Ties between ASEAN and China

IN early September, China will host the 2016 G20 Leaders’ Summit in its scenic city of Hangzhou.

But soon afterwards, it will hold a high-level event with Asean, in Vientiane, capital of Laos.

The big power club is for swapping ideas on some of the world’s long-term issues. But no long-range relations can match the closeness between China and South-East Asia.

The dispute of South China Sea, thorny as it may be, cannot overshadow the long-standing relations between the Chinese people and their southern neighbours, and even less the geo-economic future they are bound to share.

News, by the way, came on Aug 17 that China and the 10-member group already agreed to finish a framework for a code of conduct in 2017 to ease tension and avoid conflict in the disputed waters.

Indeed, in the age of globalisation, geo--economics can be an important kind of resource. One country can leverage its good neighbourly relations to improve its global positioning. This is obviously the case for China, as it is for Asean.

At present, according to Chinese data, except mutual import and export among the member countries, China is already the largest partner with Asean, accounting for around 15% of its total trade, larger than the United States, European Union or Japan.

In investment, in the first five months of 2015, mutual capital commitment between China and Asean exceeded US$160bil (RM646bil). China foreign direct investment was certainly not a small amount in a time when most companies were hoarding cash.

The geo-economic relations between China and Asean have several aspects of significance:

First, Asean is an important bloc power, especially economically. The total value that its 10 member nations produced was US$2.4 tril (RM9.7tril) in 2013, close to the Gross Domestic Product of France.

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, for the 2016 to 2020 period, Asean’s average growth rate is projected to be the third in Asia, after only India and China (with India as the leader).

Most note-worthy is that this is perhaps the only regional economy that can keep growing on a generally low level of government debt.

Even in the most alarmist investment reports, the region can still turn out markedly better growth prospects than most other parts of the world. This growth momentum will likely carry on, as the region is projected to become the fourth-largest economy in world in 2050.

Second, Asean has unique features which are likely to result in closer ties between China and South-East Asia.

Right now, South-East Asian cities have taken over many processing operations relocated from China since 2008, to serve the markets in both the developed and more advanced developing countries.

Throughout Asean, the percentage of people living in the cities is projected to rise from about 47% in the mid-2010s to 56% in 2030 and then 67% in 2050, according to the UN World Urbanisation Prospects (2014).

This being the case, the region is really one of the few places in the world able to combine an abundant labour supply, many coastal cities and port facilities, and many small, flexible processing factories.

Such operations may have a good chance to stay in South-East Asia, so long as they are matched by good public infrastructure and education.

The new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, founded in late 2015 on a Chinese initiative, can provide funds towards such purposes.

International investors have been talking about the possibility for building “another China” in South-East Asia for some time now. In order for that to eventually happen, local governments will have to learn to build and manage their common channels for enormous capital. But step by step, this will happen.

Thirdly, China must learn to be an all-round service provider to participate more successfully in Asean’s development.

Despite its current slowdown and adjustment to new realities in the post-crisis world, China should really see it in a positive light that South-East Asian countries are both picking up manufacturing activities which have left the Chinese shore.

China will receive due returns. In a post-crisis environment, business usually recovers more quickly in societies of lower income and simpler industrial activities. But the stability and prosperity of South-East Asian economies will in turn increase the demand for Chinese machinery and services.

China-Asean trade was US$472.16bil (RM1.91tril) in 2015, accounting for 11.9% of China’s total merchandise trade with the world. In 1991, the volume was only less than US$8bil (RM32.3bil), accounting for less than 6% of China’s trade with the world.

Also according to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, from January to May this year, the construction contracts that China received from Asean amounted to US$10bil (RM40.37bil), showing an increase of 8.2% year on year. This was after a 41.2% increase in the construction deals that China received in 2015.

As Asean’s sizable middle-class is expected to be more than double in 2025 to include 125 million households, its new consumers will buy not only brands from the West and Japan, but also products from China.

For all the years since the 2008 global crisis, South-East Asia has been an unsung hero in the world.

Despite all the seemingly messy ethnic, religious and territorial relations, people really can’t name any major, insurmountable uncertainty when comparing with many other parts of the world.

All the nations here have managed to keep up stability, politically and financially. And by doing so, they have contributed to peace and development in the world.

They have not supported protectionism and have curbed extremism.

Indeed, as a regional environment, one cannot think of a better case in the world today. It is an environment that makes China feel both lucky and proud to be its neighbour.

The Star, Published: Tuesday, 30 August 2016
Asean, China can leverage on ties ;
Good neighbourly relations are a geo-economic resource which can improve global positioning.
Ed Zhang is editor-at-large with China Daily (Asia). The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.

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Future Malaysians

COME National Day tomorrow, what are we celebrating again?

I was not around during World War II. I never had the chance to listen to Tunku Abdul Rahman’s impassioned speeches against the colonial masters who had created Malayan Union and tried to wrestle power from the Sultans.

I have never met a Communist and certainly was not around to witness Communist members trying to take over our country during our formative years right after Independence.

But I had a granduncle who was ambushed and shot dead by the Communists and another granduncle who fought them as a soldier.

I grew up listening to stories about how much our forefathers went through so that we can have a peaceful country to call our own.

It is only through stories and history books that we have a peek into our country’s past.

At this rate, the future generations may never know what Malaysia is made of. One must never take one’s country for granted.

How about creating a time capsule? Families, societies, clubs or companies can easily make one and it will be a fun and memorable way to celebrate National Day.

Imagine the nostalgia, sense of pride and historical value this box will bring to the future generations.

How would people in the future react to finding tangible relics from, say, 100 years ago?

How would you box up your dreams, hope and aspirations?

They can be conveyed via photographs, letters, newspaper clippings, paintings and more.

In my own time capsule, I would include newspaper clippings showing how united Malaysians were in supporting national shuttler Datuk Lee Chong Wei in the Rio Olympics, regardless of race and religion.

I would write stories about how hard the people in my era fought modern-day oppression and injustice.

I would throw in pictures of my ‘rojak’ family and recipes of simple yet meaningful home-cooked dishes.

I would throw in a pen drive and a smartphone too. Imagine what Malaysians would do with a pen drive 100 years from now! It will probably be both challenging and satisfying for them to access it.

In the case of a smartphone, the battery may leak so I would detached the battery and even wrap it in plastic. Throwing in the phone charger as well might not be a bad idea.

You can set a time capsule to be opened at anytime in the future.

Last year, Eastern and Oriental Hotel created a time capsule to be opened 130 years later. The capsule, an 80-year-old chest, is now displayed in the hotel lobby.

Penang Free School is also creating a time capsule for their 200th anniversary this year and they are making it a 50-year affair.

Many people around the world have created time capsules and some even bury them deep underground so that they will survive even a nuclear holocaust.

From what I have read, most time capsules are watertight and weatherproof, and that’s a good idea.

Put in items that reflect your dreams and capture treasured memories of our country.

We all have a role to play in shaping Malaysia and let’s make sure future Malaysians will not take our country for granted.

The Star Metro, Published: Tuesday, 30 August 2016
Preserving our nation’s legacy

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How Malaysians abroad celebrate Merdeka

I have left Malaysia to work abroad since Aug 1999. Since then, I have worked in four different countries around the world – the Netherlands, Oman, Norway and Qatar.

So, I have enjoyed many different ways of celebrating our Merdeka Day. I had initially expected the Malaysian embassy to organise Hari Merdeka events. But this was not the case in all locations.

Then again, it is our Hari Merdeka, so it is a day for Malaysians to celebrate it in our very own ways.

In general, if Hari Merdeka falls on a weekday, we’d celebrate it the following weekend so everyone could join in.

When we were in the Netherlands, the Malaysian Embassy in The Hague – Datuk Faridah Ariffin was the ambassador then – organised a family day for the Malaysian community there. The embassy was keen to organise the event as there were many Malaysians living around The Hague, Rotterdam and Amsterdam.

Malaysians gathered for sports, makan, hoisting up the Jalur Gemilang and great fun. We even played sepak takraw, impressing our young kids and spouses with skills we seriously thought were long gone. But after that we became aware of muscles we never thought existed by how sore they were for days.

In Norway, there was no Malaysian embassy. So we organised our own Merdeka celebrations in 2014. The small community of five Malaysian families in Stavanger gathered at the mountains in Sirdal. We rented cabins and drove up in a convoy. We gathered at one of the cabins for our Hari Merdeka celebration. We prepared a barbecue, and each family brought some dishes and desserts.

We even organised a quiz on Malaysiana stuff and history and played national day songs to add to the atmosphere. We decorated the cabin with Jalur Gemilang flags.

The most important factor was of course the genuine Malaysian spirit, camaraderie and humour.

I was asked to make a spontaneous speech before dinner which I declined because I was unprepared. But I felt bad and couldn’t sleep that night, so I wrote my Merdeka speech and emailed it to my fellow Malaysians. It was well-received; I was happy and humbled.

I moved to Qatar last year. There were about 15 families in Qatar Shell and one of them organised a Hari Merdeka celebration in her home. The house was decorated with Jalur Gemilang and we feasted on a potluck of sumptuous Malaysian dishes. The Malaysian spirit was strong and newcomers to the community like me took the opportunity to get to know my fellow citizens. We shared updates and views on the latest affair in our country. As the host was also supporting the “Say Something Nice” campaign, some of us signed off our pledges of love of our country on a big piece of paper.

It is always meaningful to celebrate Merdeka with my fellow Malaysians, wherever I am.

The Star 2, Published: AUGUST 30, 2016

How Malaysians abroad celebrate Merdeka

Wherever they are or how long they have been away, home is close to Malaysians’ hearts. This Merdeka, they reflect on what Malaysia means to them.

Celebrating Merdeka in Qatar was a great way to get to know fellow Malaysians.


For my "Sambal On The Side" column due on or around Aug 31, I’d write something to commemorate Malaysia’s Independence Day: Either a wistful ode or a barb-laced piece, depending on what made headlines in the tanahair that given year. This time however, I’ve decided to focus on the word merdeka itself, and what it now means to me as a Malaysian abroad.

A quick Wikipedia check of merdeka’s meaning and origin yielded an insightful find: “Merdeka is a word in the Indonesian and Malay language meaning independent or free”. It is derived from the Sanskrit word, maharddhika, which means “rich, prosperous and powerful”.

My first thought was, “How serendipitous!” After all, some insular purists back home have spent an inordinate amount of time debating semantics and word ownership. This word and its origins kind of fly in the face of folks hell-bent on ripping the multi-cultural tapestry that is Malaysia.

When I left Malaysia in 2004, my dependence on a lifestyle that I was all too familiar with – and often took for granted – became uncomfortably obvious.

Be it the climate, the convenience of 24-hour clinics, cobblers who could fix a kaput heel in 10 minutes to striking up conversations with strangers, attending open houses or having a banana leaf meal with a group of friends who neither look like me nor speak my mother tongue. The wind in the angsana trees, the song of the cicadas, the crashing of waves, conversations at a wet market.

These are things so uniquely Malaysian, and can’t be replicated outside of Malaysia. They matter when you’ve been uprooted to an environment devoid of all that I now consider my creature comforts.

But it has made me more independent, pushed me out of my comfort zone, helped me discover and appreciate alternatives and even unearthed hidden potential.

As a food-loving, craving Malaysian, I was driven to finally learn how to cook from scratch some of the food I sorely miss. And I work to the sounds of the rainforest, courtesy of Spotify.

Yet, my departure liberated me from certain systems back home, such as when the odds of me being placed at an educational institution or netting certain jobs were stacked against me for simply being me: a Malaysian albeit, not the right type.

The irony, however, is that these very systems have unwittingly armed “not-the-right-type Malaysians” with steely determination and the street smarts to hack it elsewhere.

It is also liberating to voice my views without fear of censure. But I do credit our upbringing of “saving face” in enabling me to express divergent views in a less coarse manner than others. You can disagree but why diss, right?

Our uniqueness as a melting pot has also equipped us with the ability to adapt to or assimilate in any culture.

I’ve met Malaysians in unlikely places. “I’m from Perak, where you from?” “Wah, you Indian ah? I thought you African!” “How long you been here already?” “Me, ah? 16 years already, woh.” “Masih boleh cakap Melayu, kah?

I now appreciate the wisdom of making it mandatory for us to learn a common national language. It has given us the unique privilege of being either bi- or tri-lingual from childhood, strengthening and “loosening” our tongues, thus easing our learning of foreign languages.

I am also thankful that our colonial past ensured that some of us have a firm grasp of English that has others in thrall of our multilingual capacities. It makes us highly employable elsewhere.

Having lived 12 years away from the tanah-air has also changed my definition of who is a “Malaysian.” A Malaysian isn’t just someone who holds the passport or lives within the country’s perimeters as shown on a globe.

We are Malaysians by virtue of our affability, our respect for and acceptance of what bigots define as “others” and “otherness”, our generosity, our respect for true rule of law, and yes, our utter unwillingness to watch the only place we call home, go to the dogs.

Being outside and looking in, I can only repeat that Malaysia and her people could actually set the benchmark for globalised living and peaceful co-existence.


Having lived away from Malaysia for 10 years, I sometimes feel neither here nor there. My then-new spouse took a job in Switzerland and I went along. Eight years after that, we semi-retired in Bavaria, Germany.

We, or I alone, visit Malaysia about once a year for about three to four weeks each time to catch up with family and friends. Of course, Malaysian food beckons as much as the country’s natural beauty spots.

After years of observation, I believe there is such a thing as a national character. Why else do most Malaysians who meet abroad get along so easily? We are in general open to people from all cultures because we are from a multicultural society. Our best feature is the Malaysian hospitality. Foreigners wonder at and are amused by how we greet each other in Bahasa Malaysia or Chinese dialects with the question: Have you eaten? Malaysians are always ready to share their food and drink, no matter how rich or poor we are.

When a neighbour here throws a casual garden party, he asked my spouse to bring his own beer. At a bonfire picnic near Rome many years ago, we ended up half starved because our host couldn’t make bruschetta fast enough. I’m not saying all Germans and Italians behave like that but I’ve never experienced anything similar with Malaysians.

We are a food obsessed nation. If you look at Malaysians’ Facebook postings, it’s often about food, be it cooking, baking or eating out.

In Germany, whatever I wanted to eat I had to make it myself. So, I have had to experiment with making my favourite Malaysian food. In Switzerland, a British-Punjabi friend ran lunchtime classes and invited me to teach in a few. It’s a way of sharing our culture and cuisine in a hands-on way. That was also how I learned to cook Russian, Thai, Indian and Korean food.

Now in Bavaria, I teach simple Asian cooking in my halting German at our local community college. This brings me to my second point – language. While I am happy to inherit the legacy of the English language from our British colonials, I am also proud to have done all my schooling in Bahasa Malaysia. To my regret, I did not pick up Mandarin as I grew up speaking Cantonese and English.

Now that I have been learning German out of necessity and curiosity, it makes me want to continue using Bahasa Malaysia and perhaps even learn some Chinese. A few weeks ago, I wrote all my Facebook updates in Bahasa Malaysia and broken German for 24 hours as a small protest against the dominance of the English language worldwide.

It was liberating and fun; some friends enjoyed responding in Bahasa Malaysia and in German, too. It reminded me of how Malaysian I am and how glad I am to be able to write in other languages apart from English.

Being neither here nor there, I have one foot in the West and half my heart back in Malaysia.

People ask me if I miss home. While I believe home is where I set up house and garden, you can take me out of Malaysia but Malaysia will always remain in me. Happy Merdeka Day, everyone!

Lou Joon Yee has made a home in her husband Rainer Kraska's home country, Germany, but Malaysia will always be in her heart.

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Merdeka resolutions?

DEAR Malaysian brothers and sisters, do you know or understand what Merdeka Day stands for?

To me, it is independence day, the day when the Federation of Malaya became independent of the British Empire.

In case you haven’t noticed, every year we have a theme for the celebration with the idea being to give a particular setting, mood or feeling or to address concerns. Looking back, from 1970 there were numerous themes ranging from unity, self reliance and looking forward, as in Vision 2020.

Let us look at one very interesting theme, unity or harmony. This theme was used 14 times between 1970 and 2014, and even the 2015 and 2016 theme “Malaysia, Sehati Sejiwa” (One Heart, One Soul) has connotations of unity. That makes up one-third of all the themes since 1970.

One may ask why unity is being emphasised and given prominence and my response would be, why not? The reason for retaining the “Sehati, Sejiwa” theme could be because it can enhance the people’s spirit of patriotism and love for the country. There were fears that there would be competition in terms of a globalised approach towards the spirit of nationalism. I think this fear lacks base or is not supported by solid evidence.

Patriotism is love for or devotion to one’s country. People may differ in political ideologies but patriotism is a different kettle of fish. It is like having knowledge is one thing but being able to communicate this to others is another.

Looking at events in the last couple of years, one will understand the need to emphasise unity since it is a deep-rooted concern. I do not need to list the events here because almost everyone who is in contact with the various kinds of media is aware of what they are.

Apart from patriotism and unity, I wish to add good values as another current concern. Moving towards developed nation status, we need our citizenry to have and practise good values. We had themes like “Berdisplin Berharmoni” (Discipline and Harmony, 1981), “Amanah Asas Kejayaan” (Honesty Brings Success, 1984) and “Akhlak Mulia Masyarakat Jaya” (Good Values Make a Successful Society, 1997). I do hope the organisers of future national day celebrations will give due consideration to these themes.

As for the rakyat, we have our part to play as well but what we need now is for the government of the day to be, and be seen to be, serious in planning and implementing unity programmes. This should include strict enforcement on anyone tending toward sedition and racial tension which have become issues of serious concern lately. Let us have meaningful programmes rather than skin-deep initiatives. Selamat Hari Merdeka to all.

Letter to the Star, Published: Tuesday, 30 August 2016
Unity the all-important theme

RESOLUTIONS are synonymous with the New Year, though they are not always "new"; be that as it may, resolutions are made so we can progress and keep track of ourselves.

As we approach our 59th Merdeka, why don't we come out with Merdeka resolutions? News that we often see in newspapers and on TV is mostly bad; one after another. Thus isn't it time for us to reflect on what we have done so that we can project a better future?

In the spirit of Merdeka, we should also liberate ourselves from age-old racism. While it might be impossible to erase the "race" section, we should at least free our mind from categorising people based on their race. After more than a half-century of independence, we should have realised that racial supremacy is only capable of dividing us.

Like racism, bigotry is also deeply woven into our society. We recognise that religious issues can be highly sensitive, which is why I am choosing my words – very carefully – when conveying my thoughts. "To you be your way, and to me mine" is what I believe in and hold on to. It serves as a constant reminder that I have no right to compel people to embrace my religion, nor do people have the right to do that to me.

But not all people have that awareness. While some people just want to poke fun at other religions, there are those who harm people of other religions due to reasons such as hatred, vengeance or plain ignorance. In dealing with either case, wisdom needs to be exercised.

I remember reading an article responding to the Charlie Hebdo shooting. The author wisely put that what they drew was not Prophet Muhammad. If we could see the truth in the statement – that what was drawn was a mere image – we wouldn't have been easily provoked.

To get rid of plagues such as racism and bigotry, what we need is knowledge. It is only with knowledge that we can enlighten ourselves and act rationally. We should, therefore, learn about ourselves, the people around us and the mechanics involved. This is a lifelong pursuit, thus, we learn each skill as we progress. What we have to do along the way is to open our hearts to new knowledge.

The next thing after attaining knowledge is applying it. It is indeed a pity if we do not act upon the knowledge gained. That we are informed of an issue should make us more sensible in evaluating the issue at hand. For example, if we know how corrupt a person is, we would not close our eyes to the issue but do everything in our power to address it.

But on top of knowledge is conscience – the moral compass – which governs our behaviour. Our conscience can be easily stirred by temptations surrounding us, thus it is pertinent for us to purify our intention and do good; that should be our ultimate resolution.

SynDaily, Posted on 29 August 2016 - 08:15pm
Merdeka resolutions?
By Nur Adilah Ramli
Nur Adilah Ramli is studying English Linguistics and Literature at the International Islamic University Malaysia.

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To be united in our differences

With Merdeka Day just around the corner, it’s time to celebrate all the quirky things we love about being a Malaysian. History (Astro Ch 555) has compiled some of that quirkiness in its one-hour special 10 Things We Love About Malaysians, which premieres Aug 28 at 10pm.

It is hosted by Douglas Lim, who talks to experts and Malaysians on what makes us so unique and behave the way that we do. Lim described the show as a retrospective light-hearted programme where we can laugh together at what sets Malaysians apart from the rest of the world.

You know, like our mixture of English and Bahasa that has become known as Manglish. Or that peculiar and maddening concept of punctuality, “Malaysian time”.

“We are who we are. Can’t change that,” Lim said with a laugh during the press conference held to launch the show.

Lim shared that he and the producers collaborated on the script and the list as well. The team went through several brainstorming sessions to make sure the list consisted of items that were truly unique.

Lim explained: “The whole thing about Malaysia being multicultural – these days, almost all countries are not homogenous anymore. So to be constantly chest-thumping about being multicultural, to be united in our differences, let’s get over that. What else? We needed to identify other things that made Malaysians interesting. Food? Come on! Every country is proud of their food, even those with bad food. That was the biggest challenge. While Malaysians would love everything we came up with, because it’s about us, would other countries find us interesting?

Lim has celebrity guests like Reshmonu and Harith Iskander on the show for the extra colour. During the show, Lim also gives his two sen worth – or “observational commentary” as he termed it – to ensure that some facts do not rub the audience the wrong way, citing “Malaysian time” as an example.

“We talk about Malaysian timing, but what it is actually is a lack of professionalism. You are being irresponsible, which is something very heavy. So my job is to temper that. Then we have a panel of experts come in to reinterpret the concept of time for a country like Malaysia where we view time as a more stre-e-e-tchy concept.”

However, some topics are no laughing matter, like inconsiderate Malaysian drivers.

“The thing about traffic … there is really no positive way to spin it. We behave like Third World citizens when we get in a car, and behind the wheel: We park anywhere we like. I can understand there are places where you can behave that way, but you are not supposed to do things like that. There is a collective responsibility and rules in place. So we’re actually breaking laws. Motorbike riders putting their handphones in the helmet … ‘hey, that’s cute,’ but they are criminals!”

The show is fast-paced enough that there is no dwelling on one thing too long – be it the good, the bad or the ugly part of being Malaysians.

Lim’s own favourite item on the list is: “People doing charity work on their own without much governmental support or patrons. There are times when Malaysians just band together for a good purpose – in response to a disaster, or just going out and giving food to the homeless.”

He concluded: “At the end of the day, it’s a feel-good show. And we accept certain things are the way they are, that’s just us.”

10 Things We Love About Malaysians is one of three one-hour specials featured under History Asia’s Negaraku Specials, on Sunday at 10pm.

On Sept 4, check out Road To Nationhood which highlights the events behind the formation of our country, featuring previously unseen footage as well as stories of our political leaders in their struggles to achieve independence.

Every Street Tells A Story (Sept 11) has host Umapagan Ampikaipakan walking through a number of famous streets of Kuala Lumpur like Jalan Tun Perak, Jalan Raja and Jalan Pudu, learning their histories.

At the same press conference, Umapagan said: “It was eye-opening for me and I think it will be eye-opening for viewers as well. We traverse these streets every day but we know next to nothing about them. So in the show, I talk about the origins of these streets and more importantly, I talk to the people who live and work and spend all of their lives on these streets. This would be a new side of KL, I guarantee it, to a lot of you.”

The Star 2, Published: AUGUST 28, 2016
Can you list 10 things you love about Malaysia and its people?

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A golden yet forgotten era

SEREMBAN: Eighty-three-year-old V. Velayuthan vividly remembers the morning he walked into Stadium Merdeka with 12 members of his Ulu Temiang Home Guard team on Independence Day, Aug 31, 1957.

Velayuthan, whose team had three months earlier received letters of commendation from the then state ruler and Federation of Malaya Home Guard inspector-general for gunning down two communist insurgents high on the wanted list, remembers being drenched in rain as they made their way in.

“My team had been invited to the ceremony and given the honour to take part in a march past before (Malaysia’s first Prime Minister) Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj and other dignitaries.

“We had been staying and training at the Wardieburn Camp in Kuala Lumpur for a week to get it right for the event,” he recalled.

Velayuthan, whose parents had migrated from Kerala, India, in 1929, remembered that it was already pouring when they were ready to move from the camp at 5am.

“Despite the rain, we had to get in line and hop onto the trucks to be driven to the stadium.

“As we entered the stadium just before 10am, the rain had become intermittent but we were so high in spirit that it didn’t matter,” he said.

Velayuthan, whose team was set up in 1954, said he still gets goosebumps when he narrates the event to his family and friends.

“It was an honour to be there and be part of such an historic event,” said Velayuthan, a father of five.

Velayuthan, who was working in a printing press, and his team were picked from about a hundred individuals to join the Home Guard in Ulu Temiang, then a “black area”.

“After being selected, we were sent to a camp in Port Dickson for a three-month training stint.

“I still remember that we had to take our bath in the sea along the 12th mile as there was hardly any piped water then,” he said, adding that his employers refused to pay his salary for the duration of his training.

He said after completing the stint, an officer whom he remembered only as Ah Lim was made head of his team and they were assigned to patrol the jungles of Ulu Temiang for two hours every night.

“Although we were paid only a monthly allowance of Malaya $17, no one complained,” he said, adding that his team was also required to attend a week’s training every six months after that.

Velayuthan said his team’s moment of truth came at about 9.30pm on March 13, 1957, when they gunned down the two communist insurgents.

“When we bumped into them, they asked us if we were Home Guards. Before we could say anything, they ran off.

“Despite our shouts of ‘halt’ several times, the insurgents refused to stop,” he related.

Velayuthan said his team was forced to open fire when two of the three men turned around to shoot.

“We also found Malaya $40,000 on them and surrendered the money to our superiors,” he said.

