Tuesday, August 31, 2010


RHB print ad

Am writing this on the express bus somewhere along the north-south highway to Singapore. Just finished browsing the papers. Today being Merdeka Day, there's plenty of print ads celebrating Malaysia's 53rd National Day.

 Proton print ad

What struck me as rather peculiar about the ads is that except for one, all of them feature children. Makes me wonder if there's a problem creating an ad around adult Malaysians celebrating our independence. Perhaps children best represent the true Merdeka generation? Hmm...

Astro print ad

Anyway, my favourite Merdeka photo in today's special edition of the Star is this one below. To me, that's the true Merdeka generation. And I am proud to stand up and be counted. That was a generation of Malaysians that studied together, worked together and played together - in genuine harmony.

All images from The Star 31 August 2010 

Those were truly the good old days. But I am optimistic those days are not all gone, and there will be better days on the horizon with the new generation.


Sunday, August 29, 2010


Every action has a reaction. How we react often depends on our ability to control our emotions and think through the situation to the likely consequences.

Some recent examples:

  • The sacking of Filipino maids by some families in Hongkong in retaliation for the deaths of eight HK tourists in Manila. Why should these maids be held responsible? What have they got to do with the incident?
  • Protests against the building of the Cordoba Centre near Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan because it was deemed 'insensitive' to the families of those who died in the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Centre, NY. What has the Muslim group behind the Cordoba mosque project got to do with the Al-Qaeda terrorists responsible for the 9/11 attack?
  • Indonesia's nationalist group Bendara's threat to throw out all Malaysians from Indonesia in response to the detention of three Indonesian maritime officers by Malaysian authorities. What have Malaysian expats in Jakarta, for example, got to do with the incident? 
The answer is NOTHING in all these cases.

It is dangerous to blame isolated incidents on a whole race of people. When we taint everyone with the same brush, we are holding them guilty by virtue of a common denominator, which is often race, nationality or religion. This is much worse than cultural stereotyping and can easily ignite deadly conflagrations.

Read Andrew Sia's column in today's Sunday Star.

So far, we have been fortunate that the majority of Malaysians do not allow negative emotions to rule their heads. Let's pray that our good sense will continue even as some of our leaders continue to stoke communal tension with their outrageous accusations and racial slurs.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


It is our parental duty to provide a good education for our children. That can mean right up to post-graduate studies. Scholarships offered by the public and corporate sectors are very competitive, especially in Singapore. Not all parents can afford to support their children through university. To meet this need, both the CPF (Singapore) and the EPF (Malaysia) allow parents to withdraw funds for educational purposes.

Unlike the EPF education scheme which is a withdrawal scheme, the CPF education scheme is a loan scheme. CPF members are allowed to use up to 40 per cent of their accumulated Ordinary Account savings for their own or their children's full-time local diploma and first-degree courses. The total amount withdrawn for tuition fees plus accrued interest has to be repaid IN FULL WITH CASH. Repayment starts one year after date of graduation or date of leaving the institution, whichever is earlier.

According to a news report in the Straits Times today, about 5% or 7500 of borrowers have defaulted on the repayment of their educational loans and have failed to return money to CPF accounts for at least four consecutive months.

Even when the children have graduated and found a job, repaying their parents seems to be at the bottom of their list of priorities. Taking precedence are buying an apartment, paying for a car, starting a business, going for an overseas vacation, preparing for a wedding, ... the list goes on. And when their credit card debts start to snowball, their banker of last resort are...their parents, of course!

The end result? Their parents are left with depleted savings in their retirement funds.

Call it parental love or a reluctance to lose face, most parents are unwilling to take action against their children, or seek help from the Tribunal. They would rather work longer years or cut down on their living expenses to compensate for the shortfall in their retirement savings.

If parents are committed to shouldering their parental responsibilities, shouldn't adult children be just as committed to their filial duties? Or is filial piety on the wane?

It comes as no surprise that many middle-aged wage earners with limited retirement savings are facing this predicament. What would you do if your adult children did not repay a loan from you? Would you pursue it? Or let it go and consider it an early gift already allocated for in your will? Or silently hold it as a grudge against them and cut them out from your will?

Monday, August 23, 2010


I must admit I have never heard of 'cougar women' till yesterday while reading the Sunday Times. The fact that the paper carried the article with pictures of local women surprised me. For those as clueless as me, the term 'cougar women' refers to older women who are attracted to much younger men. Think Madonna, 51 and her latest toy-boy, Jesus Luz, 23, or Demi Moore, 47, and her much younger husband, Ashton Kutcher, 32.

I can understand why older men go for younger women. It's the Law of Physical Attraction, of course. For the younger women, it's likely the Law of Financial Attraction. 'No money, No honey. So bye-bye, if you're a sugarless daddy!

