Friday, September 28, 2007

Are we under siege?

ARE we under siege, I was asked by a businessman over the weekend. Not an external siege but rather, an internal one. I would have ignored the question but it was asked with all seriousness and he went on to cite examples reflecting his query.

First, he mentioned the gruesome murder od Nurin Jazimin. And this was preceeded by several other killings of young persons in the recent past. The fact that so many of them are missing and not found triggers fresh fears among parents and society at large.

Second, violent crime appear to be on the rise. Killings appear to be more rampant, he said, arguing that one needs only to go through the newspapers to check that out. The recklessness of road-users too have contributed to many deaths on our roads and highways.

You must have known friends and relatives whose houses and offices have been burgled. A friend had his new house burgled and there wasn't much the Police could do to help! He's decided to get a couple guard dogs instead.

Third, food prices have been increasing steadily. In fact, in some cases, food items are not available. Maybe it's just the festive season but there's going to be a number of festivals between now and early next. Does this mean consumers are going to be deprived of these items for that long period?

Some trade unionists are talking about boycotting some items. This is not the first time they've been talking about this but in the past they were nothing but empty threats.

Fourth, jobs are hard to come by, this chap complained. He asked where are the new jobs being created? And what's wrong in choosing jobs, he said. I told him that jobs are available but our boys and girls are choosy.

Fifth, we now have marching lawyers demanding freedom for the judiciary! This was unheard of before, the businesman said. Not wanting to be an alarmist, he said that the recent march appeared to have sparked renewed interest among members of the legal profession about the state of the judiciary.

I for one would urge restraint on all parties. But the authorities must handle this very carefully. Engaging the thinking public by show of force would not work. Pakistan's Musharaf is sweating when lawyers march and things almost got out of hand.

The monks are marching in Myanmar and nobody knows how this is going to turn out. If the ordinary people in Myanmar were to join the monks, more blood could spill...

Nearer to home, the Batu Burok incident is still fresh in our mind, thanks to the repeated footage on national television. I wonder what impact the violent confrontation has on the local population. And elsewhere too for that matter...

So, you tell me - Are we under siege?

Monday, September 24, 2007

Our doa for Tun M continues

TUN DR Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali has not left the IJN from the moment Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had his second open-heart surgery on Sept. 4. And that's where I found her last night, on the fifth floor of the IJN.

According to Mokhzani, one of the sons, her mother has been camping at the IJN from Day One, and doesn't look like she's going to take a break by going home or doing something else other than tending to her husband, the former PM.

By now, she knows her way around quite well already in the IJN. She's either on the first floor where the ICU is, or on the fifth floor where the Bunga Raya ward is located. Tun M is now in the ICU after undergoing a second surgery intended to facilitate his recovery process.

The fact that he had to undergo another surgery, and it being done at night, had somehow led to some rumours that the surgery didn't go very well. By Monday evening, the rumours went as far as saying that Tun M had passed on. Text messages were being sent and replied and forwarded, each seeking confirmation and asking for any news of the former PM.

I got calls and text messages from all over the country asking if I know of his condition, and whether there's any truth to the rumours. Others later gave their version, saying they too had received similar enquiries.

When I got to the IJN with two other former newspaper editors, Mokhzani told us that his dad is conscious and able to communicate with his doctors and immediate family members. He too confirmed that he had been receiving similar enquiries from friends and acquaintances, including those from overseas.

If you must know, a police station did call the IJN asking if there were any truth to the rumours!

But such is the concern for Dr Mahathir. He's very much in the news. As far as I know, three Cabinet ministers visited the IJN wanting to know his condition while a few more made phone calls asking similar questions. Former Cabinet colleagues of the Tun also visited the fifth floor wanting first-hand information.

Our doa for the Tun's speedy and full recovery has not stopped. God willing, Tun M will continue to walk with us soon and continue to serve the nation in whatever capacity possible. Get well soon, Tun!

As for Tun Siti, I hope she paces herself well too. She was wearing an IJN pullover when I saw her last night. She wore an expression of concern but the look was not of real worry. Tun Siti knows that she's not alone in her vigil of her husband. Our doa is with you too.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Killer/s must be made to suffer same pain

NO WORDS could described how stunned the public is when news reports revealed that the body of the young girl in a sports bag found in PJ on Monday was that of Nurin Jazlin Jazimin. Only 8 years old, the Std 2 girl was brutalised in a manner that makes even the most mild-mannered person in society capable of turning into a beast should the person lay his or her hands on the murderer/s.

