Saturday, July 28, 2007

Engage bloggers for they are here to stay

AAH! What a week for bloggers! RPK of Malaysia Today was summoned to a police station to be quizzed; a seminar on blogging was held at UKM with some well-known personalities giving their views; Ahirudin 'Rockybru' Attan was invited to give his views on blogging at a conference in Bintan; and many politicians jumped on the bandwagon giving their two-sen worth on the issue at hand.

There's no shortage of accusations and counter-accusations too! We also read statements by international bodies expressing their concern for the blogging community in Malaysia and the manner in which the Government views blogs and bloggers. Hah! It's almost come to the stage where a person can be considered to be unfashionable for not knowing or visiting a blog.

Not cool at all, many say!

About three weeks ago I was invited to speak on blogging at a seminar which was attended by some 40 bloggers and IT promoters. This is small, considering the number of bloggers and blogs that have mushroomed in the country in recent months. But to me, the number is not important.

What is noteworthy is that the political party (not Umno or PKR) which organised the seminar had acknowledged bloggers and the influence this group of people may have on society (read voters). Blog followers are generally urban-based for the moment, because the digital divide in this country is still wide and not adequately addressed.

By engaging the bloggers, the organisers had actually begun the process of two-way communication, done in a relaxed environment and with the clear objective of seeking an understanding of what is blogging, what it can do, and where it's heading. Agreed that there weren't many established and controversial bloggers in attendance. But mind you, this is just the beginning.

Blogs provide a platform for intellectual articulation and debate. There are also blogs which provide updates on people and events; some blogs may just be the owner's personal diary - penning stories about their work, their hobbies and other pursuits. Some blogs are hardly known and visited because they are just the owner's personal space in blogosphere.

The Muhammad Muhd Taib and RPK duel has given blogging considerable attention and publicity. RPK more than Muhammad would certainly welcome the coverage given by the national media! Not all blogs get that kind of national attention and free promotion courtesy of the Umno information chief.

A number of working journalists too have blogs of their own, suggesting that they find blogging a good platform for intellectual interaction and engagement. They aren't able to do that in their own media organisations, you may ask. Well, they blog for reasons of their own, and this could also mean that blogging provides them with some degree of satisfaction.

I believe that lodging police reports and making threats are not the most effective and appropriate way to engage bloggers. There's a limit to what brawn can do when addressing situations involving intellectual discourse. A duel to the death won't help matters too, I think.

A meeting of the minds is needed, lest the antagonism fuel unwanted attention at a time when we are being led to believe there is greater freedom of expression than ever before. Blogging is here to stay. The faster the relevant authorities recognises that, the better.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Nuri - where are the answers?

The death of the six members of the RMAF when their Nuri helicopter crashed a couple of weeks ago must have numbed everyone. Like everyone else, I offer my condolences to the families of the deceased and pray that their soul rest in peace. Al Fatihah.

Much has been said about the tradegy. We all know that this is not the first Nuri to have crashed. If what we read in the newspapers is true, that fateful crash could be the last. The grounding of the Nuris could trigger a new set of helicopters taking to the sky to enable our airmen and women to do their task well and with the minimum danger.

I've flown in the Nuri before. Not once but several times. Many journalists had flown in them during assignments in and around the country, whether on assignments with the RMAF or with members of the Cabinet on site visits etc.

There wasn't much fear among the journalists in the chopper. We felt save, partly because the fun of riding in one caused us to forget about any safety aspects. Prime Ministers and their wives had flown in the Nuri too. In fact, on one particular flight, Tun Dr Mahathir would stand near the door to see what's on the ground.

I recall one flight the early '80s when the Nuri took me and other journalists from somewhere in the east coast to Gemencheh in Negri Sembilan. We were in one chopper and Tun Musa Hitam, then the DPM flew in another.

We followed him when he made an unscheduled visit to see the slain Umno politician which became a major talking point in the country then. We flew back in the late evening and the crew took us back to Sg Besi safely even when it was getting dark. I remember vividly Tun Musa giving a Press Conference on the doorsteps of the deceased house, saying that the slaying was not a political killing.

Anyway, whenever a Nuri crashed, many questions surfaced. Many of these questions are repeat questions, meaning they have been asked each time a crash occurs. Besides the families of the deceased, we the rakyat also deserve full explanation of the incidents.

