudin Fuad yesterday about the unfortunate fate of KD Sri Inderapura, the Royal Malaysian Navy's vessel which caught fire at the Naval Base in Lumut and now lies at the bottom of the sea presumably within our waters, still laden with its cargo supposedly made up of spares for the military to be sent to Sabah. What is worse there is still millions of litres of fuel in it just waiting to spill into the ocean.

What is appalling nobody seemed to have the sense of urgency to re float the vessel and siphon out the fuel before a catastrophe happens. It appears that nobody cared as to what the consequences be on the environment, especially to the livelihood of the fisherman around Pangkor and Lumut.By right all the relevant agencies such as the DOE, The Maritime Authority, RMN and the Fisheries Department should form a task force and monitor the situation 24 hours daily. Azudin who has friends in the Navy informed me that Lumut Naval Base is not properly equipped to deal with fire and this is mind-boggling. How can we afford to acquire assets like submarines but the Naval Base does not have the capability of putting out fires should any of the vessels catch fire? Furthermore the Command structure to tackle such an emergency must be unambigious and clear-cut.

This reminds me of my short tenure of nine months as Deputy-Secretary General of the Ministry of Information in 1992 where I was shocked to know that nobody was entrusted with the responsibility of managing safety in case of fire occurring within the Angkasapuri. Without further ado I revived the non-functioning comittee on fire-prevention as stipulated for installations which has a high risk, such as a radio and TV stations. As safety was under my charge at that time, I quickly appointed a senior engineer with RTM to be responsible for ensuring that preventive measures are taken and also to ensure fire drills are instituted. Everyone from the bottom of the ladder right up to the Secretary-General should be conscious of the fact that owing to the nature of work which the staff of Angkasapuri is involved in, safety should be our top priority. I was also disappointed with the lackadaisical attitude of the auxiliary police who were stationed at the entrance and at the strategic perimeters of the facility and beat them up into shape. For my concern and the measures which I adopted to make the personnel working in Angkasapuri be mindful of safety, I was nicknamed " The IGP" by Tok Mat, then Minister of Information.

The issue which I would like to raise here is that where safety and lives are concerned, our government servants are too complacent and this is a reflection of the public in general. A clear evidence of this is our "Ops Sikap" which had been in operation for donkey years and very little ground is achieved. I shudder to think what would happen if we have another "tsunami-like" disaster hitting us again. Crisis management should be inculcated right from primary stage of our public right up to the senior citizens as how to cope in emergencies or disasters such as fire, floods and major disasters. I do not think many of us know even how to deal with kitchen fire and very few install fire detectors in their homes or kitchens, what more to have fire extinguishers.

I have been given to understand that should we are confronted with war, this country could be easily be defeated within a matter of days because our state of preparedness to meet such a contingency is severely lacking.For that matter even a small incident such as the landslide at Bukit Antarabangsa sometime ago had proven to us that our Government emergency response was chaotic and lacked urgency. May ALLAH S.W.T. save us from much greater calamity.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Hj Amin Nordin, My Friend

Sunday 11 October 2009 was not only the D-day for the electorate of the state constituency N31 Bagan Pinang but also happened to be a two in one gathering of my ex-classmates of the HSC class of '64 in Seremban, hosted by Haji Mohamad Akbar Baba at his house in Jalan Padang Golf, Ampangan, Seremban. I left the house in Petaling Jaya together with my wife, Nasimah at 10.57 a.m. and followed the route to Seremban via the new Kajang-Seremban highway or LEKAS for short.

I arrived at 12 noon in Ampangan and as my car went up the steep slope after the entrance of Akbar's house, he was ready to guide me to a vacant lot to park my car. What a wonderful host, I thought and later on I profusely apologised to his wfe, Hajjah Azizan for almost knocking down her flower pot as I was reversing into the vacant lot.

As I joined the guests who came for the Hari Raya gathering at the table, I shook hands with Zam, Haron Siraj, Haron Awal, Mazni and Hamzah who arrived earlier than me. Of course Hamzah only had to drive from his house in Seremban 2, which is his weekend retreat, as his other house is in Tropicana Country club precint. Later we were joined by Zawawi Mahmuddin. He came with his wife.

Of course the food was simply mouth-watering beginning with the soup or "rebusan" which I remember vividly would be served at all "kenduri doa selamat"and Hari Rayas at my Kampong in Terachi, Kuala Pilah. But I started with the "lemang" and "rendang" which I liked better. The table conversation revolved round the current politics, especially the one related to Negeri Sembilan.

