Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Remember those stories we used to hear about how ghosts would walk the corridors of our schools late at night? Those stories probably had their origin in the Japanese Occupation from 1941-1945 when many schools were converted into detention and torture centres.

Reading Martin Spice's article "Unholy Halls" in yesterday's Star brought flashbacks of my visit to Tuol Svay Prey High School in Phnom Penh last March. Now known as the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, the building houses grim reminders of a time when the most vile and barbaric acts of torture were inflicted on the populace, especially the educated middle class.
There was no escape from these chambers of death. Barbed wires prevented any attempt at suicide by leaping from the upper floors.

From 1975-79, under Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge regime of terror, an estimated two million Cambodians died or went missing. Of this number, at least 17,000 passed through Tuol Sleng. Only seven survived to tell their tales of horror, one of them doing so through his paintings.

Walking along the corridors, one can almost hear the screams of men, women and children. The air is heavy with the smell of death. The photos below depict the horror that took place within the walls and behind the barbed wires of Tuol Sleng.

Our tour guide lost several family members at Tuol Sleng. His voice still chokes with emotion as he repeats the stories to visitors.
This picture of a woman with her baby taken minutes before her death haunted me for days. There were tears in her eyes when the picture was taken.
One wonders what kind of madness would drive a man to devise tortures like those above to get a fellow human being to talk? Unfortunately, evil like this still lurks in the world today.

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." 
~ Edmund Burke ~

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Selepas Tsunami (After the Tsunami) from Pusat KOMAS on Vimeo.

Apparently this is one video documentary that the government is hoping not many Malaysians will get to see. View it and find out the reason why. Be informed about the real goings-on behind the media headlines.

For a bigger screen view, click on the link "Selepas Tsunami (After the Tsunami) below the video.

Please contact Pusat KOMAS +603-7968 5415 to purchase the DVDs which are also available in Mandarin, Tamil and Iban. Email:

Friday, June 25, 2010


If you think the average Malaysian youth knows little and cares little about what's happening in the world around him, wait till you view this video clip. The answers given are so dumb, you won't know whether to laugh or cry. Are these folks from another planet or another era?

Oh well, enjoy it as comic relief for the weekend.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


More and more countries are coming out in the open about pension fund shortfalls, France being the latest. Back home, what's the prognosis on our retirement funds? Has the EPF been prudently growing our money, or has it been squandering it on foolish investments?

The current spate of news reports on GLCs (government-linked companies) losing hundreds of millions of taxpayers' money is enough to send shivers down my spine - Perwaja (RM10b), PKFZ (RM12.5b), Pos Malaysia (RM546m), Sime Darby (RM964m). These are the cases that have been exposed in the media. There are likely many more that will surface in the coming weeks. Our dirt-diggers have been working overtime.

EPF has been receiving a fair bit of news coverage of late, mostly statements to keep the public informed of changes in policies and updates on its investment portfolio. I append below EPF's top 30 equity investments as published in The Star recently. Notice No 23 is Sime Darby. For more on EPF’s total asset allocation as at 31 March 2010, click here.

According to EPF CEO Tan Sri Azlan Zainol, the aim of publishing the list of investments was to enhance EPF's transparency. However, in the same breath, he says, "not everything regarding EPF's investments could be revealed".

Is this his personal definition of 'transparency'? So much for keeping us informed. All the more reason we should keep a watchful eye on what the EPF is doing with our money. We don't want to wake up one fine day to discover all our retirement savings have been wiped out by incompetent fund managers. That would hasten us to our grave faster than we can say "CELAKA!"

Sunday, June 20, 2010


Yet another case of adult children abandoning their elderly parents has been reported. The MCA is proposing that these irresponsible adult children be named and shamed publicly. How effective would this be, I wonder.

There are probably hundreds of such cases that go unreported. Most abused parents would rather suffer in silence than go public about their ungrateful children. After all, who would want to lose face by dragging their family name through the mud?

Elder abuse is not all about inflicting physical pain and injury on defenseless old people. It can be financial and emotional as well. All of us personally know or have heard of cases where parents have made the mistake of prematurely signing over the title deed of the family home to the adult children, and subsequently find themselves booted out of the home because of lack of space or because the adult children have sold the property without informing them.

The Chinese have a saying that translates as "When the children are big, it is their world". How true, especially when it involves money and property. When elderly parents have to depend on their adult children for a roof over their head or food on the table, they lose all say in matters of importance.

It may sound rather selfish, but retirees must protect their retirement funds and their retirement home. Keep working if you are physically able to do so to be financially independent for as long as possible. There are just too many horror stories of abandoned or abused elderly parents.

