Thursday, 13 December 2012

Highlight of 2012 – The Malaysia General Election that never come

So, now Malaysians know that 2012 comes and going to end without the dissolution of parliament.  Starting from the third quarter of 2011, there had been talk that parliament will be dissolved before 2012 for the Prime Minister to get a new mandate riding on his populist policies. When that didn’t happen, pundits and respected politicians claimed that it will definitely be 2012.
Even I myself expect it will be 2012 as I wrote in one of the blogs in December 2011. However, after attending some events during and after Chinese New Year 2012, whenever asked about when is the next GE, my standard answer will be: it will only be in 2013. (I am not going to reveal my source here.) Most listened with astonishment and quite a few challenged that.  So many predictions came and gone, when it didn’t happen after the listing of Felda Global Ventures, the next event cropped up. Some even went to the extend to say that the Prime Minister will call for dissolution immediately after the result of the US Presidential election and China’s leadership change were announced.

I even have a bet with a close friend who said it will be right after the UMNO General Assembly while the euphoria from the assembly is still high among UMNO members. As well all know, the next GE is the do or die battle for many political parties. I would say, with majority of Chinese and Indian votes safely in the hands of Pakatan Rakyat, the deciding factor will be the Malay votes, many among them first time voters. This friend of mine conceded his lose and agreed to pay for my flight ticket for my end of the year holiday down South.

All school holidays throughout 2012 were earmarked for possible time for GE. I pity the children of politicians and party members for all their holiday plans with daddy or mummy have to be altered again and again. Another friend who is running a travel agency complained that his business is badly affected because of this. Then another friend who is in the share brokerage industry cursed the PM for being weak and indecisive and that he is going to vote for PR this time. The reason for this is because his brokerage business has been bad throughout the year as most investors are all waiting to invest only after the election. The election factor!  Well, I can understand his frustration.
So, the dissolution of parliament will definitely be next year or it will not be called at all because the Mayans predict that end of the world will come in a few more days?   

Friday, 30 November 2012

LEGO Bricks– Now and then

My first reaction I first saw the Shell LEGO Ferrari collection poster while passing by a Shell Petrol Kiosk one Saturday morning was to take out my iPhone and dialed for mom’s personal assistant. I was full of excitement - Ferrari theme LEGO to add to my collection!

Me: Neoh….

Neoh: Ah Girl…mom is not in the office yet.

Me: Can you help me to collect the whole set of the Ferrari LEGO?

Neoh: They come in batches. Now we have 3 while others need to wait for the launching. Never mind, I will collect everything for you. How many set you want?

Me: One will do. Thanks.

Mom suddenly took over the receiver on the other end.

Mom: You sure one is enough? You love LEGO the most of all toys.

Me: Enough.

Mom: Make sure you pay the cost that we pay the supplier. (jokingly)

Me: What ??? I thought it is always free for your daughter.

Mom: Your old collections in the boxes at home are free.

So mom’s faithful assistant, whom had been working with mom for the past 20 years at our petrol station dutifully, collected the whole set of LEGO models for me. Still in their packing, the whole thing now sits in my storeroom waiting for the day when I will assemble each of them and find a place at home to display them. (They will have to fight for the limited space still available with my ever growing purple clay teapots, porcelain vases and more).

When I went back to Teluk Intan over the weekend, I was delighted when I saw dad decorated the Ferrari models on display in his petrol station with pieces from my old collections that must be at least half my age. Nobody other than mom and dad and perhaps my cousin Jenny understand the deep meaning of LEGO bricks to me. I love LEGO bricks because it gave me intellectual stimulation.

They were the trophies of my academic success as well as the bribes offered after each round of canning by dad. Looking back at those boxes of LEGO bricks, I will never forget that each time when dad see my report card, I’ll be assured of a box of the latest LEGO in the market. But I will also never forget that when dad canes me for my mischief, he will also get me a box of LEGO as a bribe to be good next time.

They were also something that bond Jenny and me because whenever she visits, both of us will definitely be bringing out the bricks and start our “project” of creating a “city” that will take days to complete. Jenny has this artistic skill that I lacked. The buildings that she builds from the bricks were always something creative, new and beautiful. Seeing her fingers and brain at work with the bricks was always an eye opening for me. Gradually, I will wait for her visit before the both of us will assemble the bricks together instead of me doing it solo.

As we grow older and occupied with study and other activities, those LEGO bricks were semi forgotten and no more “projects” ever came up again.

