Utusan reaches new heights of absurdity


April 7, 2014

 Utusan reaches new heights of absurdity

By John Malott*

malott1It is shocking to see that an Assistant Editor of Utusan Malaysia has written that the 9-11 attacks were planned by the CIA, and that the agency could also be behind the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370.

It is yet another example that Utusan has become the laughing stock of Malaysian journalism, given to fabrication, conspiracy theories, paranoia, extremism, and racism. Just think of all the libel suits that it has lost in the past two years. Think of its declining circulation, as readers grow weary of propaganda that tries to pass as news.

But Utusan is not just any newspaper. It is owned by UMNO, Malaysia’s rulingnajib-razak1 party, whose President is Najib Abdul Razak. UMNO and its President traditionally have provided editorial guidance and supervision to Utusan.

So what say you, Najib? You will soon be welcoming President Barack Obama to Malaysia. Are you going to let this absurb statement in “your” newspaper stand? Or will you speak out – and denounce this nonsense – before Obama comes?

When Utusan had its screaming headline after the 13th GE, ‘Apa Lagi Cina Mahu’, Najib defended the paper. Then just a few months later, he told government-linked companies that they should buy more advertisements in Utusan in order to aid the newspaper financially.

Will Najib react differently this time? Washington certainly will take note of the editorial comment in this UMNO newspaper, and will be waiting to see if there is a reaction from Najib and his government.

* John Malott was former US Ambassador to Malaysia and friend of Malaysia

 

 

Tribute to Sam Berns


February 3, 2014

Tribute to Sam Berns, RIP

COMMENT: I pay tribute to Sam Berns for his courage and  mental attitude. I am deeply moved by Sam’s plight but I admire this young 17 year old. I thought I should share this story with you. It is important that we all accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative and anything in between. Yes, Sam, we will keep looking forward and hope we have your spirit and verve.–Din Merican

Sam Berns is an inspiration to us all

by Margalit Fox@http://www.nytimes (01-13-14)

Robert Kraft, owner of The New England Patriots, pays a tribute to Sam Burns:

Robert and Sam“I loved Sam Berns and am richer for having known him. He was a special young man whose inspirational story and positive outlook on life touched my heart. I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to spend time with him and to get to know his incredible family. Together, they positively impacted the lives of people around the world in their quest to find a cure for Progeria. The HBO documentary, ‘Life According to Sam’ shared his incredible story with a national audience. It was so beautifully done. It made you laugh. It also made you cry. Today, it’s the latter for all who knew Sam or learned of his story through that documentary.”

Sam Berns, a Massachusetts high school junior whose life with the illness progeria was the subject of a documentary film recently shortlisted for an Academy Award, died on Friday in Boston. He was 17.

His death, from complications of the disease, was announced by the Progeria Research Foundation, which Sam’s parents, both physicians, established in 1999.

Sam Berns and His parentsSam with his parents, Drs Leslie Gordon and Scott Berns

Extremely rare — it affects one in four million to one in eight million births — progeria is a genetic disorder resulting in rapid premature aging. Only a few hundred people have the disease, whose hallmarks include hair loss, stunted growth, joint deterioration and cardiac problems.

Though the gene that causes progeria was isolated in 2003 by a research team that included Sam’s mother, there is still no cure. Patients live, on average, to the age of 13, typically dying of heart attacks or strokes.

The feature-length documentary “Life According to Sam,” directed by Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine, was released last year. They won an Oscar for their 2012 short documentary “Inocente,” about a homeless teenager.

“Life According to Sam” has been shown at film festivals, including Sundance, and it was broadcast on HBO in October. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said it is among 15 documentaries considered for Oscar nominations.

Through the film, through a profile in The New York Times Magazine in 2005 and through a talk he gave last year at a TEDx conference (a community-based incarnation of the TED talks) that gained wide currency on the Internet, Sam became progeria’s best-known public face.

“Life According to Sam” opens when its subject, who lived in Foxborough, is 13 and follows him for three years. He agreed to participate on one condition, which he sets forth firmly in the film: “I didn’t put myself in front of you to have you feel bad for me,” he says. “You don’t need to feel bad for me. Because I want you to get to know me. This is my life.”

Diminutive and bespectacled, Sam was a riot of enthusiasms: for math and science, comic books, scouting (he was an Eagle Scout), playing the drums and Boston-area sports teams.

In his TEDx talk, he spoke of his heart’s desire: to play the snare drum with the Foxborough High School marching band. The trouble was that the drum and its harness weighed 40 pounds. Sam weighed 50 pounds. His parents engaged an engineer to develop an apparatus weighing just six pounds. Sam marched.

sam bernsThe only child of Dr. Scott Berns, a pediatrician, and Dr. Leslie Gordon, then a pediatric intern, Sampson Gordon Berns was born in Providence, R.I., on Oct. 23, 1996. He received a diagnosis of progeria shortly before his second birthday.

Finding little medical literature about progeria, his parents, with Dr. Gordon’s sister Audrey Gordon, started the research foundation. As a result of its work, clinical trials of a drug, lonafarnib, which appears to ameliorate some effects of progeria, began in 2007. Though preliminary results are considered encouraging, the drug does not constitute a cure.

