Friday, 27 April 2012

OFA AGM 2012

Me going to Kuala Terengganu this weekend means that not only am I missing out on the Bersih3.0 sitdown event at the Speaker's Square in Penang on Saturday, but I also cannot attend the 85th annual general meeting of The Old Frees' Association and also the annual general meeting of the Swee Cheok Tong Quah Kongsi on Sunday. Two AGMs on the same day, morning and afternoon, which I shall miss!

Speaking of The Old Frees' Association, I must congratulate MS Rajendren for retaining his post of president unopposed. I heard that when the nominations closed for the new OFA Management Committee last Saturday, many of the other positions also attracted only one nomination and thus these positions have been deemed filled by the sole nominee. I don't know whether it is good or bad for the association. I suppose it cuts both ways.

The good is rather obvious. The incumbent president and his merry men get a second term to implement whatever unfinished programmes from their first term and I always say that if there are persons who are effective in a committee, they should be given an opportunity to carry on.

The bad is, of course, the tidak apa attitude of the members. Why, I always thought that the members of the OFA would be rather keen to go into the committee and make a positive contribution to the well-being of the association. I may be mistaken this time around. I greatly suspect that other members are not willing to challenge for the positions on the strength of the incumbents' contributions in the past term.

Anyway, I know that the OFA is too full of self-opinionated people who talk more than contribute. It is as if their main occupation in life is to criticise what others have done. This is the sole reason why I have cried off from becoming involved in an OFA committee again. Don't want to become embroiled in the politics again.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Eye venture

I had a bit of unwanted excitement on Tuesday. What happened was that I went to a private hospital on the island for my eye check-up. It wasn't the first time. Every few months, I'm required to go for a review of my eye problem. Sign of growing older, surely.

At the hospital, I'd be put through a series of tests that would guarantee making my pockets lighter. Every time. Ouch!

This time around, the doctor decided to peer deeper into my eyeballs and told me that he would be dilating the pupils. So there I was, sitting outside his room while every now and then his nurse would come and squeeze some solution into my eyes and then shine a torchlight at them. And finally, my pupils were regarded as dilated enough for the doctor to run his tests.

Now the problem is that once the pupils have been dilated, they do not revert to the original condition quickly enough. It takes time, possibly several hours to recover. But there I was, alone at the hospital. The tests were at an end and I was free to go home.

Unfortunately, the moment I drove out of the carpark, I was confronted by a blazing glare. If you don't know what it's like, just look at an over-exposed photograph. For the first time, the world looked so bright to me. Excruciatingly bright. Couldn't keep my eyes opened for long. I didn't expect this and I didn't have any sunglasses with me. But what to do? I was already on the road and driving.

Luckily, I had the presence of mind to remember that the hospital was near The Old Frees' Association and that was where I headed slowly. After a lot of squinting, I made it to the OFA, parked the car and retreated to the library. Good, I was alone. I could draw all the curtains and cut down on the light. Rested there for more than two hours, then went for lunch.

By then, my eyes were better. The world still looked very bright but at least, my eyes weren't watering any more and I didn't have to squint. However, my vision was still affected. I couldn't focus correctly on the distance. Everything looked fuzzy. But I knew it was already safe for me to get back on the road.

So I took the car and began driving back to Bukit Mertajam. It was a slow drive and I guessed along the way, my eyes began to refocus properly. I looked into the distance and couldn't help marvelling at how bright the day was. The sky was a deep blue tinge and the clouds were white. The BM hill before me was etched out sharply against the blue sky. I thought to myself: was the day exceptionally clear today or were my eyes playing tricks on me today? Guess I'll never know because nobody answered this particular question of mine on facebook...  

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Battleline drawn

I've just read this on facebook today, an extract from a Malaysiakini report:
Bersih 3.0 supporters at Dataran Merdeka this Saturday will face the same actions taken against activists who occupied the venue recently, said Kuala Lumpur mayor Ahmad Fuad Ismail.

"Action has been taken against those kids at Dataran Merdeka... The same action will taken if you (Bersih supporters) do the same,” said Fuad.

Fuad said this when asked how Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) would react if the Bersih coalition proceeds with plans to hold a sit-in the square from 2pm to 4pm.

He was speaking at a press conference after a one-hour meeting with Bersih representatives failed to reach an agreement over the venue for the rally.

Asked whether DBKL will seek police help to stop the rally from taking place on Dataran Merdeka, Fuad declined to reveal details.

"When the time comes, you will know. Don't worry... We are ready. We don't allow them to go to Dataran Merdeka... let us do our job,” he said.

No choice but to go forward with Bersih3.0

This Saturday, in the major towns in the country, as well as at an anticipated 70 places around the world, Malaysians will be sitting down to participate in Bersih3.0. Duduk Bantah. The sitdowns will be a collective show of support for Bersih which is trying to get the federal government to make reforms to the election system. There is no choice for right-thinking Malaysians to do but support Bersih if we want the country to progress towards a matured democracy.  

