Archive for October, 2009




Now that the national spotlight is on Port Dickson, I hope the government, in particular the Negeri Sembilan state government in collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism will seriously focus on its development as a haven for local and foreign tourists. Its proximity to Kuala Lumpur, Melaka and even Singapore makes Port Dickson an ideal location for tourists seeking a quick weekend getaway and for those wishing to have a longer seaside holiday.
Looking at PD’s potential as a popular tourist destination, one wonders why the state government did not have the foresight to augment its development in a better-planned way. One wonders why they did not realise that in order to woo the market of holiday seekers, a beach resort needs more than economy hotels and cheap apartments scattered along the Teluk Kemang beach front. In fact, some of these developments are so badly designed they have become architectural eyesores alongside the environmental pollution of the area’s beaches and waters. At the top of the agenda must be the completion or replacement of these projects with more credible ones and the springcleaning of Port Dickson.
Sadly, outstanding buildings like the rambling government guest houses tucked into the coves and lagoons have been demolished and along with it the state’s history and legacy. Ru Lodge, the VVIP guest house with its sprawling grounds and bridge connecting it to an off-shore gazebo, once hosted the country’s rulers, leaders and visitors. When the tasteful colonial structure should have been restored and preserved for posterity, it has been torn down and replaced by an uninspiring modern development.

The Blue Lagoon and the fifth mile stretch in front of the army camp once boasted clear waters and clean sands and were the haunt of holidaymakers and picknickers who received an extra bonus in the amazing view of the horizon and glowing sunset. Quaint motels like the Si Rusa Inn with its friendly water sports and vendors selling mengkuang hats have been replaced by the heavily commercialised larger hotels and craft markets.

When a national site like Port Dickson has been blessed with so much scenic landscape, the efforts to develop it for modern life and its amenities must be done with the utmost care and attention. The development of infrastructure must be planned and streamlined tastefully, not in the haphazard way that PD has endured in the last 25 years.     
Let’s hope that with the promised reinstatement of Isa Samad as ADUN of Bagan Pinang, Port Dickson will enjoy the status it deserves as an attractive tourist destination equipped with the best facilities for a fulfilling beach holiday.

Let’s hope that what he was not able to achieve for PD in his 23 years as Menteri Besar will be executed in a concerted way after the by-election! The state and the nation are all ears and eyes to see that Isa delivers what he promises!





I grew up romping along the once – pristine beaches of Port Dickson and frolicking in its once – clean waters !

School holidays and week-ends saw us heading for PD on a day or weekend trip or for a longer stay in one of the many government bungalows scattered in-between the coves and lagoons set against towering ru (casuarina equisetifolia) and fragrant tembusu (fagraea fragrans).

The rent was cheap and the facilities basic and we could cram family and friends into the large rooms and onto the sprawling verandas. Besides, the holiday bungalows came with a Hainanese cook if we wanted one. We never grew tired of swimming in the sea, building castles on the sand, chasing tiny crabs scampering sideways into crammy holes, and digging out of the same holes kepah for a soupy meal. The nights were filled with sing-along campfires and gin rummy sessions.

Reading Gerald Durell’s My Family and Other Animals in Form Five in the Seremban Convent (1962) reminded me so much of my own idyllic childhood filled with daylight gay abandon and nightime droning cengkerik (cicadas). Not on the beautiful Greek island of Corfu but in my very own enchanting PD.

Soaked in the sunshine of Corfu, where Gerald Durrell lived as a boy with his “family and other animals, ” this book evocatively chronicles his five-year sojourn on the Greek island. With hilarious yet endearing portraits of his eccentric family and their many unusual hangers-on, My Family and Other Animals also captures the beginnings of Durrell’s lifelong love of animals. In its passionate understanding of Corfu’s natural history, this is an entertaining and enduring memoir.

And in Form Six in KGV (1963-64), Wordsworth dearly inherited from a first love baptised my romantic soul and growing sensitivities with Ode on Intimations of Immortality :

…Though nothing can bring back the hour of

Splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower:

We will grieve not, rather find 

Strength in what remains behind…


I especially remember the times at Ru Lodge, the VIP government bungalow my family and I were privileged to inhabit at the invitation of Uncle Mubin – Mubin Sheppard, the then British Adviser in Negeri Sembilan. We enjoyed the privilege only because my fourth sister Maimunah was betrothed to his adopted son Osman. Uncle Mubin and my father bonded well and grew to have a deep respect for each other despite the fact that they never became in-laws.