Besides his parents, Sam’s survivors include his grandparents, Alice and Lewis Berns and Barbara and Burt Gordon.At his death, Sam had been planning to apply to college, where he hoped to study genetics or cell biology.

“No matter what I choose to become, I believe that I can change the world,” he said in his TEDx talk last year. “And as I’m striving to change the world, I will be happy.”

Gong Xi Fai Cai and Welcome Year of the Horse


January 30, 2014

Gong Xi Fa Cai and Welcome Year of the Horse

Year of the Horse

As we write this message to welcome the Year of the Horse, our Chinese friends around the world are enjoying their traditional Yee Sang dinner with their family members. Dr. Kamsiah and I wish them Gong Xi Fai Cai and hope the Year of the Horse will bring good fortune and health to them and their families.

Chinese New Year picFor those in Malaysia, we wish to assure them that our country will be safe and secure, despite provocations by politicians and their supporters, if we continue to live in harmony and respect each other. We have lived side by side for generations and can continue to do so if we do not allow our emotions and prejudices to get the better of us. Let us play our part to ensure a happy and prosperous Malaysia.–Dr. Kamsiah and Din Merican

I never wrote about Dr. Mahathir in this way


January 27, 2014

NOTE: I never wrote this (below) anywhere and not on my own blog. I haveFacebook-K and D disagreed with the politics of Tun Dr. Mahathir; that is true. But I never expressed my views in this kind of language. I have too much respect for someone who was my hometown hero and my Prime Minister for 22 years of my life to resort to this approach. The person who wrote this has no guts to use his own name and instead chose to use mine. I am grateful to Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam for bringing it to my attention.–Din Merican

Please read what I wrote in July, 2013. HERE–http://dinmerican.wordpress.com/2013/07/27/no-dilemma-dr-mahathir-just-the-need-for-a-better-malaysia/?relatedposts_exclude=60920

Dr M is anti Chinese, Pure and Simple

*MAHATHIR’S OWN DILEMMA*
by Dato Din Merican
 

MAHATHIR IS OFTEN PORTRAYED NOWADAYS AS AN “ARSEHOLE” WHO DESTROYED THE UNITY OF MALAYSIANS SO THAT HE COULD PIT ONE RACE AGAINST THE OTHER AND REMAIN IN POWER TO ENABLE HIM AND HIS CRONIES TO PLUNDER THE WEALTH OF THE NATION.
AND THE SAD THING IS HE HAS NOT STOPPED DOING IT EVEN WHEN NEARING
HIS MISERABLE DEATH-BED.

PITTING THE MALAYS AGAINST THE NON MALAYS HELPS KEEP UMNO-BN IN POWER AND IT’S A SUCCESSFUL STRATEGY AT THE EXPENSE OF MALAYSIA’S VIABILITY AS A SUSTAINABLE NATION-STATE.

THIS MAMAK ARSEHOLE IS THE NEMESIS OF THE NATION AND THE DEVIL INCARNATE HIMSELF!  WHEN WILL HE GO, ONLY THE DEVIL KNOWS! SO GOD HELP US…
Dr. Mahathir has yet to deal with the ghosts of his past deeds. Here no one can help him but he himself. This is indeed tragic for a once formidable leader of our country who is advancing in years (born in 1925). He just cannot let go and now he has taken upon himself the task of interpreting Malaysian history.

It is not a Malay Dilemma or a Chinese Dilemma. It is solely Mahathir’s own dilemma. A half-breed Indian Mamak who cannot accept his original roots but must portray himself to the world that he’s more Malay than the Malay themselves. It is telling on his self inferiority complex. And in the process he is destroying Malaysia’s multiracial harmony and national cohesiveness.

* He is unwilling to come to terms with himself. Just because a Chinese taxi driver dropped him off at the labourer’s quarters instead of the main residence proper while he was a medical student in 50′s Singapore, The insult was long lasting in his mind.  His anti-Chinese feelings are not to be easily erased.  After 57 years of UMNO and government handouts, he may be right after all that the Chinese look down on the Malays as fit to be beggars and labourers.*

Let us admit this.

The Chinese community contributed enormously to the growth and the development of our country over the centuries even *BEFORE* the British arrived as colonialists.

Instead of giving them due credit for their hard work and sacrifices, UMNO is erasing their roles in the history books.UMNO is abusing them as a
national punching bag – scapegoats and bogeymen – for its own failures to uplift the living and educational standards of the Malays.

(a) The Chinese know what they want and are willing to put up with obstacles and hindrances in their way to get ahead. The Chinese will remain a resilient and viable race no matter what shit is thrown at them or put in their way.

(b)Their work ethic is the envy of all Malaysians.

(c) Their business acumen is second to none. Even the Chinese diaspora throughout southeast Asia, mainland China, Hongkong, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan knows that. Practically every Chinaman in every Chinatownthroughout the globe know what the Chinese in Malaysia is capable of. It has earned them their bragging rights.

