Archive for July, 2009





Survey: Students have no qualms about bribes

KOTA BARU: Kelantan State Secretary Datuk Mohd Aiseri Alias said he was worried with a survey that showed university students had no qualms about accepting and giving bribes.

He said the survey conducted by Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) showed that 30.5% of the students interviewed were willing to accept bribes if they had the power and the opportunity.

He said 15% were willing to offer bribes to facilitate business deals and 23.7% more would do likewise to prevent actions against them.



“This is alarming as the wrong perception of corruption has crept into the minds of university students, who are our future assets,” he said when opening the Public and Private Universities Enhancement Seminar organised by the Integrity Institute of Malaysia (IIM) at Pantai Cahaya Bulan here Thursday.

Mohd Aiseri did not mention the sample size and the background of the students surveyed.

He said efforts must be done to correct the perception by inculcating good values in human capital development.

On the IIM, he said it was currently implementing the second phase of the National Integrity Plan (NIP) (2008-2013) to combat corruption, fraud and abuse of power in the private and public sectors.

Earlier, IIM deputy president Mustafar Ali said the society’s perception on corruption, fraud and abuse of power had greatly improved over the past five years through the first phase of the NIP implementation (2004-2008).

Mustafar said the IIM was currently conducting a study on society’s perception of the integrity of the media with the aim of promoting national integrity through the media and journalism. — Bernama










every man desires to live long but no man would be old


How happy he who crowns in shades like these

A youth of labour with an age of ease


Age does not make me childish, as men tell,

It merely finds us children still at heart



Grow old along with me!

The best is yet to be


There’s a fascination frantic

In a ruin that’s romantic;

Do you think you are sufficiently decayed?



As a white candle

In a holy place

So is the beauty

Of an aged face


Growing old is no more than a bad habit which a busy man has no time to form


Do not go gentle into the night,

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light


Hope I die before I get old


What is called the serenity of age is only perhaps an euphemism for the fading power to feel the sudden shock of joy or sorrow


With full span lives having become the norm

People may need to learn how to be aged

As they once had to learn to be adults





Tunku ‘Abidin Muhriz in his column Abiding Times, The Sun  (July 24) concludes the discussion on religious trust and understanding “Believing in Malaysia” thus:

In 1968, the then Menteri Besar of Negeri Sembilan, Tan Sri Datuk Dr Mohd Said Mohamed, laid the foundation stone, blessed by a bishop, of St Mark’s Anglican Church in Seremban. It was being rebuilt after a fire had gutted it, and the federal and state governments made a donation to help in the construction work. That, surely, is what our first RUKUN NEGARA is all about.

Knowing the life and times of Dr Mohd Said well, I would like to add that the first elected Menteri Besar of Negeri Sembilan was rather broadminded in his thoughts and beliefs. By today’s standards he would be considered an unconventional Malay/ Muslim for  having the highest esteem for and knowledge of  the world’s great religions – Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism.

From an early age he was tutored in the Quranic traditions in a home and kampung environment that was deeply religious, as most rural Malay kampungs would have been then. But his exposure to other peoples and their faiths started early. As a schoolboy he was taught by the most caring and dedicated English Christian schoolmasters. As an undergraduate medical student  he was mentored and trained by the best Western Christian professors alongside his Hindu and Buddhist course mates in King Edward VII College, Singapore. As a young government doctor serving out his first posting in Pahang, he saw the sufferings of the rural Malays and Indians still bound by the orthodox teachings and practices of their respective faiths and cultures. His post graduate medical studies was a two year stint in England and Ireland with their deep rooted Protestant and Roman Catholic basis.   As part of his service to the outer community he gave of  his time to look after the health of the Christian orphans in a Convent school and gave night lectures to the multiracial science club of a government school.

His friends and acquaintances were multiracial and multireligious but his true understanding came from his readings and constant delving into the great books on these religions. He admired some of the rites of passage and practices of other religions which he thought were more practical and conducive to living. Among these were the male circumcission practices of Judaism and Islam, the Hindu cremation and the Muslim pilgrimage. He held them in awe and did not think it was wrong to acquire knowledge and be informed about them. He did not think it was sinful for his children to do Scripture as a subject in school or to score an A in Christian religious knowledge.  Through this he believed they would have a compassionate understanding of Christianity while remaining staunch Muslims. 

