Tuesday, November 27, 2007

My daddy used to say

My late father used to say that Malaysia is technically still in a state of emergency, since the emergency rule that was imposed in the aftermath of 13 May 1969 was never properly rescinded. People just conveniently forgot about it and carried on business as usual. Just two weeks ago, Thierry Rommel, the outgoing EU envoy to Malaysia, echoed similar sentiments.

Now that I think about it, my dad's comment does make sense. I mean, the way the politicians and police behave often leads me to think that we are still living in some quasi-emergency state where a violent explosion of civil unrest or rebellion could happen any moment. This also explains why the present politicians would rather go down in the elections than revoke emergency laws such as the Internal Security Act 1960 which is a rehashed leftover of the Emergency Regulations Ordinance 1948 enacted by the British to lock up Communists. The Ordinance was repealed in 1960 at the end of the Emergency, but the newly-independent Malaysian government nicely enacted the ISA as the successor to the Ordinance. Brilliant. Perhaps it was a necessary evil back then. But fast-forward 50 years... is it still necessary? Are we hoping to lock up terrorists? Or Opposition politicians?

The oppressive laws in Malaysia were crafted for emergency conditions. The laws were meant to fight Communists in 1948 or xenophobiacs in 1969, not peaceful demonstrators in 2007. If you thought Old Town Kopitiam was old-fashioned, you should check out the laws of Malaysia. That's retro for you, dude.

The ISA's cousin, the Emergency Ordinance (Public Order and Prevention of Crime) 1969 (notice the word "emergency" again), was enacted to subdue suspected racist instigators by
detaining them without trial at detention centres like Simpang Renggam or to banish them to "remote" places like Gua Musang or maybe Cameron Highlands. Once banished, the poor suspects would be totally cut off from the rest of the world since there was only one road into town, and the fella had to report to the police station twice a day, and there were only a few fixed line telephones here and there. Anyone banished would be rendered powerless through mere physical isolation. Today the police still use the same outdated law to banish criminal suspects, but guess what, with modern telecommunications and highways the fella could still be directing his criminal empire from a "remote" location 500km away! You could be banished to Gua Musang, and report to the police station in the morning, drive to KL for a meeting, and still make it back to report again in the evening. What we need now are tough laws that hit where it hurts. We need anti-money laundering laws. We need laws to freeze and confiscate all assets of convicted criminals. Yea, but first we need a clean police force to prosecute and get them convicted. That's more difficult than simply banishing bad guys and hoping that out-of-sight means out-of-mind.

In this information era, many countries are enacting laws enabling Freedom of Information, but Malaysia still holds on to the Official Secrets Act 1972 for dear life. Whose life, I wonder? It only makes life more difficult for people
such as researchers and journalists, who need to obtain information for legitimate purposes, but hardly stops government officials from leaking so-called confidential documents, because, like it or not, there are many government staff who are frustrated with their own political "masters" but cannot openly voice out their grievances.

The politicians want a new generation of students who can think critically, create innovatively and learn independently. But the politicians also want to keep the Universities and University Colleges Act 1971 which prohibits students from getting involved in political activities, among other things. I'm like, duuuh?! There's a thing called opportunity cost. You can't have your cake and eat it. Or, maybe those politicking fellas are dreaming of having their cake but eating someone else's. Creative economics. Deserves another honorary PhD.

Malaysia is shackled and bogged down by so many antiquated, anachronistic, outdated laws. I wonder how we can really progress. It is one thing to build skyscrapers; it is another thing to develop minds. No prizes for guessing which one Malaysia excels in.

My daddy said some others things too while he was still around. Perhaps I should have listened more back then, but I was too stubborn. Haha. :)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Assembly language

I was going to say something about this but I guess CPPS beat me to it. So here's their press statement...


Allow Freedom of Assembly

The Centre for Public Policy Studies regrets the police prohibition of and use of violence on a number of recent gatherings in Kuala Lumpur.