(d) They are investing heavily in the education and future prospects of their young. Their next generation.

(e) They continue to improvise and modernize their companies and business strategies for opportunities abroad, since they cannot get contracts in our country on their own merit, and must, therefore, be sub-contractors to favored UMNO cronies cum businessmen.

*Imagine a pencil that cost 50 sen is “direct-negotiated” to cost RM5.00 a piece where the UMNO middleman sapu-ed the profit of RM4.50 (if that’s not greed, corruption and abuse of power, what is?) Taxpayer’s monies are squandered away needlessly like that and it’s normal practice.*

(e) At home, they (the Chinese) expect a government which is transparent and accountable, NOT a corrupt and abusive one. In the last election, THEY VOTED AGAINST UMNO-LED BARISAN NASIONAL FOR THIS REASON.

Are the Chinese after political power? I have Chinese friends – and Indian friends too –  with whom I discuss issues (corruption, abuse of power, discrimination, good governance, race relations, and so on).
From them I get the sense that  -

1. THEY ARE QUITE HAPPY TO HAVE A MALAY PRIME MINISTER AND A MALAY DOMINATED GOVERNMENT. THEY HAVE NO QUARREL WITH ISLAM AS THE STATE
RELIGION.
 
( DR.M & MOST OF THE SENSIBLE MALAYS KNOW VERY WELL THAT THE NON-MALAYS ARE NO REAL THREAT TO MALAY POLITICAL DOMINATION BY SIMPLE DEMOGRAPHY)
That is a given.

2, They respect our King and his brother rulers.
*The Chinese are actually the No 1 suckers for all the crappy awards and medals thrown out at every donkey sultan’s birthday party. They will even pawn their mistress’ underwear to purchase such honorific titles and awards. Pieces of shitty metal.

It is not shocking to hear some Chinese towkay pay RM300,000 to secure a VVVIP datukship.  *3) But at issue to the Chinese (and me too) is what kind of Malay leadership we should have for Malaysia.They HATE the present bunch of Malay racist leaders who use Islam to play divide and rule among the people.

THE CHINESE WANT ENLIGHTENED AND PROGRESSIVE MALAY LEADERS WHO WILL NOT USE RACE AND RELIGION FOR THEIR OWN POLITICAL ENDS. (ALL PATRIOTIC MALAYSIANS SHARE THE SAME COMMON GOOD VALUES; LESS CORRUPTION, LESS WASTAGES & GREATER EFFICIENCY & BETTER GOVERNANCE SO THAT OUR BELOVED & BLESSED MALAYSIA CAN BE COMPETITIVE & BE HAPPY, PEACEFUL &PROSPEROUS)

4. They feel that anti Chinese bashing after GE-13 should stop.

5They want to be respected as Malaysians with equal rights guaranteed by the Federal Constitution, not as pendatangs, to have some say in the affairs of state in so far as those policies affect their welfare and interests, and they want to contribute to the future development of Malaysia.

I am sure that, like me, THEY ARE DISAPPOINTED WITH A FORMER PRIME MINISTER (THE MAMAK DEVIL) WHO HAS ABANDONED HIS BANGSA MALAYSIA VISION in order to further HIS INTEREST IN SEEING A KETUANAN MELAYU 1MALAY MALAYSIA.  I will have none of this.

Just give me a Malaysia for all citizens, irrespective of race, creed, color and religion so that together we can face the challenges of a 21st century world.

- Dato Din Merican

Din Merican’s Blog: 2013 in Review


January 3, 2014

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Thank You, WordPress.com. You have been most helpful throughout 2013 Din and Kamsiahand I hope to receive your support and cooperation in 2014. I also thank all commenters for their valuable contributions, especially those identified in this report. Mr Bean has been replaced by Looes74 in the pole position. Because of citizens of the world, this blog now has clocked in 11 million+ visitors and counting. –Din Merican

Here’s an excerpt:

About 1,000,000 people visit the Seattle Space Needle every year. This blog was viewed about 3,100,000 times in 2013. If it were the Space Needle, it would take about 3 years for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Uncertainty as the Secret of Happiness


December 29, 2013

Food for Thought ahead of 2014. Negativity is the antidote to positiveFacebook-K and D thinking. So rediscover the power of negative thinking and may you find Happiness and Success, says Mr. Burkeman. For me the key to happiness is to be one’s authentic self. I have always looked at the positive side of life. Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative. That is the dictum for me. Good luck, Mr. Burkeman.–Din Merican

Against Positive Thinking: Uncertainty as the Secret of Happiness

by Maria Popova

Exploring the “negative path” to well-being.

Having studied under Positive Psychology pioneer Dr. Martin Seligman, and having read a great deal on the art-science of happiness and the role of optimism in well-being, I was at first incredulous of a book with the no doubt intentionally semi-scandalous title of The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking (public library). But, as it often turns out, author Oliver Burkeman argues for a much more sensible proposition — namely, that we’ve created a culture crippled by the fear of failure, and that the most important thing we can do to enhance our psychoemotional wellbeing is to embrace uncertainty.