But what do older women see in younger men, and vice versa? Methinks the same Laws apply too! In most cases anyway.

Women marrying a partner seven to nine years younger increase their relative mortality risk by 20% compared with couples where both are the same age. But the relative mortality risk of a husband who is seven to nine years older is reduced by 11%. (Source: Sven Drefahl)

Older women, take heed.  A study by Sven Drefahl at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rosktock, Germany, shows that the greater the age gap between a woman and her husband, the shorter her life expectancy, regardless of whether he is older or younger. That should be enough to scare off any cougar on the prowl!

But the problem with research studies is that you can always find another one that says exactly the opposite. And there are also studies that claim cougars do not exist.

Personally, a 5-7 years' difference is fine, but a 70-year gap? I can't imagine any virile young man would want to marry a great great grandmother 70 years older than him, unless she is Mek Wook Kondor!

Mek Wook Kondor, 108, and her husband, Mohd Nor Musa, 39. Source: NST 

Click here to view some celebrity cougars.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


Something is not right in our English language classrooms. Despite studying the language for nine years in the public school system, the majority of our high school students leave school unable to write or speak basic English. The situation gets worse when these students move on to local public universities. By then they are so uncomfortable using English they completely give up on it altogether.

The allowance and programme fees are fully funded by the government. Unemployed graduates get paid to learn new skills.

Is it any wonder that annual surveys carried out since 2005 have consistently listed poor English as one of the top five reasons why 40,000 to 60,000 graduates from our public universities fail to get jobs?

  • In 2004, there were 4,594 unemployed graduates of whom 163 were Chinese, 207 were Indians and 4,060 were Malays.

  • In 2005, there were 2,413 unemployed graduates of whom 31 were Chinese, 70 were Indians and 2,186 were Malays.

  • In 2006, there were 56,750 unemployed graduates of whom 1,110 were Chinese, 1,346 were Indians and 50,594 were Malays.

  • In 2007, there were 56,322 unemployed graduates of whom 1,348 were Chinese, 1,401 were Indians and 49,075 were Malays.

  • In 2008 (as of June) there were 47,910 unemployed graduates of whom 1,403 Chinese, 4,694 Indians and 41,813 were Malays.

  • By March 2009, Najib was talking about 60,000 unemployed graduates. This was more or less in line with the 57,701 graduate registrants on the Exchange in March 2009.

  • By October 2009, we were looking at 81,046 active graduate registrants on the Labour Exchange – and another 70,747 active registrants who are diploma holders.

The government keeps flip-flopping on measures to raise English proficiency in the country. They bow to pressure from anti-English groups. These groups have so little confidence in the strength and power of their own language that they consider any move to promote English as a threat to the national language. They regard English as the language of our former colonial masters. They label Malay Malaysians in particular who want their children to learn English well as traitors to their mother tongue. Such parochial thinking shows they are the ones still clinging on to colonial times while the rest of us have long moved on to 21st century forward thinking.

This video shows why the rest of the world wants to learn English. It's about time Malaysians do the same. There's a lot of catching up to do.

A shorter version of the video appears on the TED TALKS channel on YouTube.
Related Article:

Thursday, August 19, 2010


Source: Bernama

My stomach churned when I saw the front page of the Star today. Another two more cases of baby-dumping to add to the 65 cases since January this year, and 472 since 2005. If we don't find a workable solution soon, there will be hundreds more before year-end. That is the estimated number of unwed pregnant teenagers yet to deliver their babies. These are the ones we can still save if we can reach out to these young mothers-to-be and their partners.

Yesterday the papers published my views on the issue. One paper published 90% of my original letter, whilst the other only 50%. In the latter case, I'm not sure if it's because of space constraint or sensitive content. For me it was interesting to note what was edited out.

As parents and grandparents, we can do our part to ensure we instill the right values in our young. And if the worse should happen despite all the advice and teaching, let them know that we will be there for them. Love comes first. Wrath and punishment comes last if at all. Our children need to know that we are their first and last refuge.

We don't want to have any more baby blood on our hands or on our conscience.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


A lot of buzz has been generated about the next elections coming up sooner than expected. If you want change, this is the opportunity you have been waiting for. Your vote is your voice. A silent majority is powerless. But when that silent majority use their votes to speak out, their combined voices can be deafening. It can move mountains and remove governments.

If you haven't registered as a voter, find out where you can do so here. If you want to volunteer to help register new voters, or start your own registration booth, find out how here.

What sort of government do we want in Malaysia? Where can we find the right people to head the various ministries? We don't have to look far for some ideas. Singapore celebrated its 45th National Day on 9 August. For the record, Singapore opted out of Malaysia in 1965.  Since then, the island nation has been registering phenomenal growth, achieving 17.9% GDP growth in the first half of this year. Unemployment is low.