His children were brought up not to think it was haram or blasphemous to enter a church or temple to attend social/communal events held there. Or to stand in line with their schoolmates at assembly when Hail Mary and Our Father were being chanted. At such times what was foremost was the regard and respect paid to the other faiths and their believers. 

Thus, Tunku ‘Abidin Muhriz’s religious and cultural experiences are to be commended and emulated for the interfaith understanding and compassion they instil in the young Malaysians who are fortunate enough to have been exposed to them at home or abroad.

It is the kind of socio-cultural and educational environment that ONE MALAYSIA must aspire to and Malaysians must nurture in order to rid ourselves of the ethnic-racial-religious bigotry and chauvinism with their accompanying prejudices and intolerance and judgements! The implications for national politics are obvious!





Death is inevitable and, in a way, disease is too!

In the end most of us will die because of a disease, sometimes defined as a disorder of structure or function  in a human animal, or plant, especially one that produces specific symptoms (The Oxford Dictionary,  Thesaurus and Wordpower Guide).

I often think how good it would be if we could choose the disease we are to die from. And I would definitely choose one that is not too debilitating, with clear symptoms that are treatable, with a tolerable level of pain – because in life pain (physical and emotional) is inevitable! In death too!

But most of all I’d like to die calmly and peacefully surrounded by loved ones whom I’ve bade farewell to in the nicest possible way. I’d like to leave words of comfort to each of my anak cucu, by which they will remember me and say a little doa whenever they think of me. But I will miss them so much in death and wonder how they will turn out and what their lives will be!

To die naturally even after a period of illness is what we all pray for! We pray that God will have mercy in sparing us the most excruciating pain and unbearable suffering! From dust to dust! INNA LILLAHI WA INNA ILLAIHI RAJIOON!

Sudden or premature death is hard to bear especially for the family you leave behind. When my mother died of a heart attack in 1983, we were  stunned! To receive a call early on a Monday morning to say your beloved Mum has passed away is the worst possible news – especially when you had meant to visit her the day before! Grief laced with guilt is the worst possible emotion!

Tak sempat nak jaga! Tak sempat nak kata! If only…!

For my Mum and all those for whom God has ordained death  in their sleep  it was the best way to go! It would have been a quick, merciful heart failure or heart attack. It’s always the heart that bears the pain and gives way in the end – physically and emotionally! But it’s also the heart that loves and remembers and endures! 

my heart

But sudden, premature death that is unnatural or caused by unnatural circumstances is controversial and provocative – forensically, legally, culturally, socially and politically. It is no longer just a family thing! The whole community, society and nation partakes of the sorrow and the mourning! And the guilt and blame of causation! But finger pointing is always at others never at ourselves!

The death of Teoh Beng Hock, the 30 year old political secretary of a Selangor EXCO member hours after the lengthy MACC questioning has raised a public outcry and a call for a Royal Commission of inquiry into his death. Teoh’s falling to death from the14th floor of the MACC Selangor headquarters raises a million questions about the unusual circumstances surrounding the young man’s sudden death!  He was after all a witness in investigations re corruption at the highest levels of the Selangor state government!

Death Most Foul! Foul Play! Foul People! Foul Society! Foul Values! 

May Teoh Beng Hock’s soul rest in peace!






As you set out for Ithaka

hope the voyage is a long one

full of adventure, full of discovery.

Laistrygonians and Cyclops

angry Poseidon – don’t be afraid of them:

you’ll never find things like that on your way

as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,

as long as a rare excitement

stirs your spirit and your body.

Laistrygonians and Cyclops,

wild Poseidon – you won’t encounter them

unless you bring them along inside your soul,

unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope the voyage is a long one.

May there be many a summer morning when

with what pleasure, what joy

you come into harbours seen for the first time;

may you stop at Phoenician trading stations

to buy fine things,

mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,

sensual perfume of every kind –

as many sensual perfumes as you can,

and may you visit many Egyptian cities

to gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.

