Saturday, August 30, 2008

Jiwa merdeka, hati waja, warisan terjaga

malam ini ku buat bandingan
dua generasi berlainan zaman
bagi yang berusia setengah abad
dengan remaja belia sesuku abad

usiaku tempuh dengan keringat
membanting tulang empat kerat
mendidik, menyuap sambil merawat
anak kecil lahir cukup sifat

dalam usia ku hampir enam dekad
aku lalui pahit manis tanpa penat
menyara isteri dan anak yang empat
menyara juga sahabat dan kaum kerabat

syukur alhamdulillah semuanya selamat
hidup aman sihat wal'afiat
sekali sekala cabaran mendekat
menguji, menggoda iman dan tekad

dalam usia mencecah enam dekad
doa dan harapan mencari berkat
moga anak mendengar nasihat
hidup direstu penuh cermat

ambil hati bonda mu sebelum terlewat
jaga hati ayah mu sebelum terlambat
tanpa mereka tiada dunia dapat kau lihat
doakan mereka selamat dunia akhirat

panas radang mu tak bertempat
pernah juga kau bersuara kesat
luka hati mereka sukar dirawat
terguris hatinya tak dapat kau lihat

cuba kau renung sepanjang hayat
pernahkah kau tidak mendapat
belaian, tumpuan jauh dan ekat
makan pakai, tidor bertempat

segala kau pinta jarang tak dapat
lambat laun hasilnya kau nikmat
merajuk, menangis, semuanya muslihat
jangan kau sangka bonda mu tak melihat

jika hati mu luka janji tak tepat
jika hati mu remuk setiap hari dan saat
luka lagi hati bonda mu bagai disiat
remuk lagi hati ayah mu bagai dipahat

ayah bonda mu sependapat
agar anak-anak dibekalkan nasihat
menjaga maruah, nama dan adat
bersihkan hati, hadapilah kiblat

bahgia ayah bonda mu bila melihat
anak-anak selamat kuat berpakat
keraskan hati wajakan semangat
warisan ayah bonda sentiasa kau taat

berbaktilah kepada agama dan umat
pastinya hidup mendapat berkat
didoa sahabat dan para malaikat
agar kau hidup penuh khidmat

hayat ayah bondamu akan tamat
entah sedekad, entah seabad
selagi nyawa bersama jasad
senyuman mu menjadi azimat

nasihat mereka segera disemat
dalam hati mu disimpul kuat
segala kata kau genggam erat
berjanjilah hingga kiamat

jaga nama jaga martabat
merdeka diri, hati dan semangat
perjuangan mu biar bertempat
jangan sampai hidup merempat

kasih bonda mu berzaman kuat
tiada luntur tiada penamat
kasih ayah mu sepanjang hayat
tiada luntur tiada penamat

bela pertiwi mu penuh semangat
agar warisan terjaga penuh selamat
jangan sekali menjadi pengkhianat
hidup mu kelak yang tidak berkat

ahmad a talib
rumah kayu lama
kuala lumpur
30 ogos, 2008

Friday, August 29, 2008

Budget '09 - makes you feel better, lighter?

WAH! Quite a lot of goodies in the budget won't you say? I was asked this by a friend awhile ago. I didn't get to see the whole Budget speech by Finance Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, but there seems to be a consensus that the new budget offer some help to most people.

Some items I picked from the various websites:

+ 20-pack cigarettes to cost 60 sen more (this will make friends like Feroz, Bob, Dino, Ab and Joseph curse but they should not take this to heart because it's intended to make them more healthy!);

+ one-month bonus for civil servants with a minimum of RM1,000 (this is duit raya);

+ if you buy items from your company, you get to buy up to RM1,000 e year and your employer gets tax exempt (this is to help boost sales and help you save by buying internally);

+ if you work for the Government, and if you retire after serving 25 years, you get cash RM720 upon retirement (this is a token of appreciation, provided you are not caught for corruption. There was no mention about your efficiency though);

+ if you work for the Government, and if you buy a house, your repayment period will be extended from 25 years to 30 years (this means you pay less every month and you have a bit more money to spend. Banks will be happy because the longer the time to finish paying your loan, they will add a few more thousand ringgit to their income);

+ buses pay 50 per cent less on toll charges (hopefully they will pass on the benefit to passengers. This may look easy on paper but implementation...);

+ no more import duty on fertilisers and pesticides (on paper looks good for farmers but importers are creative people unless they are being closely monitored);

+ if you have mobile phones, Iphone included, and have fixed lines installed, and you use them on company business, stop worrying - your employers will foot the bill (about time too, provided you can differentiate calls for business and calls for love chats. Also, expect your bosses to want to go through your itemised billings);

+ and if I'm not mistaken, if you are a civil servant and your household income is less than RM3,000 a month, you get a subsidy of RM180 a month (Cuepacs should have no grounds for complaint but expect private sector unions to include this in their next negotiations for their new collective agreement).