But what I want to write about is this friend and ex-classmate by the name of Haji Amin Nordin bin Haji Abdul Rahman. To me he is an enigma, and I could recall as clear as day that he was so talkative when we were hospitalised at the RMAF base hospital near Sungei Besi , that left me wondering whether he was sick or not. He told me that the doctor was going to extract a certain amount of fluid from his spine and he was wearing a funny type of spectacles which had a bluish tint. I could not remember what was the reason he was wearing that funny spectacles but he was as fit as a fiddle. Those who were close to him, nicknamed him Amin Jerry presumably after the comedian Jerry Lewis.When we entered University Malaya campus in Pantai Valley in 1965, he was a non-hostelite and he cycled to campus, and if I was not mistaken he was putting up with a relative in Kampong Datok Keramat. We graduated together in 1968 and he joined FELDA after I left to join the MCS. I learned that he did not stay there for long.

When we were in sixth form, he was known for his preoccupation with readings on Muhammad Iqbal works, the famous philosopher who was associated with the founding of the State of Pakistan. Mohamad Noor ( Gear ) and others liked to tease him and whenever he saw Amin, he would always say, " Here comes the fan of Iqbal, the philosopher and if you do not mind listening to his lecture on Iqbal, then you can talk to him for hours".Unfortunately Gear did not turn up for this Raya do at Akbar's house after confirming with Hamzah that he would come. Just a fortnight before Ramadhan, I received a photostat copy sent by Amin about the remarks or comments about his book being written in a Malay tabloid. Hamzah did mention that he would to get a set of the books that Amin wrote.

Amin however does not know the direction to Akbar's house and he went straight to the Seremban Railway Station following Hamzah's instructions to the letter and only then phoned Hamzah. Hamzah obligingly drove to the Station and led Amin to Gedong Lalang, Ampangan.While we were enjoying our food and at the same time getting into the mood for some serious discussion, I wittingly told those around the table that Amin's writings predict that the glory of Islamic civilisation would be emerging in our part of the world. Of course that only opened the floodgates for Amin and he went into a lenghty discourse.

Personally I admire Amin's guts for going into the realm of freelance journalism and that's probably his only source of income. I bought the books that he brought and now I am in the midst of reading them. Amin, I salute you for your steadfastness and convictions to write on what you believed in. Perhaps one day, your writings will be used as a reference point and what you foresee as to the future of Islamic civilisation in the twenty first century will materialise, InshaALLAH. I am sure then that if Cikgu Idris Tain is still alive, he would be very proud of you.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Neutrality of the Public Service

One of the most important institutions created for the purpose of good governance is the "Public Service" and owing to this fact, our Federal Constitution provides in part X beginning from Article 132 right up to Article 148, a comprehensive array of provisions so that our country shall be served by those who are qualified, competent and professional. Thus the " Public Service" also includes not just civilians but also the Police and The Armed Forces.

Since the promulgation of the Federal Constitution and its beginnings in 1957 it is synonymous with Merdeka and when Malaysia was formed in 1963, it was amended to incorporate the States of Sabah and Sarawak ( Singapore left the Federation ). The tremendous emphasis laid by the Government on development was made possible with the implementation of programs and policies by the public servants. The move from just maintenance of law and order to higher levels of commitment to achieve progress made the role and function of the public service in manning the government agencies to be a vital component of development.

After more than half a century, the public service should have moved up the ladder in terms of maturity, finesse and quality. The expectations of the people on the public service to deliver the promises of Government is getting higher by the day and most important of all is fair play and justice.

Unfortunately the public service instead of being neutral in the context of partisan politics has degenerated into being servile to politicians and some openly sided with party politics. This is unbecoming for a nation which aimed at becoming a developed country with a strong sense of morality and ethical conduct of its public servants. In the recent political campaign of the bye-election in Bagan Pinang, even the military is not spared, where campaigning in the guise of Hari Raya celebrations took place in the military garrison. The powers that be should have not allowed this to happen and this reflects badly on the top leadership of our Armed Forces. We must go back to the basics and extol the virtues of neutrality of the Public Service.

Monday, October 05, 2009

My Vague Memory of Padang

It was way back in 1977 when I was with the Ministry of Education in charge of higher education that I went to Indonesia for the first time in my life. The Secretary-General then was Dato' Kadir Talib ( Tan Sri Kadir Talib who later became the Chairman of the Election Commission) and he was leading the big delegation on the invitation of his counterpart the Sekjen of P & K ( Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan) of the Indonesian Republic.

