How should we judge a government?

"If you're not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing." - Malcolm X

In Malaysia, if you don't watch television or read newspapers, you are uninformed; but if you do, you are misinformed!

Why we should be against censorship: Publicity is the very soul of justice … it keeps the judge himself, while trying, under trial. - Jeremy Bentham

"Our government is like a baby's alimentary canal, with a happy appetite at one end and no responsibility at the other. " - Ronald Reagan


Government fed by the people

Government fed by the people

Career options

Career options

Prevent bullying now!

Prevent bullying now!
If you're not going to speak up, how is the world supposed to know you exist? “Orang boleh pandai setinggi langit, tapi selama ia tidak menulis, ia akan hilang di dalam masyarakat dan dari sejarah.” - Ananta Prameodya Toer (Your intellect may soar to the sky but if you do not write, you will be lost from society and to history.)

MyCen News

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Making a statement...

Stand up and be counted.

Walk-with-us and you'll never walk alone.


You'll never know when you need the others.

Monday, January 29, 2007

The new diseases inflicting us...

As if we don't have enough to worry about with the outbreaks of the bird-flu. The Malaysian Ministry of Health is now asking the public to be on the lookout for symptoms of the following new contagious diseases.

ASSMA
Severe rashes around the mouth caused by kissing too much ass. The number one disease in Malaysia amongst certain groups of people.

DIALARRHOEA
Uncontrollable urge to continually dial friends on mobile phone to share with them such important information as "I'm now on the monorail", or "I'm walking towards the car."

Victims can be recognized by large, twitching thumb.

MEESLES
Blotchy skin condition caused by eating too many packets of instant noodles.

MULTIPLE SPOUSOSIS
Affliction whereby victims make frequent trips to Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, and China to take on additional brides. Middle-aged men are at significant risk.

YELLOW FEVER
Compulsion to date Asian females. Very common affliction amongst foreign
celebrities and Caucasian expatriates working in Malaysia.

Also known as Pinkerton's Disease.

EKOR-TOTONUS
Flushed complexion, high blood pressure and sometimes depression at finding out one has not won any gaming numbers and lotteries.

HEAVYTITIS
Excessively large breasts. This disease comes in several variant strains…Heavytitis A; Heavytitis B; Heavytitis C, and sometimes Heavytitis DD.

CYBERTENSION
Feelings of stress and panic caused by lack of internet access.

DYEBETES
A compulsive need to colour one's hair. Reddish brown tints are the most common symptom, but health authorities have reported a new strain of blond highlights.

CHICKEN TOX
Victims exhibit a great need to talk cock. Incurable and highly contagious! Spread by ordinary conversation, and may be exacerbated by good food and alcohol. Politicians and lawyers are especially susceptible.

Incurable.

The state of our Civil Service



Result of some miscommunication somewhere along the line.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Earth Status Report - 2007

If the population of the Earth was reduced to that of a small town with 100 people, it would look something like this:

57 Asians 21 Europeans 14 Americans (northern and southern) 8 Africans;

52 women 48 men;

70 coloureds 30 caucasians;

89 heterosexuals 11 homosexuals;

6 people would own 59% of the whole world wealth and all of them will be from the United States of America;

80 would have bad living conditions;

70 would be uneducated;

50 underfed;
1 would die;
2 would be born;
1 would have a computer;
1 (only one) will have higher education.

When you look at the world from this point of view, you can see there is a real need for solidarity, understanding, patience and education.

Also think about the following -
This morning, if you woke up healthy, then you are happier than the 1 million people that will not survive next week.

If you never suffered a war, the loneliness of the jail cell, the agony of torture, or hunger, you are happier than 500 million people in the world.

If you can enter into a church (mosque) without fear of jail or death, you are happier then 3 million people in the world.

If there is a food in your fridge, you have shoes and clothes, you have bed and a roof, you are richer than 75% of the people in the world.

If you have a bank account, money in your wallet and some coins in the money-box,
you belong to the 8% of the people on the world, who are well-to-do. (not counting outstanding housing and car loans?)