Was the crash due to mechanical failures? If so, what were the faults? Weren't the faults detected earlier? Can we see records of these faults and what kind of repairs were done? What lessons did we learn from each crash, from every previous crash?

Can we do an audit of each Nuri to gauge and determine the exact airworthiness of each aircraft? What is the life span of each Nuri? Would new avionics extend the airworthiness of the Nuri? If so, by how many years? What were the economic justification for extending the airworthiness of these aircraft?

Were all the crash due to mechanical failures? Were there any that could have been due to human errors? If so, which ones? Again, if so, have these been comprehensively explained to the families of the deceased and their loved ones? What kind of action taken on those found to have been the cause of the crash? If there were human errors, why weren't they made public?

Whenever enquiries are done for each crash, would the families of the deceased be represented, maybe by a family lawyer? Can the family actually request representation when enquiries are made, so that there is better transparency in these exercises?

The list of questions are endless actually. As each question is posed, and no adequate answers found and made known, the public will continue to speculate and come to conclusions of their own. Most, if not all, of the conclusions could be wrong ones as they are based on hearsay and rumours.

This is unnecessary, and dangerous. If these deaths are to have any meaning at all, then let's get the answers quickly and truthfully. Let's find where, or who as the case may be, the fault lies.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Hutang budi dibawa mati...

On the occassion of Tun Dr Mahathir's and Tun Dr Siti Hasmah's birthday, which fall on July 10 and July 12 respectively, I penned the following verses:

penghulu kata, pendulu bicara
izinkan saya sedikit masa
berkongsi sepatah dua kata
sambil duduk bertentang mata
sebelum kita menjamu selera

Assalamualaikum dan Good Afternoon
kepada hadirin dan kedua Tun
jika bunyi kurang santun
mohon maaf, mohon ampun

kita berkumpul sebagai keluarga
meraikan bapa dan ibu tercinta
tak ada mereka tak ada kita
itulah ayat pendekar tua

bukan tujuan mahu meminta
tidak juga ingin bercerita
cuma mahu bertentang mata
mengatakan kasih kepada Tun berdua

di sini kita duduk bersama
adik kakak, abang dan anak
dalam suasana penuh gembira
kerana kita berkeluarga semua

jika dahulu Tun Mahathir berkuasa
didamping pula Tun Siti yang setia
kini, mereka dah ada yang lupa
mungkin tak sengaja...

Wahai kedua ibu dan bapa
kami ikuti kisah mu berdua
ke sana ke mari seia sekata
pahit manis dirasa bersama

tempoh hari Tun terlentang
dalam kesakitan jantung diserang
kami, adik kakak, abang dan anak
risau dan gundah, tidor tak nyenyak

namun, berat mata memandang,
berat lagi bahu memikul
dari jauh ramai juga yang datang
meninjau kesihatan berdoa panjang

berkat doa kita semua
dengan usaha tabib istimewa
permintaan kita dikabul jua
tun pulih sediakala
berjuang terus tanpa kira
kadangkala menunggang kuda
membikin kita risau semula

jika diikut langkah mereka
semakin jauh kita menjaja
membawa khidmat mengebar bendera
negara tercinta semakin ternama

jangan dikira usia mereka
ia cuma angka semata
cuba selami jiwa mereka
mungkin terasa semangat waja

budi dan jasa ditabur merata
tunjuk ajar diberi percuma
ramai penerima mengumpul harta
tak kurang juga yang mudah lupa

years ago when you were in power
never did once you surrender
Acknowledged by all as the consumate leader
taking the nation to the world yonder

ninety-seven, and, ninety eight
turbulent years, everyone said
street wars and currency raid
we found ourselves going into the red

when others were full of doubt
instead, you chose to shout
and proved beyond a shadow of doubt
why we need to stay above board

if, today we have excelled
it's partly because you taught us well
now, allow us to wish you both well
and may your good fortune continue to swell

if there's anything you need, pray tell

udah, cukuplah dulu kita bercerita
insyaAllah disambung di lain masa
mari kira raikan ibu dan bapa
tak ada mereka tak ada kita

pulau pandan jauh ketengah
gunung daik bercabang tiga
hancur badan dikandung tanah
budi yang baik dikenang juga

pisang emas dibawa belayar
masak sebiji di atas peti
hutang emas boleh dibayar
hutang budi di bawa mati

kalau ada jarum yang patah
jangan disimpan di dalam peti
kalau ada silap dan salah
jangan disimpan di dalam hati

ahmad a talib
10 julai, 2007
kuala lumpur

Friday, July 6, 2007

CTOS - still not too late to put things right

CTOS and Bob goes in hand. Now the story received a bit more prominence when Dep Min Kayveas joined the fray and began to highlight the woes that have affected other Bobs in the country.