Duduk Bantah comes after the Parliamentary Select Committee on electoral reforms had failed to introduce meaningful reforms to the election system. After the Bersih2.0 rally in Kuala Lumpur last July, during which the high-handed federal government reacted by unleashing the Police to clamp down on the participants through violent means, the Parliamentary Select Committee was formed to look into Bersih's original eight demands: clean up the electoral roll, reform postal voting, the use of indelible ink, free access to the media, a minimum campaign period of 21 days, strengthen the public institutions, stop corruption and put an end to dirty politics.

However, little was achieved when the Parliamentary Select Committee, comprising mainly Barisan Nasional parliamentarians, refused to accept that all the eight demands were worthy of adoption. A minority report of dissenting opinion from Pakatan Rakyat members of the committee was rejected and not even considered for mention in the committee's final report to Parliament.

Disappointed, Bersih came out to say that a third rally would be organised this Saturday. This time, it won't be a walk to the Stadium Merdeka. Rather, there will be a sitdown event at the Dataran Merdeka. Throughout the country, there will be other smaller sitdown events in the main towns.

At first I was rather surprised when the Home Minister said that there was nothing wrong with Bersih 3.0. Unlike Bersih2.0, Bersih3.0 would not be declared illegal. On the surface, it looked like the government had learnt its lesson. Anyway, that was what it looked like initially. There's a new twist. The federal government's strategy is now to use the Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur to prevent Bersih3.0 from happening. Very much like a sub-contracted job. Of course, we can still depend on the very dependable Police in Kuala Lumpur to say no too, contrary to the Home Minister's initial postulations.That's where we are presently: a stalemate between the DBKL authorities and the people.

By thr way, I have already asked a friend to buy me a Bersih3.0 T-shirt. It'll come in very handy on any Saturday. If I'm in Kuala Lumpur, I would join my fellow Malaysians to get to the Dataran Merdeka. As I'm in Penang, I should instead be making my way instead to the Speaker's Square at the Esplanade. Unfortunately, I'm due to travel to Kuala Terengganu this weekend and will be leaving Bukit Mertajam at about 5a.m. on Saturday in order to arrive there by two or three o'clock in the afternoon. My professional duties to fulfil and I'm told that it takes eight to nine hours to get there.

So while I'm unable to be at the Dataran Merdeka or the Esplanade in person, my thoughts will still go out to my fellow Malaysians who shall be there. By all accounts these should be peaceful sitdown rallies. Nevertheless, don't ever discount that those mamak goons will not turn up to disrupt the occasion. I will be very surprised if these good-for-nothing-except-receiving-handouts hooligans are absent.

Please take care....

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

NZ travelogue: Baldwin Street

There was one final item on my Dunedin agenda. Having missed the Cadbury factory tour, I hurried up my wife and told her that our next destination before leaving Dunedin would be something more of a curiosity than anything else. It would be nothing very special but it was certainly on my "100 obligatory places to visit before you die" list!

I could sense her burning curiosity when I parked the car in Baldwin Street. There, I told her, this is supposed to the steepest street in the world.

Let's go walk up it first and take some photographs, I suggested. But needless to say, we never made it to the top. In fact, our attempt took us past only three or four houses before we called it quits. We really didn't have the inclination to walk all the way up the slope! So we stayed where we were and took the few obligatory photographs.

Then we drove all the way up till the top of the road. Looking down at the spectacular scenery from that vantage point was really something. I wondered how often the residents along Baldwin Street ventured out to walk up and down every day. But even as that thought crossed our minds, we could see people coming out from some of the houses to walk down towards their North Road.

I should also say that driving down Baldwin Street could be rather unnerving. One foot was always on the brake while the hand was ready to put up the hand brake in case of any unexpected problem with the car. It was not as bad as a roller coaster ride and the car made it to the bottom in one piece.

Two signboards proclaiming Baldwin Street as the steepest street in the world. However, you should be reading this article too, which tries to dispute that claim.

Asia's most liveable cities

Extracted from the website of ECA International, the world's leading knowledge and solutions provider for international HR professionals. This is their Asia ranking for 2012. Updated annually, ECA International says the Location Ratings system helps companies to establish appropriate expatriate allowances to compensate for the level of adjustment required to complete an assignment. It objectively evaluates a host of factors to form an assessment of the overall quality of living in over 400 locations worldwide. These factors include climate, availability of health services, housing and utilities, isolation, access to a social network and leisure facilities, infrastructure, personal safety, political tensions and air quality. Glad to know that George Town ranks above Kuala Lumpur, while the other so-called "cities" in the country were not considered at all.

Top most liveable Asian locations

Asia rank


Asia rank

Global Rank

Hong Kong
George Town
Kuala Lumpur
Bandar Seri Begawan
Ho Chi Minh City
New Delhi
Phnom Penh

Monday, 23 April 2012

Made my old headmaster's day

My daughter had been back in Penang for a short holiday and yesterday, Sunday, was the day that she was due to drive back to Kuala Lumpur. Like any concerned parent, I offered to accompany her down to KL as I didn't want her to travel alone. All this was arranged quite some time ago.