However, each time when I pass by shops selling LEGO bricks, I’ll surely drop in to check out their latest product. Five years ago while shopping in Singapore; I passed by a LEGO specialty shop in Orchard Road. Out of compulsion as well as memories, I spent quite near to one thousand dollar buying a few boxes of those bricks, promising myself that I will assemble them again.  Alas, those boxes are still as good as when they came out from the shop with the wrappers still on.

Nevertheless, LEGO bricks are one of the few things that are sentimental to me. It doesn’t matter whether I assemble the bricks into something or left them in their boxes, LEGO is something that can pass the test of time and can still be relevant even a few generations later.

Friday, 9 November 2012

A many-splendored thing – Dr. Han Suyin

A many-splendored thing is the best way to describe the life of Dr. Han Suyin @ Elizabeth Comber @ Rosalie Matilda Kuanghu Chow, (12 September 1917 – 2 November 2012), to borrow from her famous novel cum autobiography.

I’ve first came across Han’s book Destination Chungking among others in the termite infested part of my grandfather’s old shop, all ready for the huge rubbish bin across the road. Those were the remaining piles of books belonging to daddy and his English reading siblings. As a curious teenager at that time, I skimmed through some of it and immediately attracted to Destination Chungking for a reason that I somehow don’t know and took it home, placed it in my study. I never venture beyond page 1 of that book.

All was forgotten about Dr. Han until many years later when I was in Auckland that I came across her another book Eldest Son: Zhou Enlai and the Making of Modern China at a bookstore in Queen’s Street Auckland during a movie day out. At that time, my interest towards Chinese history was gaining momentum, and without hesitate, I bought the book. Soon I found myself searching for her books at second hand bookshops around Auckland, Melbourne and Penang and became a proud owner of most of her English books.

It turn out to be that she is also the favourite author of most of my elder friends but I have been reading her books for years without knowing that Dr. Han is an Eurasian until I read her obituary a few days back. Whatever her origin was is not important for she bring out the best of literature combining the Eastern and Western spheres of the globe on which her life touches upon.

Dr. Han had lived through the most interesting part of the 20th century at the epic of where histories were made and she brought history out to the readers via her novels. She witnessed the China that was on its knees as well as the China of today. She lived briefly within the Empire that is akin to the sun that will never set but the sun did set. Arising from the ashes of World War 2 came and went Communism. Now it is the Internet and social media that rules. I always wonder, if she is to write again, what will she write?

Reposer en paix, Dr. Han

Thursday, 11 October 2012

The apple of my eye – Baron

Baron in his usual antics when he want attention !

I had been wanting to have a cat since my return from Auckland many years back but it never materialize until April last year. Initially it was my housemate back then, Jessica a.k.a Little Ben who had cat phobia but she finally overcome it after she moved to Melbourne. Her phobia was chronic that she can’t even see the sight of a cat and having meals with her at places infested with stray cats was always a horrible experience.

After Little Ben moved to Melbourne, I procrastinated for a brief while because my mom kept telling me that cats loves to jump around and they have the tendency to scratch furniture. She warned me about my collection of teapots, my porcelains and my precious wooden antique furniture. To put me off, she even went on to say a cat may pee on my tea. Actually, the main reason she wants to dissuade me from having a cat is because she knew I am always travelling and who is going to take care of the cat if not dad and her?

However, I never give up. I believe cats can be trained. So one Saturday in April, YH and I went for cat hunting. We went to a few shops and finally found one that we really love to bring home. He was 3 months old, of Exotic American Shorthair breed (less trouble with grooming) and of mild temper. With him come his accessories for grooming and vitamins and long list of stuffs that made my own body grooming set look humble in comparison.

Baron came home in our Rolls Royce driven by his new daddy – YH and I became his mummy. True to his namesake, Baron is a haughty but cute cat that was spoilt rotten by his daddy and mummy. He has been a very good cat too except with a few peculiar habit such as love drinking pu erh tea, wanting his food really fresh and sleep on the bed in my master bedroom as if he owns the whole bed. Seeing him home after a tiresome day just delights our day. The decision to have him with us is the right one.

He is also the cat that knew how to throw tantrum especially being left alone at home over the weekend when both of us are away. When he saw us with luggage bags, he will hide himself and ignore us no matter how we try to cajole him, unlike his usual self that he will walk us to the door when we are leaving for work. He will repeat the same routine when we are home until his mood is alright again. The longer we are away, the longer it will take for his mood to be okay again. What a cat with character.

There was even a joke among friends that if a kidnapper decides to kidnap either one of us, Baron is the best choice because for sure I will pay the ransom immediately without asking for a discount. Who handle his poo and scheduled nail clipping and bathing then? Well, it is the daddy’s job right?

