Saturday, April 30, 2011

Learning lessons from Japan's tragic disasters

Undoubtedly, since 11 March this year, another world event which has become a serious concern of all Malaysians is the massive destruction caused by the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis in Japan. While most Malaysians deeply sympathise with the people of Japan and also admire their social discipline or stoic spirit in coping with deaths and destruction, we also try to learn some lessons from the nuclear crisis. Many street folks told me that they found the expertly views and also advices broadcasted by CCTV4 (Astro Channel 334)' "very useful" and "educational" for them who are Mandarin-educated and dialect-using. Like the MENA upheavals at that time, the large -scale tragedy which occurred in Japan was fast-moving and psychologically disorientating. The many lessons to be learned from the Middle East and Norh Africa as well as Japan are best discoursed rationally and without prejudice. There are always many nuances or subtleties in world-historic events. Adulthood is marked, among other features, by the mental capability to read news with a sense of proportion as well as to prioritise them.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Dr. Johan Sarawanamuttu on MENA upheavals

In recent months', I have been concentrating my own observation and reflection on the massive changes in the Middle East and North Africa by following pretty closely news and views on Al Jazeera, BBC, CNN as well as Google. At the same time, I also spoke to, among other more learned friends, Dr. Johan Sarawanamuttu who has kindly allowed our Malaysia-centered discussions to be published online' in malaysiakini. Also, I myself spoke at an university seminar in Petaling Jaya not too long ago and I am now polishing' my remarks at the forum for a book. My personal interest in Middle Eastern affairs was initially developed when I was on an eight-day reporting tour to Oman in late July, 2000.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Still in love with good music, songs & movies

Besdies collecting postal stamps , enjoying good music and songs was also my personal hobby in the 1970s in downtown Ipoh. While I do not collect stamps anymore, I still love good songs and music fairly much. Nowadays, I still go for evening or midnight movies, whether they' re in English, Putonghua or Cantonese, shown in public cinemas in town.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

In appreciation of my grandmother's foresight

Not too long ago, a retired teacher in my hometown Ipoh recalled that I was also a school prefect and librarian from 1979 to 1981. Indeed , I was so preoccupied with school studies, extra-mural activities as well as family works that I had little time and energy left for unproductive speculations on 'gods and ghost' or involving in undesirable activities. Before he passed away two years ago, a close friend of my father and a neighbour also told me that my grandmother made the very correct decision in discouraging me and also his children from developing the addiction for Taiwan-produced soap operas that were obssessed with themes and scenes focusing on quarrels among family members, who exchanged ill-mannered insults or curses with highly emotional tones.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

My education in arithmatics and mathematics

Helping out in the family' s coffeeshop in downtown Ipoh in the 1970's certainly strengthened my mental capability for arithmatics because I had to remember all the prices of kopi (teh) -o, kopi (teh) susu, Milo susu or kosong, roti bakar, Coca-Cola, Sarsi, 7-Up, etc and be able to add them up in many different combinations for customers to pay up. Like all the good kedai kopi boys in downtown Ipoh those years, I did the calculations without any paper and pencil, or electronic calculator. From 1978 to 1981, I studied in science stream which taught, among other very tough subjects, Pure, Applied and Additional Mathematics. In 1982, I continued to be in science class at the Monash High School in Melbourne and, at the end of that year, I completed my secondary education with the award of the Victorian Higher Schools' Certificate. My education in arithmatic as well as mathematics have contributed to making me to think logically , rationally and systematically as well as to accept and also respect the existence of a realm of objectivity.

Monday, April 25, 2011

'Devils' can't work in usefully occupied minds

After I arrived at Melbourne in early 1980s, I observed to my pleasant surprise that even many well -to-do parents made their children to do some income-earning works during school vacations, like distributing newspapers house-to-house in the neighbourhood. Likewise, I myself also worked in factories. to earn some money to buy books and settle bills. In fact, I had already started working at my family' s coffeeshop as young as eight years old, and by fifteen, my grandmother and also parents were confident enough. to allow me to deliver food and drink to buildings and houses where there were rogues as well as swindlers. ( From 1975 to 1980, I also joined the Boy Scouts, which imparted to me a sense of organisational life and some ideas of social discipline). Indeed , many forms of social experiences cannot be gained in books and movies, but only through real-life and productive works on earth. It is difficult for any 'devils' to open worshops in fully occupied minds.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Address parents' fear & anxiety in ICT society