Missing since Aug 20, today marked exactly one month since her parents, relatives, the Police, friends, neighbours and well-wishers searched nooks and corners trying to find her. And when news and picture of a dead girl found in a sports bag was released through the newspapers, normal people everywhere stood stung by the bestiality of such an act.

If there's a crime that the police has to solve, this is surely one that demands high priority. This, to me, is the mother of all crimes that this country has seen in a long while. Which leads many of us asking one simple question - what's happening to this beloved country of ours? Have we lost control of ourselves that there are persons who can turn to become savages at the mere sight of an innocent 8 year old girl?

The beast must be found, and found quickly. And when found, justice must be dispensed with swiftly. The normal view is that the full weight of the law must be brought to bear on the culprit should he be found and brought to trial. But many will join Nurin's parents is asking - even punishment by death may not be fair enough in seing justice done on a victim who knows no evil and was innocent in all matters pertaining to her short life.

I am of the view that normal laws cannot be applied when punishing Nurin's killer or killers. The killer or killers' act of savagery must be met with no less primitive and brutal acts of punishment. Why should rationale people punish savages with decent laws when they have committed such barbaric acts?

Friends in the legal fraternity will argue otherwise, and I respect their views. But I'm sure all parents harbour similar thoughts as me.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Handle UPM-student dispute wisely

WHAT'S happening at the Universiti Putra Malaysia? I read media reports of the UPM authorities confiscating the laptop of a student said to contain pornographic materials and using it to print some unwanted items. This led to an open confrontation between a group of students and the University authorities.

The scenes of the confrontation was videoed and shown on a news portal. For many reasons, I found the scenes disturbing and potentially dangerous. Any open confrontation between students and university authorities can erupt into a major conflict and can easily undermine the credibility of the institutions whose basic premise is to produce students with academic excellence, guide them to some level of maturity, nurture a sense of purpose in life and encourage them to think and contribute to nation building in the long run.

This confrontation cannot be covered up. It will invite media attention. And this may not just be local media boys and girls. A battle to claim who is more right or more wrong will ensue. The party who is able to articulate their case better will win the day and look more credible.

But this is not about an intellectual battle. Not about a debate. It's about managing situations and making sure that problems are addressed according to set procedures so that a more accountable system is put in place, one that encourages a more a healthy environment for excellence.

I'm sure many people are waiting for full the disclosure of what really transpired at the campus. Varsity students involved in national political issues is not a new phenomenom. University authorities having have to grapple with so-called difficult students too is also not new. Political parties woing student leaders and students to their side have been happening in campuses for a long time.

Against a background of rumours and one-sided explanation, the situation can be explosive if not addressed quickly and effectively. By now, word of mouth would have spread; and various versions of the "truth" have been told.

As usual, questions abound. What is the standard operating procedure in handling grievances of this nature? How effective is the channel of communication between students and the university authorities? Was the confrontation a manifestation that a bigger problem exists within the campus?

Will we really know what really happen in the campus? And for that matter, in all campuses?

I'm sure those who witnessed the open confrontation first hand or via the video recording would have formed certain opinions, and their views may be coloured by their own historical perception. There will also be people who are convinced that the whole episode is racial, given the high social, political and cultural polarisation that exists in most campuses!

Confiscating a student's laptop will not guarantee obedience (if that is what the UPM authorities wanted to do); confronting the UPM bosses by obstructing their vehicle will also not yield anything good; and the relevant authorities not taking immediate action to settle the dispute will only be guilty of encouraging the situation to escalate and this will have far-reaching impact and consequences.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Dear Tun - follow your drs, not your heart!

Dear Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad,

Salam Ramadhan to you! I join many fellow Malaysians who are glad and relieved that you went through your open-heart surgery successfully and is now recovering at the IJN. I'm sure the doctors there are keeping a very close watch on you and that is very comforting to know.

It's likely that you'll be spending the early part of Ramadhan at IJN rather than at home. No Sir, you can't take time off and go for a walkabout at Kg Baru to buy your kueh koci or popiah or anything like that. If you want them, just press the button and many will gladly send those items over.