Saturday, 25 August 2012










This is a copy of a poem a very good friend of mine dedicate to his darling wife whom he has not heard of for days.I was asked to translate this poem knowing my ability with classical Chinese but I don't think I have the ability to do a comprehensive translation. The translation read is more or less like this:

On top of my pillow is full of sorrow for my love of you that I miss you, akin to a sea or surging billows. As night is long and dawn is slow to come, I think of you in my mind. The stars being the witness, how can I leave you far behind? The waning moon floats in the western spheres, at the sight of this, how can I not cry?
 So touching !!

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Best Chinese phrase to describe human being

One of the phrases that I found that tells the richness of Chinese words that are hard to explain in English.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Teluk Intan

An encounter at a birthday celebration yesterday with See Ming, my former colleague who comes from the same hometown just made me drop everything out of my busy schedule to write this blog. I have not been writing for a while but the sense of pride of coming from Teluk Intan and schooled at Convent Teluk Intan is just great. This school, St Anthony and SMJK San Min produced quite near to 50 of my current and former colleagues. However, I would not call Teluk Intan my home these days and I’ve never stayed there for full two weeks ever since leaving for university.

Teluk Intan, formerly known as Teluk Anson is a small town located at the southern part of Perak. It is a town where almost everyone knows everyone in town and their family members and where everything is still slow moving and relaxing.  It is also a place for “migrant workers” like us to go back for the ever good home cooked food besides fresh and cheap seafood, tasty chee cheong fun, assam laksa and for my case, a good place to get my cars serviced at a price half of that of KL. (I am sure my mom will muse reading this.)

Here are some quick tips about Teluk Intan, a place to stop by if you are heading to Pangkor Island or Lumut:

1)      The leaning clock tower: A historical clock tower that is always being compared to the leaning tower of Pisa. Open for view and visit to its interior daily.

2)   Teluk Intan chee cheong fun: Located at the end of Jalan Pasar and Jalan Hill, only open after 8pm but available till 6am. Closed on Sunday and Monday nights. Takeaway only.

3)      Teluk Intan “heong piah”: There are a few shops that made “heong piah”, a kind of biscuit, but I would say those made by Sin Guan Hoe are the best. Located at upper Jalan Ah Cheong, not far from the chee cheong fun shop.

4)      Best place for dinner: Tai Chong Seafood Restaurant at Jalan Changkat Jong.

5)      My personal suggestion for lunch: Nasi Kandar Krishnan at Jalan Changkat Jong.

6)      Best place to stay: I would say my parent’s house; otherwise Grand Court Hotel, Jalan Padang Tembak is the newest and best hotel in Teluk Intan.

7)  For drinks: Check out Al Fresco which belongs to my classmate Lee Yee, next to Tai Chong Seafood Restaurant.

8)  Assam Laksa: I've known the aunty who sell the famous Teluk Intan Assam Laksa for well over 20 long years. She used to run the canteen at Convent Primary School and her assam laksa have been famous since then and I would say it is the best in Teluk Intan. Today, her stall in located at a coffee shop next to the former Rex Theatre (now Big Cinemas) at Jalan Sitabharam Pilay.  Open from 11 am till about 3pm.

Related link: Teluk Intan through the lenses

Friday, 27 July 2012

Happy Birthday, Pek Chin

Jennifer, Pek Chin and Jadryn, Lafite, circa 2012

May the year to come will be a good and prosperous one to you and your darling husband. We look forward to hear more good news from the both of you such as time to distribute red chicken eggs and time to party!
I would also like to use this opportunity to say thank you so much for your selflessness in always taking care of me, being my good listener and being my excellent dinner partner every Thursday night. I always enjoy your company, especially our memorable trip to Beijing and down the memory lane to Singapore.
How fast time flies, and I truly appreciate everything we did and the moments we walk through together as good sisters.
Once again, Happy Birthday, Pek!

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Y.B. Phee Boon Poh and New Zealand PR

Yes, Phee Boon Poh’s wife and children are staying in New Zealand and they have been there for many years, even before I return to Malaysia to join the DAP. I know that his wife and children are NZ Permanent Resident pass holders but not too sure if they had given up their Malaysian citizenship. But what I am very sure is Phee Boon Poh himself is not a NZ PR holder.

I’ve known Boon Poh, as he is fondly called since my DAP days in Penang. He was always nice with his opinions and suggestions. He is a successful businessman with his own printing company in the Mak Mandin, started by his father and has wide connections among the business fraternity in Penang. He is close to the owner of Rex Group famous for its can foods on which a good friend of mine used to be their nutritionist.