However, what was not in the works was a last-minute plan to deliver a copy of FIDELIS to my old headmaster, Dato' Tan Boon Lin.

You see, he had been rather anxious in the last two weeks or so regarding this book. He knew that it had been launched and he was due to get his copy. I've been asking the office of The Old Frees' Association to dispatch a copy to him as soon as possible but the OFA office had been delaying it. Not only for him but all the other contributors as well. Reason? The staff was rushing to prepare for the annual general meeting that's due on 29 Apr 2012.

That was when I suddenly realised that I could kill two birds with one stone, so to speak. If I was going to go to KL, why not deliver FIDELIS to Tan as well? So I signed off a copy from the OFA office. That was last week.

Yesterday, my daughter and I arrived in Damansara Utama at about six o'clock. We rang the miniature school bell on the wall. Tan was out somewhere but his daughter, Gaik Cheng, invited us in to wait for his return. And pretty soon he did. He stood at his front door and there I was, inviting him into his own house! It should have been the other way round. Quite a reversal of roles at his house, wasn't it? He should've been in and I was out. Instead, I was in and he was out. But no matter....

We spent about an hour chatting about the book and about the school. During our conversation, some fresh snippets of personal information were offered. Like how his grandfather made the momentous decision for him to apply for admission to the Penang Free School. He could have gone on to a Parit Buntar or a Nibong Tebal school instead. Or how his predecessor, JMB Hughes, never forgave him for using the swimming pool fund for building the school library that was named Khutub Khanah Tunku after Tunku Abdul Rahman. Nevertheless, Tan admired Hughes for his adventure streak and love of the great outdoors. He commented that Hughes organised several expeditions with the schoolboys to Langkawi at a time when those isles were still pretty much off the tourist map.

After Tan's retirement from government service in 1982, he became the Director of Student Affairs at the Tunku Abdul Rahman College. He said that he was thrilled to be dealing with students again. He remained in that post for five years, deciding to leave after hearing many comments that he was only there to fill the position until an MCA-appointee could take over. He didn't like that insinuation. Politics, as usual, had reared its ugly head in this country.

I was just about to push the Publish button on this blog post when an email arrived from Tan. What a coincidence! Anyway, here is his email message to me. Thought it be interesting to share it around:

Please accept my grateful thanks for your visit yesterday evening. As I told Chang Moh it was a wonderful surprise and certainly made up for all the anxieties I experienced due to the delay receiving a copy of FIDELIS after it was launched on 30 March. FIDELIS is a wonderful publication. Congratulations to you and those in OFA who were responsible for its production. Reading it certainly took me back to some of the the best years of my life in PFS: as student, teacher and Headmaster. Thanks once again.
Fortis Atque Fidelis.
Boon Lin

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Hill interlude

I had a fabulous time trekking up the hill at Cerok Tokun in Bukit Mertajam two days ago. Took the path beside the dam. Haven't come this way for months and was surprised to see the subtle changes that Mother Nature had made to the surroundings.

The undergrowth had covered the paths until I almost couldn't recognise the way. But once the dam was sighted, it was plain sailing all the way until I emerged onto the road about halfway up the hill. Here are some pictures I took along the way.

First of all, this is the dam at Cerok Tokun. It's filled to the brim with water, due to the regular rainfall we've been experiencing in this country for the past few months. But I do remember a time, not so long ago, when it was almost bone dry.

Two views of the path I took. It's normally a dirt track but at some points, you'd come across big stones that had conveniently placed along the track quite a long time ago to help trekkers ascend or descend the steep slopes.

One of the makeshift rest areas along the way. There used to be a platform nearby but it was dismantled quite a while back.

And this is the point where most trekkers will emerge onto the tarred road. This is a panoramic view. Left will lead walkers to the tea house and onwards to the summit while right goes downhill to the car park. I chose the right direction, and it would be another 35 minutes' walk down.

Encountered a funny incident whilst walking down. There was this person walking down about 10 metres ahead of me when he bumped into a friend walking in the opposite direction. His friend was all togged up: headband, sleeveless tees, exercise shorts and sports shoes. You'd know immediately that he had come to the BM Hill for a single purpose: to walk up to the summit or somewhere in between. Yet the first words of greeting from the mouth of this person who was walking down was, "You climbing the hill, ah?" Incredulous. Wasn't it obvious??

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Record store day

Bring out your vinyl records. Play them on your turntables because today is Record Store Day all over the world!

Thursday, 19 April 2012

One way ticket

This morning, I took the boy to the airport. He's in transition, having completed his Diploma at the Tunku Abdul Rahman College but waiting to resume his Advanced Diploma or Degree studies either at the same college or the Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman. Both are supposed to begin in September and that's still some four or five months away.

While waiting, he has been looking for some jobs to do. He let go of a part-time job at an eatery at the Precinct 10 in Tanjung Tokong last February and had been moping around the house. At my suggestion, he applied to some positions advertised at but regrettably, nothing had emerged from them. Not even a call to an interview. So much for the effectiveness of the online services of my former employer that my own son was unable to get a response from the advertisers.

