Category Archives: Column worthy?

Search and recover first, questions later

Because of my ‘alternative career’ option, I’ve had various experiences in different fields, namely journalism, the English and Japanese languages and education.  I hope to add military to that list but I’ll wait until I have my proper credentials to stake that claim.

The events surrounding MH370 are making my hack senses tingle and at the same time being a reservist brings out the nationalist in me.  The daily press conferences are becoming my fix and I time my journey home so that I could listen to it on the radio, imagining the minister, the CEO, the director and others in front facing the large press corp.

I know that it is frustrating to not be able to string more than a few lines of fresh leads for a story when the demand for information is at a peak.  You cling to any possible angle, and sift through the crap to find something you could use.  I know that the editors will tell you to ask certain questions and they will be watching the PCs and will check whether you did what you’re told to do.  At the same time, you try not to sound as clueless as you really feel, when voicing out your queries.

And I get mad when I hear people criticising the SAR efforts in any way, especially those armchair experts questioning the capability of our military personnel and assets.  I get even madder when they somehow choose to ignore the facts presented to them, by the Chiefs no less, and continue to spout nasty, nasty words in the wacky wide world of the internet and real life too.

I’m proud of my journalist friends who are still in the industry and what they do.  Most of them have not let me down in their handling of this tragedy and I love them for that.  I understand that there are many, many questions that needed to be answered but there is a time for that later.

By association, I am fiercely proud of the RMN and its SAR efforts, despite the limitation it faces.  I wish I could contribute too, but I realised that it is beyond my ability and, like an officer had once mockingly told me, “kamu ni, lambat lagi”.  What I could do is try to fend off those belittling their work, along with the other services and the MMEA.

I can’t imagine being out there in the Indian Ocean, and wish that people would keep their dignity by shutting their trap if they have nothing else to say that could help with the search.  Idiots.

After four years…

“There are many blessings from the tsunami,” the visitor said to her host, who nodded.
“Yes, there are blessings but so many people had to die for them. A very high price to pay,” came the reply. How very true.

Three days. The short trip was enough for me to know that Aceh is still rebuilding itself, from the disaster that struck most of its land almost four-and-a-half years ago. While normalcy have mostly returned, there are enough remnants from the past to remind you of what had happened.

boat on house

mass burial


One scene, for me, that was proof that life goes on for the Acehnese: children playing at the beach with their parents. The only difference was that there is now a big wavebreaker built along that stretch, which suffered quite badly four years ago.

According to the people I met there, Aceh is indeed a different place now. The marked difference was being able to be outdoors after dark as the martial law enforced in 2003 had ended after the tsunami, when the Free Aceh Movement and the Indonesian government signed the Helsinki peace accord in August 2005. Nyamuk pun tak berani keluar malam was the expression she used to stress how life used back then. Now, commerce is thriving and people are not afraid to be out and about, having kopi (ngopi they call it) or just driving around at night.

I met almost 50 teens and university students there, the majority of them were orphaned by the tsunami. All of them suffered but were given the chance to a good education by Malaysian sponsors. It was heartwarming to see how they have overcome the tragedy to be where they are now and being able to go about life as teenagers and having a shot at making a better life for themselves.

So hope is definitely in the air. The young faces showed me that.

So sue me

In 1995, I followed a candidate from nomination day until the counting of votes. I even skipped classes, but somehow my senseis did not make a fuss about it.

The experience was interesting enough for an 18-year old whose ambition was to be a diplomat. It was certainly good to be away from the classroom. Heh. But seriously, it was also tiring, following the campaign trail. You get in and out of vehicles, smile politely at everyone and must at least have a mouthful of something at every stop. I think I did that only for a day. Polling day was lively, and I got to wear my normal clothes (NOT baju kurung!) during the day.

I never thought I’d be listening to any ceramah or sitting with the makciks at any kampung anymore. But I did. This time, it was a whole different setting and my sentiments about the whole election process has changed since 95. It was with mixed feelings that I went off to a kempen event on Thursday, I was really glad when it was over.

Earlier, I had been to see some people and let’s just say the pro-opposition sentiment was strong there and I felt uncomfortable with that too.

Not exactly a decisive voter, am I? Personally, it’s more about the candidate rather than the party. What are they aiming for and whether their goals are achievable. Plus, whether I like the candidate as a person or not counts too. That would definitely be a big influence.