Two weeks ago on the 10th November 2007, BERSIH, a coalition of non-Governmental organisations and political parties, organised a march to submit a memorandum calling for measures to ensure free and fair elections in the country.

More recently, on Sunday the 25th November 2007, Hindu Rights Action Force (HINDRAF) organised a rally to submit a memorandum calling for equal treatment of Indians, highlighting their socio-economic marginalisation in the country.

The Government has responded by saying that demonstrations are unnecessary, that memorandums should be handed in personally, and that any concerns can be brought up in forums through a consultative approach.

However, such forums, panels and meetings have been conducted on numerous occasions to little avail. These articulations are compiled into reports and submitted to various committees, but it is precisely inaction and non-response from the Government that has fuelled frustrations amongst those groups who have not received equal treatment.

Article 10 of the Federal Constitution guarantees that every citizen has the right to assemble peaceably. This is affirmed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The BERSIH and HINDRAF rallies were peaceful gatherings and should not be misconstrued as otherwise.

1. The CPPS calls on the Government to recognise the rights of civil society to freedom of assembly. The right to freely assemble peacefully is one of the hallmarks of a democratic society. If we want to consider ourselves a true democracy, then the police should stop immediately its highhanded excessive use of force at dispersing peaceful crowds, including the use of tear gas and unrelenting water cannons at peaceful demonstrations and rallies.

We need to urgently review the policy and processes regarding the provision of permits for peaceful assembly as guaranteed in our Federal Constitution. If the police had given permits to assemble and march peacefully, subject, of course, to reasonable and agreed-upon terms, the unnecessary disruption and subsequent chaos would have been avoided.

2. The CPPS also urges the Government to examine the root causes of the deep sense of grievance and frustration that underlie these rallies and demonstrations . The issues being raised by civil society organisations recently are valid and should be urgently considered. The views and opinions of this large cross-section of society cannot be swept under the carpet. These expressions of frustration and anger arise from a significant proportion of the Malaysian public. These must be factored into policy-making processes, and not ignored.

3. At the same time, it would be useful for the Government to meet the leaders of these rallies and find out more about their grievances , taking action to resolve outstanding problems that have adversely affected sections of the Malaysian society. New approaches are urgently needed to ensure greater national unity, peace, stability and progress.

Tan Sri Dato' (Dr.) Ramon V. Navaratnam


Centre for Public Policy Studies

26th November 2007

Kuala Lumpur

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Free Rice

I came across Free Rice recently. The link was emailed to me, and I also saw it featured on BBC.

Play Free Rice. You can improve your English vocabulary while getting sponsors to donate rice to feed the hungry through the United Nations World Food Program.

Click on the link below to play. You can also read the FAQs there, and find links to other sites on world hunger.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Busy busy

This is what I've been doing during my free time... :)

David & Grace

Peter & Kae Jeen

Aaron & Yip Wei

Mun Yew & Evelyn

Psalm 96

1 Sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all the earth.

2 Sing to the LORD, praise his name;
proclaim his salvation day after day.

3 Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous deeds among all peoples.

4 For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise;
he is to be feared above all gods.

5 For all the gods of the nations are idols,
but the LORD made the heavens.

6 Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and glory are in his sanctuary.

7 Ascribe to the LORD, O families of nations,
ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.

8 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;
bring an offering and come into his courts.

9 Worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness;
tremble before him, all the earth.

10 Say among the nations, "The LORD reigns."
The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved;
he will judge the peoples with equity.

11 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
let the sea resound, and all that is in it;

12 let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them.
Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy;

13 they will sing before the LORD, for he comes,
he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
and the peoples in his truth.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Smart stupidity

In an unfortunate series of events that revealed my lack of mobile phone tech savvy-ness, I accidentally blocked my SIM card on Saturday. To make things worse, my attempts to unblock it resulted in the SIM card being permanently disabled. And, in a triple whammy, I also forgot the security code on my phone, so now I have to reformat the phone and lose everything in it. Basically, all the numbers in both the SIM card and phone are gone forever.