I first met Boon Poh not in any DAP function but in front of Rex’s factory in Mak Mandin which is nearby to his printing factory. Knowing that I used to stay and work in New Zealand, we starting chatting very much about New Zealand and about his wife and children there. I remember having asked, so are you a PR there; he said no, I am not one but my wife and children is. During DAP’s bad days, Boon Poh was its financier. We used to sit together in the state committee. His contribution to DAP is huge.

During one of our conversations, when I lament to him that some people in DAP Penang think that I am taking DAP’s salary to promote myself, he did said that it would be better if I am not employed by the party. He did suggest that I make enough money for myself before joining a political party, and then the naysayers would shut up. So when I resigned and subsequently join a law firm, his words are still ringing.

So recently when the news of my party’s Dr. Ng Yen Yen’s Australia’s PR status resurfaced again, people starting accusing that Boon Poh himself is NZ PR holder. If the website did not retract its statement and stop the lies itself, I would agree with Boon Poh  sue them for defamation like what I did recently when someone said I took away 1 million and a four wheel drive to join MCA.

Again, I am not defending any one from DAP because I am pro DAP but I am defending the truth. I’ve also defended Jessie Ooi from MCA. When my party president was humiliated at a recent private bank dinner, I defended him as well. When Phee Boon Poh is not a NZ PR, please don’t say he is one.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

In memory of Dr. Stephen Covey

Dr. Stephen Covey, 1932-2012, is my favorite author and a great motivator.  I am also the proud owner of all his books, 20 in all. His latest is The 3rd Alternative, Solving Life’s Most Difficult Problems, published in 2011. His magnum opus is The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People which had sold more 25 million copies worldwide. My other favorites are First Things First and The Leader in Me. My best friend, Jessica and some colleagues in office are also a big fan of his writings and talks.

I had the honor to meet Dr. Covey in person when he was invited to give a full day workshop for all the staffs of the organization that I am working with. He was an inspirer and great motivator. Most people came out from the talk a changed person or some even change after reading his books. When one’s mood is down, one just has to flip the pages of his books, especially the 7 Habits book to be inspired again. Dr. Covey is also kind to provide great quotations by heroes in history in his book.

I was very sad when I read that Dr. Covey passed away on Monday 16 July 2012 due to brain hemorrhage from a bicycle accident in April. We will not only miss him but his new book that I always look forward to see in the shelves. You are a giant among men, Dr. Covey. You will be remembered in the memory of many. You also deserved a place in history.
Rest in peace, Dr. Covey and a salute from me to you.

Monday, 9 July 2012

My life's philosophical phrase

This morning, a colleague asked me what is my philosophy in life and I replied " 得民心者得天下".To achieve great things and be a great leader, one must win the heart of the people, be it your family members, friend, colleagues or anyone else.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Lim Guan Eng has affairs with his female staff?

I have heard of the name Lim Kit Siang and Lim Guan Eng since my childhood days because I started to read newspapers since I was 8 and attended many political ceremah since then. My first time seeing Kit Siang and Guan Eng in person was in 1990 when they came to my hometown to give talk during the 1990 General Elections.

The highlight of the town was the 1997 Teluk Intan by elections when the incumbent from Gerakan YB Ong Tin Kim died of cancer and M. Kulasegaran won the by-elections.  It was carnival like atmosphere in town with many big wigs coming and going. Because my parents run a petrol station, I get to see many of these VIPs pump their petrol at our station, including Koh Tsu Koon. Kit Siang's favourite restaurant in town is Hoover where he enjoys the fried rice.

I admired their Kit Siang and Guan Eng’s oration skills and there is a little wish in me that one day I will be like them – standing on stage to talk about issues affecting the people. The days when I was standing on stage for school and university debates as well as for political talk was history, now it is more of me arguing and debating my cases in the court.

I come to know Kit Siang and Guan Eng closely when I joined DAP. So when I read in the newspapers these few days about rumors of Guan Eng has an affair with a female staff in his office, I laughed out loud. I swear in the name of God that Guan Eng is no such person that he will have extra marital with another woman. If I heard of anyone having any affairs, Guan Eng will come last on the list of people that I will think of.

My first reaction when I read the newspapers about this incident is “Does Datuk Gan Tian Loo knows what he is talking about?” You can accuse him of anything but implying that he has affairs with a female staff is of no logic. To link him with extra marital affairs is the job of someone with low mentality or someone without political sense at all. This whole incident will just backfired back on BN, especially MCA.  

If you want to smear his name and reputation, think of something better. Don’t use this outdated tactic. It has been used so many times against politicians from both side of the divide. Guan Eng has come this far to his current position, and even by logic, just in case you do not know him personally, he will not do something like this to kiss goodbye to his political career.