Well, you have better ways of getting the full come sunrise. Happy shopping!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

P Pauh - what changes will it bring?

THE victory by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in Permatang Pauh has triggered more discussion concerning the Malaysian political landscape. His entry into Parliament tomorrow will no doubt see more debate and verbal clashes between the Opposition and the Barisan Nasional.

Many Umno insiders knew that it was an uphill battle to dislodge Anwar from his traditional stronghold. At best, they confided before yesterday's by-election, the idea was to reduce Anwar's majority. And they failed to do even that, let alone 'bury' him politically. Anwar polled 31,195 votes brushing aside BN's Datuk Arif Shah Omar Shah who polled 15,524 votes.

In March, Anwar's wife, Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan ismail, won with a majority of 13,388. Anwar's bigger margin tell a different story by itself, one that has many interpretations and should be a matter of serious study by Umno and the whole BN leadership.

A few days before the by-election, a lawyer friend called from Penang, giving his take on Permatang Pauh. He was a card-carrying member of one of the bigger BN components. His observation was simple and straight-forward. "BN will lose and Anwar's majority will increase," that was his forecast.

When asked why, he said: "The BN continue to be on a state of denial. They can no longer read the signal on the ground. They also fail to see the writing on the wall. Anwar's supporters are not going to be easily swayed by whatever tactics used by Umno and the BN. Call it blind faith or whatever, they will continue to root for their man."

I also happen to bump into a former minister from another BN component. Inevitably, the subject of Permatang Pauh came up. His take was no different from the lawyer's: "UMNO and the BN have not broken new grounds after March 8. They continue to use old tactics in Permatang Pauh, tactics which are no longer applicable in the present situation.

"After March 8, things have changed. And the changes are not small. They hit at the core of the BN and Umno, and the leaders have not been able to bite the bullet and take real measures to repair the damages. There's plenty of talk. No action though. There's plenty of jostling within the party, and this will cost the ruling coalition even more," the former Cabinet member said.

As for yesterday's result, which the major newspapers reported on the front page though with a rather subdued tone, the question that is now being asked is this: "Will Anwar be the new PM on Sept 16, as he had said that he has several BN MPs waiting to jump ship and join him at Pakatan Rakyat?"

This is no longer a straight-forward question to answer. Yesterday's by-election was not an ordinary one. The BN had pull all the stops in their campaign. Even BN chairman and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi took to the rostrum several times. It's his state after all, and he must be seen to make an attempt to win back one seat.

The BN's director of operations was Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak. The combination of Pak Lah and Najib lent a different dimension to the campaigning in Permatang Pauh. And the big presence of local and foreign media representatives gave the by-election the kind of hype whose impact would have consequences far beyond the constituent's boundary.

Anyone who was someone was in Permatang Pauh. Quite a number went on the campaign rounds because they cannot afford not to be seen not helping the party, what with the UMNO elections scheduled in late December this year. Some of them knew that Permatang Pauh was a lost cause, but they must "show face" if they want to win votes in December.

Another question asked was - is Anwar really that strong and popular or is Pak Lah and Najib no longer able to command voters' confidence and support? Was the result a show of confidence on Anwar and PKR or a loss of faith on Pak Lah/Najib and the BN? I'm sure the losers will also lose some sleep as they ponder, privately and in groups, the fate of their party following the defeat.

I won't be surprised if the losing party starts pointing fingers and apportioning blame. This is not new. The aftermath of the by-election may yet result in a further loss of confidence on the ruling coalition, and may even creep into the Umno election later this year. Why should it be so, you may ask.

Well, for one thing. the Umno election is not just a contest among aspirants. It is also a venue for the contestants to try and advance their beliefs and formula as to how the party should move ahead. Should it be run the way it is, or should it start seriously looking for new ways and new faces. The Parmatang Pauh battle ground could yield some pointers as to how Umno and the BN may want to re-brand itself.

The sound bytes must also be studied and analysed. Some of the ones heard on TV and read in the print media suggest that the BN's arrogant ways is alive and well. And this creates the perception that Umno and the BN are clueless as to what is happening around them.