But finally, he did land a job from an advertisement in The Star. He went down to Kuala Lumpur for an interview last week and attended a second interview in Penang just two days ago. Today, he's already starting work but he has to go to Petaling Jaya for training and briefing, and this Saturday, be on duty at his employer's big dinner event before coming back on Sunday.

So we left the house at 6.20 in the morning. No sooner had we entered the Penang Bridge than traffic came almost to a standstill. Bloody shit, I muttered to myself, a traffic jam on the bridge? At this time of the morning? We inched along slowly. I told my son, whoever is responsible for this traffic jam only has himself to blame.

I've always taken this position about the Penang Bridge. It is the main arterial link between the mainland and the island, and it is one straight road. It's known that the slightest of incidents on the bridge will lead to a traffic jam because once on the bridge, the only way to go is forward. There is no turning back, there is no alternate route, there is no short-cut. Whether we like it or not, all bridge users are in it together. We are like one. If all of us want to get across smoothly, it is in our own best interest to be careful towards one another and be responsible enough when using the bridge.

As I said, we inched along very slowly. And soon enough, the reason for the traffic congestion became very clear. Of course, if not for a vehicle breaking down, it could only be an accident. This time, it was an accident. In the inner lane of the bridge. A Police car was there. So was an ambulance. A car, presumably involved in the accident, was parked some 10 metres away in the inner lane. On the ground, also in the inner lane, was an overturned motorcycle.

The ambulance workers were starting to lift a black body bag from the road. That's the stupid fool, I pointed out to my son, that's the irresponsible fool. He made a dumb choice. Why should he be travelling on a motorcycle in the inner lane of the bridge? It could only be that he was speeding in this lane. Unfortunately, he paid for his recklessness and irresponsibility with his life. And in the process, caused inconvenience to everybody else on the bridge.

Maybe I should be showing more compassion. Somewhere out there, a grandmother, a mother, a wife or a child may soon start to grieve for a life that's suddenly cut short violently. Yes, maybe I should show some compassion. Ordinarily, I would but right now I still find it difficult to do so for an idiot who had willingly acted so irresponsibly. 

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Colonial crimes?

An interesting news report that appeared in the Guardian newspaper's website today. Worth reading.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Motor insurance renewal

I had meant to write about this episode in my life more than three weeks ago but time whizzed by so quickly that I had to put it on the back burner. Anyway, I've more free time this morning as I wait for my car to undergo its first major for a long time. Gonna cost a hole in my pocket, ouch!

Anyway, today's blog entry concerns my attempt to renew the motor insurance for my old car. Normally, I would travel all the way to Taman Inderawasih, near to Chai Leng Park on the mainland, to where the branch office of the Automotive Association of Malaysia (AAM) was located. A drive of at least half an hour to get there, if there is no traffic congestion.

So there I was, cruising leisurely along Song Ban Keng Road in Bukit Mertajam when suddenly, I noticed a Chartis office. Chartis was the name of the general insurance company that the AAM used to renew all the motor policies of their members.

Thinking that it would save me time - the Chartis branch was halfway between my house and Taman Inderawasih - and it would also be the same if I went to this Chartis branch instead of to AAM for the motor insurance renewal, I went to approach their staff at the front desk. I told her specifically that I wanted to renew the policy under comprehensive cover. The counter staff went to consult her supervisor and both came back to say that they could only offer me third party cover.

Why not, I asked them, I have always had comprehensive coverage for this car. They refused, giving me a cock and bull(shit) story that that the car was too old and it was their policy not to offer anything but third party cover for cars as old as mine. So I said thank you to them politely and told them that I'd go back to AAM.

Hopped into the car and continued with my journey to Taman Inderawasih. At the AAM office, I whipped out the old policy and asked them to renew it - with comprehensive cover. Which they did, with only one concern raised between us: that the sum insured would have to be raised to a certain minimum amount. Would I mind, the AAM lady asked me. No, I had no issue with that.

So that was that. I walked out of AAM a satisfied customer with my comprehensive motor insurance renewed for the old car. Whole irony was that the cover note that AAM gave me was also issued from Chartis.

There was a sequel to this story. When I arrived home, I posted this matter up on my facebook. Later that day, I received a message from someone at Chartis to apologise for the inconvenience that I had been put through. He said the staff at the Chartis branch should have contacted their main office in Penang for such matters. There were always exceptions that they were prepared to deal with, especially for policy renewals. Hah, at least someone noticed my inconvenience.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Dr Toh Kin Woon: man on a mission

I have never made any bones about my respect and admiration for this man. I've already written about Dato' Dr Toh Kin Woon a few times in this blog here, here, here and here. Add to them this latest entry.

I've known Dr Toh for about 15 years now, since the days when he became the president of the Penang Chess Association, and I know that when his mind is firmly made up on something that is right and equitable, he will never waver in his convictions.