For their bravery, each member of the team also received a cash reward of between Malaya $1,500 and Malaya $2,000 depending on their rank.

The Star, Published: Monday, 29 August 2016
Marching past the Tunku with pride
Good old days: Velayuthan, then only 21 (standing third from right), with the rest of his Home Guard squad assigned to patrol the jungles of Ulu Temiang in a photograph taken in 1954. (Inset) Velayuthan patriotic as ever.

ON the morning of Aug 31, 1957, I was an 11-year-old schoolboy standing with thousands of other schoolchildren on the Town Padang in Kluang, Johor, delighted to have a day off from school. When the proceedings in Kuala Lumpur were broadcast over the loudspeakers, I joined in lustily with the millions gathered that morning all over Malaya in shouting, "Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka!"

I knew it was seven times because I counted each reverberation, but little did I understand the significance of the word or its implications, beyond the fact that the day was a holiday and we would get free ice-cream and a free film show at the Brilliant Cinema nearby.

That voice of Tunku Abdul Rahman, Malaya's first prime minister, shouting Merdeka!" became part of Malaysia's history and was the culmination of the political awakening of a new nation, which had begun more than 11 years before.

Just after the Second World War, the returning British imperial powers made a fatal mistake in the attempt to reconsolidate their colonial possessions. Their emissary, Sir Harold MacMichael, called on the rulers of the four Federated Malay States, Selangor, Negri Sembilan, Perak and Pahang and of the five Unfederated Malay States of Johor, Terengganu, Kelantan, Kedah and Perlis, to get them to sign new treaties, which, among other things, ceded their sovereignty to King George VI.

On April 1, 1946, the British Colonial Protectorate called the "Malayan Union" was formed, comprising the nine Malay states and the Straits Settlements of Penang and Malacca, leaving the Straits Settlement of Singapore out alone as the Crown Colony of Singapore.

From this apparent affront to Malay sovereignty, a movement was born in May 1946 in the state of Johor, led by a Malay state civil servant, Onn bin Ja'afar. The United Malays National Organisation (Umno) was born with the avowed mission of restoring Malay sovereignty, encapsulated in a simple and effective slogan: Hidup Melayu.

Umno spearheaded the movement to annul the so-called MacMichael treaties and restore sovereignty to the Malay rulers. The British revoked the Malayan Union and in its place, set up on Feb 1, 1948 the British Protectorate called the Federation of Malaya, with sovereignty and power re-vested in the Malay rulers, insofar as it concerned the Malay states.

But the Malays had been awakened, and began to question why a people from thousands of miles away should have the right to lord it over them. Events in the countries of origin, principally China and India, also got the immigrants to question whether Malaya was just a place to earn some money before returning triumphantly to their homeland as rich compadres; or a place to drop roots and build a stake. The Chinese organised under the Malayan Chinese Association (MCA) and the Indians gravitated finally to the Malayan Indian Congress (MIC). Politics, from those early days, was largely confined to safeguarding the rights and interests of the various communal groups.

In the meantime, the heavy expenditure in arms, material and manpower, especially during the world war, had taken its toll on the once-mighty British Lion. It had become effete, poor and weary, and could not sustain the proud boast that the sun never sets on the Empire. The concept of a British Commonwealth of Nations was mooted in its place, and it became British foreign policy to assist all previous possessions to become self-ruling and eventually politically independent within the Commonwealth.

In accordance with this objective, in July 1955, nationwide elections were introduced for 52 out of 84 seats in the Malayan Federal Legislative Assembly. Umno, MCA and MIC contested under the common platform of the Alliance, (which incidentally was not registered as a political party until October 1957) but without its sailboat emblem, and won all but one of the seats. In Krian, Perak, Haji Ahmad Tuan Hussein won for the Pan-Malayan Islamic Party (PMIP, now PAS).

The first meeting of the Federal Legislative Assembly was held on Aug 31, 1955. At the following Umno general assembly held in December 1955, a resolution was passed calling for Umno representatives to the Merdeka Mission in January 1956 to demand political independence from the British within two years of limited self-rule or "by the end of August 1957".

One delegate was reported to have said that the resolution was arrogant and uncharacteristic of the gentle nature of the Malays, and he proposed the addition of "if possible". To the delight of the members, this amendment was unanimously accepted. (It was later ventured that the unknown delegate had used the Islamic term insya-Allah, or God willing, which the Straits Times translated as "if possible".)

The Tunku's mission in January 1956 thus did not have a restrictive deadline. However, during his sea voyage on the Asia, together with representatives of the Malay rulers and the leaders of his Alliance, the date Aug 31 became a subject of conversation. The Chinese leaders of the MCA must have pointed out to the Tunku that in Cantonese, 31-8 could be homophonic with sung-yet fatt ... literally, "birthday prosper" or "prosper from birth") or sung yet-fatt ... literally, "born straightaway prosper".

The Tunku must have been delighted with this propitious homophone, and strived in his talks with the British officials to obtain independence on Aug 31.

The struggle for Malayan independence was relatively easy. Upon arrival in London in January 1956, a senior British Colonial Office official was reported to have told the Malayan delegation, "We shall give you all you are seeking on a gold plate." The question of independence was never in doubt, given the united stand taken by both the political section represented by the Tunku, and the Malay rulers, represented by the mentri besar of Perak, Panglima Bukit Gantang, Abdul Wahab Toh Muda Abdul Aziz.

The Tunku flew back in triumph in February 1956 to Singapore and drove up to Malacca, where he proclaimed that "on 31st August 1957, there would be an end to more than 400 years of shameful subjection," alluding to the 1511 conquest of Malacca by the Portuguese which resulted in the first foreign domination, followed by the Dutch, the British, the Japanese and finally the British again.

Tunku's fascination with 31-8 did not end there. When Malaysia, comprising the Federation of Malaya, Singapore, North Borneo (later renamed Sabah)and Sarawak was formed in 1963, the date chosen for the merger was 31 August. However, due to Tunku's desire to appease President Sukarno of Indonesia, the date was postponed to Sept 16 to allow the United Nations task force enough time to complete their studies and report back to secretary-general U Thant that the people of North Borneo and Sarawak were happy to merge into Malaysia.

In the event, the appeasement was futile, as Sukarno had been using the issue of confrontation against Malaysia, which he claimed was neo-colonialism, for his personal agenda of diverting attention from his own political and economic problems. Notwithstanding that the Federation of Malaysia was legally and ceremonially constituted on Sept 16, 1963, subsequent anniversaries have always been celebrated on Aug 31.

Many years later, I went back to the scene of that momentous ceremony in Kluang. In its place stands an ugly concrete jungle of shopping malls. In the name of progress and maximising the utility of valuable real estate, the padang had been handed over to developers for crass commerce. Brilliant Cinema is no more, and I still cannot remember what film played that day.

Many years later, Tunku confessed that he had not meant to shout Merdeka so many times. The reverberation of Merdeka around the stadium was so exhilarating that he got carried away. Subsequent replays by television channels of the famous shouts shortened the shouts to three, leading many to the mistaken notion that Tunku had shouted Merdeka three times. Believe me, he shouted seven times.

This article is excerpted from the book Grandfather Stories by retired accountant Yap Yok Foo a. k. a. Uncle Yap. The book takes readers down memory lane recounting a golden yet forgotten era.

The SunDaily, Last updated on 28 August 2016 - 08:18pm
An eye on prosperity
By Yap Yok Foo

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What if US fails to ratify TPP?

MY last column on the Trans-Pacific Partnership being caught up in the United States presidential election dynamics (The Star, Aug15) received several responses.

I had raised the possibility that the TPP, already signed by 12 countries, might falter at the last stage of ratification by Congress because the trade agreement has become very unpopular in the US.

President Barack Obama must try to get a TPP Bill passed during the “lame duck” Congress session between November and January, but there are doubts he will have enough votes.

A good American friend of mine who closely follows Congress politics read my article and had this response:

“I would say the chances of the TPP being rejected are 50% to 60%. However, one can never discount what can happen in a lame duck session, especially if a lot of House incumbents lose their seats and so start thinking about their next job rather than being accountable to voters at home who are against the TPP. But right now they do not have the votes by a good margin.”

Another friend, who is Asian, has another view. “My take on TPP is that eventually it will get passed by the US Congress, if not now then within a couple of years.”

Yet another colleague seems to share this view. “It is a mystery why the US President is so keen to have it through against so much opposition. Perhaps the corporate lobby groups are very strong.

“If so, they are likely to prevail upon the dissenting politicians. Thus, the US President is likely to have a battery of fighters on his side. Perhaps with some sops thrown here and there, the opposition of the politicians may melt down, particularly after the dust settles post-election.”

Obama is certainly going all out to get the TPP ratified. A New York Times article on Aug 22 says the President is preparing one final push for approval and he may yet win because of his alliance with Republicans who control Congress.

According to the article, many of his Cabinet members, including Secretary of State John Kerry and Defence Secretary Ashton Carter, two former Admirals and many business and farm leaders are geared up to go on road shows throughout the country.

On the other hand, many trade unions, environmental and health organisations are also planning a big nationwide campaign to get candidates for Congress to pledge they will vote against the TPP. It will be a fierce fight.

The other countries that have signed the TPPA, Malaysia included, should prepare to respond to what happens in the US.

Most likely, the US will try to persuade some of its TPP partners to take on additional obligations to satisfy the demands of its Congress members.

The US can try to achieve this through introducing new bilateral side agreements on specific issues with specific countries.

It can also make use of the “certification process” in which the US administration has to certify that each of its TPP partners has taken measures to meet its TPP obligations and is thus eligible to enjoy the TPP benefits provided by the US.

In previous free trade agreements, the US had put pressure on countries to take on extra obligations beyond what their FTA requires. It can again make use of this certification process to obtain some TPP-plus commitments from its partners.

It can then show Congress members that what they want from the TPP has been effectively achieved, even if these are not inside the TPP text.

The other TPP countries have already taken on very heavy obligations under the agreed TPPA. It would be very unfair to ask them to undertake even more obligations, which would adversely affect the balance of costs and benefits of the TPP for them.

“It will be a real debacle for the other signatory countries if the US insists on additional commitments through bilateral protocols,” says Bhagirath Lal Das, an international trade expert based in India.

“The US has adopted this strategy several times in the past. For example, in its bilateral trade agreement with South Korea, the US Congress insisted on renegotiation of some parts before ratification.

“Thus we have often seen that negotiating with the US is in two layers: once with the negotiators from the Administration and then indirectly with the US Congress. This is unfair.”

Finally, all the TPP countries are already preparing changes to their domestic laws, regulations and policies in order to comply with the TPPA. Malaysia, for example, will have to make almost 30 changes to its laws.

In many cases, these changes are to the detriment of these countries, especially in the area of intellectual property, which will affect access to affordable medicines, access to information, and the ability of farmers to save seeds.

The TPP countries agreed to these changes in exchange for the perceived benefits they will obtain from other parts of the TPPA, especially more market access for their exports.

However, if the TPPA does not come into force because of the failure of the US to ratify, it would not make sense to introduce those new policies and laws that are not beneficial.

Therefore, the countries should protect their interests by having these measures come into force only after the TPPA itself comes into force, and not before.

Even if legislation is prepared and introduced in order to prepare for compliance with the TPPA, these laws could contain the provision that they will come into force only if and when the TPPA itself comes into force, or upon completion of the implementation period of the TPPA.

Adopting this strategy is only being pragmatic. Once a country adopts laws to implement its TPP commitments, it may be difficult to roll them back.

Thus, the country may suffer the adverse effects of the TPP even if the TPP does not come into force, and meanwhile it does not get to enjoy the benefits of more market access.

The Star, Published: Monday, 29 August 2016
What if the United States fails to ratify TPP?

Cf: Mr Yahho's Blog unfer the title of "TPPA to be discarded" dated 2016年08月15日

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Passengers coming from Rio to KLIA

THREE weeks ago, I made a trip to Rio to watch the Olympic Games. Before I left, I checked the WHO website on the yellow fever vaccine requirement. The list showed that all countries in Africa, central and south America including Brazil (except Rio and Sao Paolo) required visitors to be vaccinated. Just to double check, I went to a private clinic and the doctor confirmed that I didn’t need to be vaccinated.

The Health Ministry knew pretty well that many Malaysians would be going to Rio either as athletes, officials or supporters. So it should have placed messages in the media specifying that it’s mandatory for all going to Rio to get vaccinated and this would have solved a lot of problems.

When I returned on Aug 24, I saw a signboard requiring all passengers coming from Rio to report to the Health Ministry’s screening and quarantine centre.

A group of supporters in front of me very quickly went through the auto gate and left. Being an honest and responsible citizen, I went to the screening centre. Since I could not produce the certificate of vaccination, I was told that I would be held in the quarantine centre for six days.

What about the 10 or so supporters and probably many more who knew about this quarantine and got away? And what about the VIPs who were in the same flight as me? It’s clear cut double standard. In fact, if I had known about this six-day quarantine I too would have just gone through the auto gate and got home to be with my family without any hassle.

I was given a flyer stating that one could be quarantined for a maximum of six days and if there were no symptoms in three or four days, one would be free to go. I pointed this out to the head of the quarantine unit but she was adamant on insisting that I stay for six full days. Their calculation of six full days was perplexing as well. One officer said it starts from the time you stamped the passport in Rio, another said from the time you left Rio following Malaysian time (difference of 11 hours) and the third said it starts from when you landed at KLIA.

I appealed to them, saying I had many commitments and it would be a problem and also a loss of income for me. I told them that there should be a contingency plan but everything I said fell on deaf ears.

The bigger shock came when I was told where I would be staying for the next six days. It was a dormitory for 11 people with one bathroom. This dormitory is normally used by foreigners. A few of those under quarantine opted to stay in a hotel as their employers would pay for them since they were in Rio on a job assignment.

How can Malaysians be given this kind of treatment? I am a senior citizen and a retired civil servant and I am given this shabby treatment. The meals provided were bought from stalls outside the airport. What if we had suffered food poisoning?

Every day they took our temperature and blood pressure twice. My blood pressure reading was 200/87. I was getting worried but the medical staff taking the pressure seemed cool. After three days of reading and my pressure was not coming down, I called my lawyer who got in touch with the doctor in charge. They became more concerned after that. If anything had happened to me while I was in quarantine, who would be responsible? I don’t think they even cared.

Whenever I raised a question with the good doctor, I got the same answer: “I am following orders” or “It’s our SOP.” I would like to ask the Health Ministry who should compensate for our loss during the six days we were in quarantine. I think it’s time the Health Ministry gets its act together. The whole episode does not reflect well on our civil service.

The Star, Published: Monday, 29 August 2016
Frustrated in quarantine

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Ties between Russia and Turkey

The Turkish Republic is unique in various ways. Its strategic geographical location makes it a bridge between the East and the West. It is perhaps the only country that is situated at the intersection of the East and the West. When it gravitated toward the West, it felt the threatening force of the East on its doorstep, and when it turned its face to East, the same threat appeared from the West.

In 1923, when the Lausanne negotiations – aimed at authenticating the birth of a new Turkey – were interrupted, Turkey was exposed to the pressure from Britain while it got closer to Russia. While for Turkey, which was still in the process of negotiating at Lausanne, this entente not only strengthened its hand toward Europe, it also signified a threat to the West. However, the West, which was spearheaded by Britain, was thinking that strategically important Turkey should not be “lost.”

In 1946, after the multi-party period in Turkey, befriending the East carried substantial risks. Every Turkish government that fixed its attention on treaties of friendship with the East and strengthened its military and trade relations with the countries in that part of the world , met with external threats and eventually coup attempts with external support. The Cold War period affected Turkey the most. Moscow thought that acquiring the control of the straits would be an effective way to fight against western threat, and it integrated Turkey into the line of attack. Washington, on the other hand, was terrified of a possible Russia-Turkey alliance and believed that if Russia controlled the straits, it could pose a great danger. The admittance of Turkey into NATO helped clarify Turkey’s position to a great extent but it resulted into some other problems in the already polarized world.

The 20th century was a time when countries that came out of the world wars were out of control and they were buried deep into the calamity of violence under the effect of deviant ideologies. In the current century, maybe we are experiencing this terror in a different way. However, almost everyone in the world is now aware that we are not better off with a polarized world.

Turkey is one of the countries that understand this fact. Right now there is no Cold War; therefore Turkey is not obligated to side against a country on another’s request. Most people might be interpreting Turkey’s membership in NATO as a western pact membership. NATO was established to maintain peace. In the current situation, it would be better for it to include the East too, and designate a goal in this direction. We stated this fact years ago: If Russia was admitted as a member of NATO, the world could become more peaceful. However for some reasons, the realpolitik interests of some still necessitate the world to be divided into two different fronts. Hence, this is always a cause for trouble.

If we are to return to Turkey, undoubtedly, NATO membership is an important factor. However today, there is no doubt that NATO needs Turkey, more than Turkey needs NATO. In the current circumstances, no side is in a situation to coerce Turkey into taking a side. If we are to evaluate the subject in terms of Turkey-Russia ties, we will reach the following conclusion: While Turkey was improving its long-lasting friendship with Russia, it never turned its back on NATO or its western allies. The relationship with Russia, which was the first country to call Turkey during the coup attempt, will undoubtedly improve in future.

Turkey, however, value its western allies and wishes to further strengthen its ties with them because it is a country, which understands that the true solution for world’s problems can only be achieved through forging alliances and that polarization is not the right approach. In Turkey, where political polarization makes itself evident from time to time, the fact that in only one night such a great sense of unity is achieved is the most important proof of this fact. Turkey will maintain this unity with its neighbors and allies in the future. It may be that Turkey’s allies comprise of countries which can’t get along with each other or see each other as threats. But this fact never constitutes an obstacle for Turkey’s separate friendship with these countries.

The pleasant sight of two leaders, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Vladimir Putin, shaking hands in St. Petersburg should not lead to unnecessary speculations. Turkey is a country that wants to be and can be friends with both the West and the East.

We should also take into consideration the importance of Turkey-Russia ties for the resolution of the Syrian conflict. During the last week’s meeting a consensus was reached, both sides specifically laid emphasis on the importance of “territorial integrity” in Syria. Acting in accordance with this common ground will allow important decisions to be made regarding Syria. At this point, Turkey’s NATO membership constitutes a great importance. As a bridge between the West and the East, Turkey can act as a negotiator in the Syrian crisis. The support from key Middle Eastern countries will also play an important role in this regard.

Published: 2016-08-20 12:47:20
Turkey’s improved ties with Russia
By Harun Yahya, pen name of Adnan Oktar born in Ankara in 1956

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Ties between China and Malaysia

MALAYSIA has been very quiet on issues relating to the South China Sea (SCS) – Kuala Lumpur and several Asean nations, as well as China, have laid overlapping claims on it – but analysts opine Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak is unlikely to change his pro-China stance anytime soon.

Malaysia’s position vis-a-vis China was captured in an Asean diplomatic U-turn on June 14. A special meeting in Yunnan between Asean foreign ministers and China’s foreign minister ended in confusion after Malaysia released – and later retracted – a joint Asean statement that expressed “serious concerns” over developments in SCS.

And according to foreign press reports, China had lobbied Laos – which is getting economic aid from the mainland – to dissociate itself from the report. This had made it impossible for Asean to take a joint stand on the SCS issue.

The original statement had stated: “We expressed our serious concerns over recent and ongoing developments, which have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and which may have the potential to undermine peace, security and stability in the South China Sea.”

It was clear that top Asean diplomats were protesting against Beijing’s recent land reclamation activities and artificial island-building on disputed reefs, islets and shoals in the troubled waters there. China has claimed sovereignty over 80% of the South China Sea, based mainly on historical ownership.

Following this incident, it was no surprise that Malaysia kept quiet when an international tribunal at the Hague in early July dismissed China’s claims in the resource-rich waters and ruled in favour of the Philippines’ argument that there was no legal basis for Beijing’s claims on most of the South China Sea. China has ignored the tribunal decision.

As expected, Asean as a grouping did not issue any joint statement on the ruling after the embarrassing June 14 affair. However, some unhappy members did speak out individually.

But surprisingly, the Philippines – whose former government was instigated by the United States to lodge a complaint against China at the tribunal – took a conciliatory tone. The present government said it wanted to have economic co-operation with China rather than confrontation, despite open protests held by its citizens against China.

Hence, is Malaysia being dynamic and realistic by not offending China on disputes and tension over SCS waters, which China claimed is stirred up by the provocative actions of Japan and the US?

A seminar on Aug 17 on Asean-China relations, organised by the Institute of China Studies (of Universiti Malaya), gave a near consensus view that Najib, who dictates foreign policies, would not risk severing ties with China on this issue.

Most analysts see economics as the paramount reason for Malaysia to be “so quiet”.

Lean Hooi Hooi, professor of economics from Universiti Sains Malaysia, highlighted that both nations have seen “remarkable growth” in bilateral trade, mutual investment and tourism, and noted these economic benefits are expanding.

China has been the biggest importer of Malaysian commodities and goods for the past nine years. Bilateral trade with China from 2013 hit US$106bil (RM426bil) with balance of trade tilting towards Malaysia’s favour. The two nations are targeting for US$160bil (RM644bil) in 2017. In Asean, Malaysia has been China’s largest trading partner since 2008.

China is also emerging to be the biggest investor in Malaysia, after buying energy assets from 1Malaysia Development Berhad and equity shares in Bandar Malaysia for RM25bil.

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai is planning to woo multi-billion ringgit investments from China for the development of Malaysian ports and airports amid sluggish foreign investments.

Currently, China is the third largest source of foreign tourists for Malaysia. The number of arrivals is expected to hit two million this year, according to Lean.

In addition, China’s support of the ringgit via the purchase of Malaysian bonds is one of the factors that have prevented the battered currency from plunging further amid incessant negative news.

Hence, for economic reasons, Malaysia cannot afford to upset China at the moment. It is focusing on the convergence of interests.

In this aspect, Malaysia is no different from other Asean members Laos and Cambodia, which are receiving vast financial aid from China and help in infrastructure projects.

Moreover, these Asean countries, together with Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar, will benefit from China’s massive one-belt-one-road regional economic initiative.

China’s economic influence in most individual Asean member states is enormous, and has prevented Asean from reaching a consensus on how to deal with China’s SCS activities.

Economics aside, Malaysia has limited budget for defence, according to Shahriman Lockman, senior analyst on foreign policy and securities issues at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies Malaysia.

He believes that a huge allocation of funds for SCS’s stormy waters cannot be justified during the current economic slowdown.

The premier’s close relationship with China is also reason for Malaysia to stay mum on China’s activities and military build-up in the disputed SCS area, observed Shahriman.

He noted that Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, the former premier of Malaysia, was the first Asean leader to establish official ties with Beijing in 1974. And China has often stated its gratitude for this bold gesture made during the Cold War period, and has referred to Malaysia as “the most trusted and reliable friend” in Asean.

The mainland has also been very warm to Malaysian leaders, in particular Najib. Chinese President Xi Jinping is inviting the Malaysian leader to visit China in October.

Over the last two years, Najib and Xi had held six meetings and three special dinners at Kuala Lumpur, Beijing, Boao (China), New York and Manila.

Malaysia’s domestic politics is also a factor that demands more time than foreign policy from the leader.

“Since the PM will face a general election within the next two years or so, he cannot afford to court any external trouble now,” said Shahriman at a seminar last week.

Analysts note that there is no fear for the Malaysian leader to adopt a pro-China stance as there is backing from Malaysians. Unlike the Philippines and Vietnam, Malaysians have not gone to the streets to protest against China over the SCS issues.

According to a survey by foreign-owned Pew Research Centre, Malaysia and Pakistan were the “most pro-China countries” in the world in 2013, with 81% of Malaysians surveyed holding positive views towards China and 55% towards the US.

Malaysia’s pro-China stance has not changed after three years. A total of 70% of Malaysians have a favourable impression of China, with 67% feeling that the Malaysia-China relationship is heading in the right direction, according to a public opinion survey conducted by the UM’s Institute of China Studies in April this year.

Among the races, a total of 69% of Malay respondents – similar to the Chinese – held positive views towards China.

In the survey, 81% of Indian respondents liked China.

As an economic power, China was viewed by 45% of respondents as “an advantage” to Malaysia while 15% saw it as “potential threat”, 6% as “a serious threat” and 19% took a neutral stand.

“Malaysians have given a lot of support to their leaders to maintain close Malaysia-China relations and we should maintain that for mutual benefit. But if things get complicated, like if the South China Sea issues flare up in a major way again, then it is possible that public opinion may alter,” said Dr Ngeow Chow Bing who led the survey.

He noted that since the 1990s, Malaysia-China relations have developed in many fronts, including economics, politics and culture.

Due to the belt-road initiative, China’s investment in Malaysia has increased significantly in the recent two years.

According to Bill Hayton, the author of The South China Sea, Malaysian politicians know too well that there is no political mileage to be derived from attacking the country which Kuala Lumpur earned the most foreign exchange from.

Among the voters are many Chinese businessmen and traders who have earned the “first pot of gold” due to early trade with China.

In addition, politicians could not even win votes during the election by attacking China “as not an inch of land was taken away and there is no loss of people’s life” in the SCS issue, noted Hayton.

Generally, most analysts at the Aug 17 seminar held the views that Malaysia, as well as Asean, has to manage relations with China carefully, particularly during times of economic uncertainty.

China on its part may have also realised it cannot take Asean’s uneasy silence for granted for too long.

Despite inflamed rhetoric directed at the United States and its allies concerning the Hague’s ruling, China said on July 12 that it is “ready to work with other coastal states and the international community to ensure the safety of and unimpeded access to the international shipping lanes in the South China Sea”.

And on Aug 15 and 16, China and the 10-member countries of Asean agreed to finalise the framework for a maritime code of conduct to ease tensions in the South China Sea by mid-2017, according to the China Daily. They also agreed to create a hotline for maritime crisis situations.

These agreements will be presented for approval from leaders of the nations involved at the coming summit at Laos in September.