In times of battle, I can understand the need to beat up the war drums. But let's make sensible statements, ones that the voters like to hear and understand. Words must show care, and deeds must follow in earnest.

Branding Anwar as irrelevant was not the wisest thing to utter; issuing a veil threat that the 15 sen reduction in fuel price would be all the rakyet gets if they fail to show appreciation is an utterance guaranteed to invite rejection. Permatang Pauh is a testimony to that.

Friday, August 22, 2008

BoDen - new breed of goat keepers

LET'S take a break from the Olympics. I want to share the story of Zainal, a goat breeder extraordinaire. Ably assisted by his wife, Fatimah, the couple is enjoying life and found a new excitement that's very satisfying in many ways.

Zainal was the CEO of a big service company operating in Kuala Lumpur. Big may be an understatement, actually. Mega would be more appropriate. Fatimah was with the Government, using her training in landscaping to get her a senior position until she chose to retire a few years ago.

Together, the couple is landscaping a new life, one that offers them a good night sleep every night, leaving the stress of city living behind. They have the best of both worlds - juggling between an urban lifestyle and a rural one. I met them at the MAHA exhibition a few days ago.

I've known the couple for quite some time. Zainal have this interest in locating plants that are not easily available anymore. Once he's got them, he would plant them in his small orchard, properly tagged and cared. This went on for several years until he a retired few years ago.

Nestled in the rolling greens of Serting, Kuala Pilah, Zainal and Fatimah have found their paradise. Tending to the Boer goats from Australia, the couple have become experts with deep and first-hand knowledge of goat breeding. They are the new kids on the block, pun intended!

This is no ordinary goat farm. The whole area is beautifully landscaped, with new trees being planted to provide shade and serve as a herbal remedy when the goats are ill. A big pond has been added and fish are bred there for consumption.

Grilled over a slow fire, and eaten with home-grown ulam (salads) on a wakaf built near a big mango tree just beside the pond, the fish is just simply divine! Aided by the cool and fresh breeze, one must be excused for indulging in second or third helpings.

Zainal and Fatimah spend between three and four days at the farm. He has a family kampong house not far from the farm. The farm itself have houses for his small band of workers. Soon, there will also be dormitories for visitors (but that's a different story altogether).

Sitting in the wakaf, and then again during the MAHA show, I kept asking Zainal how did he make the adjustment from the CEO of a mega company to that of a gentleman farmer. Wasn't it difficult to adjust? Wouldn't he misses the urban trappings as he retreats beyond the hills of Kuala Pilah? What's the formula, I asked.

"It's quite simple actually," Zainal explained. "First thing to do is to list your priorities, and ask some basic questions. You may also want to list your needs now that you have retired. I narrowed my needs. I did all that and have now found a new meaning to life, one that is extremely satisfying," he said, enjoying his cigarette after the meal.

As a top corporate person, Zainal has 'been there, done that, seen that." Flown first class? Done that. Seen the world? Done. Stayed in well-known hotels and dine at fabulous restaurants? Also done. Rub shoulders with the rich, famous and powerful? That too.

Having done all that, Zainal wanted a change. He wanted a new challenge, one that is more personal and one which he is the Owner, Board member, CEO, farm hand - a four in one kind of job. Hence, the BoDen goat farm.

BoDen is actually a combination of two words - Boer (the goat specie) and Den (the Negri Sembilan way of saying aku, or saya, or I). So, when seen as one word - BoDen - it simply means my Boer goats!

The farm is one of agriculture's real success story. Zainal didn't plunge into breeding goats without first of all doing extensive research. He went o Australia to take a close look at goat farming. He even had a couple of Aussies to be his advisers. (The irony is that Zainal has now been asked by the Aussies to advise them on some matters pertaining to goat breeding in the tropics!)

Fatimah is tasked with documenting the farm's progress, including maintaining and updating its data base. Each kid born in the farm has a birth certificate, and this is very useful in determining the stock of the parents and everything else.

Do you miss the KL life, I asked. Not really, they said. Wednesday is Zainal's golf day. From Thursday or Friday till the weekend, they are at the farm, enjoying the fresh air, warm breeze, green hills and fresh ulams. Monday and Tuesday are spent in KL for other purposes such as networking, meeting business associates and the usual errands.

Life can't be better for Zainal and Fatimah. They've worked hard, stayed focus and invested wisely in new ventures (and adventures too). Its been a new learning curve in some ways, I'm sure. Zainal prefers the route less travelled, and I'm sure he's made the right turn for himself and his family.