His love with Betty Chew was built on solid foundation and true love. I have read an interview with her sometimes back on which she said, during their dating, she knew Guan Eng is dedicated to public service but she still choose to marry him. She has been there for him during his downs and Guan Eng is not a person that will not reciprocate.

He had been to jail, detained under ISA and faced many more obstacles during his political career. He was disqualified as an accountant and when he was not allowed to be elected to office, perhaps many people does not know that he sell insurance to keep his family going. I can still remember it was AETNA, now ING insurance.

I am writing all these not to say that I am pro DAP now and I am defending Lim Guan Eng but I am defending the TRUTH.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

My Auckland Days

Auckland Harbour and CBD

I have not been back to Auckland, New Zealand for some years and I started to have this feeling that I miss Auckland a lot. I miss my friends, my house, my former office, my university and my favorite dining places in Auckland.
I missed many opportunities in these last couple of years to be back to Auckland when I am in Melbourne due to busy schedules. It is only four hours flight away compared to 11 hours from Malaysia or Singapore. My New Zealand friends are starting to get impatient waiting for my arrival as well. They kept asking “when are you finally coming back?” With my upcoming Melbourne trip, I am going to drop by Auckland again.
Auckland, the city of sails is where I spent my formative years and where I started to be in the front line of politics with my involvement with the New Zealand Labour Party. It is also the place where I met good friends, especially Phei Chee and form friendships that lasted to this day. It is also the place of many firsts to me, from first time getting my own car to first time betting on horses. I developed my fascination for horses there but I’ve sold them since I came back.
I also my miss house in Epsom, Auckland very much. It is where I have my finest collections of Chinese porcelains and Chinese paintings by famous artists. Especially with winter at the Southern Hemisphere now, I miss my huge rosewood desk near the fireplace in my study where I did my assignments. I also miss my old office at the Labour Party Chinese Branch in Dominion Road where policies were discussed, complaints were received and assistance to the needy was given.
The faculty of law of University of Auckland is situated near the Auckland High Court at Eden Cresent was the place I spent most of my time during my university days besides the faculty of arts for political studies at Symonds Street. When I returned to the university some years later, entering the gates that I had entered so many times before, walking through the corridors that many outstanding leaders had frequented, gave me an extraordinary sense of place – a small place in history.
All work and no play made Jack a dull boy. I played golf religiously. Enjoyed fishing on good weather days till I hate black snappers. They don’t taste good but that was what I always got! I played mahjong with friends at night, especially during winter when daylight is short to kill time. Auckland is a very boring place after sunset. Sometimes we will go for karaoke but there was no Chinese karaoke establishment in Auckland until 2001! Quite often, I will be invited to attend dinners organized by Chinese associations there but the food is always horrible. After sometime, I will just send them a polite decline.
After a couple of try at Malaysian restaurant at Ponsonby, I swear I will not go again. If the restaurant is in Malaysia, I am sure it will close within three months. The food is not Malaysian at all! Every Thursday night, without fail, I will have dinner with my dentist friend, Dr Peter Ng and his wife. We will scout for Chinese Restaurants around Auckland and try each one every week. I first met him during the wedding anniversary celebrations of my GP whom was his best friend. By fate, we met again during a conference in Auckland called the New Zealand Pan Asian Congress with famous lawyer Mai Chen as its main speaker.
Our favorite is Peking duck at Empress Garden in Jervois Road while my personal favorite is Dynasty Chinese Restaurant in Wakefield Street. Dynasty’s pan fried mince pork with salted fish is something to die for. Even Li Yen in the Ritz Carlton Kuala Lumpur can’t prepare this dish like them. The first thing I am going to do when I am in Auckland this time is to be there for dinner. Another Chinese Restaurants in Auckland that serve delicious food are Dragon Boat at Elliot Street and Grand Harbour near the America Cup’s village. After all the good food, when I visit his clinic for dental treatment, Peter will always joke –too much good food still stuck in between your teeth. Well, Peter, thanks so much for your care when I was there.
Weekends are always full of activities for the Labour Party or otherwise I will be at the race course. Sometimes, with friends, we will drive out of city for golf and sightseeing. I particularly like Whangaparaoa Bay with its Shakespeare Regional Park, about an hour away from Auckland. Going for dim sum is also a weekend indulgence with Ming Court in Sky City as my favorite or a drive to North Shore just to see Auckland CDB sunset. Till this day, I can still remember roads in Auckland with a flash of memory; no wonder friends said I have photographic memory.
Auckland – the city that made me what I am today. 