Here's how it happened:

1. I was going for the BERSIH rally in KL, to show support for the movement and the agenda for free and fair elections.

2. I figured I shouldn't bring my new phone, just in case we got drenched by special water from certain sources. Just in case.

3. So I switched the SIM card to from my new phone to my old phone. It asked for the PIN.
Whaddaya know, I keyed in the wrong PIN code 3 times! This was mistake #1. I forgot that the SIM card will get blocked after 3 wrong tries. (Actually, mistake number #0 was that I activated the PIN and security codes on my new phone... and then forgot the codes! More about this later...)

The SIM card got blocked, and then the phone asked for the PUK code. So I ran to grab the PUK (personal unblocking key). Would you believe it?!! I committed another silly mistake. I keyed the PUK for the wrong SIM card. I thought I had the PUK, but only realized today that it belonged to the very first SIM card that I got in 2000. The current SIM card is an upgraded one, and I somehow don't have the PUK for the new SIM card recorded anywhere.

5. And here is where it gets complicated. I unknowingly keyed in the wrong PUK, and it asked me to key in a new PIN and then reconfirm the PIN, which is what I did. But the result was "Code Error". I couldn't understand why, coz all the while I thought the PUK was correct. I couldn't have keyed in the new PIN (I chose 1234) wrongly, could I?!?! So I repeated the process, but got the same "Code Error". But, after about 8 attempts, when the phone gave me the terse message, "Final attempt", I decided to get the pros to fix it. Besides, I had a train to catch to go downtown KL.

6. So, off I went to the (illegal?) gathering in KL without a phone, but I was with friends, so I wasn't totally incommunicado. I wore my yellow T-shirt under another shirt, ala undercover Superman style. But no, I did not rip off my outer shirt to reveal the yellow shirt underneath when I reached the Istana. I merely unbuttoned it gently.

7. The gathering was very peaceful and orderly, at least at the places where I was, i.e. train station and Istana (I later heard that there was some commotion in the Masjid Jamek area). Some police officers were even helping to direct traffic -- I guess they had no choice. In case you were stuck in the jam on the Federal Highway, I can assure you that it was caused entirely by the police roadblocks, which was designed to deliberately slow down traffic. I also heard that they were stopping buses carrying yellow people. Anyway, my group took the train, so we got there in the usual time.

8. After the peaceful gathering in front of the Istana we went back to the train station and hopped on the return train. No problems. I got a bit wet, but it was due to the rain, not the police water cannons.

9. Then I went to the an authorized network service centre, hoping to unblock my SIM card. But the attempt to unblock it only made the card become permanently blocked, because the wrong PUK was keyed in again, for the final time. The SIM card was rejected. Only then did I find out that I could have called the network provider's helpline to get the PUK. But the problem was that I had been thinking all the while I had the correct PUK. And the "Code Error" message was because of the wrong PUK, not because I re-entered the wrong PIN. Big sigh. It's like climbing up to the top of the ladder only to find that it's leaning on the wrong wall.

10. So, the guy at the service centre issued a new SIM card (for the same phone number). The SIM card would take at least a day to be activated. That was OK, I thought. But I lost ALL the numbers stored in the SIM card. That was OK too, I thought, because I had copied the numbers to the new phone's memory. But then, I switched on the phone, and lo and behold, it asked me for the security code!

11. And, I couldn't remember it!!! Big mistake! I changed the code after getting the new phone last month, and didn't record it anywhere!!! There is no limit to the number of attempts to key in the security code, but it's 5 digits, and so technically there are 100,000 permutations. That's more than the number of people gathered for the BERSIH rally.

12. So I went to bed with both the old and new phones non-functional (I couldn't even set the alarm) because the new SIM card was not yet activated.