It was at Ru Lodge that my siblings and I learned English table manners – how to push scrambled eggs and baked beans against the back of the fork held in the left hand! And how to scoop out soup away from you with a rounded spoon! And how to place it into your mouth without a whisper of delight however delicious it was! All this from my kampung Nyalas-bred mother whom Uncle Mubin fondly called Che Jah.  

I remember the beautiful gazebo on a little islet connected to the garden by a concrete bridge where we had typically English/ Irish afternoon tea of cake and scones served by uniformed houseboys! Uncle Mubin must have been reminded of his charmed life at Cabra Castle (now a hotel) back home in Dublin, Eire and wanted to share it with the Malay natives whom he grew to love.

Cabra Castle Hotel 
Cabra Castle stands on 88 acres of gardens and parkland, with its own nine hole golf course. Cabra Castle boasts a proud history dating as far back as 1760. Treat yourself to a stay in this magnificent Castle. Cabra’s long history lends a mature, cultured air to the Castle which can be felt by one and all as they stroll along the Castle’s impressive hallways and stairwells. Just one and a half hours from Dublin, Cabra Castle is an ideal base from which to discover the mystery and the magic of County Cavan, the Lake Country – a county with an ancient and colourful heritage.

On my not-so-frequent visits to PD now I’m completely disenchanted by what it has become or not become. Ru Lodge and its gazebo have been demolished and the area marked for a private development. Scores of ugly high-rise apartments and hotels were approved along choice stretches of the beach front spanning the Telok Kemang area, many abandoned half way. Most of the quaint government bungalows which gave PD character and preserved its legacy have been replaced by badly designed concrete structures. 

PD which could have been developed into a Malaysian haven and  heaven for local and foreign tourists yearning for a quick get-away from bustling KL missed this chance under the stewardship of Isa Samad, the Negeri Sembilan Menteri Besar for 23 years.


If there is one personal grudge that I bear against Isa Samad, the recycled UMNO candidate for the Bagan Pinang by-election next Sunday, it’s his lack of good taste and foresight!

I can’t say I know too much about the  money politicking in UMNO  or the infighting among its grassroots leaders but I do know what I see and don’t see in the Port Dickson of my childhood dreams!





Yesterday I was at a book launch – a simple, elegant one!

And the book itself is simply and elegantly titled STRAIGHT TALK by Tunku Abdul Aziz – himself an elegant man who is, may I add, simple in spirit!

By KL standards, the launch was a modest one with several rows of theatre style seating in a small section of the Heritage Room of the Royal Selangor Golf Club. What the MC referred to as the stage was a make-shift platform, too small I thought for such distinguished VIPs. The guest list was distinguished too, comprising ambassadors and high commissioners, political leaders and other eminent Malaysians. The guest of honour was Tun Hanif Omar the benign, humble and much respected former IGP and newspaper columnist.


What struck me immediately was the punctuality of the event which started on the dot of 3.30pm – something seldom experienced at  grander events when more/most important people the MIPs are in attendance.  Simple or grand, to me  punctuality must be observed as it not only shows one’s efficient time management skills but also one’s personal integrity.

I was also not disappointed with the 3 speakers – Tunku Abdul Aziz, Tan Sri Robert Phang and Tun Hanif  – who spoke eloquently taking no more than their allocation of 5 minutes (I suppose). But they were able to inject the substance and the relevance of the man and his writings in their short oral presentation! It confirmed my own thinking that in speech, the economy of words forces one to focus on the message which the audience also absorbs better especially at an afternoon book launch.

The book is a compilation of Tunku Abdul Aziz’s writings in his column in the New Sunday Times spanning a period of two years 2006-2008. It contains choice pieces on ethics and good governance gleaned from his vast experiences as a corporate man, his stint as Special Adviser to the UN Secretary General and his fight against corruption locally and internationally as head of Transparency International Malaysia.

An impressive career indeed and impressive ideals in a not-so-impressive and  ideal world!

To the cynics and sceptics who think that the world must spin always in pragmatic, compromising circles I’d like to say that there must be room for the dreamers and idealists among us who envisage a cleaner, fairer and more equitable world and who strive to articulate it. And in our everyday professional, community and family lives we try to live it!

To the movers and shakers of society in politics, government and business I’d like to make a plea for them to stop and ponder awhile! If you cannot think for the good of the country, pause and think for the good of your families, for your children and grandchildren!

I will always envisage a world where good is better and white is whiter and pure is pristine although I know the real world is a murky grey mass filled with corruption and abuse.

If we don’t dream or have ideals what good is our temporary sojourn on this earth!

October 2009