Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Death is an everyday scene in Gaza

VIOLENCE BEGETS VIOLENCE. There are no two ways about it. Palestine will always be shrouded by smoke of bomb blasts while the smell of death permeates every corner of the tiny state. While the world points fingers and debate in their airconditioned room as to who is right or wrong, children are massacred at will. The bombings and cry for help are brought right into our living room via CNN, the BBC, Aljazeera and other world TV network. As we grapple with an economy that is threatened by slowdown, Palestinians are trying to seek meaning to their existence. Burials are turned into parades and call for revenge and vengenace. And as Muslims greet the hijrah of 1430, the sounds of gunfire, rockets and mortars replace the sound of firecrackers and voices of merriment. No cheers, just tears. And here we are trying to make sense of our own peaceful backyard, while Palestine bleeds and struggle for existence. This picture of Palestinian children about to be buried following the Israeli attack on Monday is but an everyday scene in Gaza...

Terima Kasih atas sumbangan '08

HOPEFULLY, ONE OF these children will grow up to serve his or her felllow friends, and be a useful member of the larger community. At this point in time, they are in need of help from us. They are the orphans I've been writing about this past year. A number of them are not in the picture. For the past 12 months, the $1 a day contribution given by friends and relatives have been very useful. At $30 a month, these children have bought books and some personal items to help them through school. A couple of well-wishers have offered books and I'm trying to set up a book club to enable them to read more. For those who you who have sent email expressing interest to see them visually, well, here's one for you. My deep appreciation for all contributors and may each and everyone of you be blessed forever.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

AM - white knight for old kampong folks

WHILE many people are planning and executing mega deals through their connections and network, Am, a farmer-contractor, plods along doing some basic agriculture stuff. No high-end sales pitch, no big political backing, no big bank loans. No publicity too. Am, a nickname by which he is fondly called by his friends, has just embarked on a catfish rearing project which he hoped would yield good returns from the third harvest onwards. That would be sometime in September or October. He's invested RM1,600 each for his 21 canvas-ponds (as these pictures show). He's hired a rubber tapper to help manage the catfish project. The rubber tapper has fallen on bad times with the big drop in rubber prices. When I asked how he's coping with the big drop in income, he gave me a toothless grin and said: "Nasib baik ada projek ikan keli ni!" Am has done some excellent replanting scheme for the kampong folks in the lower Perak area. As aging landowners whose children have gone on to live in the cities earning good, regular salaries, these folks now found their plots have grown lalang and are untended. The lands have become idle, unproductive. Then came Am, riding in to rescue these old folks with replanting schemes funded by Risda, the government agency entrusted with helping rubber smallholders. Am has organised these folks and they are now quite happy to see their four or five acres being toiled once again. Talking to Am over near his catfish farm, the young man is full of ideas to help the rural folks raise their income level. He said: "Orang kampong nak tengok contoh macam mana projek pertanian boleh menjamin hidup mereka. Kalau setakat hantar gambar dan berpuluh makalah (brochures), lebih baik tak payah. Kalau dia orang nampak projek depan mata boleh berhasil, mereka ni boleh diajak berunding." For the last couple of years, that's what Am has been doing. And doing it well, I must say.

Ahmad Said, Nizar, Ahmad Zubir -adoi!!