When he was still in government, he was the only outspoken voice in support of the disgraced Anwar Ibrahim. Through thick and thin, Dr Toh supported Anwar. During Hari Raya Aidil Fitri, Dr Toh would invariably stop by Anwar's house in Cherok Tokun, Bukit Mertajam.

At that time, Dr Toh was still the state assemblyman for Machang Bubok. He would have to pass along the Kulim Road on his way to his constituency. Maybe this was a reasonable excuse for stopping in Cherok Tokun but essentially, actions speak louder than words and this was a very loud statement of his support for an ostracised leader.

Since 2008, Dr Toh had retired from politics. His main interest now is to participate in causes of non-governmental groups who try to work against corruption, excesses and inequalities in this country and attempt to bring about positive changes.

Among other efforts, he had been very determined in his support of the bersih 2.0 rally in Kuala Lumpur last year. As everyone knows, this was an event that was feared and then declared illegal by the federal government which then turned its brute force on the people who assembled peacefully in Kuala Lumpur on 9 July 2011.

I've met Dr Toh occasionally since then. One of the last times was at an art gallery in Beach Street, George Town sometime last year.

The latest was about a week ago. I wasn't surprised to see him at the official launch of Kee Thuan Chye's book, No More Bullshit, by Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng but it really knocked me to see him saunter quietly into Clove Hall wearing the totally recognisable yellow t-shirt of bersih 3.0. More than that, he was mingling with the guests and distributing bersih 3.0 leaflets and asking them to support this cause on 28 April 2012.

He was totally unobtrusive but later, he met up with the Chief Minister after the book launch had been concluded. It said a lot for the guests that they also warmed up to this very courageous man.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Spotify is spot on

I do have several media apps already installed on my desktop computer. Basically, they are meant for playing my compact discs and audio files more than anything else. When I am too lazy, that is, to play my CDs directly from my Hifi system. For streaming of music through the Internet, I would normally listen to the radio stations through my browser though nowadays, I make more use of my ipad than the desktop.

But about a week ago, I was introduced to a service called Spotify. It's supposed to be one of the more exciting ways of listening to music through the Internet. At first I was a little skeptical about the service but after having used the application for slightly more than a week now, I must say that I have grown rather attached to it.

Maybe it's because the application automatically starts up whenever I switch on the computer. Haven't found a way to disable it yet but so far, I'm not complaining.

At first, I was using Spotify only to browse through the local files on my desktop. But after a while, I started getting curious and gave the application a closer look. My first discovery was that it was possible to listen to different genres of music streamed directly from the Spotify servers. Spotify called this service their radio stations but actually, they are not. Spotify simply selected the tracks according to the genres chosen and then served them up to you.

On the Spotify homepage, it claimed that there were at least 15 million songs that their subscribers could listen to and for this, the search box in the application came in handy. All I had to do was to key in the artiste's name or even the title of a song or an album, and the songs would show up in the application almost immediately. And it was possible to sort them by various means.

I tried to search for the harder-to-find artistes. For example, I had been searching for music by Alphonse Mouzon for a very long time but hadn't been able to find them anywhere. I was surprised to find his albums on Spotify. Similarly, a search for Umeki turned up two very rare albums by the late Japanese-American singer. As a result, one artiste after another, I've been listening to them in the background as I do my work.

But like everything else, the music on Spotify can only be so many. It's still not possible to find everything under the sun. There are limitations and if one can accept the limits, I guess one shouldn't grumble or complain. Just unsubscribe, uninstall the application and go somewhere else if one is not satisfied. There's no compulsion touse the service.

So what's my take on Spotify after about a week of usage? I can only say it thus: Spotify is spot on!

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Chess is so sexy. Yeah!

I just saw this advertisement for a 2012 calendar here.

What's even better than pictures of beautiful women? Why, pictures of beautiful women studying chess, of course! This calendar will inspire you to get back to your chess studies all year round. Whether you're a guy who plays so much chess that he misses female companionship, or a girl who wonders why she doesn't see more other women studying the game, this calendar is sure to bring joy and encouragement into your home or work place. Each month shows a lovely pin-up model studying a famous chess move, to help you brush up on the history of the Royal Game as the months go by. The calendar will also remind you of upcoming women's chess events and teach you fun facts about some of the great women of the game. We'd ALL love to see more women playing chess, right? And let's face it, folks: Playing chess is sexy!

And for good measure, here are some preview pages of the calendar. Darn, if only I had known of this calendar earlier!

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Day of drama

In case anyone's curious, let me say that, no, I did not feel the effects of the earthquakes from Sumatra at any time today. Not when the first earthquake struck in the ocean off Sumatra at about 4.40pm; nor when the big aftershock struck a few hours later.

I would like to believe that the reason is because Bukit Mertajam - or at least, my part of Bukit Mertajam - sits on a very hard surface. Maybe the whole of Bukit Mertajam town sits on a very large hard rock. Whatever the reason, we never, ever, feel any earth vibrations in this part of the state.