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Chow Kon Yeow’s words made me quit golf

In The Edge this week’s edition, I came across an article that lists the world’s 10 toughest golf courses. Top of the list is The Ocean Course. Kiawah Island, South Carolina, US while the Malaysia’s Saujana Golf and Country Club is on the sixth place and then Cape Kidnappers Golf Course, Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand is on the 8th spot.

Cape Kidnappers in Hawke’s Bay used to be my favorite golfing place when I was living in New Zealand. I discovered Cape Kidnappers Golf Course during my brief stay in Napier, Hawke’s Bay. I will find time to fly or drive to Napier from Auckland just to play there and meet some old friends. It is indeed a challenging course nested on top of a cliff. Its terrain is its natural obstacles. One wrong swing, your golf ball will end up in the sea or goes missing. I can still remember, holes 3, 12, 13, 15 were the most challenging part.

The place is named Cape Kidnappers because the local Maoris planned to kidnap Captain James Cook’s crew during his stop there when he survey New Zealand in his famous HMS Endeavor. Another local story goes that the place is name Cape Kidnappers because it used be enclaves for pirates.

Besides the Cape Kidnappers Golf Course, Hawke’s Bay is famous for its beautiful seacoast, orchards and wineries. The best red wine from Hawke’s Bay is from the Te Mata Estate. I still have my cravings for its Merlot but I can’t find it in Malaysia or Singapore.

I picked up golf during my student days in Auckland and played religiously for a few times a week with handicap of 19. My first golfing course was the Chamberlain Park Golf Course but later moved to the Remuera Golf Club which is not far away from my house. My golfing buddy is Susan Goodhue who was my course mate and occasionally with my dentist friend, Dr Peter Ng.

When I returned to Malaysia and joined the DAP, there was an occasion when my former boss, Penang DAP Chairman, Chow Kon Yeow saw a photo of me swinging my favorite Iron 7 on a course and he commented “this is a bourgeois game”. I thought about his comment for a while. He is right. DAP claims to be a socialist party and is part of Socialist International. Then, I also don’t recall my New Zealand Labour Party comrades played golf too. Golf is indeed a bourgeois game.

There and then, I decided to say goodbye to golf although Chow never saying thing that I should quit. I never step on the green again although I am still a member at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club. Gone were also my handicap and I do not intend to pick it up again in the near future. Just like Helen Clark, Chow is my very much respected leader.

Monday, 2 July 2012

A tale of two Prime Ministers

Last Saturday afternoon, my friend and I decided to have tea at my favorite JW Marriott Hotel, so off we went. The traffic leading to the hotel was unusually heavy but as my car was approaching the hotel’s lobby driveway, I was stopped by some unknown man. Seeing from far my car’s approach, the valet that knew me well rushed over to open my door and guided me to the lobby.

As I walk towards the hotel door, I saw a huge entourage of cars and traffic police motorbikes parked in front of the hotel as well on Jalan Bukit Bintang. So, these are the cars and bikes that created the terrible traffic jam around Pavilion.  Then I was told the Prime Minister is in the hotel. I do a brief calculation; there must be at least 15 cars and bikes on his entourage. In the lobby, I saw him chatting with a Tan Sri and the bodyguards were closing half the lobby just for these two man!

I felt disgusted because this is the Prime Minister Najib that claimed that he cares for the people but is creating problems for the people with his huge entourage of cars and bikes. He doesn’t have a sense that traffic jam is a big problem for the people in the Klang Valley. Next, is it a need for his bodyguards to cordon off the whole front lobby of the hotel just because he is in there? What a waste to taxpayers’ money!

As I slip my tea, the memory of my former boss, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Helen Clark, lingers around me. Whenever she travels, she does not need such a huge entourage of cars and bodyguards around her. The most, there are only three cars - Two for the bodyguards and assistants and one for herself. In New Zealand, you will hardly hear the police car sirens asking drivers to clear the road for the Prime Minister or any VIPs to pass through. 

Whenever she is in any public places, there won’t be hordes of bodyguards around or any need to cordon off any place just because she is there. Such was the simplicity of the Prime Minister of New Zealand. To her, taxpayers’ money must not be spent of unnecessary thing like a huge entourage of bodyguards and cars and bikes.

Her private house at Cromwell St, Mt Eden in Auckland is simple and does not even have gates and security posts! Whenever she is home, anyone can just drop by to say hello. On weekends, with her jogging attire, she will drop by neighborhood grocery shops to pick up milk and newspapers.  And you don’t see a single bodyguard following her.  Any passerby can just chat with her like a friend you meet by roadside. On a few occasions, she even drives herself to her constituency service center in her personal car! When she is not on official duty, she will not use the official car provided by the government. A country as rich as New Zealand does not even have a special plane for the Prime Minister's use. She commute with commercial flights just like everyone else.