Syabas and all the best my friends! You give me ideas too...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Talent + discipline + guts = A Champion

STILL on the Beijing Olympics. A friend who's an active sportsman gave one word to describe the success of so many athletes in the international stage - DISCIPLINE! Nothing can be achieved - no matter how talented the person is - without discipline, this friend said.

And if we watch the Olympics closely, and listen to the commentaries attentively, we can know why some athletes do well than others. I mean, how else can one explain the success of these gold medal winners, who continue to stay focus and remain competitive at the highest level possible.

Usain Bolt won't get on the podium if not for proper coaching, guidance and discipline. He has talent no doubt. But talent alone won't win him medals and global admiration.

South African swimmer Natalie du Toit, am amputee who finished 16th in the women's 10km marathon swim, would put many people to shame with her display of guts and undivided attention to seek excellence despite her hardship.
A news wire report quoted her: "I've been through a lot of ups and down. I missed my place in the Commonwealth Games in 1998, then I missed out on the Sydney Olympics..and then there was the motor accident in 2001. You have to keep your dreams and never give them up."

The Olympics also have inspiring stories about athletes who stayed in shape and keep coming back to improve their performance. They become household names, wise with experience and exposure. And when they are ready, they pass on useful tips to guide younger team mates.

Age is just a number to these fine athletes. You get women athletes who get to the final stages of their chosen event after marriage, given birth to babies and still harbour dreams of becoming a world champion. And there's the long-distance runner who, despite not landing any medal at the Birds' Nest, promise to return even when he's past 40 by that time.

We are also told of athletes who train overseas and compete regularly with record breakers and legends. They sacrifice home and family comforts (no sambal belacan, roti canai or yong tau fu). And you get goose pimples when they stand on the podium as their national anthem is played...

The big sporting countries have no monopoly on gold medals and world records. Competing countries have to go out on the track and court to stake a claim on victories founded on talent, discipline, guts, guidance and, better still, with no politician wanting to micro-manage sports and using it to seek political mileage.

Can Malaysia make that leap and write its own history of success that inspire others? Can politicians not place their political agendas side by side with sportsmen? Often, sports matters will be compromised if politics were to also make their play.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Can't we emulate Jamaican sports?

THE world's fastest man, Usain Bolt, from island nation Jamaica, will collect his second Olympic gold medal in the 200m finals on Wednesdday night. Bolt was yesterday joined by his female team mate, Shelly-Ann Frazer, who also took the gold in the 100m finals on Monday.

In fact, Jamaica monopolised the 100m women by taking all top three positions. With a population of not more than three million people, Jamaica is increasingly acknowledged as a country that keeps churning out winners after winners.

I made a quick check on the Net on Jamaica. I found out that it only gained full independnce in 1962, five years after us. It was discovered by Columbus in 1494. Spain had also been a past master of Jamaica before the English came and took control in the mid 1600.

It's a country that depends on tourism as one of the major revenue earners, besides bauxite mining. It has a high literacy rate of about 85 per cent. Almost one-third of the population are under 14 years old.

The Jamaican economy is not blessed like ours. They have no oil and are not leading producers of any agricultural product. But they certainly know their Olympics well. They have their own rum, which perhaps explain why Jamaicans seem to be full of life and merriment.

Check out the Jamaican newspapers online and you read stories about school teachers expressing disappointment that none of their school athletes are in the Olympic team in Beijing. Can you imagine that?

When will we ever get to be half as good as the Jamaicans? I read that our Government has revised the core sports programme from eight to 19. Simply translated, we are expanding the quesr for our world champion from within eight sports to 19!

Good Luck Malaysia? Is this another round of Malaysia Boleh?

Monday, August 18, 2008

RM1 million still intact (sigh)...

WELL, we have to wait for another four years to renew our efforts to land an Olympic gold medal. And the RM1 million that could have gone to Lee Chong Wei's bank account will now wait for a rightful recipient.

Let's not talk too much about Chong Wei's defeat. If we are all disappointed, I can't imagine what the young man must have felt. He made so many unforced errors that made Lin Dan look invincible.

Watching the Olympics can be very inspiring - makes me want to tell all our young boys and girls to be all they want to be, to be all they can be!

When you read about athletes competing in four Olympic games and still good enough to compete in the final rounds in Beijing, I wonder whether our sportsmen and sportswomen have the same kind of spirit and determination in their heart.

When poor countries can produce Olympic champions, what about us whose per capita exceeds many from the Olympic list of medal winners. I doubt if we can produce a sprint champion within four years. But what about shooting, archery, gymnastic, cycling, table tennis,the 10,000km?