As an observer, it seems that this year’s general election has evolved quite a bit, with technology playing a big part in a lot of areas. Online fundraising, blogs for candidates from all sides, official party website, etc. I am disappointed with some stuff, like the indelible ink issue. To me, it somehow gives more room for speculation and doubts about a clean election.

Clean. What a concept, since I think politics is a dirty word to begin with.

Whether its the present ruling coalition or the opposition, they’re all politicians and every word they utter must not be accepted as the whole truth. Nobody is that good. The important thing is whether they can work for the people effectively and not planning their new castles the moment you vote them into office.

Selected amnesia can be annoying, ya

September 11 is here again, the 6th after the attacks on US soil. The aftermath of that fateful day lead to more unrests worldwide, all shown in technicolour for families to watch while enjoying their lunch or dinner.

This year, the date has turned to be a day for people to do something good.

The heroic acts of all those killed trying to save others that September morning has spawned a growing grass-roots movement. The goal is to ensure that future generations remember not just the horror of the attacks, but also the extraordinary outpouring of humanity during the days, weeks, and months that followed.

“It was the worst possible day imaginable, and in some ways, a remarkable day, too, in the way in which people responded,” says David Paine, cofounder of “We need to rekindle the way we came together in the spirit of 9/11: It would be almost as much a tragedy to lose that lesson.”

The move, and others similar to it, should be appaluded. However, we should remember that as with other disasters – natural or man-made – it is hard for those affected to carry on with life as before and 9/11 is no exception. I found this link about a project by Allan Tannenbaum called 9/11: Still Killing.

It is sad to see how volunteers, police officers, fire fighters and even former residents of lower Manhattan are suffering from illnesses related to the disaster, and their plights are being ignored as the ashes have cleared and debris disposed of. It is like Katrina, the Tsunami tragedy, and, closer to home, the aftermath of the massive flooding in Johor end of last year.

And then there are the politicians and policy makers.

From AP:

Maj. Gen. Robert Cone told some 100 U.S. soldiers that there is “no alternative” to victory over terrorism.

“We are here now six years later, not as a conquering force, not as an invader seeking to vanquish the Afghans, but rather to do what is right — to seek out and destroy our common enemy,” Cone said. “As allies, we will train and equip the Afghans. We will help them to provide for their people because we are Americans.”

Stephen Harper became the first Canadian prime minister to address Australia’s parliament in its 106-year history.

“As 9/11 showed, if we abandon our fellow human beings to lives of poverty, brutality and ignorance in today’s global village, their misery will eventually and inevitably become our own,” Harper told a special joint sitting of the House of Representatives and Senate.

Being tactful is not high on anyone’s priority, is it?

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How can nerdy series like CSI:NY and Numb3rs induce tears? They did, and I am still baffled.

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Have a good Ramadhan.

Things people do

… for the nation

In a week or so, the papers and the streets will start to be full of flags and other displays of patriotism. No kris-wielding episode I hope.

Some people are surely planning to decorate their house or car in jalur gemilang colours, while others busy publishing books and magazines or have controversial contests.

While most of us will look back and reflect of how we have grown and developed as a country in the past 50 years, I am more concerned about the next five decades. I might not be here anymore, I know, but it’s something to ponder on just the same.

In the one hand, this country has seen rapid development, in terms of economy, education and healthcare, to name a few. On the other, there are people still living without clean water supply, electricity and decent roads. For every one-million-ringgit-per-unit housing area, there are crude huts where families call home and dread the coming of strong wind or heavy rain. Then there are people working for pittance.

Working with and being in the company of people older than I am have made me feel like I am not doing enough for this country. The people I’ve met in the course of working on the book project which ended last August especially had taught me how hard so many of them had worked towards nation building and ensuring I have at least a chance at life.

At the same time, I see bad examples of leadership that could not have started from us age 30 and below. Intolerance, narrow-mindedness, bigotry – these traits seem to have flourished instead of diminished now. Even in the distinguished House of Representatives.

Profit seem to be the motive behind many social initiatives nowadays, and people who genuinely wish to serve are often overlooked. If there are no contracts to be snagged, then a project sometimes don’t even have a chance to be heard.

Why? I’m not sure if I want to hear the answer.

This past week, I’ve had conversations with friends about these things. Politics may not be a favourite subject of mine, but I had ended up talking about it on Monday night. During dinner the next evening, it was religion that my companions brought up to the table.

Talk is cheap of course. That is the easier alternative than actually doing something. I’ve tried to give back, in my own fashion, and I feel I can do more now.