Malaysia: We have lost our core values

November 25, 2015

We have lost our core values based on respect, care and compassion, says FA Abdul. Cash is King under Najib’s Gua Tolong Lu, Lu Tolong Gua Philosophy

by fa Abdul

Family ties, brotherhood, friendship and a common sense of respect and understanding are becoming such a rarity in our society. Everyone is talking about togetherness and a sense of belonging but fewer and fewer people are practising it.-fa abdul

Respect for the Old

Everyone is talking about togetherness and a sense of belonging but fewer and fewer people are practising it.

When I was a little girl, there was a man who lived opposite our place. He was as old as my grandpa so I referred to him as ‘Tok’. Tok never talked much to anyone. He was always busy.

Every morning, he would ride his old bicycle to the marketplace where he sold Indian spices or ‘masala’ as we knew it. At noon, he returned home for a quick shower, lunch and prayers before returning to work. Later in the afternoon, he would get groceries on his way back home. This was his routine every day.

Tok had seven children – four boys and three girls. They were all grown ups and had their own families, yet they always stayed over at Tok’s house. Most of the time Tok and his wife took care of their grandchildren while their own parents, i.e. Tok’s children, were away working.

As I grew older, so did Tok. His forehead became wider and his hair became whiter – even the ones on his chest. I remember sitting by the street in front of my house, enjoying some cream crackers soaked into a cup of hot ginger tea, watching him cycle home. Over the years, his paddling became slower and slower.

Tok’s family grew bigger in size as the years passed. He had more grandchildren and in-laws. And their small house became more and more crowded with people and filled with much more laughter. I used to envy them because there was so much more going on in their house compared to my quiet home.

When I moved out came to the city some fifteen years ago, my mom kept me updated about Tok and his family. From time to time she would tell me how they were doing. I learned that his wife had become ill, most of his children had moved out and his health had deteriorated.

A few years ago, Tok’s wife passed away at the age of 85. Tok was devastated. After spending all his life with the woman he loved, he was now alone although he still had his children and family. At the age of almost 90, he was forced to stop working. He had to stay home.

There were a few times when Tok took his old bicycle and disappeared. According to mom, whenever this happened the entire family would embark on a search mission to find him. Once, after searching all night for him, they finally found him a few kilometres away from where his masala shop used to be, laying by the roadside, shivering. He had gotten lost and couldn’t find his way home.

That was when the entire family decided that it was in his best interest that he moved in with one of them. They did not think he could be left alone in his old house. But the question was, who would take care of him? Apparently, it wasn’t easy for seven children to take care of one ailing father. Thus, Tok was sent to a home for the elderly.

The last time mom and I spoke about Tok, she told me that Tok had celebrated Hari Raya with his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Mom who visited him said he looked happy and at peace until it was time to return to the home for the elderly, Tok cried and hugged a pillar of the house. He refused to let go.

Just a while ago, I received a text message from mom – Tok has passed away. He closed his eyes at the home for the elderly, surrounded by strangers, far from those he loved his entire life.

I realise this column is usually used as a platform to talk about politics, current issues and matters of our country, however, I decided to write something different today as I feel that our society desperately needs to get re-connected with its lost soul.

Every day we indulge in talk about corruption, racism and bigotry. We criticise those whom we feel are contributing to the illness that is creeping under our skins. Yet we ignore the fact that our values as a society are deteriorating by the day.

Family ties, brotherhood, friendship and a common sense of respect and understanding are becoming such a rarity in our society. Everyone is talking about togetherness and a sense of belonging but fewer and fewer people are practising it.

Perhaps Tok is in a better place now…Al-Fatihah. May you rest in peace, Tok.


A Malaysian Editor’s Tribute to India’s 11th President, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam

August 7, 2015

A Malaysian Editor’s Tribute to India’s 11th President, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam

by Dorairaj Nadason Executive Editor. The Star

Kalam and Corruption

Dr APJ Abdul Kalam was not a politician, but he was a true leader of men and a great success story. He was a poor kid who became a role model for leaders around the world.

THE VVIP walked to the stage to loud applause, flanked by the hosts. He passed the speaker’s podium. And stopped in his tracks. There, before him, were two rows of seats with a special chair in the centre for him, comfortable cushions and all.