Asean has wanted the United States and Japan to play a role to correct the imbalance of influence in this region, but they have also realised there is more tension in the South China Sea than before.

If an unlikely war flared up, it would not benefit any country and international shipping would be hit.

The South China Sea is a vital trading passage for China, Japan and Korea, as well as the US. Over US$5 trillion (RM20 trillion) of annual shipping trade passes through the region and US-only trade makes up US$1.2 trillion (RM4.8 trillion), according to the Wall Street Journal.

Circumnavigating the South China Sea to avoid conflict would be more expensive for shipping firms. The extra distance would involve massive extra fuel costs.

Malaysian analysts are generally optimistic that various claimant parties will find an amicable solution to the South China Sea disputes.

“All obstacles are surmountable. Eventually, the disagreements will be eclipsed by convergence,” opined Shahriman.

“Relationship is more important than the South China Sea, which for four months in a year experiences very extreme weather conditions. There will be solutions to the SCS issues,” said Datuk Chin Yoon Chin, director-general of the Maritime Institute of Malaysia.

The Star, Published: Sunday, 28 August 2016
China factor in the Asean stage ;
Beijing has always viewed Kuala Lumpur as a special friend given the long relationship the two countries have shared. For Malaysia and China, the focus should be on the convergence of interests.

Points of view: (From left) Dr Ngeow, Lean, Chin and Shahriman at the seminar on Asean-China relations organised by UM’s Institute of China Studies.


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One Belt, One Road or Obor

AMONG once-fashionable terms, “borderless world” must be one of the least relevant today.

Borders are at least as important now as they had ever been. Border disputes and conflicts over territory are still very much in vogue.

Distance and proximity also matter. Goods and people still have to be transported over land and sea.

More than two millennia ago, traders traversing vast distances along the Silk Road contributed to the growth of Asian and European civilisations.

China, at the very heart of this economic artery, thrived as the “Middle Kingdom.” It was both conduit and catalyst for the rise of Asia and Europe as well as close relations between them.

Internally, ancient China was also capable of feats like the Great Wall, one of the Wonders of the World and among history’s most massive infrastructure projects.

Although the iconic wall as barrier may seem to contradict the Silk Road that connected peoples, one of the Great Wall’s purposes was to secure the Silk Road and its legitimate travellers from bandits.

Trade was paramount and still is. Colossal infrastructure was needed to support extensive trade, and continues to be.

In 2013, China launched the “One Belt, One Road” megaproject or Obor, involving a New Silk Road to reconnect East Asia with western Europe across the vast Eurasian land mass.

This will incorporate the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-century Maritime Silk Road, comprising six component economic corridors: China-Mongolia- Russia, China-Indochina Peninsula, Bangladesh-China-India- Myanmar, China-Pakistan, China-Central Asia-West Asia, and the New Eurasia Land Bridge.

Obor will also link to such entities as the Yangtze River Economic Belt and the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) for larger synergies.

Covering 65 countries and territories in Asia, Africa and Europe, Obor will reportedly impact on some 4.4 billion people, or 60% of the world’s population.

It will comprise nearly 120 projects involving some US$225bil (RM903bil) at current value. Obor will be the most massive infrastructure project in the world. Its costs and benefits will also be of a comparable scale.

The Silk Road Economic Belt alone will link Xian to the Tajik capital Dushanbe, then further westward to Moscow, then Rotterdam and Venice.

Further south, the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road will link Fuzhou across the South China Sea to Jakarta, up the Malacca Straits to Colombo, Kolkata, then Nairobi, Athens and Venice.

The various component economic corridors link a whole host of more towns, cities and communities. Scores of ports, airports, highway networks and high-speed rail links will be constructed or upgraded.

In South-East Asia, Obor would accommodate and complement Asean’s efforts at building regional connectivity.

As it was with the old Silk Road some 2,000 years ago, Obor’s main themes and motivations are economic: to promote trade and investment between major points on much of the world map.

There are other motivations, of course. As it was before, cultural exchanges will be encouraged and developed.

But some countries still wary of China’s growth see a strategic angle implicit in Obor’s geopolitical configuration.

At a recent conference in Ulaanbaatar, a Japanese participant acknowledged Obor’s benefits but also expressed concern about its strategic implications. But nobody else was listening.

Most participants were content with awaiting the opportunities that Obor was expected to deliver.

Where there were concerns, they were about other issues.

The Europeans were worried about the risk of environmental degradation that construction of the major infrastructure projects of the various corridors could entail.

When pressed on the strategic issues, Europeans in general would murmur about how the megaproject should be more of a collective effort with equitably shared benefits.

Obor’s clear strategic implication is that China will be the country at its core. Is that enough to be of any legitimate concern?

Nobody has an alternative plan or interpretation of Obor, much less “a better idea.” Any circumspection has also not developed beyond some doubts that could be dispelled with more information.

That indicates one of Obor’s weaknesses: not enough detailed information has been made available beyond the platitudes and feel-good gestures.

Requests for more details or anything like a blueprint typically result in getting a copy of Vision and Actions on Jointly Building Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road, a policy document issued by China’s Foreign Ministry.

Although this is the nearest thing to a blueprint for Obor, it is still lacking in details.

This situation suggests that Beijing is satisfied with only providing the broad themes of the big picture, leaving provisional authorities, the private sector and other interests to fill in the blanks.

By the same token, the scores of countries and territories outside China covered by Obor should also act to provide the details that are still missing. This would help ensure that the costs and benefits which accrue would be more equitable and acceptable.

It is not only common sense but also smart forward planning that has to begin now. It makes no sense to languish in apathy and complaint mode, doubting the benefits of Obor by doing nothing to co-design it.

Funding is a key issue, particularly given the enormous costs involved, so the likely financial resources need to be examined carefully.

Even a cash-rich China cannot afford to fund Obor entirely on its own, despite its deep pockets. Besides multilateral projects like Obor, China also has financial commitments in other countries on a bilateral basis.

Some of the necessary resources at least will have to come from other countries. This issue has been contributing to doubts that some countries still have about acceding to Obor.

When earlier reports suggested that the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) would be instrumental in financing Obor, Beijing baulked.

Perhaps, it had quietly planned for the AIIB to finance projects in other regions of the world. Or perhaps it did not want to spook countries with no place in Obor that were still mulling over whether to join the AIIB.

Alternatively, China may have other financial institutions in mind for Obor – but what are they?

One possibility is the New Development Bank, or BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) bank.

But that would be an unlikely or limited source, since Obor concerns only three of the five countries. More specifically, Obor’s designated financial institution is the state-owned Silk Road Infrastructure Fund. But this is also of limited utility, since at its launch in 2014, Beijing allocated only US$40bil (RM160bil), or less than 18% of Obor’s projected costs.

Another challenge facing Obor on the ground, or in the water, is China’s assertive posture over disputed territory in the South China Sea. This is the precise location of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, which requires close collaboration with other countries including rival claimant states.

The Philippines had taken its dispute with China to the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague, which ruled against China’s claims. But with a new, more conciliatory government in Manila, the prospect for negotiations has improved substantially.

The hope of better regional relations, and of Obor in South-East Asia, now hinges on the progress of relations between China and claimant countries like the Philippines.

Evidently, borders, territory and sovereignty continue to be as significant today as trade and development.

The Star, Published: Sunday, 28 August 2016
Mixing borders with trade
As China reprises its role in history as the world’s trade leader, some kinks in its foreign relations still need to be ironed out.

Connecting the world: China’s ambitious New Silk Road project presents vast opportunities to many countries.

Bunn Nagara is a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) Malaysia.

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Philippine government and Communists

OSLO: The Philippine government and Communist guerrillas signed an indefinite ceasefire deal to facilitate peace talks aimed at ending one of Asia’s longest-running insurgencies.

“This is a historic and unprecedented event … (but) there is still a lot of work to be done ahead,” President Rodrigo Duterte’s peace adviser Jesus Dureza said at a signing ceremony in Norway, which is mediating the talks on Friday.

Both sides agreed to implement unilateral, indefinite ceasefires – something that has never been achieved before in the peace process.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende described the agreement as a “major breakthrough”.

“We are on the highway to peace and we are talking of a timeline of 12 months,” Silvestre Bello, the Philippine government delegation’s head of negotiations, said.

The two parties have been meeting in Oslo since Monday, wrapping up their talks with the signing ceremony on Friday.

As a prelude to the negotiations, both sides had agreed to a ceasefire, but the truce commitment by the Communist side was due to end yesterday.

The two parties also agreed to “speed up the peace process, and aim to reach the first substantial agreement on economic and social reforms within six months,” a statement from the Norwegian foreign ministry said.

365 News, Published: August 28, 2016

Read more:
The government's peace efforts with the Reds appear to be shaky after the Communists ambushed paramilitary troopers in Davao del Norte. But challenges to end hostilities may just be the beginning.
GPH, Communists' road to peace
By David Santos, CNN Philippines Staff

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Ties between Seoul and Tokyo

DESPITE the agreement with the government of South Korea in late 2015, Japan has yet to halt its distortions of historical facts about the wartime sex slavery during the Japanese colonial rule of the peninsula.

On the English website of its foreign ministry, a senior Japanese official again denied forceful mobilisation of the comfort women by its military and government authorities during World War II.

Deputy Foreign Minister Shinsuke Sugiyama was quoted as saying that the Japanese government started a fact-finding work in the early 1990s about the sex slavery, but it still could not be confirmed that there was “any forceful taking away of comfort women by the military and government authorities.”

Sugiyama noted that the concept of forceful mobilisation is based on what he claimed were fabrications carried in a book titled My War Crimes, whose author said that many women on Jejudo, South Korea, were taken away by the military.

In addition, he argued that even Asahi Shimbun, which highlighted the issue, also acknowledged that there were errors when it came to verifying the facts.

The posting of such controversial remarks by the deputy foreign minister goes against what South Korea and Japan agreed upon late last year to settle the slavery issue once and for all.

The bilateral foreign ministries signed a landmark deal last December to put an end to the long-running rift over sexual slavery of Korean women by Japanese troops during World War II.

Japan had expressed an apology for its colonial-era atrocities and agreed to launch a foundation dedicated to healing the scars of the surviving victims and supporting them.

Japan has been avoiding calling the money that it promised to contribute to the foundation as reparation causing doubt here about the sincerity of the apology.

It is a matter of concern how the Korean government will cope with the situation involving the official’s remarks.

The bilateral pact clarifies that it is a deal that is “irreversible.”

While Japanese officials including Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have continued to release ludicrous statements even after the deal, Korea’s President Park Geun-hye and high-ranking officials are not saying anything back.

(South Korea’ Foreign Ministry has announced that surviving South Korean women forced into sexual slavery by Japan’s military in the WWII will receive around 100 million won – about RM361,631 – each from the Japanese-funded Reconciliation and Healing Foundation).

The remarks on the Japanese government website is a denial of the December agreement.

If Japan repeatedly tries to distort facts, the Korean government has to demand a renegotiation of the comfort women deal or its nullification.

The Star, Published: Sunday, 28 August 2016
Seoul should review sex slavery deal

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Ties between Beijing and Tokyo

China hopes that Japan will take the action and create conditions necessary for the two countries to maintain high-level contacts, Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said on Friday.

"The contacts themselves bear great significance for developing the China-Japan relationship," he said at a regular news conference in Beijing.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has recently expressed his desire to have a meeting with President Xi Jinping during the upcoming G20 summit in Hangzhou next month.

It has been widely speculated that the goal of a recent visit to China by Shotaro Yachi, a key foreign policy adviser to Abe, was to pave the way for such a meeting.

Yachi attended the third China-Japan High-Level Political Dialogue in Beijing from Aug 24 to 26 and met with Premier Li Keqiang and State Councilor Yang Jiechi on Thursday.

Li said that both countries should properly handle disputes and safeguard the momentum of stabilizing and improving their bilateral relationship.

Lu did not confirm that Abe and Xi would meet, but he said that many leaders who are coming to the summit have expressed their desire to meet with Xi.

Ties between Beijing and Tokyo have been strained by disputes over historical and territorial issues.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi wrapped up a trip to Tokyo on Wednesday, where he attended a trilateral foreign ministers' meeting with counterparts from Japan and the Republic of Korea.

When meeting his Japanese counterpart, Fumio Kishida, Wang said the China-Japan relationship still faces difficulties and is at "a critical juncture".

Lyu Yaodong, an expert on Japanese foreign policy at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said a meeting between the leaders will help avoid further deterioration of China-Japan relationship.

But Japan could be using this meeting to create a good atmosphere for an annual trilateral leaders' meeting of China, Japan and the ROK that it will host later this year, he said.

"However, Japan should show its sincerity with practical action in order to improve its relationship with China," he added.

China-Japan Relations, Updated: 2016-08-27 07:05
Japan urged to work on relations
By MO JINGXI (China Daily)

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Rebuilding communities in Soma City, Fukushima

British architect Mark Dytham teaches architecture in Japanese, not surprising since he has been living and working in Japan for the past 25 years.

In fact, in 2000, he received an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) from the Queen for his services to British design in Japan.

In 2008, his firm Klein-Dytham Architecture was commended by the British Business Awards, receiving the prestigious Innovation Award.

But more importantly, he is playing a part in rebuilding the lives of the Japanese community who were affected by earthquakes in recent years.

One of it was the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in 2011, which sparked off the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant radiation disaster.

His firm stepped in to build an indoor playground and community centre in Soma city under the Home for All non-profit organisation, set up by a few Japanese architects that include Toyo Ito, the 2013 Pritzker Architecture Prize laureate.

Dytham is currently a board member of the organisation, along with his business partner Astrid Klein.

The centre, whose timber roof resembles a huge straw hat, won Best Building under the Culture category at the World Architecture Festival last year.

Dytham, who was in Kuala Lumpur last month as one of the speakers at the Datum Conference organised by Pertubuhan Arkitek Malaysia, explained about the design.

“The problem is the building is only 40km from the nuclear reaction site, so children aged zero to four from that area cannot play outside. What we immediately wanted to do was provide a covering and play space for them inside,” he shares.

“An indoor forest was the original concept. That’s why the columns are like trees and they support this big straw hat, which gives protection from the sun,” adds Dytham, who worked pro bono for the project, even running a marathon in Tokyo to raise money.

The interior space is circular, so the kids can run around, and forms a nice backdrop for theatre performances and other events. Owl designs are seen perched on branches within.

The timber used came from a timber factory nearby which glued pieces of wood together to make 20m-long laminated strips, dictating how big the building was. The project received a lot of materials for free, and Dytham worked around the materials.

“It’s really important to involve the community in the project. The process of building was part of healing the community,” says Dytham, adding that to date, Home For All has built 14 community centres in the region, which serve as a conducive hang out space for the people who are currently living in small, closely located units of temporary housing.

Currently, Home for All is also working with the Japanese government to build 51 community centres in the Kumamoto prefecture, where a big earthquake hit in April this year.

“What I would like to stress is the architect’s importance, not just about the design and construction but also how architects can be very powerful in a community situation and how we can do a lot more than just design buildings,” he emphasises.

As an architect, Dytham also believes designs should incorporate a level of “humour and playfulness”.

“I think we always remember good times and good memories, and I think more importantly, our architecture needs to be read by everybody, from a five-year-old to an 80-year-old, and should not be exclusive to people who know and read about architecture,” he explains.

“It’s good to bring a smile on people’s faces. I think architecture has gone too serious and I think this playful spirit and spirit of enjoyment is very important,” he adds.

One of the firm’s latest projects was designing the Narita International Airport toilets, which won the Toilet of the Year award given by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism recently.

The glass box cubicles incorporate a form of luminous textile LED screens which project silhouettes of people dancing and other visuals.

“On one side, it looks like you can see into the toilets (but you can’t, of course). It’s all done with low resolution LED behind fabric, so it feels like shoji paper screens. It’s about making toilets interesting and funny. People walk past and it catches their attention,” explains Dytham.

After graduating from the Royal College of Art, London over 20 years ago, Dytham felt that the city was too restrictive when it came to expressing creativity.

“But, in Japan, there was so much going on, and I felt that it was a really good time to go before being stuck in a big architecture office,” he recalls.

What was originally meant to be a three month visit turned into 25 years, having married and settled down in Tokyo with his Russian wife and two children now.

How would he describe the design scene in Japan today compared to 25 years ago?

“Unfortunately, it’s a little bit serious and a little more conservative than before. The bubble has burst, as you all know, so there is a reluctance and everyone’s more cautious, where everything is very much fund-driven.

“They are also changing the laws, introducing some planning restraints. For instance, you can’t use the colours like you used to. But it’s ok. The big issue is, 95% of the buildings are built by the big construction companies. Everything is beautifully built, but there is a bit of lack of spirit. We hope that’s changing, coming up to the 2020 Olympics. We are excited about that and we can feel the energy already,” enthuses the founder of PechaKucha, pronounced puh-chak-cha, which are simple presentations about any topic delivered in 20 slides within 20 seconds.

Another project by Dytham’s firm involves a bookstore chain called Tsutaya and serves as a good example of creating a vibrant community space.

The owners felt that the bookstores were like a community hub for villages and towns that didn’t have very much back in the early days, and wanted to bring this culture back to these stores.

For the 10,000sqm glass reinforced concrete store in Daikanyama, Tokyo, Dytham and his team played with the letter “T” thoughout the design, including the entrance and surrounding latticed facade.

A magazine street connects the three buildings that make up the entire store and helps customers navigate through the bookstore, which is open from 7am to 2am daily.

There are a few book readings a day, and in the weekends, the carpark acts as a gathering space for different car enthusiasts.

“I think our bookstore project will basically change the way people look at books. The bookstore has become this third space in community where people go and hang out, read, or select curated selection of movies. Especially in mega cities like Tokyo, people don’t want to go back to their tiny apartments all the time,” he shares.

Dytham stresses that without community, architecture is not complete.

“Good architecture is inspired by communities but it is also communities who make the buildings live. So it’s a very important role for an architect to inspire these things. Even in an office lobby, it’s really important how to bring the community there, make it a part of the town, and not just be this empty retail space.”

Moving forward, Dytham hopes to continue contributing his experience in post-disaster rebuilding projects.

“There is still a lot of work to be done. I think what’s interesting is that we are building a lot of knowledge for disaster relief. Pooling our knowledge on that is interesting,” he says.

The Star 2, Published: AUGUST 27, 2016

Why designs should be fun and inspired by the community

The Soma City Home For All community centre features a timber roof that resembles a huge straw hat. It serves as a safe space for young children to play in after the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in 2011 sparked off the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant radiation disaster.
(Photo: Klein Dytham Architecture)



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Our colourful heritage and cultural diversity

Coming up with this month’s column was a labour of love. With our 59th Merdeka round the corner, I found myself thinking of the road ahead.

As we’re tested by some of the most complex challenges in history, the risk of becoming fragmented as a nation is more real than ever. Yet in these challenging times, I’m seeing more and more Malaysians coming together in solidarity.

I was having dinner at Charlie’s Cafe in Kuala Lumpur, my usual hangout, when the cafe owner Sonny, shouting from the kitchen, pointed excitedly to two surprised-looking girls at the next table: “You must meet them!”

Within five minutes, I was engrossed in an animated conversation with Faye and Rachel, founders of social enterprise The Rojak Projek. You would get excited too, once you hear how cool their mission is: they want to inspire Malaysian unity by creating beautiful portraits from traditional foods that remind us of our colourful heritage and cultural diversity.

Our conversation got me thinking about what makes Malaysia so awesome.

So, in the spirit of Merdeka, here are eight reasons – and I am sure you can think of more.

1. Let’s start with the obvious – our food
I’m truly pleased that the rest of the world is finally starting to realise how awesome our food is. While it’s wonderful that we have the likes of CNN and Lonely Planet waxing lyrical about our asam laksa, bean sprout chicken and nasi kandar, that is merely scratching the surface.

There’s a whole lot of other culinary innovation going on in the country that reflects the creative imagination of our people. Ever heard of Cake Jalan Tiung’s pengat pisang cheesecake?

I can’t wait to sample steamed pomfret with water chestnut foam and puree of chrysanthemum garland at the experimental restaurant, Dewakan, in Glenmarie, Selangor. And I haven’t even started about those guys who make charcoal-bun burgers cool.

2. There are many unsung heroes in our midst
Have you ever reminisced about entrepreneurs and statesmen in our history books, and wistfully wondered when Malaysia would ever see the likes of such inspiring leaders again? Well, many of our best heroes are still around.

Thanks to my work as a writer, I meet a lot of heroic Malaysians.

Attending the recent TedxKL showed me there are many more individuals who are making a difference in their respective communities. There’s a doctor who’s aiming to end water poverty using nanotechnology, and a tech luminary who wants to launch a rover into the moon by 2017 – and many, many more.

When Bernard Goh, founder of Hands Percussion group, ended the story of his journey by saying, “I’m a proud Malaysian”, his words echoed the sentiments of every Malaysian in the hall.

3. Malaysian millennials are doing awesome stuff
I’d like to single out the millennials instead of lumping them in the previous category because I think they’re so misunderstood and underrated.

Honestly, I’ve been guilty of slagging them off as privileged spoilt brats, but a recent study got me rethinking: maybe it’s not a bad thing, and maybe it’s not even their fault.

I was fascinated to read that because millennials are exposed to technology from a young age, they are “hyper-connected”. It is normal for them to spend between eight and 10 hours a day being connected to a tablet or smartphone or TV.

Yes, it can be frustrating to see them texting away at the dinner table. But the other positive consequence from this conditioning is that they demonstrate amplified multi-tasking abilities and are natural self-starters, which is why many of them end up as entrepreneurs.

Who else but millennials can demonstrate the kind of nerve, drive and energy needed to create industry-disrupting companies such as myBurgerlab, Christy Ng Shoes or Fashion Valet?

4. Our world knowledge is awesome
According to a survey somewhere, Malaysians are among the world’s most active social media users. OK, some cynics might say that it shows we’re narcissists and busybodies, but I think it demonstrates our healthy curiosity about the world around us. We love learning and travelling, adapt easily to other cultures and countries, and can express ourselves in a variety of languages. At the risk of sounding smug, how many nationalities can describe exactly what podhi idli, duck confit, nasi kerabu and Monk Jumped Over The Wall are – and claim they’ve tasted them all?

5. Our cultural scene is blooming
By the time this article is published, I would have watched a re-enactment of Italian opera La Boheme.

Next month, I’m going to KLPac again to catch Bolly-wood. From next month, there will be a five-week-long performing and visual arts programme called DiverseCity: The Kuala Lumpur International Arts Festival happening in our country.

If all that doesn’t tell you a thing or two about our blooming cultural scene, then I don’t know what does.

6. We are definitely modernising, but we have our hearts in heritage
Yes, every now and then, we read about idiots who tear down history-rich buildings. But that’s only one aspect of the story.

Increasingly, we are seeing the emergence of folks like the Sekeping Kong Heng founders. Initially, everyone (including me) thought they were crazy for investing millions in rehabilitating derelict pre-war buildings. But guess who is now hailing them as heroes for sparking Ipoh’s renaissance?

There are also people out there who are doing their bit to preserve traditional crafts – The Alphabet Press and Tanoti Crafts, for instance.

There are a whole lot of Malaysians who are in tune with their roots, and realise that the loss of heritage is irrecoverable.

7. Things are not perfect, which makes this the best place to be in, right now
The transport system is wonky, the political scene is a circus, the list of everything that’s wrong in Malaysia can go on and on. But you know what? That means things can only get better. Malaysians have short memories (sorry, but it’s true), so allow me to gently remind you that slightly over 20 years ago, we only had those pink mini- buses for fast transport. If somebody dares complain that our traffic jams are bad, I’ll drag that person by the ear to a few other countries I visited recently and show them what a really bad traffic jam is.

8. We can take defeat gracefully. Heck, we can even find a silver lining in a fake viral story
Like millions of Malaysians, my heart broke as Olympic gold eluded Datuk Lee Chong Wei for the third time. Shortly after, a letter supposedly written by Lin Dan professing their brotherhood went viral. I was one of many who fell for it, before the truth surfaced eventually.

To my surprise, my friends didn’t bash me up for walking around with rose-tinted glasses. Some agreed with me and explained our willingness to believe in a feel-good story as an attempt to heal our grief over his loss. To me, it’s solidarity, and maturity, at the highest level.

If I have one wish for this Merdeka, it’s that more Malaysians will rally together to push the needle forward even further. There are so many ways to make our country even more awesome. We can’t all be creators, but we can always support, promote and spread the word around – of the good work being done by good Malaysians out there.

Selamat Hari Merdeka, dan majulah Malaysia!

The Star 2, Published: AUGUST 27, 2016

This writer thinks Malaysia absolutely rocks ;
Malaysia is an awesome country with potential to go further

Alexandra Wong thinks that at 59 years, Malaysia is still a fairly young country. Because we’re young, we still have a whole bunch of teething problems. But because we’re young, there is so much more opportunity for all of us to contribute and make things better.


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We are what we eat

AROUND the end of 2014, 26-year-old visualiser Lim Sheng Feiyan felt there was too much negativity in Malaysia that was spreading like cancer.

“There were devastating occurrences one after another, it felt like we’ve been through far too much. Many Malaysians used social media as a platform to rant,” said Lim, fondly known as Faye.

She felt as though there were no solutions other than contributing to the already negative remarks. Malaysians, she said, had become keyboard warriors rather than problem solvers.

It came to a point where Lim asked herself if there was anything she could do to show that “this country is not as useless and hopeless as it seems”. She asked herself, “What is the one thing that all Malaysians can relate to and love so much?”.

The obvious answer was food.

Food has always been the gesture of peace that has allowed us to sit, eat and enjoy each other’s company despite our differences. Our Malaysian food is a symbol of our unity,” she said.

That’s how The Rojak Projek was “cooked up”.

It is a visual campaign featuring the portraits of 60 Malaysians illustrated with yummy Malaysian food along with their vision for Malaysia. The campaign tagline is “Hungry for a Better Malaysia”.