Besides, the book has a lovely animated trailer — always a win

Burkeman writes in The Guardian:

[Research] points to an alternative approach [to happiness]: a ‘negative path’ to happiness that entails taking a radically different stance towards those things most of us spend our lives trying hard to avoid. This involves learning to enjoy uncertainty, embracing insecurity and becoming familiar with failure. In order to be truly happy, it turns out, we might actually need to be willing to experience more negative emotions – or, at the very least, to stop running quite so hard from them.

The American edition (once again with an uglified, dumbed down, and contrived cover design) won’t be out until November, but you can snag a British edition here, or hunt it down at your favorite public library.

http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/06/21/oliver-burkeman-the-antidote/

Greetings from Malaysia


December 24, 2013

2014Our sincere good wishes to all our friends and associates around the world. As bloghosts, Kamsiah and I are indeed grateful for your interest and support. We enjoyed reading your comments. To those are humble enough to want to learn, these comments are eye openers. Keep well and let us join the Xmas and New Year celebrations and pray that we can continue to live in peace.–Dr. Kamsiah and Din Merican

Happy Diwali 2013


November 1. 2013

Happy Diwali to all our  Hindu and Sikh friends and acquaintances

happy_deepavali__festival_of_light_

Wherever you may be in the world, Dr. Kamsiah and I extend to you and your families a Happy and Prosperous Deepavali. Let there Peace in your hearts  and goodwill towards others.

Please do not forget the millions of people who are no position to celebrate this festival of light because of poverty. Give generously to the needy and bring smiles to their faces at least for this day, if not always. May this quote from my favorite man for all times, Mahatma Gandhi, give them hope:

Gandhi“When every hope is gone, ‘when helpers fail and comforts flee,’ I find that help arrives somehow, from I know not where. Supplication, worship, prayer are no superstition; they are acts more real than the acts of eating, drinking, sitting or walking. It is no exaggeration to say that they alone are real, all else is unreal.”Mahatma Gandhi, The Story of My Experiments With Truth

Welcome to Malaysia, Ambassador Joe Yun and Mrs Yun


September 10, 2013

Welcome to Malaysia, Ambassador Joe Yun and Mrs Yun

Joseph Y. YunUS Ambassador Designate to Malaysia

Note: Joseph Y. Yun, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, currently serves as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs.  Prior to this, he served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs from 2010 to 2011.  From 2009 to 2010, he was Director of the Office of Maritime Southeast Asia.  Since joining the Foreign Service in 1985, Mr. Yun has served overseas in Korea, Thailand, France, Indonesia and Hong Kong.  Before joining the Foreign Service, he was an economist for Data Resources, Inc. in Massachusetts.

Mr. Yun received a B.S. from the Cardiff University and an M.S. and M.Phil from the London School of Economics.

–Removed by the User, Why?

Selamat Datang, Ambassador Designate to Malaysia, Excellency Joseph Y. Yun, Mrs. Melanie Yun and family. Your assignment has come at time when we  in Malaysia are working hard towards a better and more inclusive country, where we will be identified by our Malaysian nationality, not by our race, religion, colour or social status .

Don’t be too alarmed at how we Malaysians play our political games. I say that because I believe our leaders and Malaysians know that we have the potential to be the beacon of democracy and the model of economic development with equity in our region. We will, therefore, not do anything that will put that vision at risk. Malaysia is a land of many possibilities.

There is a vast reserve of goodwill towards your country, althoughDM latest our politicians do take pot shots at your country’s foreign and economic policies from time to time. Our relations are strong and well anchored to weather the occasional hiccups. Many of my compatriots and I have benefited from excellent education at American Universities.So you will be among friends who have been exposed to American education, music, theater and the arts.

You are also the beneficiary of the efforts of all your predecessors and I am sure given your engaging personality, you will take our bilateral relations to a new level as the US engages itself once again in our region. Welcome and have a great tour of duty.--Din Merican

Selamat Hari Raya Aidil Fitri


August 7, 2013

Greetings to All Fellow Muslims and Friends

Aidil Fitr

My wife Dr. Kamsiah and I wish you, my Fellow Muslims, and our friends in Malaysia and around the world Selamat Hari Raya, Maaf Zahir & Batin. It is that time when we Muslims celebrate the arrival of Syawal and bid fond farewell to Ramadan, the holiest month in the Muslim calender. We also wish you all good health and happiness and  thank  you for your kind wishes and support throughout the year for this blog.

Congratulations to Dean Barry Desker


July 18, 2013

Congratulations to Dean Barry Desker of The RajaratnamSAM_0358 School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. This is a well deserved honour in recognition of his outstanding diplomatic and academic career. I join his colleagues and friends in the region and in Singapore in wishing him all the very best for the future.