Says former Singapore PM Lee Kuan Yew at a recent National Day dinner:

'To build such a Singapore, we need an exceptionally strong Government, with the ablest, the toughest and most dedicated of leaders. We head-hunt for them, test them out in heavy responsibilities.'

Admire him or detest him, it's the results that count. Today 45 years after separation from Malaysia, Singapore boasts a vibrant economy while the Malaysian rakyat is still smarting over the hundreds of billions of  ringgit gone missing and unaccounted for from the public coffers. (Image from ChannelNewsAsia)

And what contributes to a vibrant economy? His response:
  • First, leaders of high integrity who have the people's trust and confidence.
  • Second, meritocracy, where everyone can get to the top as political leaders, MPs, (in) the civil service and statutory boards. People get to where they are on merit: not guanxi (connections), not nepotism, not corruption. Hence, all are capable and competent.
  • Third, there is a level playing field for all, where 'no one is disadvantaged by our national policies whatever their race, language or religion.
  • Fourth, the use of English as the working language has made Singapore the business and banking hub it is today. 
Singapore pays top dollar to get the best people for the government. If we pay peanuts, we will only get monkeys who are always up to mischief and hanky-panky, who have little clue how to lead, and who have no vision at all beyond the dollar signs in their eyes.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Unity in diversity. It's not easy to apply this slogan when it comes to religion in Malaysia. For non-Muslims here there are simply too many restrictions placed on them even when they truly want to understand the religious practices of their Muslim fellow citizens.

For example, in some states, non-Muslims are not welcomed in mosques. They can't use "Allah" to refer to God because it will confuse the Muslims here. There are 35 words that non-Muslims can't use. Schools have to get approval before they can set up a Christian or Buddhist society.

It's difficult to get land or funds from the government to build a church or temple. Even when the funds have been raised through community efforts, and the land purchased, it is a long long bureaucratic wait to get a permit to build a church or temple. Non-Muslims can't marry a Muslim unless they convert to Islam. They also can't inherit from a Muslim. The list goes on.

Restrictions like these drive a wedge between Muslims and non-Muslims in the country. It stifles bonding and understanding. It leads to suspicion and fear. The end result is forced religious tolerance rather than voluntary religious acceptance.

But then, Malaysian Muslims themselves are subjected to 1001 restrictions. There's a whole lot they are not alowed to do according to their religious leaders. Or else they will have to answer for it in the Syariah court.

Perhaps our Muslim leaders can learn a thing or two from Obama's speech to mark the beginning of Ramadan.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


This being the month of our country's independence, there will be festivities galore lined up to celebrate our 53rd National Day on 31 August. From tomorrow till 16 September Astro will be screening over 150 programs all touting the beauty of the country and the rich cultural diversity of its people. An annual PR showcase designed to make every citizen proud to be Malaysian, and every tourist eager to visit the country.

With just two weeks to go, I still haven't got into that celebratory mood. I doubt I will. Nor do I see much evidence of it around me. Really, what is there to celebrate? I'd rather celebrate life. The old-timers among us will remember National Days in the 1960s and 70s when everyone would get excited knowing that Hari Kebangsaan was around the corner.

Ah, those were the days. I recall spending the entire morning glued to the TV screen watching with pride the National Day parade. Later in the evening I would drive my children all the way to Merdeka Square to catch the floats procession.

This PR was moved to tears at the Singapore National Day Parade on 9 August. How many Malaysians will be similarly moved at our National Day parade? (Click on image to enlarge).

I have a good idea what I'll NOT be doing this National Day. I love my country Malaysia, and always will. But I cringe with shame and anger at what the politicians have done to our beloved country. They have raped and pillaged our country, AND getting away with it. They have divided the people and sown seeds of mistrust and disharmony.

I have vowed not to fly the Malaysian flag from my balcony until there's a change in the government. It will remain folded in my cupboard till we have a cabinet of ministers that knows how to govern, lead and listen. Hopefully that will come with the next election, and with our votes.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


This video from AlJazeera News Channel was posted on YouTube on August 7, a day before the Ramleans' visit to the orang asli village in Kg Pertak (see previous blog post). Apparently, this is not an isolated case. We were told as much on our visit.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Photo: Max Koh

A dip in the cool waters of a mountain stream, fresh fruits within plucking range, sensurround sounds of nature, peace and quiet, fresh air and clear blue skies. 13 Ramleans* and friends had a taste of all this and more last Sunday. All it took to get to this haven was a mere hour's drive out of Kuala Lumpur.

For Ramleans who were unable to make the trip, here's a pictorial account. (Click on each photo to enlarge.)