In 2015, it organised three rojak parties and took black-and-white photographs of those who attended. Later, the team superimposed Malaysian food on the portraits.

One of the most challenging aspects of the project, according to Lim, was controlling themselves from eating the food!

“It is hard to resist, but we know if we eat it, there goes our artwork!” she said.

The message of The Rojak Projek, according to Lim, The Rojak Projek co-founder, is that “our diversity is in a whole plate of yumminess that compliments each other instead of one that competes with each other!”

“After all, it is not a plate of divided ingredients but a united dish when you put them all together. It’s just like us. We are all so different and yet so unique and truth be told, it’s never the same without each other,” she said.

“Malaysia tak sama, kalau kita tak bersama. (Malaysia is not the same if we are not together).”

“What have you learnt about Malaysia and Malaysians from doing the project?” I asked.

Lim got The Rojak Projek team to respond.

“I learn that what I know about my own country, Malaysia, barely scratches the surface of the depth of beauty and culture that she is completely filled with!” said 26-year-old Rachel Lee, The Rojak Projek co-founder.

“I fall in love with Malaysia over and over again as we continue to discover and understand her further. I learn that Malaysians can never lose the fondness of Malaysia no matter how much they say they find no hope here. Bring up the topic of food and there you go, love, even just for that split second!”

“Just when you think you know Malaysia in and out it surprises you with more things and to find that out through food,” said 21-year-old Jannah Sani.

“I’ve found out that all of us have the same dream and vision, no matter where we come from, we just want to feel united and we all just want to see Malaysia as a whole succeed and embrace everything that Malaysia has to offer from the people to the food.”

“Being a part of The Rojak Projek has taught me to always turn back to the positives of our country even in tough times,” said 25-year-old Tabitha Xavier.

“Sure, there are times where we’re tempted to whine and groan about our country, but really when you stop and look around, there’s beauty in everything!

“The food, the people, the hospitality, THE FOOD (I mean, what beats Malaysian food lah)! And when you really think about it, there is so much to be thankful for and so much more Malaysia to be embraced!”

“Working with this amazing bunch of rojaks has really showed how we Malaysians can really just look past colour, culture and belief and just embrace each other as Malaysians.”

Just to sprinkle some reality into the young idealism of The Rojak Projek team, I asked: “(Halal/not halal) food also divides Malaysians, don’t you agree?”

“It is people who divide people,” Lim said.

“Back to reality. Yes, not everybody can eat everything, obviously, but I got to hand it to Malay-sians who are clever and creative in problem solving and making a good market out of that situation.”

For example, she said, not everyone can eat siew mai because it contains pork.

“So make a version that is ‘halal’ with the right meat and guess what, you will notice that there’s a growing market. It’s about giving opportunity for others to experience something. Make good experiences, not problems,” she said.

“Yes, to a certain extent I agree,” said Lee, the co-founder. “But then again, many things divide the diversity of people just because it’s the easy way out and it’s comfortable.

“When more people respond in that way, more power is given to segregation and what we want to do is to stop giving power to that environment and kick-start the conversation of uniting our diversity.”

It was refreshing meeting with young idealistic Malaysians like Lim and Lee. With them, there’s hope for a “rojak” Malaysia where all cultures and religions are respected and not tolerated.

Selamat Hari Merdeka to my fellow Peninsular Malaysians!

The Star, Published: Saturday, 27 August 2016
We are what we eat ;
And as a nation, we are the best combination of rojak (*) that we can be.

Rojak–the Penang-style salad with fresh cucumber, crunchy jicama, pineapple, jambu (water apple/rose apple), bean curd, and cuttlefish in thick, gooey, and pungent Hae Ko (dark prawn paste)–is the only salad that I would eat without being forced to.

The Hae Ko sauce is also one of the few sauces that I would dabble with my fingers (even lick with my tongue), leaving not a single drop.

The taste of Rojak is something that one must experience to fully appreciate.
Read more at http://rasamalaysia.com/homemade-penang-rojak/#rTckyIaSw9641PAe.99

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Malaysian dream

LIKE most Malaysians, I was extremely kan cheong (anxious) during Datuk Lee Chong Wei’s semi-finals game versus his formidable arch-nemesis, Lin Dan. Personally, and I think most Malaysians would agree, I feel that the semi-final match was “the match to rule them all” for both rivals’ professional badminton careers.

It was only apt that, together with a roomful of Malaysians, I stood up and sang an impromptu Negara Ku following that match. Never mind that our national anthem was not heard in Rio, Malaysians of all walks of life felt that moment of pride for the nation anyway.

The fact that Datuk Lee had carried the hopes of all Malaysians for many years cannot be discounted. It is for this reason that, following his loss to Chen Long of China in the finals, Malaysians all still celebrate him as a champion in our hearts.

Truly, in this particular case, silver is the new gold.

Sports, for some reason, has always been able to bring people together. Perhaps it is the very human attributes of hard work, determination, and sacrifice in the face of seemingly insurmountable physical challenges through a particular sport that act as a catharsis to our own humanity.

Now that the Rio Olympics is over, with our national team having achieved their best medal haul so far, Malaysians seemed to be brought harshly back to reality. In short, “good feeling’s gone”.

A police report was made by a retired army officer against the fact that two of our young, female silver medallists, Pandelela Rinong and Cheong Jun Hoong, were to receive lifetime pensions for their feat – quoting that they do not deserve pensions for simply having “jumped off a board”. The fact that Pandelela first made history at the 2012 London Olympics for scoring our first Olympic medal, a bronze then, in a sport other than badminton, seemed trivial for said retired army personnel.

I find it interesting, and reeking of sexism, that no such reports were made against any of the men who brought home medals. I also think that our exemplary police force should not be burdened with such reports. Surely, Malaysians are a responsible lot and can differentiate between a crime and one’s own misogynistic views?

Our bronze medallist, Azizulhasni Awang, more affectionately known as Pocket Rocket Man, however, courted controversy over his remarks against the Mentri Besar of Terengganu who did not entertain the cycling team’s request for a road bike. After Azizulhasni brought home our first Olympic medal in track cycling, the MB met him and said he was unaware of the request. The MB then instructed the State Sports Council to investigate the claim and also said Azizulhasni would receive an incentive for his win.

Our other silver medallists also made history: Chan Peng Soon and Goh Liu Ying won our first mixed doubles medal at the Olympics while Goh V Shem and Tan Wee Kiong scored our additional silver medal in the men’s doubles. The celebration for the former pair, however, was marred by irresponsible media reports that trivialised their win, necessitating our Minister for Youth and Sports to share the guts-to-glory backstory behind the pair’s rise to being Olympic silver medallists.

These facts are necessary to remind Malaysians that our road towards unity and greatness will not be paved in gold, or silver in this matter. Our athletes were momentarily able to unite us, but the fact remains that such moments take years and countless sacrifices to materialise.

Are we collectively, as Malaysians, ready and willing to make similar sacrifices?

In his speech for the proclamation of the nation’s independence, Tunku Abdul Rahman urged us “to work and strive with hand and brain to create a new nation, inspired by the ideals of justice and liberty – a beacon of light in a disturbed and distracted world”.

How many of us can confidently say that we have strived to do and give our best in our daily lives? Not all of us aspire to be world-class athletes, but imagine the greatness that we can bring to our lives and the nation if we were to apply such principles in our daily lives.

We can begin by celebrating our diversity as our strength. We need to allow open discourse on the pressing and “sensitive” issues of religion, race and ideologies; for starting with conversations we could begin the journey towards acceptance and inclusivity.

We must be accountable for our actions and lead our lives with integrity. Such common values would do better as inspiring examples rather than engineered patriotism through policies that require businesses to display the Malaysian flag during the Merdeka and Malaysia Day celebrations or that force seating arrangements in national schools to promote racial integration.

Our pride for Malaysia should not only be limited to once every four years at the Olympics. Yet, in order to achieve that pride, we ourselves must strive and commit ourselves towards building a nation we can all be proud of.

I was never an athlete. My love for running was born out of my need for exercise as a stress reliever, but I must admit it feels really good to be waving the Malaysian flag at the finish line of overseas marathons I have run in.

It feels good to be a proud Malaysian.

I still believe in the Malaysian dream. Do you?

The Star, Published: Saturday, 27 August 2016
Striving for the Malaysian dream ;
We should be willing to make sacifices for the nation, like our Olympians.

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Stressed Olympians set for a break

PETALING JAYA: Their triumphant smiles do little to hide the bags under their eyes.

Since their return from the Rio Olympics, Malaysia’s medallists are still nursing the strains of competing and the fanfare that followed the country’s best performance at any Olympic Games.

While they are pestered about their game plan for Tokyo 2020 and other international competitions, a break is what is on most of their minds right now.

“Our bodies are quite tired,” said synchronised diver Cheong Jun Hoong.

“I think rest is more important. Have a good rest so we can go further and go longer. After that, we can prepare for upcoming competitions in October,” she said.

Her 10m platform synchronised diving partner Pandelela Rinong agreed, saying that she now wished to return to her hometown of Kuching to spend some much needed time with her family.

The two-time medallist said she planned to skip a few tournaments for now and refocus on completing her studies in sports science.

Men’s doubles badminton silver medallists Tan Wee Kiong and Goh V Shem, however, are only giving themselves until the end of the month to recharge themselves.

After that, it is back to the court in preparation for the Yonex Open in Japan on Sept 20. The pair, who have never won a Badminton World Federation Super Series title, are gunning for Japan’s doubles championship.

Datuk Lee Chong Wei, meanwhile, said he did not wish to speculate if he would hang up his racquet for good or pursue competitive badminton further, saying that he just wished to remain injury-free for now.

The three-time Olympic silver medallist said that Rio would be his last Olympic appearance but that he wanted to continue playing until the 2017 BWF World Championships in Glasgow, Scotland.

“I hope I can be injury-free until the World Championships. If my condition is still good after that, I’ll continue. If not, I’ll stop,” he said.

Chong Wei and the other Olympians were at Menara Lien Hoe to receive a RM315,000 cash prize from XOX Mobile for their strong showing at the Olympic Games.

Chong Wei, who is also XOX Mobile brand ambassador, received RM110,000 while the other silver medallists were awarded RM60,000 each.

The Star, Published: Saturday, 27 August 2016
Medallists eyeing rest and family time after the strains of competing

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Origins of Malays

THE origins of the Malays have always generated interest and excitement in popular, academic and policy circles.

Over recent decades, the discourse has taken a turn toward Malay origins, ethnicity and identity.

Much of it a discourse in deconstruction.

The new media has much induced this with one strand of the debate, dismissing the new theory on Malay origins as false simply because of the allegation that it lacks the rigour of scholarly examination, and has not lent it itself to critical and public debate.

The dominant discourse identifies the Malay as a product of centuries of hybridisation, casting doubt on origins of the name “Melayu”, and almost always coming from both the Malays and non-Malays in Malaysia that the ancestors of the Malays have “come from somewhere else” or “have escaped/ran from some place”.

“Maleu-kolon” is the first known description of the Malays.

This comes from second century Graeco-Egyptian scholar, geographer and map maker Ptolemy.

I am disturbed when the Malays do not know, or have a misplaced view of where they come from.

The story of Malay origins and perantauan have not been integral to the nation’s mainstream thought.

It is instructive to remind ourselves of several theories as to the origins of the Malays.

Briefly there is the so-called Yunnan theory (1889), the Taiwan theory (1997) and the Sundaland theory.

Many still believe that the Malays came from Yunnan.

This follows the thinking of Austrian scientist R.H. Geldern, a member of the Vienna School which largely upholds the philosophy of logical positivism, together with the likes of J.H.C. Kern and J.R. Foster, hold the view of the Mekong origin of the Malays.

These however are being contested, specifically debunking the Geldern theory of Malay origins.

So also Peter Bellwood’s out-of-Taiwan theory (1997).

Central to Bellwood’s theory is the concept of Austronesian − the term derives from the Latin auster for south wind and the Greek nȇsos for island.

It gives the meaning that the Austronesian family of languages (essentially the Malay languages or Bahasa Melayu serumpun) originated from Taiwan.

Some local scholars advocate for the term Austronesian for the family of languages to be replaced by Malayo-Polynesian or Melayunesian (rumpun bahasa Melayunesia in Bahasa Melayu) .

There is a third theory which has debunked the first two theories.

This was posited by Professor Stephen Oppenheimer of the School of Anthropology and Museum Archeology of the University of Oxford.

Oppenheimer’s work on genetics − specifically in his study of mitochondrial DNA, the genetic material that is passed down through the maternal lineage − has opened up evidence of the peopling of Southeast Asia, specifically the Malay archipelago more than 40,000 years ago.

In his 1998 book Eden in the East: The Drowned Continent of Southeast Asia, he proposes the Out of Sundaland theory.

According to Oppenheimer, the populations of the north east Asian and the Pacific regions originate from the Southeast Asian subcontinent of Sundaland (Benua Sunda) − rich in culture − that was dispersed when most of Sundaland was submerged.

In a recent lecture titled The Malays: Their Origins, Migration and Travels, Professor Datuk Seri Md Salleh Yaapar of Universiti Sains Malaysia emphasised that the land mass of Sundaland, was already a cradle of civilisation. But at the last Ice Age, Sundaland was submerged by a catastrophic flood, and due to the rise in sea level, it vanished as the lost Eden (Eden being the biblical name for paradise from the Sumerian edin).

The floods induced mass migrations from Sundaland to areas in the north and east − China, Korea and Japan, as well as the Philippines and Hawaii, Easter Island (or Rapanui) in the east, Madagascar in the west and New Zealand in the South, as well as islands in the southern Pacific.

Salleh, who is also a distinguished fellow at the Centre for Malay World and Islamic Civilisation at the International Islamic University, Malaysia, maintains that the wave of movements to those areas created the early settlers, what we call natives.

The rest remained behind.

Their experiences are recorded in numerous narratives on floods and migration.

These narratives are in turn supported through various disciplines, including physics, genetics, oceanography, linguistics, folklore and anthropology.

Plato’s Atlantis story, the basis of Brazilian nuclear physicist Arysio Nunes dos Santos’ 2005 book titled Atlantis: The Lost Continent Finally Found, the Definitive Localisation of Plato’s Lost Civilisation, declares that Sundaland is the location of the lost Atlantis narrated in Plato’s Timaeus and Critias.

Apart from the Ice Age events, dos Santos connects the floods and migration to the volcanic eruptions of Krakatoa and Toba in ancient times.

What is significant in Salleh’s argument is that in identifying the origins of ethnicity, apart from genetics, it is also through language as cultural DNA whereby various narratives are told, and orality is processed, refined and linked to history, literature, geography, geology and biology.

The field of genomics, it must be emphasised, facilitated and enriched the discourse on Malay identity.

But more important in recent decades is the deconstruction of Malay identity coming from scholars from academic circles within the nation and elsewhere.

Some have alleged that Malay ethnicity and identity lack a “core”.

Others have asserted that the Malays do not have a history.

Malay ethnicity and identity is not singular.

It is not homogenous but multiple.

The Malays are a multi-ethnic people, inhabiting Malaysia as a nation-state, the homeland of the Malay archipelago and the Malay world stretching from the Indian to the Pacific Oceans.

The New Straits Times, Published: 21 AUGUST 2016 at 1:49 PM
Debate on origins of Malays
The writer, Datuk Dr A Murad Merican, is a professor at the Centre of Policy Research and International Studies (CenPRIS), Universiti Sains Malaysia

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To unite Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR: Non-profit organisation Zubedy is calling on Malaysians to #SaySomethingNice in its fifth such initiative.

The annual campaign which was launched in 2011 calls for Malaysians to use the 17 days between Aug 31, Merdeka Day, to Sept 16, Malaysia Day, as a time to promote unity.

"We encourage Malaysians to be creative with their medium of preference to showcase the best of Malaysia while doing something good for the country. This year's theme is 'Creating Million Moments of Unity'," said Anas Zubedy, managing director of Zubedy Sdn Bhd.

The company founded by Anas aims to unite Malaysians under the banner "Many Colours, One Race".

"These approaches include our human development training services, festivities and unity advertisements, events and campaigns as well as publications.

Also present at the kickstart event was C. M. Wong, founder and CEO of SBS Prints who sponsored 15,000 copies of the campaign posters and 10,000 car stickers.

"Businesses should support this unity campaign as they can benefit from unity and stability," Wong said.

Among the ideas that has been suggested includes #EatSomethingNice, #DanceSomethingNice, and so on.

The Sun Daily, Last updated on 1 June 2016 - 11:49pm
#SaySomethingNice between Merdeka Day, Malaysia Day
By Vathani Panirchellvum

PETALING JAYA: Unity begins with simple gestures, and this is the idea behind Zubedy (M) Sdn Bhd’s Say Something Nice campaign (*).

The campaign, held in conjunction with National Day and Malaysia Day, has been going on annually since 2011.

Moderation advocate Anas Zubedy said that Malaysia has alternated between “moments of unity and disunity”, after the country gained independence in 1957.

“The idea to create moments of unity is not new.

“When (former prime minister) Tunku Abdul Rahman was Chief Minister of Malaya, he built Stadium Merdeka and when he wanted to build the stadium, many were asking him the reason he built a stadium instead of other buildings.

“He explained that one day Malaysians will cheer in unity when supporting our national football team in the stadium,” said Anas, adding that Tunku was far-sighted in seeing that he needed to create a platform for the people to embrace unity.

The managing director of Zubedy said that the Say Something Nice campaign, with its own hashtag #SaySomethingNice, enabled Malaysians to share actions done by them or other people and words that help enhance unity in the country.

“Say Something Nice is a platform to create unity among Malaysians.

“We want to encourage Malaysians to make it a culture to say something nice and to do nice things for the country and fellow Malaysians,” he said.

He added that the company also planned to take the campaign global, by encouraging Malaysians living abroad to celebrate the formation of Malaysia on Sept 16 and to post photos of their celebration on social media with the hashtag #Sept16SomethingNice.

He said that there were other campaigns by the company and its partners in conjunction with Say Something Nice, such as the #BuildSomethingNice project, where Zubedy has teamed up with individuals and corporations to raise funds to build a pipe system for the residents of Pulau Banggi who have been affected by the prolonged dry weather since early this year.

Anas was speaking to the media at the launch of the campaign by Youth and Sports Ministry deputy secretary-general (management) Nik Abdul Kadir Nik Mohamad at Sri KDU International School here yesterday.

Nik Abdul Kadir praised the campaign, saying that it was good for Malaysians to create moments of unity, especially for the younger generation.

He said that among the most recent moments of unity was when Malaysians of all races gathered to welcome home the country’s Olympians at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Wednesday.

“We hope that unity can be sustained in the country,” he said, adding that Malaysia was unique in that it is a multi-religious, multi--racial, and multi-cultural country where its people live in harmony,” he said.

The Star, Published: Friday, 26 August 2016
Power of words to unite Malaysians

(*) Zubedy Corporate Song :

Every man has a place, in his heart there's a space,
and the world can't erase his fantasies
Take a ride in the sky, on our ship fantasii
all your dreams will come true, right away
And we will live together, until the twelfth of never
our voices will ring forever, as one
Every thought is a dream, rushing by in a stream,
bringing life to the kingdom of doing
Take a ride in the sky, on our ship fantasii
all your dreams will come true, miles away
Our voices will ring together until the twelfth of never,
we all, will live life forever, as one

*Excerpt from the lyrics of Fantasy, by Earth, Wind & Fire
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JOHOR BARU: As Merdeka Day draws near, palm oil industry campaigner Datuk Boon Weng Siew recalls his experience of working closely with some of the nation’s prominent leaders in the fight to achieve independence.

His strong command of both English and Chinese earned him the pivotal role of a translator between MCA founding president Tun Tan Cheng Lock and the Chinese community when he joined the party in 1951.

He was also appointed as Malacca division executive secretary.

This was the start of his long alliance with Tan’s son Tun Tan Siew Sin who was then the honorary secretary of MCA and eventually became MCA president and finance minister.

They needed a translator to convey their message to the Chinese community. Party members at the time were mostly Chinese educated, recalled Boon, 93.

“My work mainly involved interpreting for both of them and translating speeches when they spoke at Chinese rallies. From there, I picked up their knowledge and perspectives,” he said in an interview at his home in Taman Century.

Boon said convincing the Chinese to work together with other races towards independence was no walk in the park.

He spoke of the challenge then as sentiments were high due to the communists’ influence.

However, Cheng Lock managed to win them over with his belief that while it was important to protect the race, the interest of other races should be respected at the same time,” he said.

Boon was also frequently sent to the Tanjung Kling detention camp in Malacca on behalf of MCA to help release those who had been wrongly arrested in government clampdowns under the suspicion of being communist allies.

“I had to be rational and diplomatic when trying to secure the release so as to not ruin their chances of getting freed. I believe my work in MCA pushed me to learn a lot about diplomacy and good management,” he added.

Even when Boon left MCA in 1952 and took on the role of personal assistant to Siew Sin, whom he saw as his mentor, he was still actively interpreting for MCA.

He also spent years working with political figures like Umno founder Datuk Onn Jaafar.

Boon was then a grocery shop clerk in Johor Baru in 1945.

Boon translated for Onn at public rallies for Chinese participants. He even had a photograph of the two of them together in action on stage.

“I regret that I could only watch the declaration of independence on a black and white TV from my hospital bed on Aug 31, 1957, as I was nursing an injured leg from an accident.

“But I am lucky to still see the nation celebrate another year of independence,” he said, adding that Malaysians should put aside their differences and come together as one in the spirit of the forefathers who fought hard for the country’s independence.

The spirit of unity should be strong in all of us and for more generations to come instead of putting racial or religious interests first,” said Boon, who spent 63 years in the plantation industry.

He was also the Malaysian Estate Owners Association president for 25 years.

The Star, Published: Friday, 26 August 2016
He brought unity through language

TWO local films were not nominated for the Best Film category. The reason – the dialogue in the films are not in the national language.

There was a lot of debate, a few resignations, returning of previous awards in protest and a call to boycott the awards. Then it was announced that the Best Film category will be open to all entries regardless of language. A move that has not sat well with those with opposing views.

Plenty was said about the Federal Constitution, the Rukun Negara and national identity. Plenty was also said about segregation, which left different camps pitching metaphoric tents across from each other ready for battle.

While on the surface it seems unfortunate that such a kerfuffle happened, it raised very pertinent points.

The first is that Malay is the national language – no one is refuting that. But how does language measure or define what national identity is? And if a national language is to forge national unity, then how did it end up segregating in this instance?

There are two distinct thoughts on defining national identity. The first is a strict definition of common ancestry or belonging to a certain ethnicity. The second is a more malleable definition which has no fixed parameters.

If we were to follow the strict definition, we would be hard pressed to find true blooded Malaysians.

If we were to test the second definition and set some parameters what would they be?

Would we be defined by our language, the colour of our skin, our religious beliefs, the clothes we wear, the food we eat at home? And so on. Or do we opt for a more bureaucratic distinction of the mighty MyKad?

If citizenship is a major defining factor, Project IC throws cold water on that distinction.

How then do we define Malaysian-ness? And if we do not know the answer to that, then who defines what Malaysian-ness is?

We can look at it from a historical perspective. National identity was a political and economic mobilisation tool. If we were to strip away the political and economic reasoning, what creates national solidarity? Is it about constitutional patriotism? or does it include a set of common values like that of the Rukun Negara.

How do we translate what is in the constitution and the Rukun Negara into our national identity without ostracising or segregating people?

In a country as divided and fragmented as Malaysia, there are instances that bring us together like rooting for our athletes when they reach the finals of world class sporting events. So for a few days or hours, Malaysian solidarity is shouldered by our athletes.

After a few hours of patriotic and emotional Facebook and Twitter posts we quickly slide back into our identity crisis and the racial bogeymen assume their positions.

On one hand we talk about a national identity which is about unity and yet with the same swipe we segregate through race-based policies and politics. And because we ourselves depend on others to define what Malaysian-ness is, we find that instead of a common set of values that bind, it is political parties that define it based on what benefits the politicians, not the country.

National unity matters and it goes far beyond our love for food and supporting our athletes. We need to be able to make distinctions that national unity is not about which political party one pledges allegiance to or votes for. National unity is about Malaysian solidarity, and that can be in different forms.

Why is Malaysian-ness important? Well, in today’s context when someone talks about national identity and violating national identity, they assume a strict definition that perhaps does not fit contemporary Malaysia. But defining it also does not mean that it will be accepted by all. It may seem like a way to manage or regulate people, a form of identity politics.

So perhaps then we should go back to defining what our core beliefs, thoughts and collective principles should be as Malaysians. I would say, it should be championing everyday Malaysians, working together in a meaningful way for a better Malaysia.

Standing up to corrupt practices and not hiding behind policies that segregate. Perhaps then how we articulate our national identity or identities should be done in ways that work towards addressing injustices and inequalities and not based on ticking boxes on a form or putting up flags every August.

Telling the Malaysian story goes further when it is inclusive.

The Sun Daily, Posted on 25 August 2016 - 11:36pm
Defining identity
By Natalie Shobana Ambrose

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Czech hiker in NZ

New Zealand - A Czech woman found alive in a remote mountain cabin in New Zealand has told police she spent a month there alone after her partner fell and died on a hiking trail.

The woman was found on Wednesday at a warden’s hut on the famous Routeburn track, which winds through a spectacular gorge in the mountains of Fiordland national park in the South Island.

According to police the couple started the walk on 26 July and the man fell down a steep slope on 28 July. The woman said she climbed down the slope and reached him but he died shortly afterwards.

Since then, the woman said, she had been living in a warden’s hut that was left locked and unattended for the winter at Lake Mackenzie, about halfway along the 32km track.

Despite heavy snowfalls in the past month, she was found in good health on Wednesday by a search and rescue team after concerns were raised with police that the couple had not been heard from since late July. They had only been reported missing to New Zealand police this week by the Czech consulate.