The man flatly refused to move unless the chair was removed.“Get me a chair just like the ­others,” he demanded.The hosts were flustered. They rushed around before deciding to remove the comfortable chair and place one of the other chairs there instead.

Placated, the VVIP walked over, raised his hands to the crowd and sat. And the crowd rose as one to give Dr Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Kalam  a standing ovation.

Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, who died on July 27, was that kind of man – a humble leader who always consi­dered himself one of the millions of ordinary Indians.

He was no ordinary man, though. He has even been compared with Mahatma Gandhi, the man behind India’s independence and the great movement called satyagraha (passive resistance) and ahimsa (non-vio­lence).

Like Gandhi, he owned precious little but for most Indians of today, he was the most precious thing in the country. He was scientist, philosopher, poet, leader, teacher, medical researcher, missile man – and, above all, the People’s President.

When Dr Kalam was made President, he went into Rashtrapati Bhavan, the presidential palace, with two bags of clothes. Five years later, his tenure done, he left the palace – with the same two bags.

Kalam and Love of Books

Aides tell of how he used to wear the same few coats and shirts – some were frayed – although he was asked to buy new ones. To his death, he owned little. He had some 2,500 books, a wristwatch, six shirts, four trousers, three suits and a pair of shoes. He did not own property. Not even a fridge, TV, car or air conditioner.

He survived on the royalties from his books – he authored four of them – and his pension. He did not believe in accepting money from anyone. And his penchant was in driving this message home to the youths of India.


“If you know your father bought that car with money that he did not rightfully earn, tell him that you will never sit in the car. And stick to your words,” he said.He wanted them to walk or cycle rather than ride in a car bought with ill-gotten wealth.

He said if society was to be fighting corruption, there were three key people who could make it happen – the father, the mother and the teacher. And he was the teacher.

He told youths to dream, not idle dreams, but dreams that would  come true. Dreams, he said, are not what you see when you are asleep. They are what keep you from sleeping.

He was a devout Muslim – the son of an imam – but also a man who embraced all religions.

Born in Rameshwaram, an island in the southernmost tip of India, he grew up with the famed Ramanatha Swami temple towering over him. His best friend was Ramananda Shashtri, the son of a Hindu priest.

For great men, he said, religion was a way of making friends. “Small people make religion a fighting tool,” he said. And he lived up to his doctrine.

During his visit to Malaysia, he walked the street of harmony – Jalan Kapitan Keling – in Penang. At St George’s Church, he stood in front of the cross and recited a prayer. At the Kuan Yin temple down the road, he prayed with joss sticks in his palms. Then, he walked over to the Sri Mahamariamman Temple where he paid his respects.

As he stepped out to loud Indian traditional music, the crowd mobbed him. He took the mike and told the crowd in his native Tamil language to recite after him his favourite mantra. And, with a fervour seldom seen there, they chanted:

If there is righteousness in the heart, there is beauty in the character;

If there is beauty in the character, there is harmony in the home;

If there is harmony in the home, there is order in the nation;

If there is order in the nation, there is peace in the world.

Then, it was over to the Kapitan Kling mosque where he was ­greeted by the imam. He planted a tree – tree-planting to stop global warming was another great drive of his – and then joined a congregation of fellow Muslims in zohor prayers.

It was a lesson in harmony, on Harmony Street.He may have been the man behind India’s killing machines, its rockets and bombs. But he was a man who loved every soul as his own. The only sad thing is: he was never an elected leader, one who could have made a difference in politics and policies. He was just a titular head of state.

But Dr Kalam died every inch a statesman, and as a role model for those in public life throughout the world. Even in death, he left a ­memorable legacy. Don’t declare a holiday on my death, he said.

“If you want to remember me, work an extra day,” he said.In Jaipur, not only did they not have holiday on the day he died, all civil servants came back to work last Sunday to honour his words.

Dr Kalam may not have wanted a holiday upon his death but there are days for him. In Switzerland, May 26 – the day he visited the country – is World Science Day. And his birthday on Oct 15 is World Students Day. He was a teacher to his last breath.


Condolences to the People of India on the Passing of President APJ Abdul Kalam

July 28, 2015

A Tribute to India’s 11th President, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam

He went from distributing newspapers after school during childhood to become the President of our country. He was awarded Padma Bhushan, Padma Vibhushan and Bharat Ratna – the highest civilian honour. Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam made every day of his life count for all it’s worth, till very last breath he took yesterday.