The socio-economic and political environment today is certainly more complex than 1970s in downtown Ipoh. Children as well as youths, for example, are now open and exposed to many more forms of external ( outside their families and schools ) influences. Like it or not, there is parental fear and anxiety that they and teachers are losing control of the character formation process of their children. All the fears and anxieties have to be identified and also discussed rationally, without being politicised so that problems can be solved to better our society.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Help kids to develop affection for good books

In the 1970's in downtown Ipoh , great parents and grandparents liked to consult or collaborate with school teachers they knew personally. to ensure that their loved ones are supplied with useful and entertaining reading materials. At the recommendation of her trusted friends, my grandmother brought translated and abridged-for-children editions of Don Quixote, A Tale of Two Cities and the likes for my reading. Dear grandmother also checked my school bags occasionally to find out if I keep undesirable materials , like pornographic booklets and/or 'gods-and-ghost' (superstitious) leaflets ( like those which claimed to know for sure that the 'end of the world' would happen on certain time and date), given to me by strangers or some socially irresponsible blokes in town , such as a very rich Dirty Old Man QQQ, who often travelled to Saigon ( now Ho Chi Minh City ) for 'fun' , although he had already married with one wife (and 3 children) and also kept two concubines.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Educate kids on reality vs. fantasy distinction

In the 1970s in the Kinta Valley, children liked to watch Superman and Ultraman movies and there were news reports that, occasionally, one or two tried to emulate the actions of their 'heroes' and jumped from highrise buildings to death. There were also stories in Ipoh town that a boy 'addicted' to kungfu movies from Hong Kong went missing for a week in Bukit Keledang near Mengelembu because he wanted to try to search for the Hidden Master' like what his 'heroes' did in the movies. So, even at that times when there was no personal computer and not many folks in town could afford to install television sets for their own families, many good teachers, parents and grandparents were always conscious of the need to educate their young ones to fully understand the basic differences between reality on earth and fantasy in movies. Girls, especially those in their 15-19 years of age who were 'addicted' to romance stories, either in the forms of English -language books or films from Taiwan, were also frequently educated with real-life news.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Teach kids to decline 'gift' offers by strangers

Friends who are teachers are certainly right to say that children must now be taught or educated to decline offers of 'gift' by strangers, who may appear to be aunt-like characters in emails, SMSes or facebooks. Some teachers also observe that many parents in the urban areas are too preoccupied with their works or/and businesses to take sufficient time off to sembang-sembang dengan their school-going children and to pay closer attention to their character formation and development. Adults should also learn not to react emotionally to anonymous beings in the cyberspace as there are swindlers and mentally deranged chaps who are trying to look for' opportunities and targets for their designs.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

CPM veteran Ah Hai (1919-2011) passed away

Shan Ru Hong, a CPM veteran also known as 'Ah Hai', or 'Ah Cheng' or 'Chen Rui', completed his missons in life and passed away at 92 on 30 March 2011, in southern Thailand. Ah Hai first met Pak Rashid (1917-2006) as fellow tin-mine workers in the Kinta Valley in Perak in 1930's when the Great Depression hit the working class of all races and their families very hard. Thereafter, their personal friendship and partisan comradeship lasted throughout their eventful lives as fighters as well as peace-makers for our tanahair. May him rest in everlasting peace.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Biography of fighter Siti Norkiah Mahmud out

I am really glad to have obtained a copy of Makcik Minah' s biography Srikandi Dari Pahang Utara ( Petaling Jaya, SIRD, 2011 ). The book is authored by UKM's retired scholar Dr. Mohamed Salleh Lamry. Makcik Minah's real name is Siti Norkiah Mahmud. I will start reading it soon as her 'story' is an important part of the true history of tanahair kita. I was honoured indeed to have been invited by Makcik Minah to visit her house in southern Thailand in 2009 and told some of her 'stories'.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Legendary journalist still surfs & writes at 83