You have to know Dean Desker to appreciate his considerable talents and warm personality. It was my privilege to have met and talked to him on regional and global issues. I value his insights and above all his humility. Thanks Ambassador Mushahid Ali for introducing me to Dean Desker a few years ago at the Asia-Pacific Roundtable organised by ISIS-Malaysia.–Din Merican

Ambassador Barry Desker, Dean of RSIS, Conferred Honorary Degree by University of Exeter

“Ambassador Desker’s skilful balancing of academia and policy-oriented work has clearly made the RSIS the leading research organisation in the region. Building that reputation from such a low base has taken enormous skill and the full use of his diplomatic training. The result is that he now leads what is not only the Asia-Pacific leading research think tank, but also one of the major powerhouses of policy development and research into international relations, terrorism, security studies, and the politics of the Asia Pacific region in the world. We are proud to be developing an association with RSIS, and I am personally proud to be able to salute and recognise the extraordinary contribution of this diplomat, thinker and leader.”– Professor Sir Steve Smith, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive, University of Exeter

Ambassador Barry Desker, Dean of RSIS, has been conferred the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, by the University of Exeter.

This honorary degree was conferred in recognition of his huge contribution to public life in East Asia and Singapore, and for his world-leading leadership and scholarship in the field of international relations.



Professor Sir Steve Smith (left) and Ambassador Barry Desker

Ambassador Desker received his degree from Baroness Floella Benjamin OBE DL, Chancellor of the University of Exeter, during a ceremony held at the University’s Streatham campus in the United Kingdom on 16 July 2013. Professor Sir Steve Smith, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of the University of Exeter, delivered the oration.

In his oration, Prof Sir Steve, who is also a member of the RSIS Board of Governors, said, “Above all, we are recognising a man who since 2000, has taken a Singapore-based think tank to be a world ranking graduate school of international relations. As an external examiner at RSIS, I have had an opportunity to see this transformation first hand. Ambassador Desker’s skilful balancing of academia and policy-oriented work has clearly made RSIS the leading research organisation in the region. Building that reputation from such a low base has taken enormous skill and the full use of his diplomatic training. The result is that he now leads what is not only the Asia Pacific’s leading research think tank, but also one of the major powerhouses of policy development and research into international relations, terrorism, security studies, and the politics of the Asia Pacific region and the world.” Please click HERE to read the full oration.

In his acceptance speech, Ambassador Desker said, “My own institution, the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, has had excellent ties with Exeter. Sir Steve Smith, the Vice-Chancellor, has been an external examiner, and is a member on our Board of Governors. As I was a newcomer to university administration, he served as a mentor and fount of wisdom in dealing with the challenges of managing faculty and building an institution which is a combination of a professional school of international affairs and a think tank. We have also had Exeter faculty as visiting professors.” Please click HERE to read the full speech.

Time to appreciate life’s details


July 14, 2013

Time to appreciate life’s details

MY COMMENT: The writer deals with the simple things in life, although life in my view is far from the simple. A lot has been written about how the brain works and how we perceive and make decisions. Most tend to be very technical in nature. They can be boring when one like me is not trained in neuroscience. 

SAM_0593

At Arlington National Cemetery– The Hallowed Ground for Patriots

But I can connect with Wan A. Hulaimi when he argues that we only see what we want to see. That is true. Every time, for example, when I am driven to KLCC, along the way I see “new” things which escaped my attention previously.These things are not new, they could have been there for ages,  only that I did not notice them before.

Beyond that, I think Wan has a message for those with their noses up in the air, those in power and those people who got rich suddenly (usually from political patronage),and having got there, these people can no longer connect with ordinary folks like you and I, and our country cousins. They think they are like superman and can succeed in anything they, like Midas, undertake. Their hedonism betrays them and they have forgotten to be humble, and are disrespectful of their environment and look down on the less fortunate among us.

Our young are taught to think about making money by all and any means, not about ethical and moral values for a fulfilling life. Money, they are told, means success, the limelight and the glitter of celebrity status. As Wan says, “The life of a celebrity is valued more than that of the common people; the high reach of junk bond dealers is more noble than the quiet labour of an ordinary worker. Oh how we clamour for the seven secrets of successful people.” It is time to get real and stay connected again. Life will be richer, more fulfilling and happier that way. At least that is my view.–Din Merican

CLAMOURING FOR THE UNREAL: Stop trying to be superhuman and come back down to our level

by Wan A Hulaimi@http://www.nst.com.my

Wan A. HulaimiTHERE used to be a course in awareness called Pelmanism, a rigorous mental-training that was designed to make the brain more aware. You started it basically by willing yourself to see more: look at the trees, walk the street, feel the pavement, look closer. So much I gathered from a cursory reading of the subject in a book someone gave me, though you will say that knowledge of it so gleaned is paradoxical.

How could Pelmanism make you aware of so many things when your mind is designed to focus only on a few? I touched on this previously when talking about talking on the mobile phone while driving: it has been proved again and again that there are things out there that you will not see, even if you persuade yourself that you will.

Our brain is designed to sift the important from the unnecessary, as it does when it is overloaded with data. More than that, it also blots out things that you do not expect to see — which is why cyclists are always at peril even when they use a red light on the back of their helmets that flash incessantly in a field where tail-lights come in pairs. In a famous experiment conducted at Harvard, now widely known as the invisible gorilla, a group of people watching basketball players passing balls failed to notice a gorilla that strolled into view and stayed there for nine seconds.