If you read this you are three times blessed because:

1. somebody just thought of you; (only if this was forwarded, otherwise you have thought of me instead!)
2. you don't belong to the 200 million people that cannot read; (ignorance is bliss); and
3. you have a computer! (that works)

As somebody once said:
- Work as if you don't need money, (like in Google?)
- Love as if you've never been hurt, (with China dolls?)
- Dance, as if nobody can see you, (in a senior citizens’ club?)
- Sing, as if no one can hear, (like in your own bathroom?)
- Live, as if the Earth was a heaven (no need to be a suicide bomber?)

Why Bush gave Malaysia a miss...

In November 2006, President George W Bush is about to visit several Asian countries including Indonesia and Singapore.

Bush: Well Condi, is there anything you need from Singapore that I can pick up for you while I am there next month?

Rice: That's very kind of you, Mr President, but no, there's really nothing I need right now from there. But Laura will certainly enjoy the shopping there, sir.

Bush: Ah yes, she's been talking about it. Lee's wife has promised to take her shopping at the newly opened Vivocity.

Rice: I'm sure she'll enjoy a trip to Sentosa too. Especially now, that the haze from Indonesia has more or less lifted. Talking of which, you're going to Indonesia too, aren't you sir?

Bush: Yes I am, and while I'm with Susilo Bambang, Laura will visit Acheh and give away a cheque to the tsunami victims.

Rice: How sweet. Would you be dropping by Malai Shia, sir?

Bush: Naw, giving them a miss.

Rice: Don't blame you sir, they have some rough motor cyclists there.
Call themselves "Mad Ram Piss" or something. They think they're the Asian equivalent of our Knievel. They would certainly scare Laura to death.

Bush: Nah, Laura is made of sterner stuff. But that's not the reason why we're not going to Malai Shia, Condi.

Rice: Oh. Then it must be their traffic jams. They even have monorails that run off the tracks and dangle in mid-air. And highway pillars that crack.

Bush: Really? Incompetent, that's all I can say. But no, that's not the
reason why we're skipping Malai Shia either.

Rice: Oh I know. You don't want to distract the Prime Minister right now, do you? Heard he's getting some shitty stuff from his predecessor telling him off like a kid.

Bush: If Clinton did that to me, I'd personally throw him off an F-16. But no, that's also not the reason why we're skipping Malai Shia.

Rice: Must be the floods then, sir? It's the monsoon season now and it
floods bad after just two hours of rain. Landslides too; bring down houses but then people there build 4-storey bungalows without approval.

Bush: Naw, the rain wouldn't bother us. That's also not the reason for not going there.

Rice: I give up. Why are you visiting Indonesia and Singapore, and yet not go to Malai Shia, Mr President?

Bush: The reason, Dr Rice, is that I don't want their Religious Department people banging on our hotel room door in the middle of the night, demanding to see our marriage certificate. Now THAT would scare
the hell out of Laura.

But all is not lost for Malaysia as Global Traveler Magazine has just voted it as top destination.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Why certain films did not win awards...

Adidas is established, but not that long ago.


China is known for inventions many years ago, but wrist watch is not in kung fu era.


Is it a bird? Or is it condor in the shape of a plane?


Some kung fu skills include a sharp ear, so walkie talkie is redundant here.

Another unlikely friendship...



Perhaps there is a lesson for human beings, that friendship needs to be cultivated from young. There are no sworn enemies like in the kung fu films where it goes on from one generation to another.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Mr. Right, where are you?

The Star’s Wong Sai Wan’s column on Friday 19, touched on something relevant to bachelor boys and girls. I just want to highlight some quotes for the benefit of those who are overseas.

According to Wanita MCA’s study, 70% of all those joining the workforce as professionals, are women. 60% of all students in public universities in the country are women.

Wong quoted a lady (not from Wanita MCA) who said, “50% of all available men are married or spoken for. Another 30% are gay and a further 10% are jerks. This means that all of us single women are running around trying to attract only 10%. We have so little choice.”

Then he quoted from her email:

1. The nice men are ugly.
2. The handsome men are not nice.
3. The handsome and nice men are gay.
4. The handsome, nice and heterosexual men are married.
5. The men who are not so handsome, but are nice men, have no money.
6. The men who are not so handsome, but are nice men with money think we are only after their money.
7. The handsome men without money are after our money.
8. The handsome men, who are not so nice and somewhat heterosexual, don’t think we are beautiful enough.
9. The men who think we are beautiful, that are heterosexual, somewhat nice and have money, are cowards.
10. The men who are somewhat handsome, somewhat nice and have some money and thank God are heterosexual, are shy and NEVER MAKE THE FIRST MOVE!!!
11. The men who never make the first move, automatically lose interest in us when we take the initiative.