The advice to young parents - teach your little children universal values, including filial piety and responsibility. Be good role models yourself. Do not give them a chance to turn around one day and say, "But mom and dad, you never really took care of us when we were young, so don't expect us to take care of you in your old age." And start building your nest egg to avoid having to rely solely on your adult children for future sustenance.

On this cautionary note, Seniorsaloud would like to wish all deserving fathers

Related articles:

Would you sue your children for parental neglect?

When children abuse their parents...

Keep that roof over your head at all cost

Thursday, June 17, 2010


The Malaysian government’s decision to eventually scrap the 1,500 Public Service Department (PSD) scholarships has drawn much flak from all quarters. This move will deprive academically gifted students, particularly those from low income families, of an opportunity to further their education and contribute to the future development of the country.

Minister in the PM’s Department, Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz, who is in charge of the scholarships has asked the public to accept the reality of the situation. He explained that the government does not have the funds to finance the studies of a growing pool of bright students seeking financial aid to pursue their studies in foreign universities.

Personally, I find his reasons unacceptable. It’s all about priorities. No money for scholarships, but funds available for a new RM800m Parliament building, and a new RM811m Istana Negara?

Aside from full scholarships, PSD also gives out study loans. To date, PSD has been unable to collect from 11,253 loan defaulters. This is a conservative estimate and includes 866 civil servants who owe about RM135.8m. As for the total amount owing, who knows. The money for the study loans comes from a revolving fund of taxpayers’ money. Those who have taken loans but have not repaid them are depleting this fund. No wonder there isn’t enough money now to help needy and deserving students.

MARA (Majlis Amanah Rakyat) offers scholarships and study loans to Malay and bumiputra students. It regularly publishes a list of loan defaulters in the major newspapers in the hope of shaming them into repaying the loans. MARA has also threatened to blacklist them, take legal action against them, declare them bankrupt and confiscate their passports should they attempt to leave the country. But despite these measures, MARA has had limited success in recovering loan arrears amounting to a whopping RM500m!

As a last resort, the PSD is in talks with Bank Negara to join the Central Credit Reference Information System (CCRIS). Financial institutions use the system to check the credit worthiness of loan applicants before approving their loan applications for housing, car, business, credit card and so on.

Only time will tell if this latest move will scare these recalcitrant borrowers into repaying their study loan.

I for one won’t be holding my breath.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Singapore Malay speaks...

The Straits Times today quoted a statement made by ex-PM Mahathir: "The position of the Malays (in Malaysia) is in deep crisis and precarious. If they do not think deeply and act wisely, one day, we could become like Malay Singaporeans, a group without power who have to terbongkok-bongkok (kowtow) before others. We do not want others to kowtow before us, but we want a fair distribution of power and wealth."

The statement was made in his keynote address at a Malay rights rally "Melayu Bangkit" in Kuala Trengganu on 13 June.

The ex-PM has frequently used Singapore Malays as a warning to Malaysian Malays that if the latter were not careful, they too would become a 'weak minority" controlled by others.

He also said pure meritocracy would not work for the Malays in Malaysia, as many still do not have the same educational opportunities to catch up. "...if we use meritocracy to distribute wealth for our country, based on who has better ability, the Malays will be left behind. ...they will have no political power, they can't help others from their own race."

The Straits Times recently published an interview on June 4 with former Singapore Senior Minister of State, Mr Sidek Saniff. Here are some extracts.

On meritocracy

25 years ago when Mr Saniff and 9 other Malay MPs were asked whether there should be some special dispensation to admit Malay students to the faculties of medicine and law in university as their numbers were small, he said:

"Bad idea. Such a move would have lowered standards for Malays. I did not want our kids to go to university and be doctors and lawyers, but be stigmatised because they were Malay and got in through the back door. Worse, we would have condoned second-rate doctors or lawyers.

Fair competition on the basis of merit was the only way for a place or a post to be filled by the best candidate - Malay or otherwise. Anything else would be short-changing not just society, but also the community. It would chip away at the community's dignity and sense of self-worth, and do more harm than good...And meritocracy is a safeguard against corruption."

On Malay genes

"There is nothing inherent or genetic about Malays that makes them academically weak. While having to compete with others on an equal footing is an uphill struggle for the community, successive generations would be the better for it...Singapore Malays do not need a crutch on which to compete."

Mr Saniff's book "The Singapore Malay Paradigm" will be out later this year. It is a compilation of his speeches made during his 25-year political career, and covers a wide range of issues touching on the Malay community, the Malay language, religion, progress, and role in a developing Singapore.