Called Pak Said just now and found out that he is sound, althought he told me that his body is certainly not as 'mobile' as before. At 83, the legendary journalist and my neighbour is still surfing and also writing. Bersembang-sembang with elderly people of experience often 'sparks off ' pretty enlightening historical insights into many current debates. It also serves to supplement academic knowledge or theoretical logic.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Reflection on British debate on imperial past

If Professor Thompson were a Malaysian or Singaporean in the 1960s, he would have been detained without warrant and jailed without trial for "knowingly or unknowingly" or "wiitingly or unwittingly" spreading the propaganda of the "Communist United Front". Time has changed as "new" knowledge has provided more perspectives on world affairs. Now, mankind no longer lives in the post-Cold War period but an era defined anew by the collapse of the Wall Street in 2008 and the truly historic and massive Arab Revolt in the Middle East and North Africa.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

British people debate legacies of past empire

Reportedly, the British society is assessing the legacies of its bygone empire which reigned many parts of the world, like Peninsula Malaya, Sabah, Sarawak, Singapore, Brunei, Hong Kong, India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. It also ruled portions of the Middle East like Iraq and Egypt. Some of the ex-colonies have progressed and others have clearly not. Another debate could be conducted to find out the reason (s) for this.

Expertly assessment in Russia on Saudi Arabia

Mr. Sergey Demidenko, a Russian expert on the Middle East, has just shared his very sharp observations, in the English -language Voice of Russia, on the condition in the oil-rich Arab kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which is now under close and critical examination for the role it plays in the dramatic development in the Middle East and also North Africa.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Saudi version of Bahrain situation questioned

Mr. Alex Spillius, a British journalist in Washington, reported what he had heard and thought about Saudi Arabia' s official version of recent situation or development in Bahrain where it now stations its soldiers to 'help' the ruling elites of the tiny state to quell a domestic uprising. Earlier, clerical elites in Saudi Arabia were also said to be watchful of archaeologists who may discover the true history of their 'purist' land. Lately, more and more crucial dimensions of the Saudi state and also society are subject to critical examination in the international media.

Yemeni president rejects GCC offer to resign

Reportedly, Yemen' s president Ali Abdullah Saleh has rejected a GCC offer to "transfer power". Like him or not, President Ali is an elected head of state while the rulers of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Oman and Kuwait are not. To put it very bluntly , GCC rulers have no democratic credentials to ask Yemen's president to go. No less important is the observation that. none of the GCC rulers has ever addressed crowds in open space like President Ali so often does. What's next for GCC ? Deploying Saudi -led GCC troops into Yemen to stop the pro-regime gatherings and 'restore democracy' for Yemenis ?

Friday, April 08, 2011

Sectarian state in Bahrain prolongs instability

Reportedly, the continuing crackdown in Bahrain has turned it into an "island of fear" as even its hospitals have become targets of 'security' operations. It seems that Bahrain's Sunni-monopolised 'security' setup and forces, which include many foreign soldiers and policemen , have been motivated more by sectarian hubris than any rational as well as fair -minded concerns for security and law and order for all Bahrainis. It is very certain that, as long as the sectarian character of the state in Bahrain is not changed , instability in different forms will continue. A reformed state in Bahrain means, first and foremost, that the land is not ruled as a chapter of the Ridyadh-centered 'Sunni International', but a fully independent country with self -respect in terms of equality of domestic citizenship, territorial integrity and national sovereignty. It is certainly to the strategic interests of the West to press the ruler in Bahrain harder for political reform before the hearts and minds of at least 70% of Bahrainis, especially idealistic youth, are won by Iran.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

UK to ask Arab states to boost rebels in Libya

Reportedly, Britain will ask Arab countries to train and lead the rebels in Libya to fight Gaddafi's forces. Meanwhile, some rebels are said to have prepared for the eventuality of territorial breakup of the nation. There is also an observation that the active elements of the rebels in Libya consist of (a) nostalgic royalists of the ousted Libyan monarchy (b) West-friendly military personnel and (c) radical and anti -Western Islamists in Libya and from some tumultuous societies in the regions. It is very noteworthy that, thus far, only France, Qatar and Italy have officially recognized the 'Tansitional National Council' of the rebels as the only "legitimate" representative of the people of the entire Libya and that the USA and UK have still not committed themselves to such an unchangeable or irreversible position in the clearly 'fluid' situation.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