“This is a highly unusual case,” said Inspector Olaf Jensen, the Otago Lakes central area police commander.

“It is very unusual for someone to be missing for such a long time in the New Zealand bush without it being reported.”

Police said the pair – described as in their late 20s to early 30s and visiting New Zealand since January – had been reasonably well equipped for their expedition and had “some experience” in the New Zealand bush, but became disoriented and veered off the track, which is when the man fell to his death. Police were working to retrieve his body on Thursday.

After her partner’s death, police said, the woman spent three nights in the bush before making her way to the Lake Mackenzie hut on 31 July, a distance of approximately 2km, where she broke in and used its supplies of food, firewood and gas.

There was a mountain radio in the hut but the woman was unable to operate it, Jensen said. During her month-long stay she felt unable to walk out due to her own injuries and conditions that included up to a metre of snow and the risk of avalanches.

The woman drew an “H” in the snow – for “Help” – hoping it would be seen from the air. No other trampers came to the hut while she was there, she told police.

The Routeburn track usually takes intermediate walkers between two and four days to complete. It is officially closed during winter but numerous people still walk the track as it is well marked and there are public huts that remain open.

The New Zealand department of conservation’s website says facilities on the track “are greatly reduced” in the winter months when there are also “additional safety hazards to consider”.

“Walking the track during this time should only be attempted by fit, experienced and well equipped people,” it says.

Through the months of July and August numerous tourists posted pictures from the Routeburn track on social media.

Ian Sime, a spokesperson for the Otago Tramping and Mountaineering Club, said he had never heard of a tourist being lost on a major tramping track for such a length of time and he found the case “unbelievable”.

“I am flabbergasted, I don’t understand how this could happen. Even in winter there are teams of people walking parts of the track and staying in the huts.”

Sime said the track was not known for being particularly dangerous and even during the winter it was usually easy to find.

Noel Saxon, general manager of Ultimate Hikes Queenstown, said the woman’s survival was an incredible feat.

“I have been very surprised by this story – she must be a hardy character to have stayed out there so long in these conditions,” he said.

“I do find it unusual that no one else walked through during her time in the hut but it is not out of the question. In certain conditions it could be difficult to go anywhere and potentially that is what has happened here.”

During the summer Saxon guides groups of tourists of “average fitness” along the Routeburn and from the start of the track it takes them a day to walk to Lake Mackenzie Hut.

The Guardian, Last modified on Thursday 25 August 2016 07.03 BST
Woman survives month in New Zealand mountains after partner died on hike ;
Czech hiker tells police she stayed in a remote cabin after partner fell to his death on Routeburn track in the South Island

photo :
The summit of Conical Hill on the Routeburn track where a Czech woman was reportedly missing for a month.

By Eleanor Ainge Roy

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7 Caring Habits

Through his theory on Reality Therapy, Dr. William Glasser explains that most negative and/or abnormal behaviours are merely symptoms of unhappiness. This unhappiness stems from many of the basic needs not being met in one's life. In our ideal world, we have significant people in our lives, places and material things and last but not least, our values and belief system. When our ideal world does not match our reality, we will employ all kinds of negative behaviours as a way to control our reality just so that it will match our ideal world. This is called External Control Psychology. Parents scold their children for misbehaving. Teachers will threaten and punish when student don't do their homework. Both parents and teachers can vouch that external control psychology only works for a while. Pretty soon, its effectiveness will wane.

To cite an example of a character taken from a movie, Jack Nicholson's character in "As Good As It Gets" displays symptoms that can be diagnosed as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. He chooses to behave this way, sticking religiously to rituals of latching his door three times, switching his lights on and off three times, and other eccentric looking practices, just so that he wouldn't have the time to dwell on the fact that he has noone to love and noone to love him. He is lonely. What is tragic about this character is that it is based on a real life person! The hassles of performing his rituals daily is nothing compared to the pain of his loneliness.

In my ideal world, my parents are still married to each other, loving each other and our family in perfect harmony. But in reality, my parents divorced when I was just 13 years old. Although they are no longer married to one another, my parents do get along very well. Looks like they are better off as friends rather than as spouses. In my ideal world, my brothers and their families get along famously with myself and my family. But in reality, a few years ago, my brothers and I have had a few clashes. I chose to try depressing, angering and crying. Mind you, none of these behaviours worked! But when I gave up trying to match my reality to my ideals, I felt it easier to accept things as the way they were. And to my surprise, things did work out eventually for all of us. Because I chose to stop trying to control the choices and behaviours of those I love and focused more on controlling my own behaviour and wishing things to be the way i wanted them to be.

This is an example of how we choose our behaviours and the choices we make all in the name of being idealistic. Mind you, there is nothing wrong with being idealistic and having ideals. But it is healthier for us to not behave in ways to control others to behave the way we want them to behave. We get angry with friends, family and children because we hope that our angering will be produce better behaviour from them. That means to be a controlling freak! I admit, for many years, I was just that - a controlling freak. But, thanks to knowledge of psychology and Choice Theory, I have learned that everyone likes to be in control of something or someone, but noone likes to be controlled!

I have learned to accept that although I may have some significant people in my ideal world, it is ok for me not to be in their ideal world. I have come across many people who are often depressed, angry, frustrated and hostile just because their ideals and reality don't quite match. And when they fail to control those they wish to control, the above feelings get magnified a million times. Some of their unhappiness may manifest itself in the form of physical pain that has no physiology to it, i.e; they've gone to their doctors for cures but no medication would work. Aches and pains that has no physiological reasons to them can be termed as fibromyalgia or psychosomatic pains. When they choose to think more positively, they will feel and behave better, and those mysterious aches and pains will magically disappear!

There are those who are close to my heart and mean the world to me who are showing symptoms of unhappiness. They relentlessly try to control those around them and when all else fails, they begin behaving in ways that drive even the most loyal and loving away from them. Sadly, they don't realise what they are doing to themselves. My fervent wish is to be given the opportunity by Allah to help them see themselves and their lives from a different angle.

So, next time when you are feeling angry, upset, frustrated or flabbergasted, ask yourself, "What is it that I really want? Am I hungry or in pain? Whose behaviour is it that I am trying so hard to control? Whose behaviour can I really control? Is this behaviour going to help me get what I want? Is there another behaviour that I can choose that would yield the results that I want?"

Next time a massive urge to control someone other than yourself rises to your throat that makes you wanna just shout in anger, my prescription to you is this: just grab the TV's remote control and switch channels. That way, you won't be chasing all those you love out of your life. And then, only then, will you have all those you love around you and you will feel loved. Below, I have listed out the Seven Deadly Habits that can ruin any relationship and Seven Caring Habits that can enhance and repair any relationship. Give it a go! What have you got to lose?

Seven Deadly Habits:
Bribing or rewarding to control

Seven Caring Habits:
Negotiating differences

"If I choose all that I do, maybe I can choose to do something better."

Blog posted by Johana Johari, mental and behavioural health counselling, on Tuesday, February 24, 2015 at 11:33 PM
Realistic Ideals and Idealistic Realities

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Put aside your prejudice

WE must not be close-minded. Be tolerant of other people and their points of view and they may just surprise you.

Many years ago, I was visiting the remote Chiong settlement at the Royal Belum Forest in Grik, Perak.

I asked an orang asli (aborigine) boy there to sing a song to enliven the cold and quiet night.

I had brought my gang from The Star to stay at this village for three days with the orang asli. We held some game sessions with the orang asli children and shared our food with them.

Much to our delight, the talented boy belted out a Hindustani top hit ‘Chalte Chalte’ in style. His voice was so good that he could have produced an album.

There was an explosion of applause when he finished his performance.

My colleague and expedition participant Derrick Vinesh became the judge.

“Perfect. His pronunciation was clear. He was in tune and in tempo,” commented Derrick.

“He sang in a real Hindustani style. I give him a perfect 10 score.”

Despite being isolated from the outside world, the boy had picked up the language from his transistor radio.

Memories of the incident remain in my mind. I had also hooked in chief photographer Ng Ah Bak and a cadet journalist Liang Keng Fatt to join me in this adventure.

I was glad I had instilled a sense of adventure into some of my colleagues at The Star to enrich their lives.

I also recall a teenager I met. He was well-attired, wore a tie and was a school leaver.

To earn his living, he had the courage to become a table-to-table and street salesman to get potential clients.

I admired him. He believed in his own ability and surely, he was a step nearer to success. Man’s greatest downfall is fear. The greatest fear is fear itself. Eliminate this.

I always try not to be trapped with fear. This has enabled me to face the world with renewed confidence and enthusiasm.

I have the edge over others in terms of death-defying adventures. The experience I gained was priceless.

I do recall a David vs Goliath case which showed a lack of love and compassion.

David was just a tiny bird, not much bigger than a thumb. Goliath was a hyperactive boy of nine years old who stole the one-week-old baby bird from its nest on a mangosteen tree.

On hearing the baby bird’s cry, the mother sprang into action, regardless of danger. It attacked the boy by pecking his face.

In the end, the mother bird had to admit defeat and lost its loved baby.

Incidentally, I was Goliath. This happened 67 years ago in front of the present Malayan Teachers’ College, Glugor, Penang.

Whenever this incident flashed back to my mind, I felt remorse and regret for such a selfish act.

I learnt my lesson. Now, I am an animal lover.

Like human beings, animals are also temperamental. According to an AP report, an elephant trampled a veterinarian to death as she was taking photographs at a tourist spot on Indonesia’s Java island.

Human beings, although they are more rational, are worse than animals because they fail to control their emotions.

It is not surprising to hear that a son killed his mother when she failed to give him the money he requested.

It is true that love of money is the root of all evil. So pleasant thoughts can only be produced by rational thinking.

The Star, Published: Thursday, 25 August 2016

Hidden gems in remote places ;
Put aside your prejudice and be open to new faces and experiences.



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We had the best medal!

THE Rio Olympics finally arrived and this time we had the best medal haul ever, four silvers and one bronze.

We may not have heard Negaraku being played at the victory ceremonies but we did see the Jalur Gemilang being raised five times, more than ever before. Tell me your heart didn’t burst with pride when you saw that!

The hours put in by our athletes, the hard work, the pain, the sweat, the sacrifice, all of these culminated in these medals.

Of course we are disappointed that we didn’t get a gold but we did come very, very close.

Whatever it is we have world-class Olympians and we should rightly be proud of that. Congratulations to our badminton players, our two synchronised divers and our keirin cyclist!

The Olympics may come only once in four years but for everyone in the world, it’s an opportunity to watch the fittest and strongest compete for sports glory for their countries.

It’s amazing to see the most famous and the least known compete together and sometimes deliver a few surprises.

There seems to be a big difference between competing for individual glory and for your country. Winning for your country seems to be more moving and easily brings out the tears.

And while everyone roots for their own countrypersons, we can all be inspired by the stories of athletes from other countries, especially those who had overcome all odds to come and compete.

This year there was a special team of refugees and although none of them won anything, understandably given their circumstances, watching them participate highlighted their humanity and reminded us that refugees have abilities just like anyone else.

We watched athletes who never gave up, no matter how badly things turned out for them.

Sandra Perkovic, the defending champion and discus-thrower from Croatia had two fouls (disqualified throws), which put her at risk of elimination before she threw one so good that she won the gold.

If you’re a champion, you don’t let failure discourage you, you give your all one last time.

For us in Malaysia, once again the Olympics is the opportunity to come together to root for our national athletes.

We forget our differences, settle ourselves in front of our TVs preferably with friends and family, and yell encouragement to our fellow Malaysians competing at the highest level.

We laugh together, we smack our foreheads in frustration together, we cry together and we cheer together. For a short while we are united.

But there are always spoilsports. Apparently some people think that commenting on the most inane matters is more likely to get them to heaven than compliments for sporting achievement.

There was the newspaper which described a silver medal as disappointing while celebrating a bronze medal in another event. Unsurprisingly, these mean-spirited headlines caused much consternation.

As expected, the crotch-watchers and tut-tutters were out in force, ready to police what our female athletes wore rather than how they performed.

Someone actually described Pandelela Rinong’s outfit as ‘incomplete’ although it is unclear what sport it was incomplete for.

It was certainly correct for her sport, diving.

Interestingly enough, there was no excessive praise for the female athletes who wore ‘religiously correct’ outfits, perhaps because they didn’t get very far in their events.

Ultimately, you just have to watch the female team events such as synchronised diving or gymnastics to realise that the hundreds of hours of practice it takes to get their routines perfect matter so much more than their costumes.

These armchair critics can make mean comments all they want but how many of them can say that they have stood on the world stage, competed with the best in the world and actually beat some of them?

How many of them can one day tell their grandchildren that they were Olympians, and even medallists, members of a very exclusive club?

I watched the athletes at the victory ceremonies and had to recognise that that is an experience I will never have.

It’s a truly humbling realisation.

Indeed humility, with a few exceptions, seems to be the stock character of top athletes.

Joseph Schooling, Singapore’s first ever gold medallist, could hardly believe he had beat his hero Michael Phelps in the 100m butterfly event.

Mo Farah, the British distance runner, has dedicated every gold medal he has won to each of his four children.

We watched so many winners thank God first for their win before showing their joy.

Every four years we watch the ultimate sporting event with all their triumphs and heartbreaks and learn a few things about dedication and passion.

And for a few weeks we take a tiny break from the negativity, bloodymindedness and dishonesty we have to face around us every day.

The Star, Published: Thursday, 25 August 2016

Olympics lifted us above the mundane ;
With the exception of the spoilsports, the rest of us came together to cheer as one.


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Brazil wins World Sushi Cup

Tokyo - A Brazilian chef won the World Sushi Cup Friday, bursting into tears of joy after his knife skills and artful preparation of salmon roe, tuna and shrimp delicacies wowed Japanese judges.

With the country's UNESCO-recognised cuisine enjoying an explosion of global popularity, the competition -- sponsored by Japan's agricultural ministry -- aims to improve sushi standards overseas.

Dressed in white coats and hats, 27 chefs from countries ranging from France, Brazil and the US to Pakistan, nervously prepared fish and made traditional "Edo" style sushi, in tightly timed rounds.

Their techniques were closely watched and evaluated by a panel of Japanese sushi masters, with 20 chefs making it through to the finals on day two, where they had to show off their own original styles of sushi.

"I had fun," said cup winner Celso Hideji Amano, 38, a Brazilian of Japanese ancestry who shone in the traditional sushi making round, before busting into tears.

"It's not an easy competition," Usman Khan, a 32-year-old Pakistani chef working at a branch of the prestigious Nobu restaurant chain in Cape Town, told AFP.

"You're under a lot of pressure," he said on Thursday, the first day of the competition.

The annual contest was first held in 2013 and Khan, who has competed twice and made it through to the finals this year, said it was a good challenge.

"What better way to test your limits by competing against other chefs in the same profession in Japan," he said.

Soaring popularity
Khan first encountered sushi after he moved to South Africa from Kuwait 13 years ago.

"I couldn't believe people could eat raw fish," he said.

"I was disgusted initially but I got intrigued."

As of July 2015, there were 89,000 Japanese restaurants outside Japan, up from 55,000 two years before, according to the ministry.

But many establishments outside the country serve sushi without proper knowledge and skills, competition organisers said.

"Quite a lot of people are learning from the internet and books," said World Sushi Cup chairman Masayoshi Kazato, who has worked as a sushi chef for more than four decades.

"Improvement of the level of cooking and hygiene through this competition -- that's what we're aiming for," he said.

One of the contestants, French chef Eric Ticana Sik, 31, said his goal in participating was simply to learn more.

"We are one of the countries that eat the most sushi in the world, but there is really a lack of training," he said.

"Only Japanese can teach us the basics."

Sik, whose signature sushi brings together elements of Japan and France by combining salmon and brie cheese, said he wanted to meet other chefs from around the world to "discuss and share" views.

The origin of sushi dates back to the Heian Period (794-1185), when salted "funa" fish were fermented together with rice, according to the ministry.

The current style was developed in the Edo Period (1603-1867) when the public began using vinegar mixed with rice.

Yahoo News, Updated: August 20, 2016
Brazilian chef wins 'World Sushi Cup' in Tokyo

photo :
One of the 27 competing chefs at the the World Sushi Cup in Tokyo, on August 18, 2016

By Natsuko Fukue, AFP

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The Emperor and the Prime Minister

TOKYO − August is always a solemn time in Japan. It is the month when we remember the double destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and Japan’s defeat in World War II. This year, however, we find ourselves not only remembering history, but witnessing it: The nation has been shaken by a recent video message from Emperor Akihito in which he hinted that he wished to abdicate.

The emperor did not use the word “abdication” in his address, and he tried to sound as though the change he was suggesting lay within the bounds of the ordinary. He is getting too old, he suggested, to participate in public affairs; he can no longer travel the way he once did. At the same time, he seemed to indicate that the official duties of the emperor, a symbol of the state, are too important to be curtailed.

The vagueness of the message was intentional. After all, the Japanese Constitution forbids the emperor from engaging in politics, and expressly stating a desire to abdicate would constitute an unambiguously political act. And yet the manner in which Akihito made his will known − by directly addressing the Japanese people − seemed calculated to produce the sort of shock that it did. It was the first time since 1945 that an emperor has gone over the government’s head, as it were, to explain his own thinking: The last time this occurred was at the end of World War II when Emperor Akihito’s father, Emperor Hirohito, made a radio address announcing Japan’s surrender to the Allied forces.

The extraordinary nature of the gesture raises the question, “Why now?” In part, no doubt, the timing is a sign that Emperor Akihito, as he nears the end of his life, is growing concerned about the future of the imperial system. He became emperor in 1989 after months of intense media attention over his father’s failing health, and during such periods, “society comes to a standstill,” he said in his address. He was still in mourning when he assumed his new duties − “a very heavy strain,” and one from which he said he hoped emperors could be spared in the future.

Perhaps Emperor Akihito also knows that at some point Japan will need to allow women to be emperors again, as was the case as far back as the sixth century, and he may want to help spark a serious reconsideration of the current system as a means of ushering in this change.

But none of this is a complete answer to the question “Why now?”

Japan’s national broadcasting organization NHK reported on July 13 that Emperor Akihito wished to abdicate. The announcement came just days after the ruling Liberal Democratic Party routed the opposition in elections for the upper house of Parliament − reaching, with its coalition party Komeito, the two-thirds majority necessary for the National Diet to submit proposed constitutional revisions to a national referendum. One cannot help suspecting that the emperor’s desire to abdicate is connected to the determination of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government to rewrite the Constitution − especially since one of its proposed changes would redefine the role of the emperor, changing it from a purely symbolic post back to head of state, as under the Meiji Constitution of 1890. The practical implications of that change are unclear, but it would be a symbolic repudiation of postwar ideals.

Some experts have suggested that the Abe administration might have secretly pressured NHK to report on the emperor’s desire to step down. Current law does not allow abdication, so it offers no guidance about the role of a retired emperor. Emperor Akihito’s implicit request can probably only be addressed through a constitutional amendment, and taking that up could give the Abe administration an opportunity to push forward with other revisions at the same time.

The more persuasive interpretation, to my mind, is that Emperor Akihito has been so deeply disturbed by the Abe administration’s efforts to transform the Constitution − not only to politicize the role of the emperor, but also to dispense with the so-called peace clause that prohibits Japan from engaging in war − that he is trying to delay their progress, perhaps until after the end of Mr. Abe’s term in 2018. In other words, Emperor Akihito may be hoping to raise another constitutional issue, and one more pressing than the others: Because of his age and who he is, it would have to be taken up first.

There is no way to know which of these possibilities is correct. One thing is certain, however: Emperor Akihito’s bold, if necessarily ambiguous, expression of his desire to abdicate has for the first time allowed him to become more important than his father in the popular imagination. After many years of being considered a “living god,” Emperor Hirohito was compelled to become a “symbolic emperor.” Now Emperor Akihito, in one unexpected step and of his own volition, has laid new claim to his status as Japan’s first truly postwar emperor.

Ever since Emperor Akihito ascended to the throne, he has striven to show his respect for the Constitution and has made clear his commitment to peace and international cooperation. If he succeeds in his attempt to allow Japan’s emperors to abdicate − overturning the longstanding conception that the emperor is “sacred and inviolable” − he will have demonstrated that emperors today are like any other citizen, subject to the law and the democratic ideals of the postwar order.

The New York Times, Published: AUG. 15, 2016
The Emperor and the Prime Minister

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Rio hangover

Rio de Janeiro - Rio de Janeiro returned to the cold reality of Brazil's political crisis and recession Monday after bringing a carnivalesque curtain down on its Olympics festival and passing the torch to Tokyo.

After a 16-day extravaganza of sporting heroics from the likes of Olympics legends Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps, Brazil woke up to the hangover of suspended president Dilma Rousseff's looming impeachment trial and the country's worst recession in more than eight decades.

Brazilians have mixed feelings on hosting the Games, according to a poll released on the final day, which found that 62 percent think the $16 billion Olympics brought more harm than good.

At the same time, 57 percent were proud the event boosted Brazil's image abroad.

"There are doubts on the use of public money for events of this nature when there are other priorities, especially considering the economic crisis," summed up Marcia Cavallari, the head of the firm that carried out the poll, Ibope Inteligencia.

Security fears, concerns over Zika, off-field scandals and organizational gaffes were relegated to the background as South America's first Olympics ended in a blaze of color late Sunday with an exuberant closing ceremony.

Smiling and waving athletes danced into the Maracana stadium, defying a tropical rain storm to launch an all-night party after Olympics chief Thomas Bach described the Rio Games as "marvelous."

The city handed over to 2020 hosts Tokyo and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who arrived for the occasion dressed as Nintendo video game hero Super Mario (*).

But even as Olympics highlight reels continued to loop on Brazilian television, the nation's attention began to shift back to the capital, Brasilia, where Rousseff will go on trial before the Senate Thursday on charges of fudging the national budget to make the numbers look better.

Rousseff, who denies breaking the law and condemns the trial as a "coup," has paid a heavy price for the recession and a massive corruption scandal at state oil giant Petrobras -- which is separate from her impeachment case but has stained the entire political class.

Interim president Michel Temer, her nemesis, is not faring much better.

Booed at the opening ceremony and harangued in the stadiums, he stayed out of sight for Sunday's closing celebrations.

'The greatest'
But memories of American swimming legend Phelps and Jamaican sprint king Bolt will linger after they set the 2016 Olympics alight.

Bolt, 29, made history when he sealed the sprint "triple triple" in his final Games, his third consecutive 100m, 200m and 4x100m sweep.

"There you go. I'm the greatest," he said matter-of-factly.

It was Phelps who set the first week of the Games on fire when he took his unmatched career haul to 23 gold medals before heading into retirement at age 31.

In gymnastics, 19-year-old newcomer Simone Biles dominated the arena with her record-equalling four women's gold medals and a bronze at her first Games.

A catalogue of outstanding achievements in Rio included Britain's Mo Farah, who captured a "double double" in the 5,000m and 10,000m -- despite tripping and falling halfway through the latter.

And the hosts got to revel in a priceless moment in the sun, fittingly in football. The men's national team earned its greatest Olympic memory by winning the men's gold medal.

Brazil celebrated long and loud when Neymar won the penalty shoot-out against Germany to erase memories of their 7-1 World Cup semi-final humiliation in 2014.

Scandals on the sidelines
The United States topped the medal standings, matching their 46 golds from London four years ago ahead of Britain, who sealed a surprise second place ahead of China with 27 golds to 26.

Russia -- with around half their team, including the track and field stars, banished from Rio following doping revelations -- finished fourth with 19 golds.

Scandal also struck during the Games as police seized passports, phones and computers in a raid on the Irish Olympic office, following the arrest of Irish International Olympic Committee member and European Olympic chief Patrick Hickey over an alleged black-market tickets scam.

And American swimming standout Ryan Lochte and three teammates caused outrage when they falsely claimed they had been robbed at gunpoint in Rio by muggers disguised as police.

It later emerged the group had in fact been detained by security guards for drunkenly vandalizing a gas station bathroom.

The fallout continued to pile up for six-time Olympic gold medalist Lochte on Monday as sponsors Speedo and Ralph Lauren both announced they were dropping him.

Yahoo news, Published: Aug 23, 2016, 3:55 AM
Rio hangover as Tokyo grabs Olympic baton
Laura Bonilla, AFP

リオ閉会式で椎名林檎が五輪批判の舞台音楽を使用! 野田作品は東京五輪を戦争の装置として描いていたのに

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1893 Chicago World's Fair

A faint breeze rises off the lagoon as you cross a green koi pond on wide stepping stones. To your right, a waterfall splashes; to your left, a Japanese moon bridge arches under a bright summer sky. The scene could not be more perfect, you think, and then you notice a big, boldly patterned bird perfectly centered under the bridge. A black-crowned night heron has settled in for a fishing session.

The Garden of the Phoenix in Jackson Park is one of the hidden gems of Chicago, a lush azalea-studded Japanese garden that looks out over shimmering water at green rushes, pristine woodland and the gleaming columns of the Museum of Science and Industry. A gravel path winds through 2 acres of greenery, with Japanese maples, glossy grasses and pines pruned to look as if they have sprung from ancient manuscripts.

But this otherworldly place, on the 15-acre Wooded Island and currently closed to the public during a large-scale ecological restoration, is more than just another pretty face in Chicago's pantheon of parks.

Ever since the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, when Japan, eager to make an impression on the West, brought the magnificent Phoenix Pavilion here to showcase the nation's artistic heritage, the Wooded Island has been a stage where U.S.-Japanese relations have played out in miniature.

In the 1890s, high hopes for greater understanding were reflected in the Japanese emperor's decision to give the pavilion to the city of Chicago. In the 1930s, restoration of the pavilion and the planting of what is now the Garden of the Phoenix marked another era of optimism. During World War II, a Japan-born Chicagoan who ran a popular teahouse on the island was interned, or put in detention, solely because of his Japanese heritage.