Arriving there is what you are destined for.

But do not hurry the journey at all.

Better if it lasts for years,

so you are old by the time you reach the island

wealthy with all you have gained on the way

not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvellous journey.

Without her you would not have set out.

She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.

Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,

you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.


—in memory of THE ANCIENT MARINER—



  Kau sudah melintas jalan,

Nun jauh rasanya, tak terkejar olehku.

Mendaki gunung, menyeberang lautan,

Nak sampai rasanya ke puncak harapan

Sempadan dunia seluas impian.

Aku masih di sini

Dalam putaran lubuk pusar akal;

Enggan bergerak kakiku,

Berat diangkat tanganku,

Tak punya maya dan daya nak berderas


Aku tak khuatir

Kau jujur menimba untung

Dari ikhtiar peluh kudratmu.

Tak mengapa masa tersingkat

Buatku mengadu,

Kerana aku pasti

Kau sebut namaku dalam doamu.






I’ve just received the shocking news that Capt Yusof THE ANCIENT MARINER has passed away!

I’m reeling with disbelief as my blog stats reveal a visit from him today – which means he died some time after 12 midnight!

Capt Yusof , my dear blogger friend and Linggi cousin AL FATIHAH! INNA LILLAHI WA INNA ILLAIHI RAJIOON!

Capt Yusof THE ANCIENT MARINER, you have sailed away and reached your final destination!

Yusof Ahmad, you have followed your beloved mother Latifah Md Hussain so soon to anchor in our kampung Linggi!

Semoga roh Yusof Ahmad dicucuri rahmat dan ditempatkan dalam golongan orang orang yang soleh! Ameen! Ameen! Ameen!





Most of us want a comfortable home – a house in our favourite (architectural) style and (interior) decor!

We want a peaceful abode to return to after a gruelling day at work, a conducive environment where we can spend time with family and friends or simply a place to stay where we can perform our day to day activities – cooking, eating, watching TV, doing recreational activities, studying, praying, sleeping etc etc.

Whatever our lifestyle, what we look for in a home is a house, an apartment or a condominium which is comfortable and nurtures the needs, mutual love, well-being and happiness of its occupants.  

Most of us can afford only developers’ units of residence be they bungalows, semi Ds, link houses; upmarket condominiums, apartments and town houses or low cost housing. These are not unique or exclusive in design but are identical albeit built with the buyers’ specs in mind. More and more are being equipped with community playgrounds and recreational facilities to provide the balance in lifestyle. We take our pick depending on the price, area, living features, accessibility etc etc

For the higher income groups and those with loads to spend i.e. the millionaires and billionaires among us, the choice of luxury homes is theirs. They have their pick of the best residential areas and choice locations, the size of land and house to fit their pockets and the architectural style and interior design to make their physical abode a haven and a dream come true.

I suppose everyone has dreams! And there’s no harm dreaming within the limits of your status in life, morally and ethically; professionally and financially! 

SO the question is – does an officer of the state or a government agency, a civil servant, a minister, MPs, ADUNs and people whose positions of authority give them plenty of opportunities to live well,  have the right to dream of living luxuriously? Can they live in luxury while in service or in retirement? Can their lifestyle be excessive or exclusive?

My simple mind tells me they can’t and they shouldn’t! It’s professionally unethical, financially impossible and morally unacceptable! For a servant of the state to jump to being a hedonist of excesses is hard for me to understand!

SO the revelation that the former Menteri Besar of Selangor Khir Toyo purchased a sprawling luxury home in an elite housing area is astounding – to me at least! Several questions come to mind (i) where would he get the money? (ii) why would he want to live in luxury? (iii) wasn’t he guided by a code of public and private ethics?

Whether the property cost him RM3.5 million as he claims or RM 24 million as alleged, why was ex MB stupid enough to think he could get away with it? Or did he think he was being awfully smart?

I can think of one former Menteri Besar of the post Merdeka era who retired into oblivion in the small wooden Malay house he built on an abandoned tin mine! The land was derelict and cheap which was all he could afford! The house TERATAK JASA was tiny even in those days, but it served his simple needs and lifestyle. He did not have the means nor inclination to build up grandiose ideas about himself!