The two very attractive ladies who had the discussion with Wong are professionals and holding managerial posts. One is in a multi-national company and the other in a local listed corporation.

From someone who considers himself in the category of No.5, I can see the two ladies’ problems.

Successful and attractive ladies who have high incomes, live in luxury homes, drive exotic cars and frequent expensive restaurants and so on, can be intimidating to most men. Imagine if they were to look for men who had at least the same status and equally attractive, the market is very small indeed, let alone someone with better credentials.

For men who had the ‘qualities’ (this is subjective as different people have different opinions) are likely to look for attractive ladies who are not over-confident. Some would prefer more submissive type to match their strong personalities. I think two strong-willed persons are unlikely to be compatible unless they happen to be very similar in outlook and likes and dislikes.

For the purpose of matching, the attractive and successful ladies should come down from their pedestals and be more down to earth occasionally. This could attract those who might have all the qualities they look for but only happen to be those who could not make the first move.

For example, if on a date at an expensive restaurant, do not always show off that you are so at home that you know every staff, especially the manager or even the boss, and decide what to have for both. Give a chance to the poor man to handle the evening for a start.

I, for one, dislike ladies who give the impression they have ‘been there, done that’ and nothing seems to interest them anymore. I would be very particular to know if the lady is genuinely interested in me and not with roving eyes looking out for attractive men or people she knows just to show how well-connected she is.

Then there are other turn-offs like always talking about money matters and names dropping.

I think religion can be an important factor too. There are those who are more religious (or more likely, pressure from parents) and therefore insistent on knowing a potential suitor who professes the same religion.

I think it would be better to have an open mind when knowing someone and not exclude him just on religion alone. It would be a pity if a potentially suitable person were not even given a chance to have a friendship to start with to see if each is compatible with the other in other aspects. Here again, it somewhat reduces the market to a certain extent.

I think successful ladies are likely to be too demanding, even if sub-consciously, in what they are looking for. It has a lot to do with being able to reach managerial level in the first place.

For women, it can be ironic that a capable, intelligent and self-made person is likely to find one who is compatible in terms of intelligence and sense of humour, for instance, instead of a rich man who can provide all the luxuries and likely to insist that she be a ‘lady of leisure’.

Being close to small towns, I have come across two young ladies who got married at 21! One married a local politician’s son and the other already registered with a son of a foundry boss. To them, since they are not academically inclined, why study?

Some parents still have the mentality that they would rather provide the capital to buy a shop-house or for starting a business instead of letting their children continue their education which seems a waste of time and money!

This Master programme is more than just assignments

How is the weather in Malaysia? Read about the flood in Johor every so often and was tempted to drop an email about similar weather conditions in this part of the world. At least we are not missing on anything back home. =.)

It has been a wet, wet, wet week. Strong winds up to 130km/h were expected yesterday evening by the Luxembourgish meteorological department. Apparently, this was part of a Europe-wide storm. I wonder how Ko, Nee and all fared in England.

For once, I was thankful to be in a relatively 'solid' former steel company building. While the wind blew away half of the Netherlands, I was serenely typing my country report on older workers in Austria. How fitting, an awfully dry topic for a rainy season...

Finally wrapped up that report last night. This morning, we were given our next group assignment for the following week. Those in charge of this programme have an incredible knack in knowing when we should roughly finish one project before piling on another load of assignments.

This time in two weeks, I will be in Leuven, Belgium. Thought I better let you know about my living and study arrangements there. Quite a few hassles with moving to Leuven.

Firstly, my ATM card from the *International* Bank of Luxembourg, Dexia does not work in Belgium. The programme will distribute our monthly grant via cash (how absurd!). Then, we only have three computers in the Social Sciences Library that have connection with our institute, its datasets (for our data analysis) and a statistical software that I am currently using. This library is closed at night after 6pm and on weekends too! Writing my dissertation and other papers requiring data analysis will be a real nuisance there. *sigh*

Well, I am trying to maintain some level of optimism for Leuven. It's a university town with many other students from all around the world. All of us will be accommodated in the same student house with other international students, so that should be fun. There will many more events and opportunities to do non-study activities.