PHEW! This country is never short of hot news, or news that beg to be analysed. There's always something for everyone. The trivial matters often get picked up over roti bakar and tea at Chawan in Bangsar and would often draw laughter or sniggers. I'm not sure if Mawi's wedding deserved national television coverage, but it certainly has triggered debate in many places. Mawi and wife, Ekin, may not have planned such a spectacle but others may saw considerable commercial value for such an event. I wonder who stand to benefit most in the 'show,' Mawi or the promoters. Then there's the change of heart by the Government where the Institut Jantung Negara is concerned. While it does look like Sime Darby may have to forgo the opportunity of adding such a prestigious institution to its stable, one can never be certain whether the issue is really dead and buried. Didn't Sime Darby Chairman Tun Musa Hitam tried to justify his company's intention to acquire IJN over prime time TV news a few hours ago? My reading is that in so far as Sime Darby is concerned, the matter is far from over and done with. While the Cabinet must be credited for the decision which is seen to have resulted in Sime Darby "losing face," I believe the "campaign" by reputable bloggers on the issue should not go unacknowledged. Hats off to them too, especially Ahirudin 'Rocky Bru' Attan (rockybru.blogspot.com), Ashraf 'Jejak Pujangga' Abdullah (jejakpujangga.blogspot.com) and A KadirThe Scribe' Jasin (akadirjasin.blogspot.com) for their pursuit in recent days. While most of the controversies had centred around the Establishment and its personalities, the 'other establishment,' that is the Pakatan Rakyat, is also not without its fair share of trigger-happy episodes. Perak MB Datuk Mohd Nizar Jamaluddin takes first prize for his statement on HIV positives! Suggesting that those found to be HIV positives be quarantined, the engineer-MB must have found some strange formula with which the issue is to be addressed intelligently and effectively. Isolating them, the MB seemed to suggest, is the best way to deal with the AIDS menace. Yet another MB, Terengganu's Datuk Ahmad Said, is not to be outdone. He seemed bent on taking on TV3 owners, Media Prime, for what he perceived to be the TV station's attempt to discredit him. From his perspective, Ahmad's sense of timing for bringing up the issue can't be better than now when all the media attention is focused on the forthcoming parliamentary by-election in Kuala Terengganu. Senator Wan Farid, the BN's choice as the candidate, must be wondering whether he stands any chance come Jan 17, especially with senior party colleagues like the MB in his corner. But Wan Farid's battle for Kuala Terengganu is another story altogether...

The picture has nothing to do with thestory. It's a favourite jungle hideout where I can take a dip in crystal clear water and feel fresh again, especially after a tiring day.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Be a balanced blogger, Dr M said.

I MADE a dash to the Mid-Valley yesterday to see top blogger Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad signing his blogging book at the MPH boook store. It was a very big turnout. I squeezed in to take some pictures, hoping that the pictures can be a new feature in my blog. It took me several days to learn the trick, but I hope it's worth it. Dr M was accompanied by his wife, Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali. The Tun's other blogger in the family, Marina, was also present, with her daughter. The book store owners had to limit those wanting to get Dr M's personally-autographed book to 100. It was standing room only at the book-signing ceremony. Dr M had time to answer only four questions, with a reminder from the book's publisher, Datuk A Kadir Jasin, that questions were confined to those about writing only. No political questions allowed, AKJ said. Responding to one of the questions, Dr M said writing blogs called for a balanced and responsible approach. Same as in the traditional media, he said.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

RM1 sehari membawa erti

RM1 sehari besar ertinya. Ia boleh memberi sedikit kelapangan kepada yang memerlukan. Bagi anak-anak yatim dalam gambar ini, RM1 sehari membantu mereka ke sekolah dan meringankan sedikit beban yang ditanggong penjaga mereka.

Berkat bantuan rakan-rakan, saudara mara dan kenalan, anak-anak ini dibekalkan RM30 sebulan sepanjang tahun ini. Wang ini digunakan untuk membeli makanan, sedikit peralatan sekolah dan apa juga keperluan yang mereka fikir perlu. Gambar ini dirakamkan di dusun Ibu saya di Behrang, Perak. Tidak semua anak-anak yatim dalam program bantuan ini hadir. Ada yang membantu keluarga di dusun dan ada yang menuntut di asrama jauh dari pangkuan keluarga. Anak-anak yatim ini dan keluarga mereka hadir dalam satu majlis makan durian dan kait rambutan di dusun. Turut hadir ialah rakan-rakan dan dermawan yang dapat meluangkan sedikit masa untuk bersama kami. Majlisnya kecil tetapi meriah; ala kadar tetapi bermakna. Saya mengucapkan Terima Kasih kembali kepada penderma-penderma seperi Jam, Wan Sab, Abdullah, Ashraf, Izham, Fatimah, Feroz, R2 dan ramai lagi yang menghulur bantuan dengan ikhlas sejak awal tahun ini. Moga-moga2 bantuan anda diberkatiNya. Doa saya juga anda sekelian sentiasa didalam peliharaanNya setiap masa. Bak kata pantun Melayu:
pisang emas dibawa belayar
masak sebiji diatas peti
hutang emas boleh ku bayar
hutang budi ku bawa mati.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Terima kasih kembali Mariam

MARIAM, thank you for helping to restore my streamyx! Thank you for your call early this morning. Now I'm waiting for my Yayasan Salam office to have our connection restored. I'm sure it'll be up and running tomorrow.