On our return journey back to Kuala Lumpur, we went to Padang and Medan, after visiting Jakarta, Bandung, Jogjakarta and Den Pasar. I could vaguely recall how the place which is famous for its Nasi Padang looks like, but all I could remember was an incident which left an imprint in my mind till today. One day I was going out alone to find a shop that sells souvenirs and its name if I am not mistaken is " SiLungkang". It has no relationship with " Longkang" whatsoever and as I had no inkling on its location. I asked a man who dressed like a " Supir " or driver for directions. Politely he described to me how to get there and after a few clarifications I more or less was confident that I could find it. He said either I could go and take a horse carriage or "Babendi" or just walk. I asked him how much if I were to go by Babendi and he said it would be around " Lima Puluh Perak" which is equivalent to fifty cents in Malaysian currency. As I was about to leave, I offered him a tip but he politely declined and said, " Ini bukan Jakarta, ini Padang kota Aman" which means Padang is different from Jakarta and one does not take money for helping to show directions to visitors.

So I went on my way to find the shop and sure enough the directions given by this supir was accurate. But the shopkeeper being a businessman was like the same everywhere, he was just interested in raking in profits. And he told me that Dato' Samad Idris ( Allahyarham Tan Sri Samad Idris, a former UMNO veteran from Negeri Sembilan) used to visit his shop whenever he made his trip to his "kampong" in the Minangkabau region of which Padang is the entry point. I had no choice but paid the price of the goods that I chose, without even a small discount. Then I realised how shrewd the Minangkabau people were in doing business, and I always like to relate a story of how the wily Minangkabau man was taken for a ride by a Rembau family by taking a bride full of scabies.

I could not remember the name of the hotel we stayed, but it was small and cosy and was managed as a family business and the owner an elegant lady took pride in running it. I could not go along with the group to visit Bukit Tinggi because I had to recover from food poisoning and as such I stayed back. I could recall having a chat with a middle-aged American couple while I had to stay back due to my tummy ache, and he was on leave from the oil town on the other side of Sumatera, some where near Acheh. The man was telling me how the authorities treated the expatriates much to the discomfort of his wife, but I told them that I had my own observations and opinions of the authorities. Padang then was just a backwater and the electricity supply was also insufficient. During one of the dinner given to our delegation at a local hotel, the lights kept flickering in intensity, sometimes bright and sometimes dim. I was told the electricity often got interrupted as demand often exceeds supply. Apart from that the water supply was also in askance and I just prayed that the water I drank did not give me any further problem.

Now with the earthquake being experienced in Padang, I just could not imagine how normalcy could be restored. But I was relating the situation about three decades ago, it could well be a different place today. I only hope the people and the authorities could bring back the life of the people back to normalcy and knowing the people's resilience and steadfastness in facing adversity, they could emerge faster than Acheh from the disaster, as long as another earthquake is not forthcoming. May ALLAH S.W.T. bestow His Mercies and Compassion to the people of Sumatera.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Earthquake and Tsunami on 30 September 2009

If one were to recall what happened in Indonesia more than three decades ago, the term " Gestapu" meant something which could never be erased in the history of Indonesia, when the whole country was engulfed in another bloodbath causing the death of top Generals at Lubang Buaya or " Crocodile Hole", and it marked the rise of another strongman, viz; General Suharto who succeeded Sukarno as its second President of the Republic.

Come September 30th 2009, the world got another shock which was carried over the satellite TV channels across the world, namely Tsunami in the tiny islands of Samoa in the Pacific and the earthquake in Padang, Sumatra. Malaysia too felt the tremors of the quake and it was felt as far as Kota Bharu on the East coast of Peninsular Malaysia.

Actually Malaysians are a blessed lot because we have been spared the natural disasters unlike our neighbouring countries of Indonesia and the Philippines. We should be thankful to ALLAH S.W.T. that so far we have not suffered natural disasters to the magnitude which Padang and Pago Pago had gone through. With the ferocious swath of the Typhoons hitting Luzon right up to Vietnam, I begin to wonder is this a final warning of global warming and the much touted climate change which many think is just wishful thinking. Actually there is a verse in the Al-Quran which says that all the calamities that befall Mankind is due to their own hands, and if we continue to ignore this, then we only have ourselves to blame. I spoke to a guy named Simon recently about what has happened to our rivers and our pristine jungles which we had taken for granted before and perhaps it will not be long that these will perish owing to the greedy hands who think of nothing but money.

Amongst we believers, there is a term called " Kiamat Kecil" which is meant as the " Mini Doomsday". Death is one of them, but it is more apt to be associated with earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, cyclones, typhoons and hurricanes which can cause havoc and untold damage to mankind and the environment. I emphatise with those people who have lost their loved ones, their homes and property due to the natural disasters that befell them the past few days. I hope the people of Malaysia shall render whatever help that can be given to relieve even a bit of the suffering the people of Padang and the other places which have been hit the hardest. We could not be so complacent as to think that disasters only happen to others but not ourselves. Only when we go through such calamities do we know what it is like to be in such a situation. May ALLAH S.W.T. grants this nation of ours His protection from all disasters, Amin!