We get a tidy sum for lunch allowance instead but the quality of food at the canteen here has been deteriorating since Week 1 (something I noticed since the start of this term - maybe it's the UK effect of eating too much good Asian food?). Food in Belgium won't be cheap (since when was it cheap? In England? In Luxembourg?? *rofl*) but there are relatively affordable student eateries and a kitchen at the student house.

Any other news? Well, I am rushing for one PhD application while researching on possible research-related positions in the UK. Two former IMPALLA students have replied my email and have provided really helpful comments. One of them is currently doing the PhD programme at Maastricht that I am applying for. Another is now working as a researcher at the social policy research centre in Loughborough University. At least I know my range of options in six months and what I have to do before that.

It was nice to get the statistics exam over but many have started to worry over their results (we should get them soon), not to mention the coming stressful weeks working on more individual and group assignments!

My Belgian friend's parents were here yesterday and her mum commented that our programme is too intensive and stressful for its students. She herself is a lecturer of Demography in a Belgian university not far from Leuven. It was quite a surprise to hear that after all, I guess most of us are getting used to the stress and work level, in a resigned sort of way.

cheng =.)


Comment: Reminds me of my TAR College pioneer days (1969/70) when we were using borrowed premises, initially at a teacher’s training college in Jalan Kuantan, then at the Cheras Secondary School, in Cheras.

If indeed there is reincarnation...

These two could have been best of friends in their past lives.


Put your head on my shoulder...


"Just between you and me, as I was telling you before..."

Without instructions manual, common sense will do...


What jammers like...

Just provide the instruments in a public place and musicians will play regardless of ambience. I have the instruments but I do not have a public place or even if there is going to be one, at my friend's forthcoming shop opening, when I think of the moving of instruments and my poor back, I won't be able to enjoy the play. See the difference? Most musicians (whatever their level of play) are willing to play for free if everything is conveniently provided.


Sunday, January 21, 2007

Just when we thought our floods were bad...

Some pictures from BBC website:

Brighton pier pounded by high waves.


Fierce winds pounding northern Europe.


Damage in Amsterdam.


Crane falling on a University building in Utrecht.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Tragic smart ass answer...

A man is driving in his car on a road. A woman is driving in her car on the same road, but in the opposite direction.

When they pass each other, the man opens his window and shouts to the woman: Donkey!

The woman immediately responds: Monkey!

Both continue their separate ways, the woman being very satisfied with her quick and smart reaction.

And just as she reaches the first curve on the road…

She ran into a donkey and the impact caused the whole animal to crash through the right side of the windscreen.

Looking at the picture, the driver could survive only if it was a left-hand drive vehicle.

Holy Willie

Two priests are off to the showers late one night. They undress and step into the showers before they realize there is no soap. Father Paul John says he has soap in his room and goes to get it, not bothering to dress.

He grabs two bars of soap, one in each hand, and heads back to the showers. He is halfway down the hall when he sees three nuns heading his way. Having no place to hide, he stands against the wall in the dim light and freezes like he's a statue.

The nuns stop and comment on how life-like he looks. The first nun suddenly reaches out and pulls on his manhood. Startled, he drops a bar of soap "Oh look," says the first nun, "it's a soap dispenser."

To test her theory the second nun also pulls on his manhood.... sure enough he drops the second bar of soap.

Now the third nun decides to have a go. She pulls once, then twice and three times but nothing happens. So she gives several more up and down tugs, then yells, "Oh My...hand lotion, too!"

Marketing: to put it simply...

The buzz word in today's business world is MARKETING. However, people often ask for a simple explanation of "Marketing."

Well, here it is:

1. You're a woman and you see a handsome guy at a party. You go up to him and say, "I'm fantastic in bed." That's Direct Marketing.

2. You're at a party with a bunch of friends and see a handsome guy. One of your friends goes up to him and, pointing at you, says, "She's fantastic in bed." That's Advertising.