Today, strong ties and deep respect are represented by new projects such Yoko Ono's Sky Landing sculpture, set to be unveiled this fall.

"This is probably one of the most important sites reflecting U.S. - Japanese relations in our nation," said Robert W. Karr Jr., president of Project 120 Chicago, the not-for-profit organization that is working with the Chicago Park District to revitalize Jackson, Washington and Midway parks.

"This is the garden, period, bar none."

Shoji Osato and his wife, Frances Fitzgerald, cared for the garden and ran a teahouse there from 1935 to 1941. The teahouse was shut down after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and in 1946 vandalism led to a fire that destroyed the pavilion.

The Yoko Ono sculpture, conceived as a call for peace and respect among nations, will stand on the spot of the original pavilion.

Go on a video walking tour of the garden at chicagotribune.com/japanesegardentour.

Chicago Tribune, Published: August 4, 2016, 12:09 PM
Garden of the Phoenix a Jackson Park hidden gem with a storied past
By Nara Schoenberg

Read more:

Chicago Tribune, Published: July27, 2016, 4:43 PM
Yoko Ono talks about her connections to Chicago, her art and her iconic style
By David Syrek

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Pokemon hunting GO-ing too far

SARAMA Abdullah is at her wits’ end.

The 58-year-old ex-teacher thought the noise pollution problem allegedly caused by Pokemon GO players who gathered in her residential area of Acheen Street would be over when she made a police report which resulted in police taking action.

From losing sleep over the noisy gamers, Sarama now finds herself face to face with another problem which has since cropped up –Pokemon GO players allegedly littering the area and urinating in the compound of the Acheen Street mosque, which is a PokeStop.

“The problem still persists and is getting worse. Previously they were only making noise, but now they are using our mosque compound as their ‘toilet’.

“They are also littering the place with cigarette butts and drinks cans,” she claimed when met on Sunday.

Sarama said that the players were using the mosque’s toilets but the qariah (committee) had since locked up the toilets.

“The main gate of the mosque, which is the only way for residents to enter our houses, remains closed. The players would pull open the gate to enter the mosque compound where they would urinate everywhere.”

Sarama lamented that the group gathering on the streets from Cannon Square to Acheen Street in the heart of the George Town heritage enclave would also get rowdy at times.

“It’s not a criminal offence to play, but please respect the area. Switch off your vehicle engines at least.

“When I tell them off they would say to me, ‘if you want to report, then go report’,” she added.

Sarama said she also wrote a complaint letter on Aug 18 on the noise pollution to the the Acheen Street mosque qariah, Penang Island City Council (MBPP), George Town World Heritage Incorporated (GTWHI), the police, the Penang state Islamic religious council and the constituency’s elected representative.

“I’m begging them to remove the PokeStops (in the area) to somewhere else because this is a residential area with many senior citizens. It’s also a place of worship.

“Besides that, the place has become filthy,” she added.

Sarama stressed that she was not against the game but against the noise and littering as a result.

“I have also spoken to the Consumers Association of Penang and they will try their best to help me.”

Sarama lives above a barber shop a few doors from the Acheen Street mosque, which is a PokeStop.

Only 30m away is another PokeStop at the Little Boy Reaching Up mural while about 80m down Cannon Square is yet another PokeStop, at the Yap Temple.

About 10 uniformed and plainclothes policemen had arrived after midnight on Aug 16 to check on the presence of at least 150 Pokemon GO players gathered on the streets from Cannon Square to Acheen Street.

Led by George Town OCPD Asst Comm Mior Faridalathrash Wahid, the police had found that the players had parked their cars and motorcycles along the narrow streets.

ACP Mior Faridalathrash reportedly said his men issued 15 summonses to motorists and motorcyclists who parked haphazardly.

The Star, Published: Wednesday, 24 August 2016
Pokemon hunting GO-ing too far

Sarama showing the Aug 17 StarMetro North article on the Pokemon fever in Acheen Street and her complaint letter on the noise pollution at the Star Northern Hub in Bayan Lepas, Penang.


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Finding father again

DAD was laid to rest two weeks ago. He was cremated and his ashes are now in safekeeping.

We did our best to organise a send-off that was worthy of him. But as they say, a funeral is really for the living; to give them a chance to grieve, honour and remember the one they have lost.

For my family, it was also a chance to give Dad a last hurrah; to show off our wonderful father who was the most loving husband, caring grandfather and gentle great-grand-father.

But planning a wake and funeral is tricky. You only have days to decide on many things and unlike a wedding, you can’t issue invitation cards with an RSVP, so you can’t be sure who will turn up.

All you can do is post an obituary with all the details of place and time and wait.

Luckily, one of our best decisions was to hold the wake and funeral at Xiao En Centre in Cheras, Kuala Lumpur.

Every single detail was taken care of and handled with utmost sensitivity by the well-trained staff, from the time they helped us with the very difficult act of claiming his body from the hospital mortuary, to the final moment of cremation.

We were also blessed to have Reverend Gordon Kong and Pastor Steven Raj from St Mary’s Cathedral to guide us through and con--duct the Anglican services and cremation.

That allowed the family to focus on how to present Dad at his finest and write our eulogies, which everyone was initially nervous about.

In the end, it was actually easy because Dad was such a character and all of us had unique memories and experiences with him. So we laughed and cried at the many stories told by his children, sons-in-law and grandchildren.

We also displayed some of his personal items like his police medals and cap, a selection of his diaries and his favourite magazines. We assembled a Powerpoint of photos of him as a boy to when he was a grand old man. Dad was truly a handsome man and in his Special Branch officer uniform he was a knockout.

We had a steady stream of friends, relatives and well-wishers, including a few strangers who came to pay their respects because they had read about Dad in my column and had seen the obituary. Thank you, Mr P.F. Chan of Bangsar, KL, and Mr Kong Kim Leng from Seremban.

An unexpected visitor was Commander S. Thayaparan (retd), whom I later realised was the prolific online commentator. He told us he used to be with naval intelligence and had worked with Dad. He moved us deeply when he went up to the casket and smartly saluted Dad one last time.

Even more touching was the sight of Dad’s old friends and comrades, almost all in their 80s, who came to console Mum and us.

Those final days with Dad at Xiao En Centre went too quickly and we dreaded the day of his funeral. It meant we would no longer be able to see and touch him again.

Still, I told myself the sight of his casket going into the furnace would give me closure, as it would truly mark the end of his life’s journey. I steeled myself but when it happened, I cried buckets. We all did.

Tears, unbidden, will keep falling for a long time to come.

And here I am weeping again because I had to file away his death certificate in the folder where Dad had meticulously filed all his important papers.

It is the last document of his life, making it a full circle from birth to death. I tear at the stark contrast between the two documents.

His birth cert is a crumbling brown piece of paper, torn at the folds. It was issued by the Register of Births under the Colony of the Straits Settlements.

All the details of a newborn are recorded in elegant cursive handwriting. Here was a male child named Wong Heck Ming born to Wong Seng Dee and Ling Sing Ai on 21st April, 1927, in the registration area of Singapore. The father’s occupation is “Preacher” but there are no details on his mother.

Eighty-nine years later, his death certificate, issued by the Government of Malaysia, states the date, time and place and cause of death. The crisp document is a very pale blue bearing the watermark of the National Registration Department with a border and boxes in pink.

All the information is typed and the form is computer generated. It is as impersonal as it gets in our automated modern world.

Such is life. Ultimately, we are all mere statistics in the official ledgers for our governments to keep count of their citizens.

Still, old papers and documents can offer wonderful glimpses into a life and I realise Dad’s folder is a treasure trove of information.

It has his First Grade School Certificate dated December 1947 showing he scored credits in all but one of his eight subjects that included English Literature, History of the British Empire, Latin and Mathematics.

His school leaving certificate gives an insight into what he was like as schoolboy: “He was senior prefect during his last year in school, was captain of a house of 150 boys, and was proficient in athletics and boxing. He was looked on by both the staff and the boys as one of the leaders of the school.”

Then there is his 1953 marriage certificate with Mum, which states his status as a 26-year-old bachelor and she a 19-year-old spinster.

In the birth certificate of his first child, my sister Beatrice, his nationality is “British Subject” because he was born in Singapore but Selangor-born Mum is a “British Protected Person”.

In 1954, Mum applies to be a British Subject too but just four years later, they both apply for citizenship in the Federation of Malaya.

Dad joined the police force in 1950 and within a year of his posting to Labis, Johor, during the Emergency, he received a letter of commendation dated July 23, 1952, from the Commissioner of Police for re-organising the Labis District Special Branch under difficult and dangerous conditions.

Towards the back of the folder are letters of congratulations from his superiors for being awarded the Colonial Police Medal in 1955.

All this is new to me. His folder, which we found in his cupboard, is not my only source of information. Dad was a very private person. But thanks to his meticulous record-keeping habit and love for writing, we have his diaries that date back to the 1970s. Topping all that are his memoirs which he wrote more than 10 years ago but had lain, largely forgotten.

Dad’s journey may be over but he has given his family a way to find him again. He is still very much with us. Thank you, darling Pops!

The Star, Published: Wednesday, 24 August 2016
Finding father again ;
His long and eventful life has ended but not his story, as his family finds a treasure trove of his personal papers and writings.

Box of Dad's diaries dating back to 1970s.

By June HL Wong
Once again, Aunty and family would like to thank friends and relatives for their attendance and for the beautiful flowers and messages of condolences they received.


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To read aloud

Author Kate DiCamillo was in Orlando not long after the Pulse Nightclub shooting, when a teacher came up to her in a book signing line. “I didn’t know what to do, so I gathered the kids together and I read aloud to them,” she told DiCamillo. She read the children DiCamillo’s “The Tale of Despereaux,” the Newbery Medal-winning book filled with compassion and hope, and the children were rapt.

DiCamillo, recounting the meeting, choked up a bit: “We need stories now more than ever.”

It’s been a little tough to find the light in the midst of so much darkness lately, hasn’t it? Shootings, terror attacks, a nasty presidential campaign full of vitriol − all issues many parents are finding difficult to talk about with their children. These aren’t events we can ignore or gloss over; our children are noticing things aren’t quite right in the world.

I have received a lot of advice here about how to talk to children about scary news, explain this unusual election, and discuss why things don’t seem fair or just. But one thing that holds true: Reading to children from books that emulate how we want them to understand the world can show them how to be part of the solution.

“When you read these books aloud, you can tell from their expressions that they are empathetic in relating to these characters. They understand what the characters are feeling,” said Sharon Rawlins, youth services specialist at the New Jersey State Library and president of the Collaborative Summer Library Program.

And, so, like that teacher who found reading to be a balm, reading aloud can also be a lesson, as books always have been. Not only is reading to kids, no matter their age, important for their development, but it also helps us talk about bigger issues, think more deeply about other people’s feelings and how they can help solve problems, even if the children don’t realize that’s what we’re doing.

Sure, our children aren’t as openly burdened by the news as we may be. Mine are still conning people out of 50 cents for a cup of lemonade, singing ’80s tunes with their friends in our basement and generally filling the air with laughter and chaos. But they know enough. In fact, my 6-year-old asked me whether we’d have to become refugees someday because of war. It always surprises me what they know and what they worry about.

And so I often think about books that might teach them what it means to be kind and empathetic, books that show them kids can get through tough situations, that kids can change the world or slay monsters. The books don’t have to specifically have those themes, but most children’s books show what it means to be strong, kind, a problem-solver.

Take DiCamillo’s latest lovely novel, “Raymie Nightingale,” in which a ragtag group of girls becomes friends. The girls’ underlying narratives aren’t light ones. One child is possibly being abused, another is dealing with the fact that her father left the family, and another is living in extreme poverty after her parents died. Yet they embody what it means to be true friends who care for people (and animals). They show what it means to be loyal and caring, even in the face of personal tragedy and darkness. They don’t judge one another for their quirks or their lot in life.

A girl from Australia recently wrote DiCamillo a letter, calling the novel a “hard, comforting book.”

“I think that’s what literature does,” DiCamillo said. “That thing of telling the truth and making the truth bearable. One truth? We can love each other. Another truth? It’s hard work.”

Taking the time to read with our children will not only help their reading skills, comprehension and vocabulary, but it will strengthen their emotional IQ as well. There’s an abundance of stories that provide comfort, show kids how they can be strong and allow them to realize that all’s not perfect in the world but that they can make it better.

Rawlins picked some of her favorite books for us that show empathy and kindness. “I think it’s very important for kids to identify and develop a moral compass, and identifying that kindness is something you have all your life,” she said.

I can’t wait to dig into them with my kids, particularly on days when the world seems a little dark or hard to explain.

The Washington Post, Published: August 10, 2016
Tough times out there? Here’s why reading with your kids is more important now than ever.
By Amy Joyce

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Sugary foods

THERE are two categories of food that I take delight in consuming: desserts and anything with a good crunch to it. Most of these foods, however, aren’t always the healthiest, with sugary foods topping the list.

But who can resist? With the café culture flooding the Klang Valley, cakes, chocolates, ice-cream treats and pies are everywhere. Pretty photographs of beautifully-decorated treats are art pieces you just want to eat. The struggle is real.

I’ve often wondered why I like sugar so much. Growing up, my father would tack news cuttings with bold headlines proclaiming why sugar is bad for health. But two decades later, I still like sugar and the message is the same.

An uncontrolled love of sugar poses real health risks. Last year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) renewed its call for adults and children to keep their daily consumption of free sugars to less than 10% of their total energy intake. Free sugars refer to the sugars added by manufacturers to products, as well as the sugar naturally present in honey, syrup and fruit juices.

If you have a will of steel and can further reduce your intake to 25gm or six teaspoons a day, WHO stated that there would be additional benefits.

Six teaspoons? I read this aghast. I’ve only had breakfast and my bowl of cereal could very well have left me with two teaspoons to stretch over lunch and dinner, not to mention teatime. What WHO is asking is nearly impossible.

For one, I enjoy my desserts. Two, I have baking seasons, where the oven is perpetually on and I’d be whisking away every night after work. And being an amateur baker, it’s important to try one or two of my baked goods. So I can improve next time, of course.

Unfortunately, no matter how much I try to sugar-coat this, the facts remain. I am consuming large amounts of sugar. And it can lead to diabetes, heart disease, obesity and stroke.

I was surprised that some fruit-based drinks have as much sugar as soft drinks. I thought I’d made a healthy transition by cutting down on carbonated drinks and heading for the more expensive but supposedly better option.

But it seems that sugar is throwing everything it can into keeping me in its sweet but deathly grip. Most processed foods and drinks contain lots of sugar, and I’m finding out that I’ve been taking in way more sugar than I thought.

It’s important to take care and work at being fit. I know that with Pokémon Go, everyone’s walking now. For some, they’ve done more walking in the two weeks than in the past two months.

I’m glad people are spending more time outdoors. An active lifestyle contributes to better health, as does a balanced diet.

It’s time to become more conscious of our food intake and study the risks of consuming too much sugar so we can improve our eating habits.

It is an uphill battle. And life can be so unfair in that the foods that taste amazingly good aren’t always the best for us. But if we take baby steps, we’ll get there.

For me, it means half a cookie instead of one for morning tea. The struggle is definitely real.

The SunDaily, Last updated on 22 August 2016 - 10:24pm
A sweet tooth’s struggle
By Michelle Chun

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Coke could close SA plants

Johannesburg - Coca-Cola Beverages Africa, the bottling joint venture between the US soft-drink maker and brewer SABMiller may close South African plants and see profit more than halve if the government pushes ahead with a proposed sugar tax.

South Africa’s National Treasury last month recommended a levy on sugar-sweetened beverages that would generate almost R11 billion ($813 million) in government revenue, based on 2012 consumption data cited in the policy paper. The charge is aimed at reducing consumption of sugar and encouraging producers and suppliers to cut the sugar content of their drinks, according to the government.

The newly created bottler’s volumes in South Africa would probably drop by at least 25 percent if the tax were implemented as proposed, based on calculations using government assumptions, according to Velaphi Ratshefola, the managing director of Coca-Cola Beverages South Africa and chairman of the Beverage Association of South Africa, an industry lobby group. Smaller producers could shutter operations altogether, he said.

“Our profit will more than half,’’ Ratshefola said in an interview at Bloomberg’s Johannesburg office on Friday. If the tax goes ahead, CCBA would struggle to keep to an agreement with the government to keep employee levels steady for three years, he said.

Discriminatory tax?
Claims of job losses are “mere speculation’’ at this stage of the process, National Treasury spokeswoman Phumza Macanda said in an e-mailed response to questions. The Treasury has set a deadline of Monday for comments on the draft policy paper, after which it will hold a consultation process, she said. The levy is 2.29 South African cents per gram of sugar.

“The industry should not jeopardise constructive engagement on this issue by resorting to scare tactics,” she said. “It’s universally accepted that sugar consumption has negative health consequences.”

The industry argues that the tax is discriminatory because sugar-sweetened drinks only contribute 3 percent, according to Ratshefola –- of South Africans’ daily caloric intake. While obesity and sugar consumption are issues that should be dealt with, the industry could work with government to find other ways to tackle them, he said. The study includes people who don’t drink sugar-sweetened beverages. For those who do, the proportion of daily calories could be higher, he said.

Almost 27 percent of South Africans older than 15 are obese, according to data published by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. That’s the sixth-highest rate among 41 countries tracked by the OECD. It’s also the highest of the emerging markets in the group after Mexico, which introduced a tax on sugar-sweetened drinks in 2014.

South Africans’ consumption of sugar through processed foods and soft drinks has increased by 33 percent since 1994 and the country consumes about three times more Coca-Cola products than the global average, according to Lisa-Claire Ronquest-Ross, a researcher at the Department of Food Science at Stellenbosch University.

“The high prevalence of soft drink consumption is concerning in terms of its association with obesity and non-communicable diseases,” she said in an e-mailed response to questions.

Shop closures
In addition to possible company closures and job cuts, the beverage industry estimates that as many as 15 000 informal convenience stores, known as spaza shops, could close as a result of the tax, which would be the highest of its kind in the world, Ratshefola said. The vendors rely heavily on the sales of soft drinks, he said. Those shops on average employ 2 people, he said.

SABMiller holds 57 percent of CCBA, while Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Co. owns 11.3 percent. The balance is controlled by the Gutsche family, which was the majority owner of Coca-Cola’s former bottling partner in South Africa. The parties agreed with the government in May to keep employment at current levels for three years to secure approval for the merger, which was first announced in 2014. Other conditions included the creation of two development funds - one for the agriculture industry and the other for retail and distribution - worth a combined R800 million.

“If this tax were to be implemented there’s no way I could afford to keep the number of employees like that for three years,” Ratshefola said. “This tax legislation works completely opposite to what we negotiated.”

22 August 2016, 11:29am
Coke could close SA plants
Bloomberg, Liezel Hill and Arabile Gumede

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The Games are over !

RIO DE JANEIRO: The Olympics ended Sunday with Brazil having shown twice in two years that it is capable of hosting the world’s biggest sporting events. But was the effort worth the trouble?

The initial excitement of knowing Brazil would host both the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics turned bittersweet, at best.

There were mass protests in 2013 against corruption and white elephant stadiums for the football. Then this year Brazil hit a perfect storm of political crisis, historic recession, runaway unemployment and a huge corruption scandal in the flagship national company Petrobras.

How did Rio de Janeiro and the country as a whole come out in the end?

“The main legacy of the Games was the party for Rio’s people, who will never forget these days,” said leading Brazilian sports analyst Juca Kfouri.

“Hopefully the Games have also provided a bit of a lesson for Brazilian fans, although I doubt it,” Kfouri added, referring to the loud booing at foreign athletes in everything from tennis to pole vaulting, and even during national anthems and medal ceremonies.

The glorious days of 2009 when the Olympics were awarded to Rio are a distant memory.

Back then, thousands of Cariocas − as Rio natives are called − celebrated on Copacabana beach, watching the decision live on a huge television screen.

Then president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva cried on screen and hugged football legend Pele at the Copenhagen meeting where Rio had been named as South America’s first ever Olympic host.

He had started as an illiterate boy who shined shoes, became a metal worker and union leader, an opponent of the military dictatorship and finally president after three failed attempts. The Olympics were to be his crowning achievement. But today it is pessimism that rules. Lula faces a corruption prosecution, his chosen successor Dilma Rousseff faces imminent removal from office in an impeachment trial, and her replacement, Michel Temer, is considered by many Brazilians to be illegitimate.

“For us Brazilians it is an honor to be hosting the Olympics but this is a very sad moment in history that will always stay with us,” said Fernanda Corezola, a government employee who came from Porto Alegre to watch the Games.

In 2017, some 63 per cent of Rio will be able to use public transport, against only 17 per cent in 2009, thanks to the Olympic projects to extend the metro, build a light railway and set up a cross-city dedicated bus lane network.

“Transport is the biggest legacy of the Games in terms of the amount of investment and the amount of people benefiting,” deputy mayor Rafael Picciani told AFP.

Residents aren’t all happy, saying the buses are too few and too full, and that little has been done to address generalized problems in the poorest areas.

A big letdown has been the failure to improve the massive pollution in the Bay of Guanabara, which was used for sailing contests.

Borneo Post, Published: August 23, 2016, Tuesday
The Olympics are over for Brazil – was it worth it?

read more:

During Sunday's closing ceremony, singer Mariene de Castro was showered water that resembled rain, which put out the Olympic cauldron's flames.

Closing ceremony marks farewell to Rio 2016, which − despite ugly and bizarre incidents − actually went pretty well ;

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The cendol goes big

AFTER 80 years, the Tan family operating the Penang Road Famous TeoChew Chendul at Keng Kwee Street is franchising the business to entrepreneurs interested in generating a passive income.

Dessert Captain chief executive officer Chuang Von Fah says he conceived the idea four years ago.

“It took about 18 months to plan. It was only in 2013 that we were ready to get the business going,” he reveals.

The Penang Road Famous TeoChew Chendul business was started in 1936 by Tan Teik Fuang, the father of Chuang’s father-in-law, Tan Chong Kim, 57, who is still at the helm.

“Leveraging on my banking background and my wife’s experience as an accountant, we designed the franchising scheme to attract entrepreneurs who do not want to get bog down with the nitty gritty of running a business, as well as inexperienced entrepreneurs.

“The franchise food business is becoming increasingly popular because it can be run regardless of weather conditions. The working hours are also standardised, which means no long hours, making it easier to attract workers,” he says.

“The chef also doesn’t have to wake up early in the morning to prepare the ingredients for cooking,” he adds.

Chuang says the company currently owns four Penang Road Famous TeoChew Chendul outlets in Gurney Paragon, Queensway, Gurney Plaza and Prangin Mall.

“There are 20 Penang Road Famous TeoChew Chendul franchisees in the country, located in Johor Baru, Ipoh, and Kuala Lumpur.

“We are now talking to master franchisers in East Malaysia, Singapore, China and Australia.

“The target is to rope in six to seven franchisees per annum. We are looking at having a total of 50 franchisees in the country.

“In Singapore, we recently had an agreement with a master franchiser, who will be ready to start the business in a shopping mall in mid-2017,” Chuang adds.

According to him, it takes about RM600,000 to RM700,000, depending on the size of the outlets, to start the franchise business in Malaysia.

“The franchise fee for overseas franchisees has yet to be finalised.

“You would need at least 600sq ft of built-up area for the outlet, which would require the help of at least eight workers. It’s reasonable to target a RM90,000 to RM100,000 per month revenue from the business. The location of the premise will determine eventually the kind of revenue you will be able to bring in,” he adds.

Penang Road Famous TeoChew Chendul outlets also serve other delicacies like laksa, curry mee, rojak, nasi lemak and hokkien mee.

According to Chuang, Dessert Captain has invested in a RM10mil manufacturing facility in Shah Alam to produce the ingredients for the local outlets.

“The facility should start operations at the end of the year,” he says.

In 1936, Teik Fuang, who was a locksmith by profession, started the business by the roadside on Keng Kwee Road.

“The business operated during World War II, although on irregular hours due to the curfews. It thrived in the 1970s, and when Tan Chong Kim, my father-in-law took over in 1977, the brand had been officially recognised by Penang Tourism Ministry,” he notes.

In 1984, the business became known as Penang Road Famous TeoChew Chendul.

In the 1980s, Chong Kim began to introduce other Penang delicacies such as laksa and rojak to the roadside stall.

In the 1990s, Chong Kim opened new outlets in Shah Alam, Subang and Seremban.

“Although Chong Kim had help from relatives to manage the outstation businesses, it was very tiring, as he had to travel outstation on a weekly basis to oversee the operations.

“The outlets were eventually closed in early 2000, about 10 years later to allow my father-in-law to focus on his business in Penang,” Chuang says.

The Star, Published: Monday, 22 August 2016
The cendol goes big ;
The Penang Road Famous TeoChew Chendul is going the franchise route and will shortly travel abroad to such locations as Singapore, China and Australia, writes DAVID TAN.

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Frozen delight

IN BUSINESS, it’s not enough just to maintain your market share. You have to keep expanding your product range as well as find new markets.

After all, that’s how you continue to remain relevant in an ever changing world.

And that was how Top Fruits evolved from what was essentially a fruit orchard in Batu Pahat − which grew and sold tropical fruits like mangosteen, jackfruit and bananas − into an exporter of frozen fruit and other fruit-derived products.

Sales and marketing manager Iris Tan Sing Boon, 30, says the company has its roots in the fruit farm set up by her father Tan See Chip, now 76, in the 1980s.

The idea behind the new company was to look into other ways of sellings the fruits. They settled on frozen durian.

“That was in 2010. My siblings − two elder brothers − and myself joined the company to build the business from just a conventional farming entity,” she relates.

They started their production plant with 20 workers close to the farm and were able to quickly start exporting to China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Singapore, Australia and other countries.

“Our frozen durian has an expiry date of up to two years, whereas fresh durians can only last five to seven days. This means even though the durian is seasonal, it can now be obtained throughout the year,” she says.