British arms exports under parliamentary fire

A parliamentary committee in Britain reportedly chided its successive governments for high -risk arms exports to the Middle East and North Africa, including Bahrain, Iraq, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen. It is unclear whether some of those arms are re-sold to other regions, or unwittingly passed into the hands of some 'non -state actors' under the fairly chaotic situations in the Middle East as well as North Africa. Last year , Britain itself announced a "deep cut" in defence budget as a result of the continuing financial crisis that also hits its royal purse.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Indonesia criticises Saudi 'justice' for Sumiati

Reportedly, Indonesia is incensed by the acquittal by a Saudi court of a woman who was already convicted earlier for wickedly torturing her Indonesian maid. Torture of overseas maids in the Gulf kingdom can be very psychopathic, as there are also reports of rapes and murders. Legally sanctioned slavery, especially the organised traffiking as well as sale of young Africans, was prevalent on the Arabian Peninsula for several hundreds of years before it was formally made illegal in 1962. Slave-mastering mentality and also the 'traditional' idea of punishing 'inferior' categories of human beings, including poorer co-religionists, with wicked methods seem to persist among a section of the wealthy, influential and outwardly 'modern' elites in the 'austere' Saudi society. The use of the fairly crude expression "cut foreign fingers" by a high-ranking minister recently shows that some anachronistic methods of punishment are still present in the minds of some ruling Saudi elites.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Saudi woman acquitted of maid abuse charge

A Saudi woman who was sentenced for torturing her Indonesian maid has reportedly been acquitted. The safety and wellbeing of maids and other types of workers in Saudi Arabia has increasingly become a top concern for not only the media, but also the president of the republic. Some maids from Sri Lanka in Saudi Arabia. were reportedly tortured and even murdered. after the contracts of their services had expired. During a field study tour to the oil -rich and purportedly very religious kingdom recently , Filipino congressman Walden Bello also found that cases of sexual violence against foreign female workers are frequent. Legally sanctioned slavery in Saudi Arabia was only abolished in 1962, but there is still the question of whether the traditional slave-owning mentalities persist in a segment of the wealthy elites in the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia puts "terror" suspects "on trials"

Saudi Arabia has put 5 ,080 of its nationals on non -open court 'trials' for allegedly being "terrorists". Why are there so many such suspects in the wealthy as well as stable country ? What is the "root cause" of the phenomenon in Saudi Arabia ? To be sure, there are concerns on the non-open nature of the special court and also the trial procedure.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Saudi Arabia whacks Iran for stand on Bahrain

After deploying its troops to Bahrain to 'help' the ruling family to quell a domestic uprising , Saudi Arabia now accuses Iran of 'interfering' in Bahrain. What would the Saud family say about Qatar's recognition of the "ragtag" rebels in Libya as the "legitimate" government of Libya ? Can Iran or Iraq do in Bahrain what Qatar has already done in Libya. ?

Friday, April 01, 2011

More sober assessments on condition in Libya

Admiral Mullen has said that. Gaddafi and his forces are "not close to breaking point". Now , there are many reports that use words such as "ragtag" to describe the rebels, who are observed by reporters on the ground to be "indisciplined", "disorganised" and even "trigger happy". Also, from my own general reflection on several lessons from history: not all anti -regime or anti-establishment 'fights' are "democratic" or "pro-democratic" as the real world is usually more complex than that. For example, 'movement' could be a forward surge or backward slide, as a 'change' of position from a point could a left- or right-ward turn.

Jackie Chan to raise fund for people of Japan

Globally famous kungfu movie superstar Jackie Chan and other actors and singers in Hong Kong SAR are going to raise fund to assist people in Japan who suffer from the merciless forces of nature in the recent earthquake and tsunami which have caused massive loss of lives and widespread damages to personal properties as well as public utilities. The devastation is compounded by the still ongoing radioactive leaks from quake -hit nuclear plants, which has caused widespread anxiety. China has also been providing quick aids to help the people of Japan.