3. You see a handsome guy at a party. You go up to him and get his telephone number. The next day you call and say, "Hi, I'm fantastic in bed." That's Telemarketing.

4. You see a guy at a party; you straighten your dress. You walk up to him and pour him a drink. You say, "May I?" and reach up to straighten his tie, brushing your breast lightly against his arm, and then say, "By the way, I'm fantastic in bed." That's Public Relations.

5. You're at a party and see a handsome guy. He walks up to you and says, "I hear you're fantastic in bed." That's Brand Recognition.

6. You're at a party and see a handsome guy He fancies you, but you talk him into going home with your friend. That's a Sales Rep.

7. Your friend can't satisfy him so he calls you. That's Tech Support.

8. You're on your way to a party when you realize that there could be handsome men in all these houses you're passing, so you climb onto the roof of one situated towards the center and shout at the top of your lungs, "I'm fantastic in bed!" That's Junk Mail.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

6 Best Smart Ass Answers of the year 2006

SMART ASS ANSWER #6

It was mealtime during a flight on Hooters Airline.

"Would you like dinner?" the flight attendant asked John, seated in front.

"What are my choices?" John asked.

"Yes or no," she replied.

SMART ASS ANSWER #5

A flight attendant was stationed at the departure gate to check tickets.

As a man approached, she extended her hand for theticket and he opened his trench coat and flashed her.

Without missing a beat, she said, "Sir, I need to see your ticket not your stub."

SMART ASS ANSWER #4

A lady was picking through the frozen turkeys at the grocery store but she couldn't find one big enough for her family.

She asked a stock boy, "Do these turkeys get any bigger?"

The stock boy replied, "No ma'am, they're dead."

SMART ASS ANSWER #3

The cop got out of his car and the kid who was stopped for speeding rolled down his window.

"I've been waiting for you all day," the cop said.

The kid replied, "Yeah, well I got here as fast as I could."

When the cop finally stopped laughing, he sent the kid on his way without a ticket.

SMART ASS ANSWER #2

A truck driver was driving along on the freeway. A sign comes up that reads, " Low Bridge Ahead."

Before he knows it, the bridge is right ahead of him and he gets stuck under the bridge. Cars are backed up for miles.

Finally, a police car comes up. The cop gets out of his car and walks to the truck driver, puts his hands on his hips and says, "Got stuck, huh?"

The truck driver says, "No, I was delivering this bridge and ran out of gas."

and finally, SMART ASS ANSWER OF THE YEAR 2006:

A college teacher reminds her class of tomorrow's final exam.

"Now class, I won't tolerate any excuses for you not being here tomorrow. I might consider a nuclear attack or a serious personal injury, illness, or a death in your immediate family, but that's it, no other excuses whatsoever!"

A smart-ass guy in the back of the room raised his hand and asked, "What would you say if tomorrow I said I was suffering from complete and utter sexual exhaustion?"

The entire class is reduced to laughter and snickering.

When silence is restored, the teacher smiles knowingly at the student, shakes her head and sweetly says, "Well, I guess you'd have to write the exam with your other hand."

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Learning the guitar in the '60s and now

While jamming with a nephew using 2 acoustic guitars, he asked since when have I started learning how to play the guitar. I was taken by surprise as normally this question is asked of someone really good and I was just the opposite. Perhaps that was why he asked!

It is quite unfair to compare between us (33 years difference) as when I first picked up the Kapok guitar, it was in the ‘60s and we relied on classmates to show the simple 3-chord (C,F & G7) songs and the chances of us meeting were few and far between. When we needed exposure most, we had only black and white tv with ½- hour shows like Shindig and cartoon Beatles which could hardly be informative.

I still remember having to listen to radio, then tapes and records, over and over again, just to get the lyrics right. Chords were by ‘trial and error’, and notes were from ‘OK’ song books, using numbers from 1 to 7.

Suffice to say, unless one was really talented and determined, the likely scenario was someone who tried to learn and play for a period of few months, gave up, take up again, and so on. Instead of stopping at a level of plateau, it was more likely a case of being stuck in a trough now and again.

The truth is, I am still unable to play lead guitar without making mistakes and I play songs with major chords and ignore those with ‘sus’, ‘aug’ and so on.