We can't forever be Jaguh Kampong.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Chonge Wei - Tuan Allah misti tolong!

LEE Chong Wei - with or without the Olympic Gold medal, he's a winner for me! Bringing back the gold medal would see the 26-year old sportsman being elevated to that of a true superstar. A deserving one at that.

I saw Chong Wei's match against South Korea's Lee Hyun il at the Pagoh rest area along the North-South Highway on the way to Johor Baru. He played with determination, skill and style.

The game was a rallying point for everyone at the rest area. Travellers crowded around every available television set and cheered each time Chong Wei scored a point. It was a thrilling match, and the cheering crowd gave me a warm and glowing feeling all over.

I was watching inside Gerai 8 (Pagoh Kopitiam) operated by one Tai Hing Sing. We became friends for a while, glued to the TV set. "Tuan Allah misti tolong punya. Kita misti menang," Tai said grinning excitedly.

You must have heard such utterance before. I glanced at Tai and agreed with him. A couple of minutes later Chong Wei was rushing out of the court to hug his coach Misbun Sidek. Victory was his and the elusive Olympic gold was within his grasp.

The Badminton Association of Malaysia must be pleased, to say the least. And the good thing is that there won't be a politician claiming credit for the young man's sweet win. Good Luck my champion!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Salbiah, Zukiman are bloggers too!

TWO more journalists have joined the blogging world. In fact, one of them started blogging way back in 2004 while the other started hers last month. I was alerted to this by a couple of SMS sent to me late last night.

Salbiah Said of Bernama posted her first article on July 29, giving her blog title Getaran Jiwa. You can visit her at Salbiah is the Dep Editor of the Bernama Economic Service.

In her posting, Salbiah said she was inspired by her colleague, Zukiman Zain, who started blogging in November 2004. To read Zukiman's thoughts, go to

I hope both journalists, colleagues who have stayed the course through thick and thin, will continue to write and share their thoughts with us for as long as possible. Good Luck my friends!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Sports 101 - leave out the politicians

MALAYSIA'S quest for an Olympic gold continues. It may take many more years before we can be treated to one. It will certainly require more than a RM1 million carrot before we can stake a claim to one.

While not winning one should not dishearten our athletes, 11-gold winner Michael Phelps have shown the world what could be achieved with determination, endless practise, proper guidance and a scientific approach to training.

Perhaps, the biggest help Phelps got was the absence of politicians running his swimming association or club or whatever. I doubt very much if any politician in his home country even interfere in his training programmes, let alone decide on Phelps strategy to such a record win.

However, I won't be surprised if Phelps is invited to have a cup of tea with his president at the White House after he return home, neck heavy with Olympic gold medals and world records.

This is definitely not the case with Malaysian sports, where almost every politician wants to have his two-sen pitch in sports development and management. Politicians translate their involvement in sports as a political catchment area of voters. Period.

And when the athletes fumble, or defeated by opponents more worthy of victory, the politician will find it most easy to offer solutions to such defeats and break into rhetorics which somehow find their way into the sports pages.

If one is to listen to the verbal diarrhoea of our politicians involved in sports, one would have thought that the politician must have been a medal winner at some international sports meet in the past. I bet you that you could probably beat the person at a simple board game of Scrabble or chess.

We are all tired of listening to politicians trying to sound like sports experts. Why can't they just concentrate on their job of looking after their constituencies and help their state develop further?

And if they are in the Federal Cabinet, why can't they facilitate and not intimidate?

I do suspect that some politicians have this misconceive notion that their presence at sports games, especially big world meets, is an inspiration to the athletes. And using the same corny logic, the Defence Minister should be at the forefront of any war to lead his charges into battle!


If you tell them that their presence adds pressure on the athletes and officials, they will probably object to such views violently and go into somersaults. When will we ever learn and start demarcating our tasks and responsibilities. I say, leave sports to those who really know.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Permatang Pauh - more than a seat at stake

MANY friends are making their way north. To Permatang Pauh to be precise. Some have taken leave to join others as the political merry-go-round make its way for a by-election scheduled on Aug 26.

Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, once Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad's chosen one to lead the nation, is set to stand as a candidate after his wife and Keadilan's chief, Datuk Seri Wan Azizah Ismail, vacated his MP seat to pave the way for hubby to seek his way back into the Dewan Rakyat.