So it came to pass that while other Penangites were excited over the tremblors in the afternoon, life went by very peacefully in this busy little town. The first instance I knew of the earthquakes in Sumatra was when my wife phoned to ask whether or not I had felt the first one. Seemed that people in Simpang Ampat had felt it. But she didn't because she was driving then.

Then facebook went crazy with messages from all sorts of people regarding the earth shaking. Inevitably, the rumours followed. One after another. All unverified, but spreading just the same. But more important than the rumours were reassuring messages from people in the Penang government telling people the real situation on the ground. Good that there were proactive folks on facebook too.

At about nine o'clock in the evening, the rumours reached my son who was on the island. But he was smart. He called his old man to check whether the Penang Bridge was really closed. As if I knew, I muttered to myself, but I told him as confidently as I could that the bridge was open. But I have to admit now that I wasn't entirely sure when I told him that. What if it had really been closed? He would have been caught in one of the most horrendous traffic jams on the island and it would be my fault. Luckily for him, and for me, the bridge was operational and clear.

Amidst all these "breaking news" and rumours on the social media sites, I received an improbable text message on my mobile - totally unrelated - telling me that the Ops Scorpene French lawyer, William Bourdon, had been arrested by immigration at KLIA today.

Again?? What was going on, I was thinking to myself, had he gone mad to risk another trip to Malaysia? Bourdon had been detained at the KLIA in July last year and then deported. Why would he want to come back and test his luck, especially when the Scorpene case was about to open soon in France? I tell you, that text message didn't make any sense to me. So I did what any level-headed man would do: ignore the message if it couldn't be proved. Glad I did, because it turned out to be just that: a baseless hoax.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Lies and peeping toms

This is an excerpt from the speech by the Penang Chief Minister, Lim Guan Eng, at the official launch of No More Bullshit, Please, We're All Malaysians at Clove Hall in George Town yesterday. No More Bullshit is, of course, Kee Thuan Chye's latest book and this launch came two weeks after he had held two public readings in Penang.

"Thank you, Thuan Chye, for trying to open up our eyes to more bullshit. It is not going to be that easy to do so but this is one very important effort and this is why I am here. I'm here not only because Thuan Chye is a friend. He always tries to be a bit apologetic for being critical but my friend, you know, I have never shied away from being criticised because, you know, I think that is something that is positive. At least, have another perception, have another view. You may not always agree with it but your type of criticism compared to the type of lies that they flung at me, actually, is so gentle. 

"The latest one they had done in Utusan Malaysia ... my favourite newspaper ... that there is a conspiracy between me and the PAP government of Singapore. Why? Because I hosted a private courtesy visit by Singapore MPs. And indeed I did. There was a private courtesy visit by all the women MPs from Singapore. Fourteen of 18 women MPs came, led by their women's wing chairperson, Grace Foo, with a senior cabinet minister.

"Now what's wrong with hosting a private courtesy visit from Singaporean MPs? I have no problem when I host MPs from Australia, from New Zealand, from England, from Thailand, from Indonesia, but suddenly when I host a private courtesy visit by Singaporean MPs, it is a conspiracy.

"And I only did it two days ago. That was on Friday. They knew about it on Saturday. There must be a spy in my office. You know, I would not call them a spy. Anyway, a spy is already too kind a word. Since these are all female MPs, I would call the
Utusan Malaysia a Peeping Tom.  You know, Peeping Toms like to peep at women and they all happen to be women MPs. So they are a blooming Peeping Tom.

"And...but as I said, that is the type of bullshit we get, that even when you have visits by countries on a G-to-G, government-to-government relationship, they spread all these types of lies. If that is so big a problem, I think a bigger problem will be UMNO Youth having direct political-to-political relationship with the Communist Party Youth Wing of China. That was announced by none other than the UMNO Youth president Khairy Jamaluddin a few years back when they had direct links, political party-to-political party links, with the Communist Party Youth Wing of China. For us it is only government-to-government, no political party-to-political party links, and yet they make such a big hue and cry.

"But that is the bullshit that sells among some sections of Malaysians. So the task ahead is very hard. Unless we can cut through the bullshit, I think we will be overwhelmed by all the bullshit. So it is our task to see what we can do and I am sure that all of us here today will want to see issues that are discussed with reason, clarity and not with emotions and with untruths. But unfortunately, that is something that we will have to deal with until we can make that real change."

There is an interesting sequel to this speech. After it was over, my old school mates and I were discussing the book launch and Guan Eng's speech. One of our friends, Kheng Hock, who had flown up to Penang with the Singaporean women MPs - his wife was a member of the PAP Women's Wing, so he knew first-hand, and this was real inside information - revealed with indignance that the Singaporean MPs had not only visited the Chief Minister but had also met up with the UMNO Wanita group in Penang.

He remarked caustically that the UMNO Wanita people had presented gifts to the Singaporeans. All this, of course, was conveniently not mentioned by Utusan Malaysia because it did not serve that newspaper's purpose. Kheng Hock took it upon himself to reveal the information to Guan Eng and that's why, in The Malaysian Insider today, there's this follow-up revelation.   