Unlike the nephew, what I show him can be easily absorbed but what he shows cannot be easily followed by me. So the gap widens just like our generation gap. When I used that as an analogy, he was quick to point out that though I cannot take his ‘metal music’ he listens to and dig songs of our generation by Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin! In fact, he is also into oldies like Shadows and Byrds!

Now, guitar players are spoilt for choice with modern aids ranging from CD, VCD, DVD to gadgets which can slow down the tune to help in identifying the notes. There are countless ‘how to’ VCD/DVD produced by well-known guitarists to choose from, not to mention songs, lyrics, chords and tabs downloadable from the internet.

Here again, I wish to point out that though all the new gadgets are also available to old-timers like me, it is difficult at our age to learn new tricks unless we have the passion for it. It is past our ideal age for learning anything new. Availability is one thing, affordability is another, and there is the question of whether it will serve the purpose. If some knowledge is gained then the satisfaction is wonderful just like before.

My ex-classmate who has a passion for exploring the techniques of professional pianists, sent an email via a friend to me of his first recording experience with his ex-band mates:

I am still in Bangkok, we were quite near the bombsite. We were actually in MBK at that time, but could not hear a thing.

Wished you were with me during the 3 days of recording just one miserable song, Tequila, will forward to you when I get back to Sydney.

Recording is one thing, but the main game is the mixing session by the sound engineer. We had one day to practice, another day to record individually.

The first to record is the drummer who has to listen to the guide song for timing and when to do his drum roll etc., then the bassist, then the keyboardist, lead guitarist, lastly, vocalists.

I played 4 different sounds and 4 different tunes. The drummer had almost 10-12 mics, one facing each of the drum equipment, so that the volume and wave length for each equipment can be adjusted.

Playing "live" of course is very much easier, but recording...every mistake is very load and clear.

The sound engineer then has to mix all of the tracks together...this process took almost a day. Since Thomas wants to be perfect and each one of us want his own instrument to sound the loudest, it was best to leave the mixing to the engineer instead.

It was fun though, since it was my first attempt to record anything, but a huge learning curve for me and thankful for Thomas to show us since he has done this quite often in Singapore.

At night, we went to a studio (Arkakayar - I think) in PJ (recording studio was in Chow Kit area = Channel 11), to practise more songs for Thursday night gig at Duta Vista.

We did quite well actually at Duta Vista since the resident band was quite slow and sleepy and some Shadows songs thown in.

Ken

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

2006 - the year that was...


Myself


The wrinkles and creases on me were due to my being a natural worrier (not the fighting kind) over her financial burden.









My wife


My son, to the rescue.

Monday, January 08, 2007

New Year's Eve in London

New Year's Eve was a hotchpotch of accidental events. The plan was to have a nice Afghan dinner at Jabi's (his new shared flat some 20-minute walk from Dollis Hill, an obscure Zone 3 station on the Jubilee line) before going for fireworks and celebrations near the Thames.

Dinner was great (thanks to the ever-dependable Jabi!), so was the company, which included Jabi's Polish girlfriend (a Cognitive Science student of Westminster University) and her Polish friend (a film-making student who works at a cinema in London).

Unfortunately, I had my massive backpack with me. Jabi suggested that we leave it at his cousin's flat near Notting Hill, which we did but that meant having to rush to the Thames before midnight (and the fireworks!), which we eventually failed to do.

Our original destination, Westminster station was closed and there was already a 'tube queue' nearing the station before it. We decided to leave the teeming tube a few minutes before time.

Finally, midnight was 'celebrated' at the entrance of Sloane Square station as the Tube officer wished us a Happy New Year over the loudspeaker. What followed after was a long three-hour walk across St James's Park, Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square, etc. London central was swarmed by the merry (or plain intoxicated) English, foreign students and tourists. Bobbies were as ubiquitous as adult English men pissing at the nearest wall or bush.

I almost forgot why we had planned to celebrate New Year's Eve in London. Besides that, it was awfully nice to be back in London and Dartford again! Other than Jabi (who now works for the BBC regional section for Afghanistan), I met up with my Russian former classmate from Essex. She is temping in Gap at Bond Street while waiting for her work permit and lives with her Turkish boyfriend (also from Essex, now doing his MA at King's College). I stayed over at their brand new single-room apartment - great location, right next to the tube station which is on the convenient Central Line (Zone 2) but comes with a hefty 1000-quid a month rent.