One vivid memory that I won’t forget is the Auckland region Labour Party election candidate selection convention in 2002. The attendees were all seated and the Labour Party Chairman started giving his speech. Halfway through, Helen Clark in her smart casual wear just arrived quietly and took her seat in the middle row. When she rose to speak, many wondered since when she arrived?

Can you image the private home of the Prime Minister of Malaysia without gates and security posts? Can you image Najib jogging around his plush neighborhood, dropping by to get his newspapers without bodyguards trailing him? Najib driving himself to meet his constituents in his personal car? Najib arrived at a function without much brouhaha? I don’t think any sane Malaysian would even want to imagine all these! 

So, these are the tales of two Prime Ministers. I just wonder, is it Malaysia is so unsafe that the Prime Minister needs so many bodyguards and escorts? Ah Jib Kor, to win the people's heart, you have to be like them.

PS: Helen Clark was New Zealand’s Prime Minister until 2008 and currently the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme based in New York. Helen, as she is fondly called by everyone, prefers trousers over skirts or dress even at state dinners and I think subconsciously, I am one too. It will be a blue moon day if you see me in skirts at work. We are still in touch.

Friday, 29 June 2012

Find out the root cause of rising crime rates in Malaysia

Every day when my mother calls me, she will never fail to ask me to be careful when I am driving alone or when I go to The Curve. She knew that I will usually spend my evening at a Chinese tea shop in The Curve, something that I had been doing almost daily whenever I am in Malaysia. And each time when my dad reads about certain crime in the Klang Valley, he will ask my mom to call me and asked me to take care.

I am lucky that I’ve never meet any untoward incident regarding my safety but I’ve heard too much from friends, seen some with my own eyes and read too much. However, I never feel safe when I am walking, even a short distance with my handbag in Malaysia. Sometimes I would rather put my wallet in my pocket instead of carrying a handbag. When my driver is not driving me, I will usually use some newspapers to cover my handbag which I never put at the passenger seat. Another thing that I will not do is to carry my laptop around with me unless I really need to.

It is not only in Klang Valley that we hear someone got robbed but also in small towns around Malaysia. What really concern me are not the differences of statistics given by the Home Minister in Parliament but why people are committing crime. What makes them do so? What is the root of the problem? In order to combat crime, we need to address the problem of why these people commit the crime at the first place and then solve it. If we don’t do this, the problem is never going to end and Malaysians will never feel safe.

How many policemen do we need if we are to place them at all traffic light junctions where smashing of window is common? How many CCTVs and security guards are needed to be placed at car parks to ensure everyone’s safety? How many police kiosks are needed if we are going to put policemen in front of banks where snatch thieves often take place? How much can the media do? Do we have the resources to do all these? Even we do, can we solve the problem? No, we can’t because the thieves will come up with new modus operandi and it will be a never ending cat and mouse game.

The existing law for thieves and robbers are too lenient and this also play a part in encouraging people. We should impose a stiffer penalty for those found guilty such as canning and at least 10 years of jail term. With heavy penalty, people will think twice before the commit the crime. Most important, the government needs to set up a commission to study the root cause to all these thieves and robbery problems.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Malays are also migrants to this country, not only Chinese and Indians

Writing about race relations in Malaysia offers myriad problems for those who intends to do so. It is even more complicated when one is to write about the relationship between the Chinese and the Malays. The truth and those prepared to listen to the truth are dismayingly hard to discover. Misinterpretations, conspiracies of silence and the hijacking of truth for political and personal agenda are certain obstacles. Therefore, many prefer to remain silence or only speak with the condition that it is off the record.

Two weeks ago, I received an e-mail from a student doing her PhD in England about an interview I gave to Jonathan Kent of BBC in 2004 titled: Chinese diaspora: Malaysia. In that interview I asserted that the Chinese in Malaysia will much safer and important when China emerges as a superpower.

This is in view that Chinese immigrants are different from other races: no matter what terrible things happened to them in their respective countries or to their families in China, they will gather to help whichever ways that they can or on whatever terms the government allows. So, Chinese that faces difficulties in let’s say New Zealand will be viewed by the Chinese government and the Chinese globally that they need help and help will be provided, although via quiet channels most of the time and China’s soft power.

This is in part of the pragmatism that runs so deep in most Chinese that it excuses the past but it is more than that. China to them is not a political system or a group of leaders but something bigger than that. No matter where there are, every Chinese identifies themselves as the descent of the dragon.