Terima kasih kembali, kalau rosak I minta tolong lagi!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Mandi pagi ala P Ramlee di Kemboja

SELAMAT DATANG ke Kemboja! Kata-kata ini datang dari Zaini, anak muda Kemboja yang pulang bercuti ke kampongnya, Praksandai, kira-kira lima jam perjalanan dari Phnom Penh, ibu negara Kemboja.

Saya dan rombongan sukarelawan dari Yayasan Salam Malaysia tergamam seketika apabila mendengar kata-kata itu. Zaini fasih berbahasa Melayu dan melayan semua soalan saya dan rakan-rakan dengan jelas dan penuh sopan.

Zaini bekerja beberapa tahun di Johor, di sebuah kilang besi yang membuat gril dan pagar rumah. Dia pulang bercuti untuk menyambut Hari Raya Haji awal minggu hadapan. Kampongnya terletak di sebelah Sungai Mekong, yang menjadi sumber keperluan air semua penduduk di kampung itu.

Air Sungai Mekong yang sewarna dengan teh tarik Malaysia memberi nyawa dan rezeki kepada semua penduduk. Sepanjang saya di kampong itu, kami mandi, memasak, membasuh pakaian dan minum air sungai itu.

Alhamdulillah, setakat ini tidak seorang pun ahli rombongan saya mengalami masalah akibat minum air sungai itu. Kebanyakan kami minum air botol tetapi semua masakan menggunakan air yang sama.

Yayasan Salam berada di sini atas rayuan penduduk tempatan yang berusaha membaikki sekolah dan rumah ibadat. Sebahagian ahli rombongan tinggal di sini dan hanya akan pulang selepas sambutan Hari Raya Korban.

Anak muda seperti Zaini ini mengeloh apabila memandingkan hidupnya di Malaysia dengan Kemboja. Dengan nada sedih, Zaini berkata kos sara hidup di Kemboja amat tinggi manakala kuasa membeli rendah dan terhad.

Anak muda itu berkata, apabila saya pulang ke sini, saya bawa duit untuk keluarga. Tetapi ia habis dalam sekelip mata, ujarnya sambil menggelengkan kepala. Saya kena kerja lebih kuat. Sekarang saya sudah ada anak, dan saya perlu banyak wang.

Jika keadaan memaksa, Zaini tiada pilihan dan akan ke Malaysia semula untuk mencari rezeki. Dia terpaksa berkorban demi kepentingan keluarga dan dirinya.

Kampong yang saya dan sukarelawaan lawati untuk projek kemanusiaan ini adalah antara kampong yang termiskin di Kemboja. Tidak ada kilang di kawasan berhampiran. Tidak ada bisnes besar yang boleh memberi kerja. Tidak ada pusat perniagaan yang besar.

Zaini memberitahu saya, kebanyakan penduduk kampong bertani. Mereka hidup kais pagi, makan pagi, kais petang makan petang. Mereka juga bertani menikut cara lama, menanam padi menggunakan kerbau, menuai dengan tenaga buruh yang ramai, menangkap ikan secara lama, dan nenjual hasil tanaman dan tangkapan di sekitar kawasan kampong.

Yayasan Salam akan mengumpul maklumat lengkap dan akan mencari jalan bagaimana kami boleh membantu membangunkan masyarakat dengan usaha-usaha baru. Penyertaan individu dermawan dan syarikat yang ingin menabur bakti boleh menghubungi kami untuk tujuan berkenaan.

Derma atau sumbangan kepada Yayasan Salam akan mendapat pengecualian cukai pendapatan. Yayasan Salam boleh dihubungi email di info@salam.org.my atau melalui tel 603-7958-4021 atau fax 603-7958-4031. Laman web pula ialah http://www.salam.org.my/.