The former Menteri Besar of Selangor of the 21st century was a dentist! The former Menteri Besar of Negeri Sembilan of the 20th century was a doctor! 

Only fifty years separate them but a chasm separates their values! Which says a lot for the new Malaysian values and Melayu Baru






The quiet Sunday I had hoped for turned out to be quite sensational and actually ended up with a big bang BIGBAND@UM after a big brush with RELA&COM!

At 5.30 pm I retrieved two maids from the RELA base in the Chow Kit area after going round in circles for more than an hour to locate it. Two family maids were rounded up together with 10 other women and about 40 men on the first Sunday of RELA’s new operation to nab the illegals in the city. They did not have valid identification papers with them.

My son and I witnessed what we thought was an orderly exercise managed by (i)  the plain-clothed RELA volunteers who mingled with the crowd in the Masjid India and Tunku Abdul Rahman areas, which apparently have become the haunt of illegals looking for work at the bazaars and food stalls; (ii) uniformed RELA members who coordinated the arrests, rounding up the illegals and transporting them in two caged lorry vans.

In a large hall on the first floor of the base building the errant illegals were seated on the floor in two groups facing a table of 4 RELA officers who recorded their particulars.

As my son and I were the first on the scene and we had the maids’ passports, they were the first two to be released. We were politely told to equip the maids with a signed photocopy of their passport complete with our contact number whenever they were out in the streets.

It was a relief to be spared the agony of retrieving them from the detention camp in Lenggeng where those who were not claimed by their employers after four hours were to be taken. Apparently, once in Lenggeng there would be the hassle of dealing with the Immigration Department where the paper work would take up to a week. Those without valid travel documents would be sent home.

I have only two complaints to make: (i) the RELA people were not able to give me clear directions or an address to get to their base. All they said was “dekat Masjid India” and “belakang Pizza Hut di Jalan Chow Kit” assuming I was a regular there; (ii) the lorry van which has space for 10 sitting and 10 standing was crammed with about 40 men. I can imagine the discomfort and the potential health hazard if the ride was longer or if the men were older!

The experience was certainly an eye opener to the kind of work enforcement agencies undertake to make our cities and our country a better, safer place. The work is neither pleasant and easy nor smoothflowing and clean. These men and women, many of them volunteers, need our support and our encouragement! They, too, need a pat on the back when the job is well done! 


From downtown Chow Kit I moved on to upbeat PJ for an ear opener! And listening to/ watching the BIGBAND@UM concert at my alma mater and former work place the University of Malaya, was a coming home of sorts and a Sunday treat indeed!

The Royal Concert by the UM Symphony Orchestra conducted by Dr Mohd Nasir Hashim presented a repertoire of well-known English and Malay songs and melodies translated into the Big Band style of American music of the 20s and 30s – upbeat in tempo and raunchy in rhythm!

It was wonderful to hear the stylised interpretation of  favourite songs like My Funny Valentine and You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine and rendered so well by soloist Razif Mohd, Mohd Rauzan a.k.a Roy and beautiful female vocalist Rohimi Sobeng. These Malaysians do us proud and are as talented as the Sinatras, Basseys and Bubles of the West.

But nothing beats the joy of hearing the medleys of haunting Malay tunes like Ibu, Jeritan Batin Ku and Hujan Di Tengah Hari and the more “rancak” ones Bila Larut Malam, Sejak Ku Bertemu Padamu  and Jikalau Abang Merindu being juxtaposed against the wind and percussion instruments of the American big band tradition.

Conductor Mohd Nasir was quick to assert that it is not the intention to propel or popularise a Western tradition but to recognize it as a genre in the development of the modern orchestra. Besides, big band is part of the UM music curriculum.

I must commend Dr Mohd Nasir and UM for having the academic and professional insight and foresight to move into a genre which may not be popular with the more conservative Malay music lovers who may view the scores as being too upbeat or “unMalay”! Western classical music lovers may also scoff at the renditions of the UM Orchestra which may be considered as not being elitist enough.