13. On Sunday afternoon, after trying about 139 times to key in some plausible passcodes (based on my birthday, or initials, or just keypad number patterns) I finally relented and I went to the mobile phone shop where I bought the new phone. I thought they would be able to do something, but unfortunately, the only way was to send it back to the distributor for reformatting. That means I lose ALL the numbers in the phone also. The whole process will take a few days.

14. So here I am now with my old phone, a new not-yet-activated SIM card, and a totally blank contact list. I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

This has turned out to be a long convoluted story, but I hope you get the drift.


This is stupid:

1. Forgetting passcodes.

2. Keying in the wrong passcode while assuming it is the correct one.

3. Changing the security code on the mobile phone and not remembering it. I later found out from the guy at the shop that it's almost pointless to switch on the security code on the phone to prevent people from using it if it is stolen. Because, the folks can easily send it undercover to the service centres and break the code. It's an inside job -- the technicians conspiring with the resellers. Obviously it's illegal, but it's happening.

This is smart:

1. Supporting free and fair elections.

2. Always remembering passcodes (duh?!) or writing them down somewhere.

3. Not trying to be too smart. Call the helpline instead.

Well, at the end of the day, this whole SIM card and phone hassle pales in comparison to the more important thing, that I was a part of Malaysian history. I was standing very near the Istana gate, with the crowd, and I saw the BERSIH leaders walk through the FRU line to deliver the memorandum to the King's aide. Two police helicopters were buzzing overhead, a clever tactic to drown out the voices of the people. After the memorandum was handed over, the police chief instructed the crowd to disperse, and we dutifully complied. I feel that the police are improving slightly in their handling of such mass gatherings.

I took part in the "riot". Would you consider that an act of civil disobedience?

Gandhi did it. Martin Luther King Jr did it. I did it. And so did a few thousand other Malaysians.

In case you are wondering what BERSIH stands for, visit the website

Friday, November 09, 2007


Menora Tunnel on the highway, northbound, just out of Ipoh

Penang on a rainy Monday morning

Gurney Drive

Window "wiper"


Old jetty boardwalk at Teluk Bahang

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

I can see clearly now...?

I don't know if you realized it, but the haze did not hit Malaysia this year! Granted, there were a few hazy days, but nothing like the massive blanket of smoke that choked us during the southwest monsoon season in previous years. Just when you thought that the haze was turning into an annual event, it took a break. Forever, I hope.

Now, the interesting thing is, why did the haze not visit this year? Until today, I still don't have a definite knowledge of the cause of the haze. There was so much socio-political shadow play and blame-shifting and speculation over the haze issue in the past years that we the people had the wool pulled over our eyes, or in this case, the haze tearing our eyes.

Were the fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan caused by (Malaysian?) plantation companies clearing land for new plantings? If so, does the absence of the haze mean that they have changed their land clearing methods to zero burning, or perhaps they have already finished clearing all that they need to clear and therefore did not burn anything this year?

Or, if the haze was the work of thousands of individual Indonesian farmers who were clearing their small plots of land for small-scale farming, does the absence of the haze mean that the Indonesian government has succeeded in getting its people not to burn the land? Or is there no remaining forest to burn?

The answer is probably somewhere in between.
But we need to know.

We need to know, because it would tell us whether the haze will hit again.
It would tell us if the haze did not occur this year because the governments and the people did something right. Or if it was just a random event. By knowing why the haze did not happen this year, we would know better how to prevent it in the future.

Perhaps someone can enlighten me...

Monday, November 05, 2007

Sign of the times

The general elections may be coming sooner than you think... these are such exciting times. Woohoo!!!

Choose wisely, for you get the government that you either choose or don't choose.

It's not going to be an easy choice for me, for I'll have to choose either the party on one side, or the individual on the other side. But I think I have more or less decided already.

I hope the Election Commission hasn't gone round gerrymandering the constituency boundaries and transferred me to Batu Gajah or Kinabatangan. You know what they are capable of.

If you have not yet registered as a voter, do so ASAP. You might just be in time for the 2011 elections.