The former tax consultant with one of the Big Fours says being involved in the family business has given her the opportunity to learn many other areas of a business, from administration work to marketing.

“The work environment is not so structured, and day-to-day, problem-solving is vital. But it gives me great satisfaction to see the results of our hard work,” she says.

The first year of building up Top Fruits was largely spent on research and development, as well as in getting the necessary certifications. Once this was sorted, it was all about sanitising, extracting the seed from the pulp, blast freezing and eventually packing the durian pulps.

In 2012, they commenced export to China where they had 10 distributors. Today, they have 20.

The company, which today has 80 workers, also became an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) for these distributors, who started to request other durian products like ice-cream, rolls and balls, as well as mochi.

Moving forward, Iris says they are expanding their factory next year to cope with the rising demand for their products.

The Star, Published: Monday, 22 August 2016
Frozen delight ;
It was just an orchard producing durian and other fruits, but then grew into a manufacturer and exporter of frozen durian in 2010. LIM WING HOOI checks out Top Fruits in Batu Pahat, Johor.

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KL is more than just its building

DEWAN Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur (DBKL) should not have demolished Puncak Purnama (Lunar Peaks). It was nothing more than a desecration of a work of art by one of the country’s finest artists.

The late Syed Ahmad Jamal who was commissioned to do the sculpture by United Malayan Banking Corporation Berhad back in 1985 was no ordinary bloke. He was very much part of the glorious arts scene of the 70s and 80s.
Syed Ahmad Jamal asserted a profound influence on the creative development of this country.

For many decades he had his hands in managing institutions pertaining to arts and culture, and was involved in theatre productions as set designer, while at the same time teaching, coaching and inspiring countless young artists who later became famous themselves. He was the ideologue of his generation too.

I was honoured to launch his book, On and Off King’s Road, back in 2006. The book was designed to portray the look and nuance of the 50s in London where he studied.

It was a travelogue in paint, words and pictures, an impressionistic journey of self-discovery. It was to be his last major published work.

I can imagine the angst of the artistic community and the public at large over what happened.

To further aggrieve them, a particular minister whose jurisdiction includes DBKL, made a statement about the sculpture being “an eyesore”.

The chairman of Balai Seni Visual Negara (National and Visual Gallery) succinctly used the Malay proverb nasi sudah menjadi bubur (rice has become porridge) to describe the incident.

Activist Eddin Khoo of Pusaka was right in arguing that the demolition “reflects something deeper, the lack of an institutional memory”.

What a pity. Kuala Lumpur is not just about structures and more structures or one skyscraper upping the other.

KL is also about character. KL should not merely be defined as a commercial centre or the place where greed and more greed is engulfing its inhabitants.

Yes, it has stunning skylines. And yes, KL has suffocating traffic jams. Cities are made of these, so you can’t complain.

KL is lively, no one is denying that. It is alive with activities – mostly commercial ones that bring in money and more money.

Like kunang-kunang (fireflies) KL shows its true colours at night. And KL is truly a cosmopolitan city. But is it culturally dead?

Every city prides itself as a cultu-ral and artistic haven. New York is sympathetic towards artists. Greenwich Village is labelled an urban bohemia known for its co-lourful artistic tradition and an alternative culture propagated by its residents.

Montmartre is the famous artist colony in Paris symbolising the best and the most creative of the City of Lights. London is not just about Big Ben or shopping at Oxford Street. It is also about plays and musicals at West End and the presence of its robust and assertive literary community.

Down South, Singapore is promoting itself as the cultural Mecca for the region. Esplanade Theatre is a symbol of its commitment to change the look and feel.

More importantly, the Marina Bay and the Singapore riverfront areas are new growth areas, speci-fically for the arts. Old buildings are being turned into new art galleries and museums.

Activities involving writers, filmmakers and artists are being planned all year round. Arts exhibitions are given impetus there.

Thanks to the visionary Ali Sadikin, the governor of Jakarta, for many decades the most talked-about space is Taman Ismail Marzuki (TIM). It is named after Indonesia’s legendary composer, songwriter and musician.

TIM attracted the best and the brightest and was the training ground for many Indonesian performers in various disciplines. Gunawan Mohamad mooted the idea of Komunitas Salihara, an art centre.

Gunawan is one of Indonesia’s most respected journalists, the former editor of Tempo and a man of letters himself.

We need a vibrant KL where artists are free to express themselves, buskers are allowed to perform, theatre productions flourish and independent companies can showcase their best works.

We have Istana Budaya, KLPac and DBP’s Stor Teater to name a few for the purpose. We used to have Anak Alam, an artist community of the 70s and 80s.

Now many cultural groups are vying for space and attention all over the city.

We are proud to have on-going productions like Mud: Our Story of Kuala Lumpur by the indefatigable Puan Sri Tiara Jacquelina.

We must fill in whatever spaces are available – Panggung Drama, Panggung Matic, Lanai Seni and what’s left of Panggung Anniversary for cultural shows from various communities.

Arts need patronage and help. Works of art need to be protected and preserved, not destroyed or perceived as an eyesore. These are the artefacts of culture – the highest expressions in the human endea-vour.

The way I look at it, demolishing Puncak Purnama is a blatant act of disrespect to Syed Ahmad Jamal and the artist community as a whole.

Johan was a journalist, editor and for some years chairman of a media company, and is passionate about all things literature and the arts. The views expressed here are entirely his own.

The Star, Published: Monday, 22 August 2016
KL is more than just its buildings

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Penang Transport Master Plan

A letter to Unesco on Sia Boey has raised the ire of the Penang state authorities. This proposed site for the transport hub is just across the 40-foot wide Jalan Dr Lim Chwee Leong (formerly Prangin Road) from the Heritage Zone. Furthermore, excavations at the site have unearthed artefacts of historical significance and Unesco may want to make it part of the heritage zone, for the good, not bad, of Penang.

The Penang heritage site is not a local matter. It is one of the world’s heritage sites, so declared by Unesco.

As such, it should have been a matter of courtesy for the Penang state authorities to get the views of Unesco on turning Sia Boey into a transport hub which is a high activity area.

Why did the state authorities keep their plan from Unesco? Some excavation works are ongoing at the site.

Does this mean the site had already been approved for the transport hub?

On the one hand, the state says that the proposal to turn Sia Boey into a transport hub is not finalised yet. On the other, it says that Penang Forum’s letter has potentially sabotaged the plan. What sense is to be made of these contradictory statements?

Lim Mah Hui of the Penang Forum is accused of being discourteous to the state government for not informing it of his letter. But what about the greater matterof the State government not informing Unesco of its grand plan that could adversely affect the Heritage Zone for good as the 40-foot road is not a sufficient or proper buffer between the two?

The manner in which an attempt was made to turn Sia Boey into a transport hub without seeking the views of Unesco is reminiscent of the way three rows of shop-houses in the residential zone of Desa Jelita, Permatang Damar Laut, were re-zoned by the State Planning Committee from “residential” to “industrial” status.

This was done without consulting the Department of Environment which says it did not approve the conversion as it was in breach of laws.

Yet factories operating in them illegally were legitimised.

And this was after the residents were first told that the small industries were operating illegally and would be evicted.

The Penang Forum is thus right to have sought the opinion of Unesco before it is too late.

What meaning does the slogan “cleaner, greener, safer and healthier Penang” have when even residential zones can be converted to industrial zones?

Letter to the Star, Published: Monday, 22 August 2016
More than a local issue

Read more:

Penang Forum:
strong>CAP: Furore over Penang Forum letter to Unesco unjustified

Penang Heritage Trust;
Better Cheaper Faster Penang Transport Master Plan

Consumers Association Penang - CAP;
Public Response to The Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP)

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Victory for 2 nations

Alam was on an official visit to Moscow last year in June when he hosted a dinner to celebrate the European championship win of the Russian-Bangladeshi gymnast.

Born in Moscow to a Bangladeshi father, Abdullah Al Mamun Shipar from Durgapur Upazila in northern Rajshahi district, she called it "a victory for two countries" after winning individual all-around Olympic gold.

The 20-year-old Russian goes by the nickname of 'The Bengal Tiger'.

“Mamun bhai promised (me) to take her daughter to Bangladesh after the Olympic. Then the flower bouquet for the ‘Tigress of Bengal’ will definitely be much bigger,” Shahriar wrote on his Facebook page, posting last year’s photos in which he was handing over a small bouquet.

He also recalled the dinner that he had hosted to celebrate her glory in the European championship.

To win the Olympic medal, Margarita beat the overwhelming favourite and three-time world champion Yana Kudryavtseva, who surrendered her title hopes when her twirling act with the clubs went horribly wrong in its dying seconds.

Throwing the club high into the air, the Russian rolled over on the floor ready to catch it as she went to strike her final pose, only to have the apparatus land beyond her outstretched hand.
“It was quite unexpected for me to win the gold medal today because before today Yana beat me and win each time in the all-round. So, I wasn't really thinking about winning the gold medal today,” said Mamun, who earned Russia a fifth successive gold in the discipline.

She was also delighted that her victory was also being celebrated in her father’s homeland. She had represented Bangladesh as a junior.

“I'm really happy knowing that I have a lot of fans in Bangladesh who have been supporting me,” added Mamun in Russian.

“I can count one to 10 in Bengali. When I was younger my dad used to teach me Bengali but I have forgotten it all.”

And why did she choose to represent Bangladesh as a junior considering she was born and raised in her mother's homeland?

“I had dual citizenship so that's why I decided to represent Bangladesh in one competition as a junior. I came back to represent Russia as I always lived and trained in Russia.”

Updated: 2016-08-22 02:23:16.0 BdST
Gold medallist gymnast Margarita Mamun’s father promised to take her to Bangladesh: Shahriar ;
Rio gold medallist r ;hythmic gymnast Margarita Mamun’s father had promised to take her to Bangladesh after the Olympics, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam says.

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Essence of the Olympic spirit

The athlete who captured the essence of the Olympic spirit in a single act of selfless kindness is to be rewarded for her act of sportsmanship.

New Zealand's Nikki Hamblin's stopped to assist Abbey D’Agostino after the American athlete who fell in agony after the pair tangled in their 5,000m race.

Hamblin's admirable compassion for her fellow athlete drew plaudits from around the world as the 28-year-old athlete gave up on a chance of a medal to help the stricken runner.

D'Agostino urged to Hamblin to continue racing but the England-born refused to leave the American's side until a wheelchair could be brought to take her away.

Now the IOC has decided to award the New Zealander the prestigious Pierre de Coubertin medal.

Otherwise known as the International Fair Play Committee Award, the medal has only been awarded 17 times in Olympic history.

Named after the founder of the International Olympic Committee, the award is reserved for athletes, volunteers or officials who have demonstrated the Olympic sprit.

"Winning this award is overwhelming," said Hamblin.

"I am proud that what we did and truly believe that you can be both a competitor and kind and responsive at the same time.

"Everyone comes here to compete but there are a lot of people who don’t achieve that and the journey is really important too. That was one of those journeys and it has gone on to be one of the most important moments of my life."

The award was presented to Hamblin in ceremony held at The Olympic Club.

A jury composed of representatives of CIFP, IOC, athletes and the media made the final decision on the award's recipient which was presented on Saturday evening.

The Telegraph, Published: 21 AUGUST 2016 • 11:44AM
Nikki Hamblin awarded rare Olympic medal following touching show of sportsmanship
By Callum Davis

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Making literary ties

Jakarta - This month ASEAN celebrates its 49th anniversary. What does it mean for us?

For almost half a century, ASEAN has been a big illusion fed to all of us. In school we were taught about ASEAN and told that we were “ASEAN people”, without ever understanding what that meant or using the term outside of our classrooms.

We use many other personal factors as a source of our identity – country, religion, ethnicity – but never our membership of ASEAN. I can say that I am Javanese, Muslim, Indonesian, but it’s impossible for me to say that I am an ASEAN person – even if I am clearly a Southeast Asian person.

ASEAN nations range from Singapore, a dynamic city state with the GDP per capita of a developed nation, to small, backward communist dictatorships such as Cambodia and Laos, to democracies like Indonesia and the Philippines. Culturally, they range from Muslim-majority states such as Indonesia, the nation with the world’s largest Muslim population, and Malaysia to Buddhist secular states such as Thailand.

We have different languages, different religions, different cultures, different governmental and social systems, and different levels of economic development.

There is no single reason for us, the people of Southeast Asia, to stick together as one community. Our only common denominator is our shared experience of colonialism – even still, Thailand did not share this experience. It is only through geographic proximity that a concept of community seems plausible.

And today, we call ourselves a community. We call ourselves a community just because our elites have decided that we should. It’s the same with what happened in 1967 when our elites agreed to establish an organization named ASEAN. We, the people, did not have a choice. We were never asked whether we wanted to join such an organization, or even more, to be part of one community.

While ASEAN was formed for security and political reasons – to avoid conflict or war among countries in the region while defending the Western Bloc’s interests and containing the spread of communism at the height of the Cold War – now we are one community, first of all, for economic purposes.

But even so, we can’t call ourselves an economic community just yet. Intra-ASEAN trade makes up only 30 percent of the bloc’s total trade, while intra-Asian trade is much bigger, standing at 53 percent. Thus, it is no surprise that some ASEAN states – Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam – have joined the US-led Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), a move that could further divide ASEAN, especially politically.

In its nearly 50 years of existence, ASEAN’s biggest achievement is avoiding war. But while it was formed for political and security reasons, it is in these aspects that ASEAN nations are the most divided, and it seems almost impossible to remedy this situation.

The Philippines, Singapore and Thailand are traditionally US allies. Meanwhile Indonesia and Malaysia, often confused by their attempts to stay neutral, generally just try to be pragmatic. Cambodia and Laos are beholden to China and will not approve of any action on an issue important to Beijing. With this division and the “ASEAN Way” of consensus decision-making and non-interference, it’s impossible to make a united move on issues such as the South China Sea, for instance.

With ASEAN economic integration and political commonalities increasingly becoming a delusion, the only way for nations in this part of the world to create a genuine community is to focus on the stepdaughter of the so-called Three Pillars, namely the socio-cultural sector.

While we can always say that the ASEAN community is a work in progress, it will not progress until we seriously embark on exchanging values, lifestyles and customs of people in ASEAN so that they come to know and understand each other. This sense of belonging will only come from a bottom-up approach.

How can we become a community if we don’t know each other? How can we be a member of a community to which we don’t feel a sense of belonging? We are close yet so far. We know much about people in England, in the US, but we know nothing about people in other ASEAN countries.

We know much about England and the English because of their football and music. We feel close to the US because of Hollywood. And today we even consider South Korea our close neighbor more than our actual neighbors in ASEAN thanks to the K-pop invasion.

It is only culture that can nurture and build a sense of being part of something bigger, and ultimately a sense of belonging and an ASEAN identity. And for me, as a writer, I believe that literature and books in general are cultural products that can have a significant influence on people.

History shows us how books can create revolution, war, conflict, peace, consciousness, nationalism awareness, and encourage people to fight for freedom and equality. From George Orwell we understand the cruelty of authoritarianism, from Charles Dickens we learn about life under industrialism, and even from Harry Potter millions of kids in the world believe that anything can happen if we are brave enough.

From Bennedict Anderson’s books we learn about nationalism in Southeast Asia and at the same time, from Edward Said’s works we learn how important it is to always explore different perspectives; to be critical of everything, including knowledge and opinions that are brought by people from the West about people in Asia. And of course from the Indonesian giant Pramoedya Ananta Toer we learn a lot about the nationalist struggle of Southeast Asia nations in the early 20’s century.

Yet while I believe in the power of books and literary works to shape a new awareness and perspectives among people in Southeast Asia, I cannot bring to mind the names of any writers and scholars from Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, even more Laos or Cambodia.

We really need to begin making efforts to ensure that books and literary works from ASEAN writers are read by people in ASEAN. We have to believe that only by cultural exchange, especially through books, can we understand each other and become a real community. The ASEAN Literary Festival is a small effort to build this understanding.

Jalkarta Post, Published: Wed, August 3 2016 at 02:05 pm
The illusion of ASEAN and how literature can help
By Okky MadasariOkky Madasari, Indonesian novelist
Okky Madasari is an Indonesian author and co-founder of the ASEAN Literary Festival. This article is an excerpt from her speech at the Warwick ASEAN Conference in the UK, February 2016. It has been edited for this publication.

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I am writing to say something

I just got back from this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair, where Indonesia was invited as the guest of honour. Indonesia is the first country in Southeast Asia who get this opportunity and for country like Indonesia this opportunity maybe would be a once in a lifetime opportunity.

As a guest of honour, we were given a big space to display our books and to use it to promote them. Our government spent a lot of money for this event, more than USD 13 million. The money has been used for translating books, bringing writers and performers to Frankfurt, setting up venue and programs that can attract people to come. We received a lot of publications in many international media for this.

But the most important and relevant question for this kind of event is how many books bought by international publishers to be published in their countries? Not many!

I am one of the lucky writers whose works got translated and published abroad. From the colonial era until today, 2015, only few Indonesian books have been translated and published by international publishers. And as far as I know the same condition happens in other southeast asian countries.

Talking about being translated and published abroad, always raising some frequent questions, like: why these books got the translated but why not those book? What makes some books get more attention from international audiences? What kind of books that wanted by international readers?

I’ve written 4 novels. All of them have been translated into English, and one into German. My writing is always about my society, people in Indonesia from previous regime until today. My story is always about people facing various problem, especially the kind of problems that exist because of injustice, discrimination, intolerance, corruption – over all it’s about how people try to challenge dominant power around their life. The power could be state, government, military, religion, knowledge, the majority group, and also the people itself: their mind, their behavior, their fear.

My first novel, Entrok (The Years of The Voiceless), is a story about living under totalitarian regime. Through the eyes of a mother and her daughter, the novel gives readers – especially to the generation who was born and grew up after the period – awareness there was a time in our country when military was very powerful, government controlled everything, and people made to be afraid and surrendered all of the time.

While the story is about Indonesia, it’s also about the spirit of freedom and democracy, about the resistance to the military power, about bravery to say No to all form of control and censorship by our government. It’s all about humanity spirit that could be very relevant with every people in every country.

My second novel, 86, is about how corruption becomes a systemic problem in the today’s Indonesia. Isn’t corruption is also one of the biggest problem in the world now? Yet many of us still don’t realize that corruption is not only about some people stealing some money. More than that, corruption is a humanity problem that makes many people lives under poverty, got bad education, and lack of health service.

My third novel Maryam (The Oucast), tells a story of an Islamic minority group in Indonesia that has been persecuted and has been living in a refugee camp for more than 7 years now. It’s about discrimination, intolerance, violence. It’s also about how religion be used by some people, some groups for their own benefits. Discrimination and tolerance are happening in everyplace in the world. It’s not just about Indonesia or Islam. It’s a problem in every society.

My fourth novel Pasung Jiwa (Bound/Gebunden) touches issue about transgender and discrimination they are facing at all levels and how Indonesian people deal with the issue of LGBT. Above all, it’s about how every individual deserves their freedom.

I’ve been invited to many places to talk about my novels, my society, Indonesia, and of course about Islam. Some of them really want to know about my works, and some of them seem just curious to know about a Muslim woman writer who happened to come from the world’s biggest Muslim populated country, and who is able to be critical about her society and her religion.

Since the beginning I’ve never thought to write something to serve what international public wants. I’ve never been trying to find some controversial issues that getting international attention and publication. I don’t write just to be translated or published in abroad.

I just want to write what’s important for my society. What’s the biggest problems we are facing now. I am writing to say something, to make people who don’t have voice can be heard, to make forgotten problem get attention.

And now, when my writing get attention from international readers, getting translated and published, I really believe because we are – wherever we are – facing the same problems now. And because we are, regardless our nationality and our language, talking in one common language: humanity.

Okky Madasari's Blog dated: 23 Nov 2015
From our world to people in the world ;

The main questions from my sessions at the Philippine International Literary Festival 2015 are what does it take for a writer to explain her/himself and her/his works to an audience with different cultural backgrounds? How much responsibility to her/his country does the local writer have when writing for an international audience? Here are my thoughts.


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Art of just being there

When we give advice to people, we tend to say things like, “If you need to talk, just let me know”, “Don’t worry about anything”, or “I’m here for you”.

Rarely, if ever, will we receive advice to pretend a bad situation hasn’t happened, or that we should immediately find a way of turning our fortunes around because it isn’t healthy to have bad things happen.

If we were to receive this sort of advice from a friend, say, following a break-up or having just lost our job, it’s pretty likely that we would soon stop going to that particular friend for support.

The best kind of friends are those who will comfort us in the midst of hard times; and they won’t try to rush us towards a solution just because they feel uncomfortable that we’re going through difficult moments.

Instead, they will often give us time and space to ponder, vent, and wallow in our thoughts.

There is, however, a particular trigger that sends family and friends scurrying to push the “Fix It” button, and this comes about whenever we feel sad, depressed, anxious, or distressed. Almost immediately, we’ll hear the familiar phrases: “What do you have to be down about”, “There’s no need to feel sad – everything’s OK”, “You’ll just have to persevere – life is tough”.

Such is the reluctance to engage, let alone deal with, negative emotions, that most of us have become conditioned to put on a brave face and suppress whatever might be gnawing away at us. “I have to be strong,” we tell ourselves. “I can’t afford to appear weak in front of others.”

Our mental health, we believe, is fine so long as we don’t suffer from any clinical disorders. We might go to the doctors when a cold persists for more than a few days, but when it comes to our psychological well-being, we tend to be much less careful when caring for it.

Professor Richard Boyatzis of Case Western Reserve University is a renowned expert in emotional intelligence. Often, he talks about how stress isn’t so much triggered by significant events; rather, it’s all the little things building up over time that cause the damage, and they build up over time because we often neglect – or don’t know how – to release the tension.

Indeed, such a conditioned response to suppressing negative emotions has led to numerous social problems including millions of people being prescribed antidepressants, while others sadly take more drastic action to end their misery once it becomes too much.

Slowly but surely, we are reaching the stage where our mental health is recognised as being just as important, if not more so, than our physical health. As is often the case, the strongest among our colleagues, friends and family are simply the ones who know how to mask their feelings well.

Part of the problem lies in our inability to notice mental stress in the same way we notice physical pain. If we hurt ourselves after falling, we know exactly which part of our body is damaged, and how badly. We don’t feel ashamed when we sustain a physical injury; we know it’s just a normal part of life.

And so it is with negative states such as depression, anxiety, fear and stress. While there’s progress being made in tackling misconceptions of mental health, the biggest hurdle to overcome lies in putting an end to the outdated belief that to feel stressed or hopeless or inadequate is somehow a weakness. It’s not a weakness at all – these feelings are a normal part of life, and we all deserve the same level of care, support and assistance as we would during any other difficult time.

But because we’re expected to “keep it all together”, it can be tough to open up even to our closest friends and provide insights into how we’re feeling. To our friends and family members, it can make a world of difference to ask them, “How are you?” and to listen attentively with interest to whatever they have to say. In fact, our time and attention are among the most precious and generous gifts we can give.

It is vital – particularly in this age of speed and expectation – that we check in with each other regularly and offer a helping hand or a ready ear whenever it’s needed. While it can be tempting to immediately offer up solutions, the best course of action is simply to be there for others and pay attention to what they have to share. More often than not, the act of making ourselves fully present and available is the best solution we can offer, and no doubt it’s something we can all use – and offer – much more often.

The Star, Published: AUGUST 21, 2016
Your mental health is as important as your physical health

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Defection of a high-ranking North Korean diplomat based in London

THE defection of Thae Yong-ho, a high-ranking North Korean diplomat based in London, is the latest in the recent string of defections by the North’s elite. As the South Korean authorities confirmed, he and his family are now under protection in Seoul.

Thae and his wife are reportedly both descendants of guerillas who fought against Japanese colonialists in the 1930s, which would make them members of highly-privileged families. His family ties had allowed him to work in overseas missions for 10 years, instead of the conventional three. According to Seoul’s Unification Ministry, Thae’s reason for defection was mainly his disdain toward Kim’s regime and concerns for his family’s future.

Experts say Thae’s defection is likely to have a significant impact on Kim’s regime, as sources have said that the young leader has “become enraged” and has ordered families of overseas officials to return to North Korea.

Kim Yong-hyun, a professor of North Korean studies at Seoul’s Dongguk University believes the regime’s unstable nature may have contributed to the defection, along with recent sanctions.

“(The impact) is mostly psychological. The very fact that a high-ranking diplomat has defected deals a blow to the Kim regime, which is barely hanging on amid international sanctions and pressure,” he says.

Defection by someone from the privileged class marks a change from the past, when it was usually the underprivileged that would leave the communist state.

The South Korean government has claimed that such defections from the elite group – who have better access to the outside world – implies that they are losing faith in the leadership and also that a fallout among members of the core group are taking place. It has also said such defections shows that the recent UN sanctions against Pyongyang is working.

“It is quite natural for a North Korean diplomat to defect, as they are able to compare South and North Korea while residing outside the country. I think high-ranking officials living outside North Korea will continue to defect,” concurs Cheong Seong-chang, a senior researcher at the Sejong Institute.

The state-run Institute for Unification Education’s report Understanding of North Korea shows that the communist country’s people are divided into three classes and 51 subcategories.

The de facto caste system was initiated in 1958, during the reign of Kim Il-sung, the grandfather of Kim Jong-un, and was established in the 1970s after years of verification of each citizen’s loyalty to the dictatorial regime.

The elite group makes up roughly 30% of the population. It includes the Kim family and high-ranking officials of the government and the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea. Most of them live in Pyongyang and enjoy benefits which the majority of the population are deprived of.

The middle class consists of ordinary citizens such as office workers, teachers, merchants and naturalised citizens from other countries. Many of them live in rural areas or smaller cities, and cannot travel to the capital without special permits.

The bottom 20% are the ones who have been branded as “traitors” by the reclusive regime and are deprived of many basic rights, such as the right to get a higher education, join the ruling party or become a military officer. Some are even subject to forced labour.