We wait, sometimes impatiently, for news update of your condition. Your aide Sdra Sufi has been keeping us duly informed via his Press Statements. Occassionally, we get sms from your family members. Be assured that every bit of information is shared with others who are always eager and anxious to see you on your feet, fully recovered after a complete rest etc.

Have you been reading the papers? We all know that reading the papers in the morning is a must for you. If you are not, I'm sure you are duly informed of what's going on in and around the country. You'd probably want to comment on some of these developments, but I think you better keep that on hold and concentrate on your immediate task.

And that task is quite simple and clear - to get well ASAP! While we may not have direct access to the doctors treating you, we are told that you are making excellent recovery. For someone who is 82, and having gone through a second open-heart bypass, you are making one helluva recovery!

If only the doctors can share some of their thoughts, I'm sure their stories would make good reading. In fact, I hope they are documenting their work on you! Come on, how often do they get the chance to do a major surgery in the way they did last week! The whole medical world would want to know what went on during that history-making operation!

On hindsight, you wanting to go ahead with that surgery is quite typical of you. You are forever challenging the odds, forever testing the parameters, always willing to show the way even at the risk of your own life! Is that why your favourite song is Old Blue Eyes' May Way? Must be lah...

I know you don't take advice too kindly, especially when it's unsolicited. But I'll go ahead and give you one - please don't rush your recovery process! I'm told that doctors are often bad patients. I hope you are not one of them though!

When I was told that you were sent back to the ICU yesterday, I was wondering what's up! You've been sent to the normal ward and then wheeled back to ICU soon after. What's going on, as my nephew Sonjay would say!

Whatever the reasons, your doctors know best. Just listen to them and you'll be fine! I'm not saying that you don't listen to them, but sometimes you can be one stubborn fellow. I've seen how your aides had often advised you to go slow on your bicycle exercise, and you just pretended you didn't hear them!

Well Tun, whatever you do this time, just make sure you adhere strictly to their instructions! Your doctors aren't the only ones who want to see you alive and kicking - the rest of us share that feeling too!

I got to go now. A couple of night hounds want me to join them for roti canai (oops sorry!) and thosai. You take care and rest. Do know that a great many of us have you in our daily doa. Salams!

almost 2am
Sept 16 '07

ps - join us for tea at the Dome KLCC when you get back to work!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Roti canai satu!

THE picture may be a bit blur, but as everyone can see - our Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is well on the road to recovery after his open-heart surgery last week at the IJN! And Tun Dr Siti Hasmah have reasons to be pleased with what she sees, as do most, if not all, Malaysians!
It's great to see you Tun, even from someone else's camera lenses! The Great Almighty have answered our prayers and we are very grateful. We are told you had one roti canai for breakfast today! That can only be good! This Ramadhan will be even more special, I can tell you! Syukur Alhamdulillah!

Karim's Ramadhan greetings

MUSLIMS start fasting on Thursday, InsyaAllah, and that includes our friend Karim Sulaiman, the former editor who is fighting an extremely rare skin disease, scleromyxoedema. Today, Karim went back to HKL for his eighth round of treatment.

Karim now weighs 51kg. and doctors said this is remarkable. For someone who went down as low as 35kg at one time, Karim is showing very positive signs of recovery that has excited medical practitioners in and outside the country.

HKL's Department of Dermatology must be credited for much of Karim's treatment and the manner with which they pursue his case is most encouraging. In fact, Karim provided a rare and important opportunity for them to study the disease and see what good can come from their treatment and research.

As I understand it, the lady doctor who has been following and documenting Karim's case made a presentation at a medical seminar in Johore recently and walked away with the best presenter award. Let us all hope that Karim continues his recovery and may he walk with all of us again as a meaningful member of society.

A few days ago, Karim sent me an e mail wishing everyone Ramadhan greetings. And Hawa, his wife, told me that Karim will also fast regardless of his condition. He did the same last year and is none the worse for it.

Hawa said: "I'm very thankful that Karim is able to do the things he wants to do. I join him in thanking everyone for helping us. May this Ramadhan brings joy and fulfillment to everyone!"

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Our football is a disgrace...