 Unloading bags of clothes, toys, stationery and foodstuff for the orang asli community.
Off we go to the river. 
David, thanks for the nasi lemak. 
Talking politics in mid-stream?
Our ladies on the rocks with Anoora.
  Antares holding court with his Temuan tales and history of Kampung Pertak. He has lived in the community for 18 years. 
Yam Kokok's haul of freshly-plucked fruits for sale. My first taste of wild durians - almost as good as Musang King!
Visiting Antares' guest-house - the Bamboo Palace
The group at Gordon's guest-house at Maycliff, a stone's throw from Kg Pertak.
What better way to end a lovely day than having one for the road IN the river! 

*For those who are curious, Ramleans are an informal group of seniors aged 55+ who have completed a 4-day Raja Mohar Life Enrichment Awards (RAMLEA) program named after the late YABM Raja Tun Mohar bin Raja Badiozaman. The program was launched in 2004 by Malaysian Institute of Management (MIM). You can read more about the 2009 program here.

If you are interested to learn more about the Temuans, you might want to check out Antares' book "Tanah Tujuh". It's available at Silverfish Books on Jalan Telawi, Bangsar and at major bookstores. You can also read what he thinks about the Jabatan Hal Ehwal Orang Asli (JHEOA) in his article "THE FATAL CURSE OF TEMPURUNGISM" posted on his blog at MagickRiver.

Monday, August 9, 2010


Kudos to KMDC, organisers of Malaysia's first-ever conference on Retirement Transformation. Held on 3 August at the Sime Darby Convention Centre, the event couldn't have come at a better time. With the slowing down of the birthrate and longer life expectancy, 9.9% of the population in Malaysia will be aged 60 and above by 2020. According to UN definition, any country with 10% of its population above the age of 60 is categorized as an ageing nation.

Slide: Prof Ong Fon Sim of UniRAZAK

Thanks to pre-conference interviews that were carried in the local media and in magazines like Smart Investor, the conference succeeded in drawing attention to key retirement issues and the challenges posed by an ageing population, namely:
  • strain on public retirement funds e.g. EPF and pension funds
  • higher medical and healthcare costs
  • provision of age-friendly facilities
  • measures to retain older workers
  • empowering elders to be actively engaged

Slide: Mr Mohamed Akwal Sultan, CEO of Credit Counselling and Debt Management Agency (AKPK)

The discussions covered a wide range of topics. Although much of the focus was on financial literacy, some of the speakers touched on other areas like re-employment of older workers, business opportunities in the silver industry, wellness and retirement living. Click here for the full list of speakers.

Slide: Dr Goh Chee Leong, Faculty Dean, HELP University College

It wasn't just all talk. At the press conference which I attended, Datuk Dr Zainal Aznam Yusof of the National Economic Advisory Council (NEAC), announced the launch of the Foundation for Sustainable Retirement (FSR). As the protem chairman, he explained the objectives of FSR and the way forward in transforming the retirement landscape in the country. For more information on FSR, please read my earlier post on BREAKING NEWS: LAUNCH OF THE FOUNDATION FOR SUSTAINABLE RETIREMENT.

Members of the protem FSR committee and advisory panel present at the press conference: Datuk Dr Zainal; Mr Kim Walker, CEO of Silver Group, Singapore; Mr Roland Naufal, Founder of 4C Consulting, Australia; Mr Khoo Chuan Keat, Sr Exe Director of Pricewaterhouse Coopers, Malaysia; and Mr Tadaaki Masuda, Director of Council on Ageing, Japan.

It is reassuring for retirees to know that policy-makers and key industry players are working in tandem to come up with proposals they hope will lead to the development of a national retirement policy that will benefit all stakeholders.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


When it comes to gadgets, I go for functionality and practicality. None of those fancy top-of-the-line gizmos for me. There are applications on my pc and my cell phone that I know I will never use, and others that I can't figure how to use! I'm just one notch better than my 85-year old mother. Her ability to use electronic devices is limited to pressing the ON/OFF button.

Until or unless we are in that age-group, we won't understand why Dad doesn't seem to like wearing that polo-neck sweater we got for his birthday. Or why Mom has yet to read that best-seller we gave her last Christmas.

Whether we are buying a gift or designing a household product for the elderly, we must bear in mind they may have problems with limited vision, hearing, strength and mobility.

>60 Design Centre of Singapore recently announced the Global Age-Friendly Design Awards 2010. Students, design professionals, design firms and the general public are invited to submit their ideas on products that can change and enhance the lifestyles of the elderly.

If you are interested, find out about submission regulations and prizes on the website. On-going registration began on 14 June. Closing date is 26 September 2010. There is no entry fee for the competition.

Here are more ideas to trigger off the creative juices in you.

Know why sales of iPad easily topped one million in the US alone just 28 days after its launch? My guess is it has features and apps that appeal to ALL ages. Design with that in mind and you'll probably have an edge over entries that focus exclusively on the elderly.

Check out my blog buddy's website at eldergadget if you are looking for a gift for someone in the older age group. It has plenty of news and reviews about senior-friendly products.

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