Former President of India and reputed scientist Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam passed away on Monday evening at a hospital in Meghalaya. Reports say he collapsed while delivering a lecture at Indian Institute of Management in Shillong and was admitted in the hospital in a very critical condition.

The 11th President of our country was 83 when he passed away. The doctors reportedly said that he suffered from a cardiac arrest.

The Logical Indian Community pays tribute to Late Dr. Kalam with a heavy heart. Though he was known by many tags –‘People’s president’, ‘Missile Man’, ‘The man behind Vision 2020’; He will not only be remembered for the immeasurably remarkable achievements and marks he left behind, but surely as a Great Human, for his determined character, for his love, for his patriotism, for he could ignite our minds. We recapitulate some of the well known bits and parts of his life below as the nation recovers from the sudden demise of Late Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam:

•    Dr. Kalam was born in Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu on October 15, 1931, to a humble boat owner.  A determined soul since childhood, he started working at an early age to contribute to the family income.  He was brought up in a multi-religious, tolerant society; one with a progressive outlook. He overcame all odds and carried on to pursue graduation in physics and later study aerospace engineering on a scholarship.

•    His first mark for our country was his accomplishments as a Scientist. Late Dr. Kalam joined Aeronautical Development Establishment of Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) in 1960.

•    Nine years later he was transferred to Indian Space Research Organization. Late Dr. Kalam claimed that joining ISRO was one of his biggest achievements in life. He said he found himself when he started to work on the Satellite Launching Vehicle (SLV) project. Dr. Kalam made significant contribution as Project Director to develop India’s first indigenous Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV-III) which successfully injected the Rohini satellite in the near earth orbit in July 1980 and made India an exclusive member of Space Club. Dr. Kalam took up responsibilities for developing Indigenous Guided Missiles at the DRDO which led to the development of AGNI and PRITHVI missiles.

He also led the Pokhran-II nuclear tests that made India a nuclear weapon country. His remarkable contributions to the space and defense programs of our country would be one of the reasons for the country’s success.

•    In 2002, both the ruling party, Bhartiya Janta Party, and the Opposition Party, Congress came together to elect him as the 11th President of India. After serving a term of 5 years, he returned to civilian life of education, writing and public service. He has written a number of books and documentaries, the best known being Wings of Fire and Ignited Mind. A recipient of a number of awards, he topped them all by Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honor in 1997.

He saw a dream for our country known as Vision 2020. He wanted to see our nation standing amongst the developed countries of the world. The only real tribute to him would be when we manage to achieve that goal as a united country.  “A dream is not that which you see while sleeping, it is something that does not let you sleep,” as he famously said.

The Centre has declared a national mourning of seven days.

“Dr. Kalam was a man of impeccable character, indomitable spirit, profound knowledge and firm conviction. His death is an irreparable loss to this nation. He has left a big void hard to fill,” said home minister Rajnath Singh.

The Logical Indian Community bids farewell to one of the greatest presidents our country has witnessed. May your soul Rest in Peace, Dr. Kalam. You will always remain immortal in our hearts and memories for generations to come.

The Passing of India’s 11th President Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam

by Dan Kedmey

Condolences to the Family, Friends, Admirers and the People of India on the passing of a brilliant and humble Rocket Scientist, APJ Abdul Kalam–Dr. Kamsiah and Din Merican

President Abdul Kalam

The renowned rocket scientist served as the nation’s 11th President

Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam, one of India’s most renowned rocket scientists who served as the nation’s 11th president, died of cardiac arrest on Monday at the age of 83.

Kalam was hospitalized after collapsing during a lecture in the northeastern city of Shillong, local media station NDTV reports. He held longstanding leadership positions for India’s defense and space programs, and was elected President with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in July of 2002.

Tributes poured in from Indian luminaries on social media, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and world-renowned cricket player Sachin Tendulkar

Kalam told TIME in a 1998 interview that he developed an early fascination with flight while growing up on the south Indian isle of Rameshwaram. “Then there were a lot of birds on the island,” he said, “and I used to watch their beautiful flight paths. That got me interested in aeronautics.”

Cambridge- educated Economist Dato’ Malek Merican passes on

July 10, 2015

I just learned  this morning of the passing of Dato’ Malek Ali Merican, a senior and illustrious member of the Merican family. I suddenly remembered him and googled his name and read the following news clip (below) in The Star.