Fast forward 8 years later, in his dialogue with Chinese youths at University Malaya on 24th June, Najib urged the Chinese community not to be offended by people who call them “pendatang” (immigrants) because such remarks are made by a handful of “lunatics” with “loose screws”.  Frankly, if China is not a superpower today, no Prime Minister of Malaysia will ever utter such a word which is quite akin to saying “sorry”.

Moreover, this Prime Minister is the same person in 1987 who said that he wanted to wash the Malay “keris” (dragger) with the blood of the Chinese during a rally. Ah Jib Kor, when are you going to say sorry to the Chinese community over your “keris with Chinese blood” remarks?

Moreover, you also left out those Malays who asked the Chinese to “balik Tongsan” (Go back to China). We the Chinese do feel the insult with that remarks too. Don’t forget that you guys the Malays are also from the Indonesian archipelago, so you are migrants too. The difference is that the Malays migrate to this country some couple of hundred years earlier than the Chinese.  The Malays also share so many similarities in culture with the Indonesians that they make claims that this and that belongs to them, even to the extent that our national anthem is a copy of their love song “Terang Bulan”.

If all Chinese are to return to China as well as other races return to their respective countries and left the Malays alone in Malaysia, I wonder how this country can function, how can the second Penang bridge be completed, where to buy the trains cheaply for KTM and many more.

Malaysia belongs to all of us regardless of race and religion. The Chinese never ask the Malays to go back to Indonesia so for the sake of racial unity, stop asking another race to go back to their country of origin. 55 years after achieving Independence, our nation building is akin to nothing because the races are still as divided as ever and off and on, some racial remarks will be hurled at other races.

If the Prime Minister is sincere at making 1 Malaysia works, he has a long list to do but he should first sack his special officer, Datuk Nasir Safar who for instance had labeled Indians and Chinese as “pendatang” and added insult to injury in declaring that “Indians came to Malaysia as beggars and Chinese especially women came to sell their bodies”.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Mayors and municipal councilors around the country should be elected, not appointed

Finally, politicians from Barisan Nasional component parties are calling for KL’s mayor to be someone from the political party rather than civil servant. Finally they are on the same tune with politicians from Pakatan Rakyat, especially DAP who had been exhorting the government to restore local council elections for a long time.

The argument from the BN side is that a politician in the role of mayor of KL will do a better do as they are answerable to the people. The tune they sang is very different from those mentioned by Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Chor Chee Heung who chided PR politicians linking a local council's ability to discharge its duties based on council elections in Parliament. Obviously Chor is in the dark over the demand of his comrades from BN.

To be fair, it is not only that the mayor of Kuala Lumpur is not doing a good job. I dare to say that the mayors and councilors from all around the country are not doing a good job, especially when it comes to town planning – which is a big issue in Petaling Jaya, landscaping, dealing with hawker centers and street peddlers and solving pot holes on roads under their jurisdiction.

Mayors and councilors around Klang Valley are the worst when it comes to town planning. They do not take into consideration the traffic infrastructure and density of the area before approving projects. One good example is Kota Damansara and Damansara Perdana. High rise office buildings, commercial shops and condos boomed like mushrooms after the rain in these areas and created horrible traffic jams.

For us who lives in Mutiara Damansara, we have to endure the Monday to Friday before and after office hour jams and the Saturday and Sunday shopping complex jam. On any given day, Persiaran Surian looks more like a huge parking space than a road as it is the only one main road that connects LDP and Kota Damansara which is a very high density area. Sometimes I do think the game “Sim City” must be made mandatory for mayors and councilors to play in order for them to gain knowledge on town planning.

Another big problem face by residents around Klang Valley, due to bad town planning, is that one will wake up one morning to find out that there will be a MRT line or elevated highway right in front of one’s house. All these are due to bad town planning and also officers that refuse to look into the plight of the effected residents. MRT lines and highways can be built underground so that it won’t affect the residents.

Moreover, these appointed mayors and councilors are also wasting on our taxpayer’s money for all their “study trips” overseas. From what we see around us, obviously they had not gain any knowledge from their trips. We don’t have to look far for good town planning examples; we just have to look at our dear neighbor – Singapore. And please don’t compare us with Jakarta, Bangkok and other badly planned cities. We need to look to the best, not the bad ones.

We used to have local government elections until its suspension on 3 Sept 1964 due to confrontation from Indonesia over the formation of Malaysia. It is time to lift the suspension and start to have local government elections again. Each elected mayor and councilor that is elected will definitely do their job better because they will have to be answerable to the public. If they do not do their job well, we can boot them out. It is time for change!