It's not yet known who else will stand. Barisan Nasional is likely to field an Umno local leader but this has yet to be decided. The cynics within Umno said they have yet to decide who to be sent to the slaughter house. Permatang Pauh, they say, is Anwar's stronghold and he has come to reclaim what he believed is his.

Anwar can't be too sure about that really. He may have solid reasons to believe so but politics is the art of the impossible. The PKR's de facto chief have seen it all, and he believes he has popular support and public sympathy behind him, no pun intended.

The recent debate on national television gave Anwar a God-send opportunity to showcase himself, especially to new voters and those who have not seen or heard directly from him before. He did put up a fairly good performance, enough to make some voters rally behind him.

Wan Azizah defended the seat on Anwar's behalf twice, and did so with considerable ease. Anwar was also said to be eying Bandar Tun Razak in KL but opted for Permatang Pauh as that is viewed a safe seat for him. No point taking unnecessary risks, he must have thought.

For the Aug 26 by-election, it will be the BN who will have to take the fight to Anwar. The task of marshalling the forces is left to Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Tun Razak, Deputy President of UMNO, himself a Prime Minister in waiting.

To me, this is one by-election where a lot more than just one Parliamentary seat is at stake. Will Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi join the fray and make an appearance in Permatang Pauh, after all it's a seat within his state? In a by-election, it's not always you get to see the party chief joining the campaign rounds.

I'm told, and this has always been the practise in by-elections, the contesting parties will throw everything into the ring. It's almost like total engagement everywhere; no quarters asked, no quarters given. It'll be the same here.

You can almost hear it now - PKR will accuse the BN of using Government machinery during the campaign period; the BN will counter by saying Pakatan Rakyat speak with forked tongues and whip up sentiments to bring voters to their side. You can also hear various conspiracy theories soon, as the masterminds get to do some serious work soon.

How will Keadilan's bedfellows treat this campaign, especially PAS? PAS is having its annual assembly in Ipoh over the weekend and I'm quite sure party leaders and members will deliberate on this. Anwar's pending court case, though not a matter to be used in the campaign, may influence PAS' stand in this by-election.

If you are heading towards Permatang Pauh, and doing some campaign work, I suggest you bring along a sleeping back. Accommodation won't be easy but there's going to be plenty of Rumah Selangor or Rumah Johor and what have you. A by-election is also God-send to local entrepreneurs who will capitalise on this period to make the extra ringgit.

If, as the roadside pundits predict, Anwar wins, what happens to the BN, and more specifically UMNO? Those who have been through such battles before say the task for BN/Umno's is to try to reduce Keadilan's (Anwar's) majority. But first, we have to wait who will be Anwar's opponent.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Cherating - sandy beach, mosquitoes, flies

I WAS in Cherating a few days ago for a nephew's wedding. Everyone stayed in Cherating and drove to Kemaman for the wedding reception. I believe Cherating has a lot of potential in terms of tourism but, somehow, I get the feeling that its neither here nor there.

There are some chalets and two-star and three-star hotels in the area. There are a couple of five-star retreats too but they are not within the budget of most local tourists. I know of one hotel which has invested new money to spruce up their resort and this was most welcomed.

I also know of another hotel which boasts of operations elsewhere in the country and overseas but can't even prepare a decent omelette. Do they also breed mosquitoes? I was told by some guests who complained about mosquitoes to the front desk, only to have one of the security officers coming around with a spray can of insecticide!

What about the retail outlets and small restaurants or food stalls in the area? There are some real bad ones. It's as if you are doing them a favour by frequenting their outlet to buy a T-shirt or order some food. And the smell and the flies...

There will always be some foreign tourists in Cherating, especially in Kg Cherating where they stay in small, wooden chalets overlooking the sea. Somehow, they find the area appealing. Most of them are backpackers and some would stay up to a week or more just to relax.

But the locals really need to spruce up the area and improve on their attitude when dealing with tourists, local or foreign. Cherating tourism should come under the Pahang Tourism EXCO. I suggest the YB Adun should take a ride to Cherating and look at things at close quarters.

Go unannounced lah. No need to bring too many officers, as if there's a full-scale entourage going on a special mission. YB will get to see actual situations better this way.

So, when Tourism Malaysia DG Dato Mirza Mohd Taiyab said he wasn't sure if the number of tourist arrivals into Malaysia can be sustained in the current year, I wasn't really surprised. And Cherating may even be forgotten, or at best, remain a holiday destination for backpackers.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Beijing - can it be us one day?

SKIP the superlatives. None would be good enough to describe the opening of the Olympics in Beijing last night. The date - 080808 - aside, it was definitely an historic and auspicious occassion for China.