My wife Dr. Kamsiah and I wish to convey our belated condolences to Omar, Azmi and Karina Merican, Dato’ Dr. Mahmood Merican and Datin Ragayah and other members of his family and our relatives on their bereavement. I missed this sad news as I seldom read The Star and other mainstream newspapers.

Malek and MahmoodDato’ Malek and Dato Dr. Mahmood Merican

Dato Malek and his wife Datin Gaik Merican were in Washington DC  when I was a student there in 1968-1970. They were kind and helpful to me. I remember enjoying lunches with Dato’ Malik at the IMF-World Bank Executive Lounge and the excellent meals at their home. We talked about May 13, when we heard of the racial riots in the wires and tried to figure out how and why it happened. We agreed at the time that it had to do with politics..

When I was in Sime Darby, I had the opportunity to work with him in his capacity as Director of Corporate Affairs and Planning before he joined Arab-Malaysian  Merchant Bank. I shall miss this brilliant Cambridge trained economist who was also with the Malaysian Treasury when Tun Tan Siew Sin who was the Minister of Finance. We last met at Omar’s private ceremony to honour his late mother, Datin Gaik. My economic tutor and mentor, Tan Sri Rama Iyer was also present. I shall remember Dato’ Malek for his contributions to our country. May Allah Bless his soul.–Din Merican

The Passing of Dato Malek Ali Merican

The Star (–June 12, 2015

KUALA LUMPUR: The late Dato’ Malek Merican had an illustrious career in the banking industry, and was renowned for setting a strong foundation for Amlnvestment Bank.

Malek, who passed away on Tuesday, June 9, 2015, at the age of 80, joined AmMerchant Bank Bhd in 1982. He resigned as the Managing Director of AmMerchant Bank Bhd in November 1989 and served as the Vice Chairman of Malayan United Industries Bhd and Managing Director of MUI Bank Bhd until 1990. He rejoined the board of AmMerchant Bank Bhd in May 1990 and served until May 2004. He was also a board member of Pheim Emerging (M) Bhd and Pheim Unit Trusts Bhd in the 2000s.

An economics graduate from Cambridge University, he also holds a Bachelor of Letters in Economics from Oxford University. He served the Treasury for 15 years from 1958 and finally as the Deputy Secretary-General for the Finance, Economic and Tax divisions. Between 1969 and 1971, he was seconded as alternate Executive Director representing 10 countries of Southeast Asia on the Board of the International Monetary Fund.

He was the Deputy at Aseambankers Malaysia Bhd and subsequently made the Managing Director from 1974 to 1979. Prior to joining AmMerchant Bank, he was the Group Director of Corporate Affairs and Planning at Sime Darby Bhd.

Azmi Merican remembers his Dad, Dato’ Malek Merican

My father passed away on June 9. There might be some obits in the local business press but they are not out yet. He had been battling Parkinson’s Disease. Yesterday I got an urgent call but when I got to his place twenty minutes later he was already gone probably due to sudden heart failure.

He was an intelligent man with a gentle appearance. Yet he was an investment banker. My mother once said that he was “absolutely useless” with a deep sigh. How have you arrived at this withering assessment I asked? On account of the fact that he has never made a cup of tea for himself. Or anyone else for that matter.

After my mother passed away I took him out for dinner to investigate this allegation. Surely he had made a cup of tea once in his student days? It’s not rocket science. You boil the kettle. You put a tea bag in a mug. Pour in the water. Voila.The thing is my father’s student days were a tad privileged. He got a scholarship.

Over that meal he told me proudly of how two gentlemen from the [British] Colonial Office turned up to Kuala Kangsar to interview* him* for Cambridge. My father had attended Malay College Kuala Kangsar an Etonian-like college set up by the British. He was the Head Boy. I gathered that he passed the interview.

Then he told me a bit about life in Corpus College Cambridge. You had your meals at specific times in a dining hall (I visualized it as oak paneled). You went to college during term time. You spent your scholarship allowance. You dressed in robes to lectures. Your robes were laid out for you by a porter (sort of like a concierge.) each morning. This was Cambridge in the 1950s. He had a personal tutor. ( A Mr.Macrum who became a Headmaster at Eton College).