There are things that we take for granted and there are things that we do not see, unless we look for them specifically. It is an awareness that can make you more tranquil and even lead to tranquillity. I define tranquillity for this purpose as an appreciation of subtlety, quiet and a desire to look for meaning in a jumbled-up, whirring world that spins like a tumble dryer. We have to look specifically for them or we’ll miss them totally.

How often do we look? I mean really look? Our life is so intruded by the brutal, the block-busting and the garish that we no longer look at it in its detail. It is all there stated and overstated before you: a big red building like Google’s as opposed to the under-stated but meaningful. This is a cry-it-out-loud world of expletives and superlatives and books of records that have little meaning except as a form of itself. The life of a celebrity is valued more than that of the common people; the high reach of junk bond dealers is more noble than the quiet labour of an ordinary worker. Oh how we clamour for the seven secrets of successful people.

We have lost the ordinary in this clamour for the unreal. Hence the tall building culture, the loftiest, biggest, deepest and most imposing in the world. It is all the attention grabbing that defines our path to nirvana now, and that nirvana will only be superseded by another bigger, brighter, more daring by far. We are running on the same spot and we are running to nowhere. Define contentedness when all your success gurus are telling you to reach and reach further; there are so many motivating coaches out there now that we sometimes wonder about what motivates the motivator.

How many schools now take children out to look at old architecture? How many make children look at the beauty of trees, how many tell them it is OK not to be super successful but more meaningful for them to enjoy the littlest thing that they do? But no, we are all too busy at the treadmill and running and running in the pursuit of that last frontier. We want super-brained children with the IQ of chess wizards and we throw bundles to the wayside that are labelled “Morals” and “Empathy”.

These are things that we neglect at our peril and that we will not see as more attention grabbing things are thrown at us in this world.

This is the lack of seeing that destroys our living environment, a grasping at the garishly outstanding and disregard for the silently valuable. You may have seen some of this around you: the filling up of historical sites in a city with McDs and other icons of popular culture to make them come to life — for tourists mostly. Recently, at an award ceremony in London, a Malaysian man proudly proclaimed that in his state, they are going to upgrade a heritage site by placing an establishment there called Hard Rock Cafe.

We have too many trees pulled down, too many buildings demolished, too many hills leveled by the whims of thrusting developers. We can preserve and plan to make ourselves and our children more tranquil, but we have built to put ourselves on a constant high, and others in awe.

Time to stop trying to be superhuman and come back down to our own level. It’s the kindness that touches and humanity that fills us with glad. In our deeds, in what we keep and build, and in what we know. Time to look now and appreciate life’s details.

Wan A Hulaimi is author of the bestseller A Map of Trengganu. He resides in the United Kingdom.

 

The passing of Dato’ Dr. Mahani Zainal Abidin


June 23, 2013

Waldorf-Astoria, New York City

Dr Kamsiah and I are saddened by the loss of a dear friend, Economist Dr Mahani Zainal Abidin, Chief Executive, ISIS Malaysia, who was laid to rest at Bukit Kiara Cemetery today. She will be remembered by all who were privileged to know her as a competent and dedicated professional. Our condolences to her bereaved family. Semoga Allah mencucuri rahmat keatas roh Allahyarmah Mahani. Al-Fatihah.–Din Merican.

http://www.nst.com.my

June 23, 2013

Farewell to Economist Dato Mahani Zainal Abidin of ISIS Malaysia

Economist Dato’ Dr Mahani Zainal Abidin, who died of cancer at the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Hospital (HUKM) this afternoon, was laid to rest at the Bukit Kiara Muslim cemetery at 9pm tonight.

Mahani is survived by husband, Hamidon Howell Miller and son, James Imran Miller. James Imran described her as a great mother who tried her best to motivate others.”She was always a cheerful and happy person,” he added.

Dr Mahani Zainal AbidinAside from being considered as an outstanding economist and a leader in public policy, Mahani was also one of the brains behind the formulation of the New Economic Model (NEM) and was involved in the formulation of policies during the 1998 economic crises.

Mahani obtained her doctorate in development economics from the University of London in 1992 and was Professor in the Department of Applied Economics at the Faculty of Economics and Administration, University of Malaya until 2007.

Dr Mahani was also the Chief Executive Officer of the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS).

In 2001, she was appointed the head of the Special Consultancy team on Globalisation of the National Economic Action Council and from 2005 to 2007, was the Higher Education Ministry deputy director-general (Private Institution of Higher Learning).

She was a member of the Board of Trustees of the 1Malaysia Foundation, a commissioner of the Public Land Transport Commission, the deputy president of the Malaysian Economic Association and a member of the International Steering Committee for the Pacific Trade and Development (PAFTAD).