I had a nice Christmasy meal at Uncle Alex's. Ko helped with the turkey which turned out lovely. Paula and Carol came too, and there were the usual wine, roast veg (I loved the parsnips!), burnt Christmas pudding and cream.

Auntie Clem gave Ah Nee and I nice loose-fitting Middle Eastern blouses as Christmas presents from Egypt. Ingenious Ko bought a case of wine and made sure we had presents for everyone (i.e. "Merry Christmas... from Beng Kiat, Cheng Boon & Cheng Yee") including Ah Dee whom we visited on Saturday afternoon.

Little Jun has grown so much, physically and mentally (especially for Nee who hadn't seen her for over a year). She speaks three languages (English, Mandarin, and Cantonese) and comprehends way beyond her age (two-and-a-half).

After a few quick phone calls and text messages, I managed to meet up with Teru and arranged a dimsum brunch with two other HELP kakis, Rowan and Kelvin. I haven't met the latter since HELP because he finished his LSE external degree in Malaysia instead of England. He is now doing his Masters in Investment Management at UCL while applying for jobs related to asset management in London.

Teru is finishing his Accounting degree soon but is planning to stay on to do his ACCA. I stayed overnight at Teru's new place near Canary Wharf. Good location too (on the Docklands Light Rail line) and he pays 400-quid for his room, excluding bills.

It never fails to impress me, how expensive it actually is to live and travel (the cheapest single tube ticket is three pounds, before the recent increase for 2007) in London. Comparatively, living in other European capitals can be considered inexpensive. For what you pay for a room in London, you would get a whole flat in central Berlin. The film-making Polish girl who had spent some time in Berlin agreed and commented that the high cost of living in London is superficially inflated, i.e. you don't get real quality/value for the price you pay.

It's a shame really, otherwise London is an interesting place to be - so many different peoples, sights and events. I've learnt to appreciate the diversity of London after my term in Luxembourg. =.)

Cheng

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Letter from a very frightened Malaysian abroad to MT

Dear Raja Petra,

I have been meaning to pen some of my thoughts for some time now, to let people actually read the views of the typical ‘overseas Malaysian’ who is kept away. I realise that my e-mail is rather long, but I do hope that you would consider publishing it, and also keep my name private.

I shall start by telling you a little about my background. Mine is a rather sad tale -- of a young Malaysian full of hope and patriotic enthusiasm, which is slowly but surely dissipating.

I am very different from many other non-Bumiputeras as I was given tremendous opportunities throughout my childhood. Born into a middle-class Chinese but English-speaking family, I grew up with all the privileges of imported books, computers, piano/violin lessons and tuition teachers.

My parents insisted that I should be exposed to a multi-racial education in a national school. In my time, my urban national school (a missionary school) was a truly happy place -- where the Malays, Chinese and Indian students were roughly equal in proportion. We played and laughed with each other and studied the history of the world together during Form 4, with one interesting chapter dedicated to Islamic history.

Though 75% of my teachers were Malays I never really noticed. My Malay teachers were the kindest to me -- teaching me well and offering me every possible opportunity to develop. I led the district teams in the English and Bahasa Malaysia debating competitions. I was the only non-Malay finalist in the Bahasa Malaysian state-level elocution competition. My Malay teachers encouraged me to transfer to a government residential school (sekolah berasrama penuh) so as to enable me to maximise my academic potential. I refused because I was happy where I was, so they made me head prefect and nominated me as a ‘Tokoh Pelajar Kebangsaan’. Till this day I am absolutely certain it was the kindness of all my Malay teachers which made me a true Malaysian.

I excelled at school and was offered a Singaporean government scholarship to study overseas. I turned it down because I wanted to ensure I would remain a ‘true Malaysian’ in the eyes of Malaysia. So I accepted a Malaysian government scholarship to study at Oxford University. Throughout my three years as an undergraduate the officers at the MSD looked after me very well and were always there to offer support.