One must take one's hat off to the Dep Minister in the Prime Minister's Dept over this. While this may be a bit late in the day for some, it could possibly help many others whose loan applications at various banks may be pending.

As the banks rightly said, they don't depend on CTOS information alone when processing loans. This is true no doubt. But one wonders how many loan applicants had their submissions rejected based on CTOS information? It could be revealing.

CTOS and the banks can also help by owning up. Small businessmen like Bob and thousand others had gone through bad times but recovered through perseverance and staying the course. These people have mouths to feed and are also responsible for their staff and other dependents.

This is perhaps where Bank Negara can step in. It can launch a special unit to process loan applications which had been rejected by banks, provided they can show documented evidence that they have clean records but not reflected in CTOS files.

Many people like Bob are about to fold up. Some are on the verge of losing their mind as well. Help them before they resort to something drastic or tragic.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Bosnia - safe and ready for investments

BEFORE the genocide of the early '90s, most Malaysians hardly knew the existence of a state in the Yugoslav federation called Bosnia. After the mass killings which lasted several years that shook the world, a new independent nation emerged to stake its rightful claim in the world community of nations - Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Two weeks ago, two Malaysian delegations were in Sarajevo, the bustling capital city of Bosnia-Herzegovina. One was led by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and the other by former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. Such was Malaysia's affinity with the Bosnians that the old and the new were in the capital at the same time.

Both were there to help promote business in the war-ravaged country. Both leaders had separate programmes and did not meet, contrary to what some political observers may think. The Prime Minister stayed one night in the city and officiated a bilateral business seminar. He left for Italy after that.

Sarajevo appears right for some real business. Being summer, the days were long and one can cover a lot of grounds if one is doing some serious search for potential businesses. It was this search for business collaboration that the proponents for the Global Alliance for Partnership in International Development (GAPID) sat huddled in one of the quieter villas on the outskirt of Sarajevo last week.

Foreign friends of Bosnia had gathered to work out a plan of action which they hoped could help chart the country's destiny. There are altogether some 5 million Bosnians in the world, with about 3.5 million residing in the country. The others had fled for their lives between 1992 and 1995 and are now making a living in their adopted home. Many have promised to return, and this has given the Bosnian government confidence and hope.

Bosnia Herzegovina had a fiery and painful birth, witnessed by a world who played deaf and mute while mass killings - ethnic cleansing as described by some people - went on for several years with minimum intervention by the UN and other world powers. Today, that nation is hungry for jobs, development and wants to share its domestic wealth with the rest of the world.

Sarajevo, which suffered heavy bombardment from the Serbian armed forces in the four year period in the '90s, is gradually rebuilding itself. Showrooms of luxury cars and new buildings and apartments stand side by side with old buildings pockmarked by scars made by mortar bombs and bullets.

Dr Mahathir sat with friends of Bosnia for three days (June 23 to 25) to help work out new initiatives to facilitate further the reconstruction of the country. The president of the Islamic Development Bank joined CEOs, businessmen, think tank members and other parties as they brainstormed possible ideas.

In fact, Bosnian Prime Minister Nedzad Brankovic joined the group on Monday morning, lending the discussion strong support and official endorsement. Gapid is an initiative by Dr Mahathir to get the private sector of Islamic countries to work together and strengthen their national economy and improve on their international networking.

It's early days yet, and Gapid has to work extremely hard to make its plan achieve the desired effect. Bosnia is a country that is aggressively pursuing a free-enterprise economy after years of conflict and even longer years under a centrally-planned economic system. Let's wish Bosnia well. And if you have the money, make a short trip there to do your own assessment.