NIGERIA beat Spain in the Under 17 World Cup Finals, a game that was shown live on Astro a short while ago. At about the same time yesterday, the people of Kedah sat through the finals of the Malaysia Cup and saw their team trounced Perak without too much of breaking a sweat.

Fortunately, I didn't wait to see the whole Kedah-Perak finals. I made the right decision by turning down an invitation to see the game at the Bkt Jalil Stadium. And this was justified because what I saw on TV was a game where Kedah came out very much eager to win and Perak had apparently forgotten that there was a trophy at stake!

Based on what was shown last night, Perak should perhaps just forget about football and focus on orchard farming where their durians are still tops! After two goals down, Perak had given up any thought of fighting for the ball, let alone trying to salvage whatever pride left remaining.

Kedah deserved to win. Their players showed more determination, were very focussed, not afraid of the big stage, and displayed glimpse of skills that delighted the crowd. Perak's famous cry of "Kejor, Yob, Kejor" was just a whimper at best.

In the Under 17 World Cup Finals, Nigeria showed just how much the future holds for African football! The players played with pride and determination, technically mature and displayed good team spirit. They were obviously hungry and had something to prove!

I just couldn't help concluding that the young players from Nigeria and Spain could have taught our Malaysian chaps a lesson or two on the pitch. It was the kind of skills that this country sorely need. It was a pleasure to see them play, really!

Our football, a sports activist told me between teh tarik, is nothing more than a political vehicle where favours are asked and given; deals are made on a 'you scratch my back and I scratch yours' basis; where corporates spend their money hoping to land big contracts.

Very simply, our football is a disgrace. And I know it's not a new realisation.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

YBs - Start your own Blog!

MP and Minister Nazri A Aziz held court at a seminar for journalists a few days ago in PJ. Organised by the National Union of Journalists, the seminar was part of the union's Merdeka celebrations. Some 100 NUJ members, students of journalism and guests sat and listened to Nazri lamenting that he sometimes didn't get enough space in the newspapers.

In fact, this is not an uncommon grievance of MPs and ministers. State Assemblymen and MBs also complain at various times of the same thing. It's a fact that politicians have a love-hate relationship with the media the world over, and most believe strongly in the saying that "bad Press is better than no Press at all."

On this occasion, and with the technology readily available in the country, those who complain that they don't get enough Press have an immediate solution to their woe - START YOUR OWN BLOG!

It takes less than three minutes to create a blog. Those who are really IT-savvy can start one with half an eye closed! When MPs, MBs, Ministers and CMs have their own blog, they can have total control of their media space. They can shut people out, lecture and sermonise to their hearts content, receive feedback from voters and engage their constituents all the time.

I know that they are very busy and may not be able to update their blogs as often as they like. But why not take the first step and see if it works. Hello! You and I know a couple of high-profile politicians who blog, and one must give them credit for doing so. The frequency with which they update their blogs is another matter altogether!

Having cyber-warriors doing the articulation is not the same as having a genuine YBs operating their own blogs. Politicians in some other countries have their own blogs and they have found this to be useful and convenient.

Come on YBs, let's see you put up your blog soon! It'll be fun too!

PS - would YBs who blog be referred to as liars, rumour mongers and goblok too? I wonder...

Monday, September 3, 2007

sebak dadamu sebak hati kami

kau umpama pelita tua
masih menyala menerangi semua
usia tuamu penuh khidmat dan jasa
mana mudah dilupa saja

kini kau terlantar lagi
berjuang sendiri tanpa henti
kesetiaanmu harus dicontohi
bukankah kau yang mempelopori

kau umpama pelita tua
perjuanganmu untuk semua
penyuluh jalan kami segala
mengisi hidup ruang negara

dengan teladan penuh yakin
menjadi pemangkin tulen
peka pada si miskin
yang sukar kini dah mungkin

dulu kau dipuji tiada henti
sekelip mata ramai menyepi
kini kau terlantar lagi
mungkin ramai yang ingin mendekati

dalam diam ramai tak mendiam diri
mengikuti jejak mu setiap hari
sebak dada mu sebak hati kami
menanti kembali mu ke pangkuan kami

demi negara demi bakti
kami iringi doa setulus hati
kami mohon restu ilahi
agar kau terus bersama kami

ahmad a talib
430 pagi
3 sept '07