Sunday, 8 April 2012

All 14 of us

(Photo by Dylan Tan)

A small reunion of old school friends today at the official launch of Thuan Chye's latest book, No More Bullshit, at Clove Hall in George Town, Penang.

Standing, left to right: Gaik Meng, Choi Choon, Eng Siang, Oon Hup, Seng Oo, Errol, Seng Sun; sitting, left to right: Kim Guan, Kah Theang, Kok Yong (surprise appearance from Sydney), Kheng Hock (expected appearance from Singapore), Thuan Chye, Teik Wah and Kok Hin.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Common courtesy

I've known Ian Barbosa for a long time. Ever since those days when he worked at the British Council in Green Hall, George Town. I would walk there from my office at Ban Hin Lee Bank during lunch time. Not that I wanted to see him specifically, of course, but to read the British newspapers and magazines there. I got to know Ian from those days, together with Irene, Sharifah, Rahim (or Rahman, whatever the name was) and Nawawi. Then of course, there were the library books. I used to borrow them. Fodder for my bored mind whilst on the ferries from Mondays to Saturdays. Always was able to put in at least an hour's reading time while the ferries plied between the mainland and the island.

Just today, I opened up my facebook account and there was this posting that Ian had made. Observing common courtesy is nothing new and should be practiced by everyone. But the way that he put it was rather....thought-provoking, can I say? Anyway, this was what he wrote. Thought that I'd just reproduce it for everyone to read.

"The most important lesson that will benefit us all is common farking courtesy. At home, at work, on the phone, with friends, while having sex, while taking a dump...common courtesy should be part of our psyche and not a job that must be done only when called for. Its far easier to be nice than to be a real dick head with a caustic tongue. I've been called a bastard in my day and in all honesty... i don't deny it. But there are also many who know me and have seen the side that i keep only for my special friends..and you know who you are. So here is the moral of my story...treat others like you would like to be treated yourself. If you show hate...then get ready to be hated as well....don't farking complain because it all starts with you...Get it!!!"

Friday, 6 April 2012


This extract is taken from the March 2012 issue of Buletin Mutiara which is the print news organ of the Penang government. On the front page of this issue was a speech by the Penang Chief Minister at the Accountants for Business Forum. I couldn't but help laugh at his light-hearted preamble:

"Before I begin I would like to admit that I am a failed accountant. I graduated in economics and accounting in Australia and chose to practice as an accountant. Somehow it was more difficult for me to get a auditing position in a Big 8 accounting firm in 1984 as compared to my classmates. But I was delighted after months of failed interviews with top accounting firms, to have finally landed a position with a Big 8 firm.

"However my delight was short-lived as I was unceremoniously sacked without any professional reason after less than a week when they found out who my father was. For some of you who may not know, I am the son of the DAP leader Lim Kit Siang.

"Obviously I was deemed not qualified to be an accountant as I was feared to share my father's unhealthy passion for integrity, transparency, full disclosure as well as giving a true and fair view. This definitely disqualified me as an accountant with the Big 8 firm as the 1980s was a time of financial hanky-panky and cover-ups such as the massive Bank Bumiputra losses scandals.

"Needless to say I was devastated when I found I could not get a job as an accountant. But all's well that ends well. After failing to make the cut as an accountant, I had no choice but to join politics and became the Penang Chief Minister. I would therefore wish to congratulate all of you for making the grade as an accountant. And if you do not make it as an accountant, do not despair. You can always be like me and hope to become the Penang Chief Minister."

Thursday, 5 April 2012

The OFA Cafeteria

In the past five months, I have visited The Old Frees' Association more times than I have ever done so in the preceding five years.

That would include eating at the cafeteria at the OFA. The food is not bad, actually, and I quite enjoy their chicken chop. But yesterday, I tried a few mouthfuls of my son's fish and chips and was pleasantly surprised.

By now, most of the staff at the cafeteria would have noticed me as a rather familiar face at the clubhouse and also an OFA member. Nobody but the OFA members would huddle down with the OFA president or some of the other members of the management committee and the editorial team at the Tavern and sometimes at the Library.

All the cafeteria operators - present and previous - are fully aware that OFA members are entitled to a 10 percent discount on their food bills. Yet, every time I eat at the cafeteria, I see that the staff act as though everybody are strangers to them and they try to charge their customers the full amount. And every time, I've to remind them of my OFA membership status before they would deduct the discount from my bill.

Yesterday was no different. The boss wasn't around and one of the lady staff tallied up the bill and passed it to me.

"Hey, where's my discount?" I asked her. "Oh, you're a member, is it?" she asked me back, and then quickly minused out the discount.

I know that they are only doing their job - it's a procedure practiced from the top down - but really, I'm getting tired of this little game they play with all their customers, whether they be OFA members or not. The only reason why I keep eating at the cafeteria is because of their chicken chop.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Time for some humour

A woman brought a very limp duck into a veterinary surgeon. As she laid her pet on the table, the vet pulled out his stethoscope and listened to the bird's chest.