To see the mass of humanity within the Birds' Nest, it was simply stunning. Nothing compares to the sight of such an open display of friendship, organisation and skills. I'm quite sure more people will be taking up tai chi after this.

But I couldn't help comparing the sight in Beijing to that of our backyard. To think that it was in 1998 - only 10 years ago - that we hosted what we believe to be our biggest sporting event - The Commonwealth Games.

My question is simply this - have we built on that? Are we anywhere near Ella's song - top of the world? Have our athletes built on their achievements from Sukom '98?

But what is more worrying for many of us is - have our country built on what we thought was our crowning glory? Do we still have the same organisational skills? Do we still have the courage and conviction to compete with the world's best? Where are we today - on 080808 - politically, economically, socially?

Do we still have what it takes to be a nation of achievers, of champions of the poor and be the voice of conscience against the world's imbalance? Can our leaders, hand on heart, assure us that they are doing everything possible to take us out of this unpredictable situation we are in?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Condolence to Mimi, Sherry and families

MY CONDOLENCE to Mimi Syed Yusof and her sister Sherry for the demise of their 82-year old mother yesterday. Mimi is one of the Asst News Editors at the NST's Newsdesk in Jalan Riong.

Mimi's husband is former NST and Star journalist, Nizam, who is now the Press Secretary of Tourism Minister, Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said.

Funeral will be before zohor prayers in Ulu Klang. I dropped by at Sherry's house awhile ago. Those who wish to visit should do before 930am, after which the jenazah will be brought to the nearby mosque for prayers and burial.

The address is number 39, Jalan A8, Taman Melawati. Al-Fatihah.


MANY colleagues could have forgotten him. Can't blame them though. After taking his VSS from the NSTP a few years ago, he left the scene and quietly ventured his way into the world of entrepreneurship. It didn't work out. They were adventures no doubt. The gains were not much but the pain substantial.

My ex-colleague Anuar Hashim left the world of newsroom photography and went through some trying times as a farmer, fish trader, an NGO volunteer, a sub sub-contractor and a host of other trades. He's very much a doting father, and recently spent days at the Institut Jantung Negara where his son was undergoing treatment.

I keep in touch with him often. But only lately did I discover that this soft-spoken man is a blogger too! True to form - Anuar is not one to blab about his plans, or talk about his problems. If you have some time, visit his photoblog and you'll find some good pictures and interesting stories.

I hope Anuar won't mind me introducing his blog to friends. Let's share the good pictures brother! After all, what are pictures and stories if not for the memories right?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Muhyiddin counting on Najib for VP seat

TWO political announcements in the past few days involving the Umno top brass caught my eyes. I thought I would let it pass without commenting but they are just too interesting not to put my two-sens worth.

First was Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin who made known his decision not to seek higher office in Umno via the party poll in December. Rather, the incumbent VP prefers to defend his seat, and declares support for the transition plan endorsed by the supreme council.

Second was Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz's declaration that she too has her own transition plan for Wanita Umno. She said she will pass the baton to her current deputy, Datuk Seri Shahrizat Jalil, next year, thus ending any talk of anyone challenging her for the top Wanita post. Smart, I say!

Muhyiddin's announcement came as a blow to quite a number of people who were encouraged by his earlier statements about reforms in Umno. Many grassroot leaders, who may not figure in the actual voting come December, were rooting for him to challenge for one of the top two posts.

There was much speculation about him teaming up with Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Tun Razak to wrest control of the party. Word on the ground was that they would be a force to be reckoned with, and that the two had actually shaken hands on this understanding.

The International Trade and Industry Minister must have thought long and deep before making his decision. Coming after his bold statements that Umno must change if it wants to continue to be relevant, Muhyiddin had raised many people's hope that he would buck the trend and pit himself at least for the number two seat (provided Najib takes on Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi).

Many political observers and party insiders viewed Muhyiddin as a reformist after Umno fared badly in the March 8 general election, and even now there are still voices urging him to reconsider and make a bid for one of the top two posts.

Muhyiddin must have swallowed hard before making his call. He's no fool. For many people outside Umno, it would look relatively easy to knock Pak Lah or Najib from the lofty perch. But the 2,000-odd voting delegates in December won't be swayed by sentiments and promises of reforms, and Muhyiddin must be well aware of that.

Muhyiddin will be up against a number of other hopefuls, a few of whom are said to be close to the party president, or claim to be the favourite of the president. Datuk Khalid Nordin is said to be one of them. This can be tough for Muhyiddin because he's up against a fellow Johorean.