Malek cup of tea? Well I supposed the porter made it. My jaw dropped a bit. I realized he didn’t watch “Downton Abbey” because of some quaint cultural fascination. He used to live in that world. And still does. He proudly told me that he felt that he got a better education in those days than you do now.

So after Cambridge he went to Oxford. Then he worked in the Treasury where he became the Secretary General. (A 6 month training course to the IMF in Washington DC meant that “hopeless” man survived off those cartons of chocolate milk that you buy in U.S. Supermarkets) Then he left government service ( the pecking order grew tiresome.) after 15 years of service.

He became a merchant banker. Job titles like Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer(jobs where you get refreshments served by a tea lady pushing a trolley around the building). His chairman at AmBank fondly mentions him in his memoirs as a person who added value to the business. However, he never seems to have made a cup of tea (or coffee) for himself or anyone else.

Indeed a few months ago I got him to buy a Nespresso coffee maker. You just have to press the button. His fingers had become just too weak to press the button. I sighed though not quite as deeply as my mother.

He spoke good 1950s English. Sometimes I had to “translate” his kind of English to other people. If you offered him a cup of coffee he did not say: Yes, Please. Or “That would be nice.” Nope. Malek Merican even when he had trouble speaking due to disease verbalized his reply this way:

“Yes. If it is not a burden”. It made you feel that you were doing a service to the nation. My daughter says that if he resembles anybody in a TV series it has to be Don Draper of “MadMen.”

Aid Ooi Eow Jin, Malaysia’s Composer and Musician–Give generously

July 10, 2015

Benefit concert to aid Ooi Eow Jin, Malaysia’s Composer and Musician–Give generously

Last month, Jimmy Yeoh, one of my facebook friends, wrote a long passage about a fellow Old Free, Ooi Eow Jin.

People my age may recognise this name instantly. Ooi Eow Jin is a local musician and composer. In his younger days, he was a band leader who led the Radio Television Malaysia (RTM) Orchestra for many years.

I’ve just found out that Eow Jin has finally retired from the local music scene. He is now 85 years old, at an age when most people would have taken life easy, but he had to keep working hard for a reason which I would like to share on my blog.

During his long career, Eow Jin had supported his two sons through their education until both graduated from University. Unfortunately, his second son died after a prolonged battle against leukemia despite his efforts to give his son the best treatment available. Eow Jin, himself showing signs of Alzheimer’s disease, continued his career as a resident pianist at the Majestic Hotel in Kuala Lumpur until 30 June when he made his final bow.

I am told that his eldest son is now suffering from a brain tumour. Again, it was with the effort of Eow Jin that the son is still hanging on to life. Eow Jin now lives with his wife and son in a home shared with other unfortunate people.

Jimmy met with Eow Jin and another fellow Old Free, Richard Hoon, and they (Jimmy and Richard) agreed to do their best to help Eow Jin and his family to have a more comfortable life from now on. To achieve this, they proposed to organize at least three charity shows to raise money for Eow Jin. One of the shows is now coming to fruition. I received this appeal letter today with details of the first show which will be in Petaling Jaya:

I wish to call upon my friends, both Old Frees and non-Old Frees, to support this worthy programme to help this outstanding man in his difficult times. Even if you can’t make it to the show, please consider donating some funds. Whatever you give, I’m sure you will receive back the blessings many times over. Thank you. The programme appears below:

Cambodia: The Passing of a Patriot

June 8, 2015

Phnom Penh

The Passing of a Patriot

by AFP

His Excellency Samdech Akeak Moha Thomak Pothisal Chea Sim, Protean Protsaphea ney Preah Reacheanachak Kampuchea, a key Cambodian political figure after the fall of the brutal Khmer Rouge regime and an ally of Prime Minister Hun Sen, has died today at age 82, the head of his bodyguard unit says. He had been in ill-health for many years and hospitalized in recent months.

Chea Sim

His Excellency Samdech Chea Sim was President of the ruling Cambodian People s Party since it was formed in 1991, and President of the Senate since 1999. He became a revolutionary in the 1950s and like Hun Sen was a member of the communist Khmer Rouge when they seized power in 1975 after a civil war.

Both men fled the group to join a resistance faction groomed by neighboring Vietnam, which installed them as Cambodia’s new leaders after ousting the Khmer Rouge in 1979.–AFP