Best Wishes from New York


New York

Best Wishes from New York

waldorf_astoria_nyc_abcn_773644415

The Waldorf Astoria on Park Avenue, New York

Blogging from the Waldorf Astoria on Park Avenue. Emirates A-380 landed safely at JFK on schedule this afternoon from Dubai. This airline enjoys the reputation of being a flyer that leaves and arrives on time. The services  were excellent. It was an exhausting journey for Dr. Kamsiah and I. I will resume serious blogging  tomorrow.–Din Merican

Post GE13: What Malaysians want


May 14, 2013

Post GE13: What Malaysians want

by Dr Kua Kia Soong (05-13-13)@http://www.malaysiakini.com

COMMENT: In the aftermath of GE13, UMNO wants to know what BN detractors want. Malaysians have felt frustrated and sidetracked by their attempt at communalising the election results, something they have been doing even before Independence.

BN did their worst – did we do our best? Have dissident Malaysian voters been asking what they want in this election apart from “Ubah (Change)” and lowering the price of petrol? Anything But UMNO (ABU) is an ‘away from’ response. Have we listed out ‘towards’ demands?

With all the visible injustice and foul play in the GE13, there is understandably plenty of pent-up frustration and anger among those who have experienced being wronged. And we know that that the roots of that injustice are to be found in an electoral system that has for years been inherently flawed.

Having seen the videos of violence against migrant ‘voters’ during this election makes me wonder if such a reaction is at least in part, the result of misplaced expectations. If the BN government had listened to the demands by Malaysian civil society, they would not be asking us what we want after the election.

Ambiga's Bersih

The following are some of our fundamental demands which call for an end to corruption, oppression and racism, and the reinstatement of justice, democracy and human rights:

1. One person, one vote

We have known about gerrymandering in the country for decades and yet there was the false hope that GE13 was going to overcome this major impediment to electoral fair play.

azlanNotice that BERSIH’s eight demands are short-term and do not include this mother of all unfree and unfair aspects of Malaysian elections, namely, undemocratic constituency delineation.

The original Merdeka constitution provided that in drawing up constituencies, “there shall not be more than a difference of 15 percent in the number of electors of any constituency to the electoral quota.”

The “electoral quota” or national average, was defined as the number obtained by dividing the number of electors in the federation by the total number of constituencies. Section 2(c) of the Thirteenth Schedule had stipulated that “the number of electors within each constituency ought to be approximately equal throughout the unit of review.”

The constitution was amended in 1962 transferring the power to delimit parliamentary constituencies from the Election Commission (EC) to a bare majority of parliament.

A new Thirteenth Schedule sets out certain new features permitting a weightage of up to 2:1 in favour of rural constituencies, thus enabling differences of 100 percent between urban and rural seats.

A further constitutional amendment in 1973 took away altogether the original check in the Thirteenth Schedule on there being too great a disparity between urban and rural seats.

Today, the absurdity of constituency delineation in Malaysia is exemplified by the contrast between 10,000 voters at Putrajaya federal constituency and more than 100,000 at Kapar, a disparity of more than 10:1.

The Malaysian Chinese organisations, which endorsed the joint declaration before the 1986 general election, focused on this demand for fair constituency delineation as one of the main objectives for their civil rights committee. But they have not followed up on this demand since then.

Thus, this reform to the Malaysian electoral system should take top priority and not creating false hopes that lead to mobs beating up migrants.

2. End racism and racial discrimination

Racism in the form of Malay-centric ideology has been the main instrument of rule by the UMNOputras ever since they have been in power. Their “1 Malaysia” exists only as a slogan – how else can they justify blatant racial discrimination in the economic, educational and social sectors?

Thus, as soon as dissident voters show them what they think of the charade, the same trite rhetorical question is posed by their propaganda machines: “What more do they want?”

HindrafOne would have thought that the leaders of Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) knew that.Furthermore, I have shared the same rostrum with some of these Hindraf leaders at forums where I have pointed out that state racism in Malaysia has taken a morbid turn toward victimising ethnic Indians, especially the poor and marginalised.

This is seen in the disproportionate number of Indians among the victims of Police shootings and deaths in custody. The implementation of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) should have been Hindraf’s non-negotiable demand to the BN government.

I had assumed that the Hindraf leaders would understand this analysis of state racism in Malaysia and the requisite political practice that logically followed from that analysis.

Unfortunately, their theory and practice has followed the same backward example of “racial bargaining” typical of the MIC and the MCA. They have chosen to back the hegemonic oppressor and exploiter of the masses on the eve of the election by using the flimsiest excuse about being rebuffed by Pakatan Rakyat. But then such opportunism has been seen ever since careerist politics came into existence.

I stand to be proven wrong and will render an unreserved apology to these Hindraf leaders if they prove to be dedicated and selfless activists who refuse to accept any government or bureaucratic posts in this administration but operate as an NGO to monitor the implementation of their “blueprint”.

One would have thought that the abolition of the New Economic Policy (NEP) should have been the sine qua non for Hindraf in any tryst with the two coalitions since the NEP is the main perpetrator of racial discrimination in Malaysian society and the main obstacle to progress.

The actions of the Hindraf leaders seem to suggest that they condone the NEP as long as the Indians also get a slice of the cake –regardless of whether any slice is apportioned to the Orang Asli, the poor Chinese and others.