I graduated with first class honours and was offered a job with a leading investment bank. The JPA released me from my bond so as to enable me to develop my potential. I shall always be grateful for that. I worked hard and rose up the ranks. My employer sent to me to Harvard University for postgraduate studies and I climbed further up the ladder.

Now I am 31 years old and draw a comfortable monthly salary of US$22,000. Yet I yearn to return home. I miss my home, my family, my friends, my Malaysian hawker food and the life in Malaysia. I have been asked many times by Singaporean government agencies to join them on very lucrative terms, but I have always refused due to my inherent patriotism.

I really want to return home. I have been told by government-linked corporations and private companies in Malaysia that, at best, I would still have to take a 70% pay cut if I return to Malaysia to work. I am prepared and willing to accept that. My country has done a lot for me so I should not complain about money.

However, of late, my idealistic vision of my country has really come crashing down, harder and faster than ever before.

I read about the fiascos involving non-Bumiputera top scorers who are denied entry to critical courses at local universities and are offered forestry and fisheries instead. (My cousin scored 10 A1s for SPM and yet was denied a scholarship).

I read about UMNO Youth attacking the so-called meritocracy system because there are less than 60% Malay students in law and pharmacy whilst conveniently keeping silent about the fact that 90% of overseas scholarship recipients are Malays and that Malays form the vast majority in courses like medicine, accountancy and engineering at local universities.

I read about the Higher Education Minister promising that non-Bumiputera Malaysians will never, ever step foot into UiTM.I read about a poor Chinese teacher’s daughter with 11 A1s being denied a scholarship, while I know some Malay friends who scored 7 As and whose parents are millionaires being given scholarships.

I read about the brilliant Prof. K.S. Jomo who was denied a promotion to Senior Professor (not even to Head of Department) although he was backed by references from three Nobel Prize winners. Of course, his talent is recognised by a prestigious appointment at the United Nations.

I read about UMNO Youth accusing Chinese schools of being detrimental to racial integration while demanding that Mara Junior Science Colleges and other residential schools be reserved for only Malays.

I read about the Malay newspaper editors attacking the private sector for not appointing enough Malays to senior management level whilst insisting that the government always ensure that Malays dominate anything government-related.

I read that at our local universities not a single Vice-Chancellor or Deputy Vice-Chancellor is non-Malay.

I read that in the government not a single Secretary-General of any ministry is non-Malay. The same goes for all government agencies like the police, armed forces, etc.

I read about UMNO screaming for the Malay Agenda while accusing everyone else of racism for whispering about equality.

I read about a poor Indian lady having to pay full price for a low-cost house after being dispossessed from a plantation whilst Malay millionaires demand their 10% Bumiputera discount when buying RM2 million bungalows in a gated community.

I read about my beloved national schools becoming more and more Islamic by the day, enforced by overzealous principals.

I read about my Form 4 World History (Sejarah Dunia) syllabus, which now contains only one chapter of world history, with Islamic history covering the rest of the book.

As I read all this I tremble with fear. I love my country and long to return. I am willing to take a 70% pay cut. I am willing to face a demotion. I honestly want to contribute my expertise in complex financial services and capital markets. But really, is there a future for me, for my children and for their children? I am truly frightened.

I can deal with the lack of democracy, the lack of press freedom, the ISA, our inefficient and bureaucratic civil service, our awful manners, and even a little corruption. But I cannot deal with racism in my homeland.

I think this is the single biggest factor which is keeping people like me away. And bear in mind, there are so many of us (researchers, scientists, bankers, economists, lawyers, academics, etc.). What people read about in Malaysia (like Dr Terence Gomez) is but the tiniest tip of the iceberg. You will be amazed to know about Malaysians denied JPA scholarships (which would have made them civil servants), took loans to attend Ivy League universities, but who are later asked to advise our government (on IT, economics, etc.) at fees running to millions of US dollars. Such information will never be published because it is politically incorrect.

As a Christian, I pray for God’s blessing on this great country of ours. I pray that He blesses our leaders with the foresight and humanity to see that this will not work and cannot continue. I pray they will have the strength to make our country a home for all Malaysians plus they will have mercy on the poor, including the non-Malays. I pray for true racial harmony and acceptance (not just tolerance) in Malaysia.

Yours sincerely,

A very frightened Malaysian abroad