After a moment or two, the vet shook his head and sadly said: "I'm sorry, your duck, Cuddles, has passed away."

The distressed woman wailed: "Are you sure?"

"Yes, I am sure. Your duck is dead," replied the vet.

"How can you be so sure?" she protested. "I mean you haven't done any testing on him or anything. He might just be in a coma or something."

The vet rolled his eyes, turned around and left the room. He returned a few minutes later with a black Labrador Retriever. As the duck's owner looked on in amazement, the dog stood on his hind legs, put his front paws on the examination table and sniffed the duck from top to bottom. He then looked up at the vet with sad eyes and shook his head.

The vet patted the dog on the head and took it out of the room. A few minutes later he returned with a cat. The cat jumped on the table and also delicately sniffed the bird from head to foot. The cat sat back on its haunches, shook its head, meowed softly and strolled out of the room.

The vet looked at the woman and said: "I'm sorry, but as I said, this is most definitely, 100% certifiably, a dead duck."

The vet turned to his computer terminal, hit a few keys and produced a bill, which he handed to the woman.

The duck's owner, still in shock, took the bill. "$150!" she cried, "$150 just to tell me my duck is dead!"

The vet shrugged. "I'm sorry," he said, "If you had just taken my word for it, the bill would have been $20, but with the Lab Report and the Cat Scan, it's now $150."

900 games and counting!

"My goal when I was younger was to play for Manchester United just once. But then after that you get greedy. You want to be in the team all the time. Then you want to score goals.Then you get really greedy - you want to win trophies and then you win more trophies. All these things have happened to me. I realised my dream and at 38 I'm still living my dream. You can't ask for much more." 

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Book debutantes

I had mentioned a few days ago that the change of programme at the Gala Dinner on 31 March 2012 meant that the editorial team was no longer required to climb on the stage in front of the glaring eyes of the dinner guests. Instead, we were invited to meet the dignitaries while in the banquet hall itself.

So here we are. Molly, Hwang, Rajendren, myself and William with the Raja Muda of Perlis, the Raja of Perlis and the Governor of Penang.

 And that's us with a very sporting Chief Minister of Penang. I guess you MUST already know who that is! If not, shame on you....

Monday, 2 April 2012

OFA @ Bay Avenue

One significant event seems to be following another in quick succession at The Old Frees' Association.

No sooner had the launch of the Penang Free School Bicentenary celebrations and the unveiling of FIDELIS, the commemorative book of The Old Frees' Association, been completed on 31 March 2012, many familiar faces among the members gathered again at the official opening of The Old Frees' Association annexe at Bay Avenue on the south-eastern part of Penang island on 1 April 2012.

If many had thought that it was an April Fool's joke to have an official function on this date, it was not. The opening was real enough.

At first the Governor of Penang was supposed to officiate at the function but about a week ago, the OFA received confirmation that he wouldn't be coming. I had heard that apparently, the state secretariat had reservations about him coming to a function that was located just above a gaming joint, even though the game licence belonged to the OFA.

So everything became internal from then on. The opening was formalised by the OFA president, MS Rajendren, after the noisy start. An interlude allowed Saik Mun who is the annexe clubhouse and jackpot operation sub-committee chairman, to introduce his hard-working sub-committee members who had toiled tirelessly in the last month to ensure the premises was ready for yesterday's launch. Only then we sat down for lunch before making use of the facilities here.

Not an April Fool's Day joke.

The traditional noisy start to any opening of a respectable premises.

From the way these two cut the ribbon, they must have had countless hours of practice already.

Just practicing with my camera to take an early panoramic picture inside the premises. Some of the guests at the function included Dr PP Shah (one of the OFA trustees), Abdul Rafique bin Abdul Karim (chairman of both PFS Board of Governors and PFS Bicentenary Committee), Abu Huraira Yazid (past president of OFA KL & Selangor), and Dr Choong Sim Poey and Lim Chien Aun (both OFA past presidents).

Saik Mun introducing his team.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Fidelis, the OFA commemorative book, part 30

FIDELIS, the commemorative book of The Old Frees' Association, was unveiled to the public by distinguished Old Free Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin Jamalullail, the Raja of Perlis, on 31 March 2012 as part of a ceremony to launch the Penang Free School Bicentenary Celebrations.

Moments before the unveiling of FIDELIS by the Raja of Perlis. Standing around with expectancy were OFA president MS Rajendren, PFS Board of Governors chairman and also chairman of the PFS Bicentenary Committee chairman Dato' Abdul Rafique bin Abdul Karim, Penang Governor Tun Dato' Seri Utama (Dr) Haji Abdul Rahman bin Haji Abbas, Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and Perlis Raja Muda Tuanku Syed Faizuddin Putra Jamalullail.

Here goes.....

 Recapping the pen after the Raja of Perlis had added his signature to the cover of FIDELIS

Getting ready to take a first look into the book

The Raja of Perlis getting some help from Rajendren

One of the first copies of FIDELIS being sold outside the hotel's banquet hall

Some of the dinner guests pouring over the book and discovering delightful nuggets of information