That Muhyiddin was seen to be criticial of the party leadership with his frequent calls for quick changes in party leadership would not have endeared him to his boss. It remains to be seen how this would affect the votes come December.

But another school of thought argued that by being seen to be close to the party boss may not necessarily be helpful! Citing Pak Lah's decline in popularity, the proponents said this would also rub off on those close to him.

My question is this - if at all there was an understanding between Muhyiddin and Najib, would the latter quietly send word to delegates to rally behind the former and ensure the man from Pagoh gets the highest vote?

Under the circumstances, Muhyiddin must secure the top spot in the VP line up if he is to justify selection by Najib to be his deputy when the transition plan is activated in 2010.

But Muhyiddin knows that even being the most senior VP is no guarantee that he would automatically be picked by Najib to be the next in line. Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was not the most senior VP when Tun Hussein Onn chose him to be his deputy in the early '80s!

Sabah Umno too feels that they should have a man in the VP line-up. It's about time, they say. And Datuk Shafie Afdal looks set to be their candidate since Chief Minister Tan Sri Musa Aman has decided not to contest.

I heard stories that Khalid, Shafie and Malacca Chief Minister Tan Sri Mohd Ali Rustam are the front runners. Even Datuk Hishammuddin Hussein Onn too may fall. All the aspirants know that they really have a tough battle ahead. It's a big field and many a deal is brokered and broken between now and December.

As for Rafidah, her move may have caught a number of people by surprise. By introducing her transition plan, the Umno Iron Lady gets to keep her post for one more year and thwart whatever plans being hatched to oust her from the post she has held for ages.

In the coffee houses and beauty salons, there was talk that Sharizat would team up with former Puteri Chief Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said, and make a bid for the Women Wing's leadership. Can the two work together, I was asked.

Shahrizat, who was beated by PKR'a Nurul Izzah Anwar in Lembah Pantai, ia in the Prime Minister's Department with a ministerial rank as advisor on women affairs. Rafidah, despite retaining her Kuala Kangsar seat, found no place in Pak Lah's Cabinet.

Azalina, who nurtured Puteri Umno and then pass it to Datuk Noraini Ahmad, have not been able to get a toe in at the Wanita level. The Tourism Minister will need to get a seat within the Wanita hierarchy if she is to be a heavyweight in the party in the future. That's how it had always been for Umno.

The way I see it, the Wanita wing could do with some fresh ideas. With the transition plan being put in place at the highest level in the party, a change at the Wanita woould not be unwelcomed.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Betulkah Ashraf is also a blogger?

YET another former journalist has turned to blogging! He's Mohd Ashraf Abdullah, one of my journalists who graduated from the NSTP Pet Scheme in the 80s. Under the scheme, qualified candidates are made to go through a thorough training stint of about six months before being offered employment.

Pet Scheme is short for pre-entry training scheme. He may be someone's pet, but I'm certainly not going to tell!

Ashraf was one of those who was offered a job (but not without some anxiety). You can access his blog via I just checked it out but he hasn't posted anything other than a piece to introduce himself to us all.

Welcome to blogosphere bro!

Another ex-journo turned blogger

ANOTHER ex-journalist has joined the bandwagon and started his own blog. His first posting is about his experience as a participant at Kem Bina Negara many years ago where participants included Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

I hope the new blogger will update his blog frequently and not be distracted by too much fishing in Langkawi. Welcome brother!

Visit him at

Monday, August 4, 2008

Looking for 'new frontiers' in tourism

SALAM everyone! It's back to the grind after spending several days in Putrajaya and Bandar Baru Bangi as the organising chairman of the inaugural Global Islamic Tourism Exhibition and Conference (GITC). Part of my NGO work, this time with the National Tourism Council of Malaysia (NTCM).

The GITC was held at the international standard and purpose-built Putrajaya International Convention Centre (PICC). We have three-days of exhibition and one whole day of conference discussing "the new frontiers" in world tourism. Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Tun Razak had his speech read by Tourism Minister Datuk Azalina Othman Said.

We had some decent coverage before and during the conference. We even had a half day media workshop organised with the help of the Malaysian Press Institute. The idea was to get media practitioners and tourism promoters share ideas on what tourism will be in the future, and what kind of strategic alliances could be developed for the common good.

Information Minister Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek gave away the certificates to the media participants. We had three foreign speakers at the workshop, each of them giving an insight of their own into the world of tourism. Details and pictures of the conference are being uploaded into the website