But as the conductor explains, giving Malay music a fresh interpretation is one way of  placing it in the global music arena and on the international stage. And I would like to add that removing the elitist traditions and constraints of Western classical music is one way of popularising serious music. Music must be accessible and pleasing to the ears of one and all.

I have one criticism to make: the dancers who accompanied the music were redundant and an unnecessary distraction which took away some of the goodness from an otherwise great performance. Not only were their movements jerky and uncoordinated, the stylised dancing was just badly choreographed! Their costumes were badly designed too!

But really – all in all I had a great Sunday!





Six months into blogosphere, I need to review my blogging goals and objectives and decide whether it’s worth my while to pursue this newest and trendiest attempt at being discovered and making my claim to fame – if this is indeed my wish!

To be a popular or famous Malaysian blogger like CHEDET or ROCKY BRU one has to have a huge following – something like a million hits in one month! Not only must people read your postings, i.e. your thoughts and ideas but they must also respond to them with their own thoughts and ideas. Only then is the communication successful!

Indeed, the new cyberspace communication modes are popular because they are interactive and the feedback is immediate. Whether it’s Facebook or Twitter or your blog, you know very quickly whether your visitors cum readers like what you say or not. Those who don’t hit back at you immediately too, albeit behind the cloak of anonymity or whatever pseudonym suits their fancy.  

If my wish is to be a writer with a following do I really need to blog? Why don’t I just write and publish? I could write that one amazing novel or motivational treatise that will propel me to stardom in the Oprah Book Club. Which means I have to publish in the US!

Malaysians are just not the voraciously hungry readers that the Americans and the British are. In the US and UK the tradition of commuting to work on the train or underground has helped to foster the reading habit, besides of course the rich literary traditions of these two English speaking  nations.

So why do I need to painstakingly think of interesting topics and current issues to write about that will entice netizens to see what I have to say about them? And why would they be interested in the ramblings and reflections of  a middle-aged woman whom they don’t know from Eve!

Wishful thinking if I think I’m going to get one million hits soon! Why should I? I’m not a former Prime Minister or an outstanding newspaper editor or a popular social activist whose work is admired!

I’m happy to admit I have no such gradiose wishes or ambitions! It would be impossible to have a meaningful interaction with my readers if the following is larger than a handful! Sour grapes!

What I really wishfully think is that I should change my writing style or format to make it more accessible? So that people are not put off and they will want to comment!

But for the moment all is not lost! I do get a good traffic, impressive when the topic is controversial or when I couldn’t care a damn who I lash out at – which is rare!

My blogging objectives being respectable and responsible, I try to be analytical and objective in my discussion and, wherever possible, constructive in my criticism. If I don’t curse or swear it is not because I can’t but because I won’t! If I don’t condemn outright the perceived wrongdoings of people and organisations, of leaders and governments,  it is not for want of passion or commitment but because I’m not sure if black is always black and white is always white. Being a bit of an art freak I love painting the grey areas where I can be impressionistic or impressive for that matter!


So I shall continue to blog because it is a wonderful training ground for an aspiring writer to dabble in and to gab about. It disciplines me to focus and to use language concisely and precisely if I choose to be concise and precise. But with my linguistic and literary background and exposure I tend to be generous with words! 

I may yet be the first Malaysian woman writer/ blogger to be acclaimed by Oprah!

Wishing on a star! Wishful thinking indeed!





“Language maketh a man and…” may I add, “…a man’s mind”.

For the link between language and the mind is biologically unique; cognitively and psychologically intricate; socio-culturally and politically complicated; structurally and grammatically complex! Phonetically and phonologically? Well – let’s say there are as many sounds and permutations of sounds as there are human tongues (the organ that is)!

This is why linguistics – the study of language in its many facets –  is considered a science that unravels the relationships between the parts that make up the whole. Thus in Pure or Theoretical Linguistics we have Syntax (structure and grammatical systems), Morphology (word form and structure) Phonetics and Phonology (sound and speech systems), Semantics (logic and meaning systems) and Pragmatics (cognition and communication systems).