While some experts have predicted the recent incident will spark a rush of even more high-profile defections, others warned against wishful thinking that the defections prelude the Kim regime’s fall.

“It is too rash to believe that the Kim leadership is faltering, just because a handful of elites have jumped ship,” says Cheong. “In order for the Kim regime to be truly under crisis, large-scale protests and uprising by the public has to take place.”

While the Unification Ministry has seen Thae’s defection as a sign that Kim Jong-un is cornered, Kim of Dongguk University calls such views “too far-fetched.”

“I don’t think it will prompt a chain reaction of North Korean elites defecting, it’s premature to predict such phenomenon. Thae’s defection is probably an independent event,” he says.

The Star, Published: Sunday, 21 August 2016
Not the beginning of the end in N. Korea

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Without understanding the content, context and meaning

IT exasperates Umno Youth exco Datuk Dr Fathul Bari Mat Jahya that the IS extremists and militants who are butchering and beheading people, have the audacity to proclaim themselves Salafists.

He says salaf in Islam is a respectable term which refers to the first three generations of Muslims from the time of the Holy Prophet and his Companions; and this period is one steeped in virtue, righteousness and piety.

In today’s context, Dr Fathul Bari says the word salaf is used to refer to method and manhaj (the method receiving, analysing and applying knowledge).

“So salaf is actually a very positive and noble term. Which is the reason the word is coveted and much sought-after.”

So he takes offence to IS extremists and terrorists usurping the word to use on themselves.

“These people are not Salafists! We should never call them that!

“Let’s say a group of Christian extremists commit heinous acts, claiming they do it in the name of Christianity; would you see a church acknowledging it as a branch of Christianity? Definitely not!

“They would disassociate that group from the Christian faith and say those people do not understand the religion.

“So why are we Muslims not doing this with IS? Why are we accepting and using the term Salafist on these terrorists and extremists just because they label themselves that?

“It is not fair. So let’s just stop. Let’s describe them as Khawarij instead. That would be the correct term to use on them,” he said.

Khawarij is a sect in the first century of Islam, which broke ranks with Caliph Ali (the fourth Caliph for Sunnis and the first for Syiah) because Ali agreed to resolve his differences with his rival, Muawiyah 1, through arbitration, rather than engage in combat.

The Khawarij oppose arbitration and adopt a takfiri approach which is to label and declare Muslims who do not agree with their brand of Islam as “non-Muslims” and apostates.

Dr Fathul Bari says the Khawarij are extremists who use Islam and its teachings without understanding the content, context and meaning.

He says the Holy Prophet had spoken about the Khawarij as people who frequent mosques, perform prayers and religious obligations and recite the Al Quran “but it doesn’t pass beyond their throat” and he (the Holy Prophet) described them as the “worst of creation” who must be opposed.

The 35-year-old Dr Fathul Bari holds a bachelor’s degree in Islamic Studies from a university in Saudi Arabia; his master’s degree is from a university in Jordan and PhD from the International Islamic University (UIA) in Malaysia.

He finds it “very serious” that there are Muslims in the country who have joined or who are supporting IS because this confuses people and tarnishes the name of Islam.

Some Muslims find it so hard to conceive that these militants are Muslims and believe in a conspiracy theory such as the West or Israel’s Mossad as being the hidden hand behind IS.

“But let’s be fair. There might be some truth to this but there might not. We have to remember that in any religion, there is always a group that is extreme or radical.

“It is not the religion that created it. It has come about from the distortion or manipulation of verses of the religious text and from a lack of understanding of its content and meaning.” he said.

Dr Fathul Bari says it is dangerous and “serious business” because you never know what the extremist is thinking.

“He could be praying at the mosque regularly. Then one day, he just goes in there and blows it up because in his mind, this country is not implementing Islamic law, is anti-IS and kufur (unwilling to comply with the principles of Islam),” he says.

What makes it more potent, he says, is when there is a clash between conservatism and pluralism and liberalism.

For Dr Fathul Bari, youths join IS for a number of reasons.

“Being young, they are easily influenced. They like things which are different. And Gen Y gets a lot of their information from the Internet and social media.

“And sometimes they are in a rush. They don’t check the facts and they don’t ask either.

“So they are easily influenced by emotive words such as ‘defending Islam’ even if the slant and interpretation of what is being said on social media actually goes against the true teachings of Islam,” he says.

And in the age of the Internet, Dr Fathul Bari points out that information is difficult to control.

“If we block all these radical websites, extremists’ Twitter and Facebook accounts, new ones will just keep popping up and they will create new fake Twitter and Facebook accounts every day.

“So it goes back to individual responsibility and that of the family,” he says.

In May, USM lecturer Dr Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid published a research paper for the ISEAS’ Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore on the “Extensive Salafisation of Malaysian Islam”.

Dr Fauzi says there has been a worrying rise of extremist tendencies in South-East Asia and that the internalisation of Saudi’s Wahhabi brand of Salafism since the 1970s is the major reason for the shift.

Saudi, which is oil-rich, has pumped in copious amounts of petrodollars to build schools, institutions of higher learning in other Muslim countries and donated to various Islamic bodies, institutions and NGOs, thereby gaining considerable influence in these countries.

Dr Fauzi says that under the guise of “ummatic unity”, Saudi organisations such as Muslim World League and World Assembly of Muslim Youth have served as “conduits for exporting Wahhabi dogma worldwide”.

He believes countering the Wahhabi Salafisation in Malaysia is difficult because there are “influential Muslim personalities and elements” within the Muslim-majority states who have themselves embraced aspects of Wahhabism.

“Between Wahhabism and ISIS (also known as IS or Daesh), which is but its violent manifestation, lies a short and slippery slope,” he warns.

Dr Fathul Bari, who has met Dr Fauzi, disagrees with his analysis.

He says Malaysia and Saudi Arabia have different constitutional and legal systems and cultures.

“So not everything from Saudi Arabia can be absorbed and practised in Malaysia because a lot of what they have there has to do with their culture and traditions.

“But there are certain points that we can share. And why is it that in the past, when we took so much from the West for our system and the country’s constitution, no one questioned or talked about the Western influence on our country and system?

“But now, when we lean towards becoming a more Islamic country, people talk about Saudi influence!

“In Saudi, women cannot drive and have to be veiled (niqab) and this is mandated by law. Come on, lah. Do you think we are going to do that?

“Over there, if a man wants to get married, he has to already own a house and car, he has to host a huge wedding dinner, and give RM100,000 as mahar (dowry to the bride). There is no such thing in Malaysia,” he says.

On the bilateral front, he says the relationship between Malaysia and Saudi is very positive, closer than ever in the past.

“Previously, we mainly focused ties on trade and economy, but now we are co-operating with Saudi even militarily.

“When we have military ties with another country on issues of security, the relationship is bound to get even closer because there would be sharing of intelligence and inside information,” he says.

For Dr Fathul Bari, this should not be a problem because Malaysia also enjoys similar close ties with other countries, including the West.

On Saudi’s (which is Sunni) military operation against the (Syiah) Houthis in Yemen, Dr Fathul Bari says despite its close ties with Saudi, Malaysia will not get embroiled in the Sunni-Syiah conflict in the Middle East.

As for Malaysian troops who went over to Saudi last year for a joint military exercise, he says the Malaysian troops were there for only training and never set foot in Yemen to fight the Houthis.

“We didn’t deploy troops to Yemen,” he says.

(There was some concern when Malaysia sent troops to Saudi last year at a time when the Saudis were conducting an operation against the Houthis in Yemen.

(But Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein cleared this up back then when he said Malaysian troops had nothing to do with Saudi’s military campaign in Yemen and that the military training exercise was in the north. Saudi’s border with Yemen is in the south.)

On views that Wahhabism and “Salafisation” is creeping in and radicalising Malaysian Muslims towards extremism, Dr Fathul Bari says that does not quite add up.

“If Wahhabism is what is radicalising people, why then aren’t most Saudis terrorists and militants?” he asks.

Sure, he says, Osama bin Laden was from Saudi and so were a number of the 9/11 hijackers who crashed the planes into the World Trade Center twin towers in the United States, but these are just a handful and do not represent the Saudi government or their thinking.

“Saudi has a population of 30 million. In schools, they study religion using the syllabus of Muhammad Abd Al-Wahhab (the founder of Wahhabism).

“If that syllabus promotes terrorism and extremism, then surely there would be millions of Saudi terrorists,” he says.

He says Wahhabism is not another mazhab (School of Thought) for the Sunnis.

(There are four Schools of Thought among Sunnis. Syafie, Hanbali, Hanafi and Malik. Malaysia adopts and practises the Syafie School of Thought).

Dr Fathul Bari says the Saudis however follow the Hanbali School and Muhammad Abd Al Wahhab was a Hanbali.

“Wahhabism isn’t an ideology or a mazhab. It is just a method for the Saudis to practise the religion and it has to do with the Saudi culture and their socio-culture. They are still Hanbali,” he says.

(One of the scholars that Wahhabism draws extensively from is Ibn Tammiyah from the 14th century. IS has been using Ibn Tamiyyah’s teachings to justify their brutal murders.)

Dr Fathul Bari says that while he is not a Wahhabi himself, he has read and benefited from books written by Muhammad Abd Al Wahhab.

“His books are beautiful and very simple and easy to understand. The reason he is very popular in Saudi is because he is a reformist for the Saudis.

“So one shouldn’t generalise and accuse people who read Ibn Tamiyyah or Muhammad Abd Al-Wahhab’s books as radicals and extremists.

“There are IS militants and extremists who read books from the Syafie school of thought. Can we then generalise and make that link with terrorism? It is not fair to do such ‘branding’ and labelling,” he says.

As for the growing fervour and fascination in Malaysia for anything Arabic including food, mode of dressing, Arabic phrases and terms, Dr Fathul Bari says this is not an Arabisation of Malaysia.

He says it is fine to follow things from the Middle East which are in line with the religion.

“But sometimes our people misunderstand and want to be more Arab than the Arabs themselves!

I am proud to be a Malay and I will always be a Malay. I will retain my culture as long as it is consistent with Islamic values. I am not Arab. And I don’t want to bring Arab influence in because we have our own values and culture which is gentle and refined. Let’s stick with that,” he adds.

The Star, Published: Sunday, 21 August 2016
Terrorists are the ‘worst of creation’
Dr Fathul Bari: ‘The Khawarij are extremists who use Islam and its teachings without understanding the content, context and meaning.’

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DATUK Lee Chong Wei played his heart out but it was not enough to bring home the elusive gold medal for Malaysia.

After that pulsating win against Lin Dan in the semi-finals, Chong Wei had to settle for silver, losing to China’s Chen Long 18-21, 18-21.

But we are rejoicing. And we have every reason to.

The whole nation has practically come to a standstill with all the action going on in Rio de Janeiro in these past weeks.

Whether in the comfort of our living rooms or in the bustling environment of the neighbourhood mamak shops, we have stayed glued to the television sets to watch our Malaysian athletes perform in true Olympian spirit.

What this Rio Olympics has shown us is that our athletes in all the sports that they took part in have risen to the occasion. It is not just about badminton. We have the talent and the potential to do well in many other sports.

Our total haul of 4 silver and 1 bronze is a record. What is even more commendable are some of the heart-wrenching stories our athletes shared.

On our TV screens, we could see the Malaysians in Rio cheering these athletes on, waving the Jalur Gemilang and holding up banners proclaiming “Malaysia Boleh!”.

The athletes also knew that the whole nation was behind them. In the wee hours of the morning, we put aside our political differences. We forgot about our racial and religious backgrounds and we just cheered for our heroes, our Anak-Anak Malaysia.

It was a grand showcase to remind us that sports unites and our diversity is truly our strength. And, for a change, Malaysia was getting the attention of the world press, for all the right reasons.

Watching the badminton matches was heart-stopping for all of us. For most of us, including this writer, our blood pressure must have shot up, especially in those matches when our Malaysians were in action. Some of us might have been worried that we could end up in hospital but I was quite certain that ambulance drivers were too busy for me and were probably watching the game as well.

The badminton players brought Malaysians as truly One Malaysia and not Once Malaysians.

They did what our politicians could not do – unite Malaysians with their grit and determination. Malaysia Boleh was not just a political slogan, in their case.

Chong Wei’s victory over his nemesis Lin Dan in the semi-finals on Friday is a match that will go down in the annals of the sport’s history. I would say it was even more exciting than the final.

The men’s doubles final which followed was just as exciting. Goh V Sham and Tan Wee Kiong had to settle for a silver medal. It was so close but we must not forget that based on their current world ranking, they were not expected to get into the final in the first place.

We didn’t expect anything from them although they have had impressive records at the Commonwealth and Asia levels. But they surprised us all and captured the imagination of all Malaysians. What an incredible fight they put on against their more experienced and higher ranking opponents.

We were just a whisker away from the gold medal. The Malaysian pair put their heart and soul into the fight against fourth seeded Fu Haifeng and Zhang Nan from China.

The two Chinese had also won the gold medal in the London games four years ago, although not as a pair. Fu won the doubles with Cai Yun while Zhang won the mixed doubles title with Zhao Yunlei.

In short, while Goh and Tan are currently ranked 12th in the world, they are certainly newbies to the scene.

So, we need to be realistic although we did not hide our feelings that we wanted them to get that elusive gold medal so badly.

Goh and Tan are 27 years old and from now on, their remarkable rise will be under the watchful eyes of China and Indonesia. They have a good future ahead.

It’s the same with the mixed doubles team. Most of us are still celebrating the achievement of Goh Liu Ying and Chan Peng Soon who clinched the silver medal.

Overnight they have become household names. They are surely our heroes. Considering that most of us did not give them much thought in the first place, their appearance in the final is already an achievement in itself.

No, they did not let us down, as some news reports chose to report. No wonder many Malaysians were offended with the headlines. And what about the heart-wrenching posting by Liu Ying on Facebook?

“The moment I was standing on the podium and watching our (Malaysian) flag raised, tears were in my eyes. This kind of picture I have only been dreaming about, but dared not hope... there are too many competitors above us,” she wrote.

And we also learnt how she had to undergo knee surgery just two years ago. That she is able to play at such a competitive level so soon after speaks volumes of her tenacity.

However we may look at it, it has been an incredible experience for Malaysians. We salute our other Malaysian Olympians who got medals – cyclist Azizulhasni Awang got a bronze and divers Cheong Jun Hoong and Pandelela Rinong got a silver in the women’s 10m platform synchronised event.

Pandelela had her hopes on the individual 10m event but it was not to be. But we could see how hard she tried, despite emerging 11th in the final of 12 divers. And what is interesting is that team mate Nur Dhabitah Sabri came out 9th, showing that there is much potential for Malaysia in the diving scene.

Nur Dhabitah is only 17 and she captured our hearts with her beaming smiles after each dive.

It is a feat for anyone to get medals at the Olympics. This Rio Olympics has shown us that there can be hope in everyone selected to be part of the contingent. They are not there just to make up the numbers. They are there to be among the best in the world.

Chong Wei, in a live telecast after the match, said sorry to Malaysia, that although he tried his best, he could not bring home that elusive gold. He looked the saddest of us all.

Well, Chong Wei, you need not say sorry at all – for you have already done so much for us.

Ahead of National Day, we are certainly proud of our Anak-Anak Malaysia who have done us proud. We are mighty proud as Malaysians.

They have been truly inspirational to everyone in Malaysia and for all their sacrifices that they have made for their sports and for Malaysia, we surely want to say THANK YOU to them for bringing glory to our country.

The Star, Published: Sunday, 21 August 2016
Olympians, you did great! ;
We are certainly proud of our athletes, our Anak-Anak Malaysia who did what politicians could not do – unite Malaysians with their grit and determination.

THE whole country hopes our athletes will deliver our first ever Olympic gold. Unfortunately, some Malaysians don’t think so.

Browsing through the Chinese language posts on social media sites, it’s not hard to find that many bona fide Malaysians would rather wish we get none.

One of them wrote: “I don’t wish Malaysian athletes to bring back any gold medal. You can argue that I’m politicising sports but the reality is that a player who brings back our first Olympic gold will be ‘bloated’ by the ruling party as a major achievement in its scorecard.”

I was actually more worried than infuriated by the post.

Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t worried about the post having any negative effect on the country’s gold prospect in Rio. I was more concerned about the psychological health of people thinking like him.

People like him will excessively politicise everything that comes across their minds and will not be able to think logically, failing to understand that politics is actually a small part of life.

Those overly engrossed with it will detest their opponents, unwilling to accept dissident political views, as they constantly live in anxiety due to their self-inflicted frustration.

Studies show that Islamic State militants have been spawned mostly this way.

I pray that people who hate to see Malaysia win a gold medal will not go this far but unfortunately, their behaviour have told me otherwise.

For example, the issue of whether “the Malaysian government deserves an Olympic gold medal” is downright non-existent because the medal belongs to the athlete and the country.

Are you trying to tell me you can’t tell between the country and government? The gold medal is the achievement of the athlete and the pride of the nation and her people, which has absolutely nothing to do with the government and any of our politicians.

I have heard our medalists thank their families and team mates as well as the support of fellow Malaysians. I’ve never heard them say things like: “Thank you Barisan Nasional government and thank you my beloved Prime Minister.”

I have also not heard of anyone supporting the ruling party just because of the Olympic results.

Owing to excessive politicisation, even the Olympics has now become an integral part of these people’s political agendas. They are living inside the trap they have themselves set up, totally pathetic and self-contradictory.

Perhaps they, too, hope to see their country clinch a gold medal but deep inside them a voice is yelling: No gold! No gold!

They also very likely hate to see any Malaysian, if any, win a Nobel Prize; or the stock and currency markets rising; or the government recognising the UEC certificate.

They hope the country will go to the dogs, become poverty-stricken and war-torn so that they can see a flicker of hope: At least the ruling party has nothing to brag about now. They feel depressed seeing Malaysian athletes win some gold medals, or the people staying united, or the country making steady progress.

They are living in their self-imposed prisons, with rejection, confrontation and hatred deeply planted in their hearts.

I hope they don’t collapse in misery seeing the country – hopefully – bring back a gold medal while millions of Malaysians cheer in jubilation.

Politics and Olympics are two completely different and unrelated things. This country belongs to all of us and we share the achievements and glories together as a nation.

Put aside our prejudices and open up our hearts. Perhaps both the whole Malaysian society and we will become happier and healthier.

The Star, Sunday, 21 August 2016
Just live our Olympic moment lah!

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Penang or KL?

AUGUST 15 − Just my crappy luck with a delayed flight. So there I was, waiting 30 hours in the lounge because my budget airline wanted to play “Let’s See How Many Passengers Prefer to Walk.”

Blonde-haired obviously-non-Malaysian passenger was talking about her upcoming cross-peninsular tour. Being the eavesdropping Jason Bourne wannabe, I overheard her utter a supreme blasphemy, “I think Kuala Lumpur could be a more exciting place than Penang.”

Good heavens! I nearly spit out my mushroom soup at Michael Phelps’ face on the TV screen! The horror.

Anyway, here’s why I think she should’ve read the sign at any Malaysian airport that says, “Penang, On Its Worst Day, Beats Kuala Lumpur Hands-Down In Any Most-Exciting-City Contest”.

Cars and weather
First, the traffic.

In Penang you need barely five minutes to drive around (literally around) the city. In KL, by the time you drive from Istana Negara to Jalan Bukit Bintang, you could have switched five jobs. In Penang, only a state funeral or a pink moon will bring out traffic policemen.

In KL, policemen double up as traffic lights and Ghost-Riders escorts for huge black cars with very important people on whose schedule the fate of national security depends i.e. if these vehicles slow down for even two seconds the Malaysian sky may fold in on itself, like in the trailer for Doctor Strange.

Bizarrely enough, I’ve been in Penang quite a number of times, I’ve never had a policeman tell me to make a left turn (and ruin my entire route) just because a guy in a suit has to be somewhere. (By the way, every time a cop in KL tells me to do that, I always oblige because I’m very sure the passenger in the back seat of the many-flagged car has something extremely important to do like, I dunno, defuse a bomb or deliver a baby or, like I said, stop the sky from falling?)

My point is, in Penang, even if Typhoon Dora hits and your car battery’s dead and all the buses have stopped running, you would still get to your office in George Town quicker than if you worked in KL and you lived in the same building as your office.

Second, the weather. In Penang, you’ve got fresh sea air and the beach is pretty damn close by. You’ve also got mountains and if you’re really depressed you can swim to Sumatra.

In KL, every breath you take includes hot air from air-con compressors and the only beaches available are fake ones in water-parks or ”beach clubs” i.e. tourist and yuppie fly-traps where you pay RM50 for a Coke and if you ever order anything even remotely resembling “Western food”, you better eat r-e-a-l-l-y SLOW to make up for the arm and leg you had to give up.

The food
Third, like Yang Amat Mulia Michael Jackson said: This is it. This is the crux, ladies and gents. Food and more food. Even if by other criteria KL is a Dubai 7-star skyscraping hotel and Penang is the heart of the Jinjang landfill, the island-state would still be better off due to this factor alone.

To even begin to compare Penang’s tastes with KL’s is to commit cultural suicide. That tourist or whatever should’ve known that Malaysians can have their passports revoked for even considering the possibility that KL food holds even an imaginary candle to Penang’s. Give a starving prisoner one bite of Penang fried oysters, then tell him the next dish is a KL specialty, he’ll throw the dish in your face and file an official complaint to the United Nations.

On Thursday I had two bowls of prawn noodles (termed Hokkien Mee in Penang) at this stall which named itself “888.” That’s two gorgeous mega-helpings bowls in 10 minutes. Why? Because the voice of the Kitchen God was forcing me to. Because if I didn’t order that second bowl, I would’ve had to run naked around Komtar as an expression of the injustice of existence itself.

But Hokkien Mee isn’t the only thing you’d willingly trade your soul for. There’s also char kway teow which is French for “Don’t Think − Just Chew, Swallow and You Can Die Happy.” There’s nasi kandar which is Spanish for “Shut up and eat everything on your plate, and if it’s too spicy just shut up and eat some more.”

Fyi, Penang is ground-zero for nasi kandar; this means that every two weeks all the nasi kandar sellers from KL make a trip to the island to kow-tow 30 times before the master of their universe, failing which the Angel of Death will descend upon KL and transform all the nasi kandar in the Federal Territory into grub that even Singaporeans will reject.

Then there’s the galaxy-famous cendol in that alley which, on some occasions, can produce a queue so long even the Thai border authorities start getting concerned. This cendol-seller is living-eating proof that food is art, and one of his cendol bowls better hang in the Louvre really fast lest the Mona Lisa starts to weep tears like green worms.

Note to anyone reading this who doesn’t know what cendol is: It’s the stuff that every Olympic gold-medal winner drinks before they show the silver-medallist who’s boss.

One of my personal favourites is this dish called Kueh Kak. This is carrot cake for the uninformed, but way different from that RM500-a-bite crap you get in Starbucks. Unlike that cosmopolitan what’s-the-Wi-Fi-password nonsense, Kueh Kak is fried to obscene perfection and served with goodies like taugeh, eggs and world peace.

There’s this uncle selling it near the ferry terminal, and he’s been frying the stuff since the Dutch invaded; when he cooks even God takes notes. Every time I visit him, I buy four huge packets and I refuse to share − because who needs ethical behaviour when you’ve reached heaven?

Anyway, I wanted to tell the tourist that when you visit KL, every other food stall will have the word “PENANG” in their poster or menu. “Penang char kway teow”, “Penang prawn mee”, “Penang government”, etc. It’s like Malaysia’s capital pays homage to the island-state because should it not, people will stop eating hawker food and spend all their money at KFC instead.

However, the reverse doesn’t apply in Penang. You will absolutely NOT see any Penang food-seller advertise their dishes by citing “KUALA LUMPUR” as their origin. You will absolutely NOT see the sign “KL wantan mee” or “KL beef noodles” − to do this in Penang would be to perform professional kamikaze. Even the stray cats will be jumping ship and leaving s***ty comments on TripAdviser.

Bottom line: The food in Penang makes the food in KL look like glorified leftovers for the tenants at the Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

And if any tourist brochure tells you there’s anything more exciting in the country than food? You’re in the wrong country.

The Malay Mail, Published: Monday August 15, 2016, 7:55 AM GMT+8
Which is more exciting, Penang or KL?
By Alwyn Lau

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Kumiko and Manami in Parasail

GEORGE TOWN: Two Japanese tourists were left hanging for about 40 minutes when the parasail they were on got stuck in a ketapang tree in Batu Ferringhi.

Escaping unscathed in the incident, Japanese nationals Kumiko Ito and Manami Kato, both 26, hung from the tree some 9.1m above ground while awaiting help.

A witness said a hotel’s Emergency Response Team (ERT) rushed to help the two when their parachute got stuck on the ketapang tree, a large tropical tree common here.

“Some mattresses were placed on the ground to cushion the two women in case they fell and a genie lift was used to bring them down.

“The Fire and Rescue Department arrived about 20 minutes after the call went out,” said a witness who declined to be named.

It was learnt that the women were on a day trip from Kuala Lumpur with a group of friends and scheduled to returned to KL yesterday.

Penang Island City Council Corporate Department director Mohamed Akbar Mustapha said they would investigate the mishap.

“I will get the report from the council’s enforcement personnel and police. MPPP will call for a board of inquiry to check on what caused the accident.

“We will also talk to the Penang Water Sports Operators Association to discuss parasailing activities.”

The Star, Published: Friday, 19 August 2016
Two tourists stuck as parasail lands on tree

To the rescue: Fire and Rescue Department personnel and beach boys rescuing Kumiko and Manami from the tree along the beachfront of a hotel in Batu Ferringhi.


Mr Yahho stayed in Flamingo beach hotel for 2 nights 3 days from 12/8/16. This was not in Batu Ferringhi but in Tanjung Bungah!
Just for your reference, watch the video;


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