Our ex-PM should get hold of a copy. Perhaps then he would refrain from making Singapore Malays a scapegoat whenever he wants to instil fear in Malaysia Malays.

Monday, June 14, 2010


Thinking of visiting the Shanghai Expo? Read this first before you finalize your travel plans. TY Pok shares his expo experience with Seniorsaloud. He writes:

This has been a physically and mentally taxing journey. The splendor and scale of the exhibition is staggering. The sea of people visiting the Expo is endless.

Between 450,000 and 520,000 visited the Expo daily during the period, June 6 to 8th, when we were there. The Kobe Expo attracted 60 million visitors. The Chinese want to beat this attendance record. They will succeed for sure.

This is my troupe getting ready to queue for entry into the Expo with our survival kit - stools, umbrellas, water bottles and dried food. 

We waited in queue 45 minutes just to enter the Expo entrance gate! The security screening at Expo entrance was as strict as that at Shanghai airport! The queue was 8 hours to enter Saudi Arabia Pavilion, 7 hours to China Pavilion, 6 hours to Japan Pavilion!The temperature of 30C was unforgiving. Squabbling, fighting and fainting was common.
That's me outside the China Pavilion. 

We managed to visit the China Pavillion by good fortune and spent three hours there. Each province put up an exhibition to highlight their uniqueness. The show was impressive.

Top: Yunnan Pavilion, Above: Malaysia Pavilion

We managed also to visit Singapore (60 min waiting), Malaysia (30 min), Indonesia (30 min), Philippines, Brunei, India, Vietnam, etc. We avoided the popular ones like Japan, Saudi Arabia, UK, Germany, Denmark, etc as the queue was too long.

As the temp was high and the crowd large, we scrapped the 3rd day visit to the Expo out of exhaustion. Instead we explored Shanghai city.

We visited the Jade Buddha temple, took a boat cruise along Huang Po River, went shopping in Nanjing Road, and spent the evening at Paramount Nightclub.

It was old Shanghai life style re-lived.

Impression :

The Expo 2010 is impressive and worth a good look. But only if you are physically fit, mentally strong to endure the hot weather and large crowd. We gave up after only two days.

From left: Loh Choon Sen, Tai Lip Tee, Mrs Tai, Mrs Loh, Judy

Three things you must take with you when you visit the Expo:
1. Umbrella - foldable one preferred
2. Foldable stool - to sit while you wait in queue
3. Empty bottle to collect drinking water provided FOC inside the Expo ground. No liquids allowed to be taken into the Expo premises.
4. You may want to bring a hat or cap, sun screen lotion, dry food or fresh fruit. Expo F&B prices are more than double the prices outside the Expo.
"Nasi lemak" at the Malaysia pavillion costs RMB50. That's RM24!

The sea of people consisted of over 95% yellow faces (Chinese, HK, Taiwan, Chinese Malaysians, Singaporeans), while Japanese, Indonesians, and Arabs made up the remaining 5%. White and brown faces were barely seen.

Is the financial crisis holding back the USA and Europeans?

If you are planning to visit the Expo, and need more travel advice and tips, send your queries to Seniorsaloud, and we shall forward them to TY Pok. 

Friday, June 11, 2010


If you have always wanted to go back to school to acquire new skills and knowledge, but don't fancy taking exams or being the oldest among your coursemates, Golden Age College is your answer. 

Officially opened by Mr Lim Boon Heng, Singapore's Minister in the Prime Minister's Office on May 8, 2010, and funded by Council for Third Age, the college offers a 5-month Active Agers Certificate course covering Family Life Education, Intergenerational Programme Development, Latest IT Skills and Technologies, as well as Cultivating Healthy Hobbies.

The college's mission statement: "We believe that Golden Age College can equip seniors with meaningful knowledge and skills to enable them to play a more active role in their family and community."

The course is held every Friday evening at Bukit Batok, Singapore. For more details, visit the college website. Course commences: 18 June 2010.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


A pertinent question that we should all ask ourselves and our spouse.

My camera died on me yesterday while I was recording the seminar on "Retire Happy" jointly organized by Employees Provident Fund (EPF) and Financial Planning Association of Malaysia (FPAM). Since EPF is on a nationwide roadshow to raise public awareness of retirement planning, I shall share the first talk on "EPF - Towards a Sustainable Retirement" given by Mr Vijaya Kumar, EPF General Manager, Strategic Operations Department. Here are some of his slides.
Did you know our EPF is the 18th largest pension fund in the world and also the world's oldest? It was established in Oct 1951. Our retirement age of 55 for the private sector is among the lowest. For civil servants, it has been raised to 58.