In Applied Linguistics we have among a growing number of subjects Sociolinguistics, Psycholinguistics, Language Acquisition, Interlanguage, Artificial Intelligence, Computational Linguistics, Language Teaching and Learning, Language Teaching Methodology, Translation and Interpretation etc.

Mother tongue refers to the language we are born into – the idiolect of the particular home.This would be the English dialects for the English,  the Malay dialects for the Malays, the Chinese dialects for the Chinese and the Indian languages for the Indians. For most of us this is also our first language and the language we are totally immersed in at home and in our socio-cultural settings. But of course there are exceptions where the first language a child acquires is not the mother tongue – as with many Malaysian children whose home language is English. At school we use the standard language of the language medium we are enrolled in e.g standard Bahasa Malaysia as opposed to the regional dialects of Malay, Mandarin as opposed to Cantonese or Hakka.. 

For the majority of Malaysians, the mother tongue influence – Malay, Chinese, Tamil etc  is predominant in the first 4-5 years of their lives, the language being acquired in the natural setting of home and family. After the age of five when children attend kindergarten and pre-school they pick up the second language, Bahasa Malaysia and English, in the more formal setting of the classroom and the school environment.

In racially homogenous, monolingual societies like China, Japan, Korea and many of the European countries, learning a second language would happen in a less controversial setting both from the linguistic, applied linguistic as well as the socio-cultural points of view. There would be fewer distractions for the students, parents and teachers. There would be fewer mother tongue and first language interferences. 


In Malaysia ELT (English Language Teaching) problems are compounded by the multilingual, multiracial and multidimensional nature of the Malaysian education system. National v national type schools, national language v first and second language, urban v rural, science v arts, public v private schools, public v private universities, theory v application, statistics v experience etc etc etc – each with its own specs, interests, needs, demands and analyses!

If we are to be fair, it is against this background that the educational reforms announced by the Minister of Education yesterday need to be assessed! If we are to be objective, we must bear in mind the kind of juggling that needs to be done each time the country faces an educational crisis, the language issue being the most fundamental one!

Thus reverting to the teaching/ learning of Maths and Science in Bahasa Malaysia in the national schools and Chinese and Tamil in the vernacular schools seems like a pedagogically wise move supported by psycholinguistic and language acquisition theories. It will allow 5-6 year olds to learn these subjects in their mother tongue/first language. Only after they have internalised these mathematical and scientific concepts in the mother tongue will their English equivalents and terminology be introduced.

The teaching/ learning of English is given a huge boost with the increase in contact hours, improved methodology and creative teaching methods, the use of language labs and computers, reading and literature, learning of grammar etc.

To top the build-up of infrastructure is the expansion of the teaching force with the recruitment of  14,000 new language teachers – 1,000 native speakers to be recruited presumably from  the UK where our ties with English have always been.   

Bahasa Malaysia is to be strengthened as the medium of instruction and the official language through which its role and function as an effective tool for national unity and integration will be enhanced. So too its future as the language of literature, research and academia.

To me what is foremost is the implementation of these reforms and policies at the student to student, teacher to teacher, school to school, district to district, region to region levels! Vast inequalities in the teaching/learning facilities and resources  in schools throughout the country must be evened out immediately! Gaping chasms in the proficiency levels of students and teachers in the rural versus the urban areas must be filled up and levelled! The correlation and cause-effect relationship between the two is the harsh reality of our present predicament!

Teachers especially have to be continuously trained, assessed and retrained to meet the highest standards of performance. KPIs must be worked out in detail and the monitoring and calibration of physical, infrastructural as well as human resources must be excellently coordinated by school classroom teachers, lab assistants, technicians, subject specialists, head teachers, school principals, district, state and federal government officers. 

For the Malaysian (language) education roller coaster to tick  like clockwork  in this new era of reforms, every cog in the wheel needs to be oiled and worked together like the huge mechanism that language and linguistics is!

Only then will the minds of Malaysian students be educated and exposed in the best posible ways!  

 (Please cross refer to the 11 June posting TEACHING/ LEARNING  ENGLISH)    

July 2009