I might add that in their exuberance for “Ubah”, the dissident voters neglected to call for the abolition of the NEP which had a sell-by date of 1990.

Consequently, Pakatan got off easy with a manifesto that did not have to promise abolishing the NEP if they got into power. We have since been promised a mythical “withering away of the NEP” if Pakatan comes into power.

These are the nuts and bolts of racism and racial discrimination in Malaysia that reforming Malaysians should respond to instead of the knee-jerk reaction to the racism that underpins UMNO and that has not changed ever since the umnosaurus had spots.

3. Elected local government

We want this third tier of government to be elected by the people and not appointed by the state governments as prizes for toadies. Again, this vital democratic demand was not in the Pakatan manifesto and negligent “democrats” must take some of the blame for this oversight.

An elected local government should go hand-in-hand with the reform to decentralise government and empower people at the local level to take charge of education, transport, housing and even community policing.

4. End corruption

Corruption in Malaysia needs to be curbed effectively through:

  • The setting up an Independent Anti-Corruption Commission answerable to parliament with the power to recommend prosecutions for all offences of corrupt practice;
  • A Public Accounts Committee in parliament that is chaired by an opposition member of parliament and not by the ruling coalition;
  • Tighter regulation to prevent money laundering and the outflow of illicit money;
  • Eliminating opportunities for corruption by proscribing the “revolving door” opportunities between the civil and armed services and the private sector;
  • Ensuring the government ministry or department head accounts for every discrepancy in the annual auditor-general’s report and pays for any negligence or corruption involved;
  • Open tendering all privatised projects;
  • For all wakil rakyat and heads of civil and armed services to declare their assets and those of their family’s.

5. Uphold the Rule of Law

The Rule of Law ensures that laws are enforced impartially and there is full protection of human rights, especially for minorities. This requires the existence of an independent judiciary, an impartial civil service, and an incorruptible police force.

The BN government has often confused the rule of law with rule by law, in which the law is a mere tool for the government that suppresses in a legalistic fashion.

Good governance to uphold the Rule of Law requires:

  • Repealing all laws that allow torture, whipping, detention-without-trial and incommunicado detention;
  • Abolishing the death penalty in Malaysia;
  • Ratifying the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social & Cultural Rights, the Convention against Torture and the Convention on Refugees;
  • Implementing the IPCMC;
  • Establishing a law reform commission to restore the independence of the judiciary;
  • Reviewing the federal constitution and all laws that are unjust and violate human rights, and resolve the conflict of jurisdiction between civil and syariah laws;
  • Establishing a royal commission of inquiry (RCI) to solve once and for all the problem of citizenship for Malaysians, their foreign spouses as well as the problem of undocumented migrants in the country;
  • Ensuring social justice for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBT).

6. Human rights of women, workers and indigenous peoples

Good governance requires:

  • Respect for women’s human rights and dignity including incorporating the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (Cedaw) and its provisions into national law;
  • Reviewing and amending all laws and constitutional provisions that discriminate on the basis of gender;
  • Confronting sexism and prejudice based on gender stereotypes;
  • Equal pay for women holding similar posts as men;
  • Ensuring through competent national tribunals and other public institutions the effective protection of women against any act of discrimination.

Workers’ rights must be recognised by:

  • Ensuring labour laws are compatible with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention;
  • Encouraging and promoting workers’ unionisation;
  • Legislating a progressive guaranteed minimum wage for all workers, including foreign workers;
  • Abolishing the contractor for labour system and restoring direct two-party employment relationship between principal and owners of workplaces and the workers that work therein;
  • Ensuring all workers are employed as permanent employees who enjoy all benefits, including maternity rights and an extended retirement age.

Recognise the right of the Orang Asal to self-determination, sustainable development and protect the native customary rights of the Orang Asal to their traditional lands and territories.

7. Freedoms of expression, assembly and association

Full participation in a democratic society requires the freedoms of expression, assembly and association to prevail.

The freedom of expression and information cannot prevail until we:

  • Abolish the Sedition Act, the Official Secrets Act and the Film Censorship Act;
  • Enact a Freedom of Information (FOI) Act at federal and state levels which is reflective of the peoples’ right to know, with the public interest as the overriding principle;
  • Prevent the monopoly of ownership and control of the press and broadcasting stations by political parties or corporate bodies.

Media organs paid for by tax payers – including RTM and Selangor Times – must be independent and not be used as propaganda organs of the ruling coalitions.

Malaysians want a competent and efficient institutions.

Malaysians want a competent and efficient institutions.

Good governance relating to the freedoms of assembly and association entails repealing the Police Act, the Societies Act, the Universities and University Colleges Act (UUCA), Peaceful Assembly Act 2011 and other relevant laws which restrict these fundamental freedoms, and granting students of voting age the full freedoms enjoyed by other Malaysian citizens.

These were some of the fundamental demands of the Malaysian civil society in the GE13 together with those for a progressive economic, fiscal, defence, energy, environmental, educational, social and cultural policies.

The BN and Pakatan coalitions would do well to note what Malaysians want in the 13th general election.