Some interesting numbers here. 
The majority of contributors prefer to withdraw their savings in one lump sum upon reaching retirement at 55. Unfortunately, as the percentages above show, they will have depleted their savings when they reach 65. How will they live for the next 10-20 years?

Many pension funds in developed countries like France, Germany and the US, are facing problems in meeting retirement payments. According to the figures above, EPF is in robust financial health.

Some of the recent changes introduced by EPF.
12 tips to ensure you have enough saved for your retirement. The earlier you start, the larger your nest egg when you retire. Good advice for our adult children. Perhaps a little late for seniors who have yet to plan for their retirement.

To retire comfortably till 75+, we must have at least RM1m in savings. Also allow for inflation of 5%.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


Early Saturday morning a small group of us, all seniors, headed some 40 minutes north of the city to DQ Farm. Later I realized that day was also World Environment Day. What a coincidence, and how appropriate that we should spend the day out in the countryside getting acquainted with organic food production and learning about the huge impact conventional farming has on our environment.

Our host and farm owner, HS Wong, is a walking encyclopedia on all things pertaining to sustainable farming. I am awed by this man's unstoppable energy and passion to educate farmers and lay folks like us about sustainable farming and living.

Here's a pictorial account of our visit:

Sitting down to a welcome tea brewed with mulberry leaves. Notice the table cloth of banana leaves.
First, a brief introduction on the operational model of a sustainable micro-farm. Click on image to enlarge.
DQ Farm's model of how to maximize yield per acre.
Anti-bacterial spraying before we begin our walkabout.
Learning about composting. All waste is recycled, including chicken carcasses. The end result is quality humus that is used as fertilizer.
The farm rears fish too. DQ farm produces its own fish feed.
Grass-fed, hormone-free chickens. DQ farm takes pride in rearing chickens that have a high DHA of Omega 6: Omega 3 ratio of 4:1.
Tonic for the chickens. We had a sip of it too. A potent concoction!
I swear the dragon fruits and the mangoes on the farm are the sweetest and juiciest I've ever eaten. DQ farm is the first to grow organic watermelon. Pity they were all harvested when we were there.
Bananas are a good example of permaculture. They practically thrive on their own. On DQ farm they grow in clumps together with ginger.
Admiring a pumpkin bed. Vegetables like sawi, pegaga and banyam flourish in the chemical-free, nutrient-rich soil.
Some plants (top) are used as natural insect repellants. Vines like the 'patah wali' above have anti-inflammatory properties. I licked a cutting. It left a bitter taste on my tongue that stayed for hours.
Whether it's ants, crickets or worms, all creatures big and small have a role to play in the farm's rich biodiversity. The ants, for example, get rid of termites that attack the fruit trees.
Over 50 species of birds have been spotted on the farm. They build nests anywhere and everywhere undisturbed. Kim, an avid bird-watcher, alerted me to this nest barely a foot away from us.
Great care is taken to ensure that water for the vegetables is free from contamination. Pipes bring the rainwater collected directly to the vegetables.
The farm's initial experiment with Italian bees failed, so now local bees are kept for their honey.
Time for a break. Enjoying the farm fruits all freshly plucked. The 'straw' for the coconut drink is the stem of some plant whose name escapes me now.
Some of the 150 goats. They feed on organically-grown grass. They are moved to fresh fields every week to reduce the risk of diseases and intestinal problems.
Wild jackfruit (top) and durian trees. None ripe enough for us to sample!
Getting ready to leave with our goody bags of fresh vegetables and bananas. Note: the bags are biodegradable, and made partly of tapioca
Wong insisted on hosting lunch for us at Bentong. Here we are, waiting to tuck into the first two dishes.
Dinner at home last night included a plate of vegetables from DQ farm. This is one plate of veggies whose story I am personally familiar with!

At the end of the 5-hour outing, everyone in our group agreed that it was truly time well-spent. We learned so much that we could immediately apply on our next shopping trip to the supermarket.

Organic food may not necessarily be nutritionally superior to non-organic food. But conventional farming with its heavy reliance on chemical fertilizers and pesticides is detrimental to our environment. Ultimately it is up to us to decide whether to opt for non-organic food or the pricier organic alternative.

My choice? Well, I don't have a garden to grow my own organic food. So the next best thing ? I've just signed up with an organic food retail chain that offers good discounts on purchases. That should be an acceptable compromise.

One of HS Wong's favourite quotes and probably DQ's raison d'etre.