Thursday 27 September 2007

Speaking Up In The Interest Of The Nation

Dato' Seri Yuen Yuet Leng is an Old Boy of King Edward VII School Taiping; also my alma mater.

I am pleased to post his commentary which appeared in The Sun paper today (27th September, 2007) and I applaud him for his obvious sincerity and concern for our country.

Speaking up in the national interest
Comment by Yuen Yuet Leng

AS an optimist I have often wondered whether better national enlightenment would come in my lifetime, and I trusted that it would. On this premise I did not emigrate as some did after May 13, 1969 and again in 1984 on retirement from the police force when the Inspector-General of Police assisted in making arrangements for me to move to a friendly country as the threat of assassination by communist terrorists continued to exist. However, I finally stayed back in Malaysia to face the problem and did not accept the offer of a bodyguard to ensure my safety.

During the last three decades the Chinese in me worried as negative traits arose progressively in national affairs with both the aggressive but legitimate, and the deviant implementation of the New Economic Policy (NEP). The Malay in me understood the need for economic parity and social justice for the Malay community through the NEP because of historical ethnic and cultural differences and the contradictions posed by the strengths and weaknesses of each of our major races. The relatively less fortunate Indian in me felt he should also not be forgotten.

I even accepted that some overall surgery in the form of national restructuring was necessary for an extended period of time as a pragmatic means of fostering national unity. But this could not be continued indefinitely in the manner in which it was being professed, as a privilege turned sacred right, especially not in distorted configurations and in ways which have impacted adversely on every community in the nation. This could be seen to only benefit substantially a master group of elites in power, even though great economic and social developments had been achieved by the nation.

Over the years, I had experienced many conflicting emotions over these developments, which sprung from my conviction that a well-developed, multiracial and varied identity was an intuitive basis for our social balance. This belief was my strength and yet my weighty burden during my service in the police force. In particular, it was the advantage that I had been tutored in and served as a distinctive qualification which ensured my success in the Special Branch during the most critical decades when the protection of national security was a paramount concern and national development was our singular goal.

At times I was an enigma to some as I seemed “devious” to them in certain situations concerning race, religion and other denominators because my thinking represented not just one race or religion but every one of them and the totality of them. I was not afraid to cry “more” or “enough is enough” in all honesty in each of these situations, always being focused on the over-riding national interest.

I believed, trusted and was guided by the tenets and spirit of our Constitution as it was meant to ensure justice for all and not to be read as the subjective interpretations for a single community that tended to be propagated and were selfishly contrived for narrow and distorted goals. These views only serve to unite the race but disunite the nation, and if left unchecked, will eventually destroy the self, race and nation.

I understood the ongoing NEP process involving the correction of economic imbalances through measures aimed at stimulating a bumiputra racial, economic and social resurgence as these conformed to the notion of justice that addressed the needs of the three main races. I knew that it was not possible to be equally fair to all, and it was not possible to be fair to any one community in particular – at least not all the time and not in a categorically personal or racial manner.

I had over the years been asked why I worked with such great obsession and dedication and risked my life in service. Very simply, it was because I believed in what I was doing and for national values which do not die but for which I was prepared to die, as so many of my generation of all races had died.

I had also been asked why I accepted the post of Chief Police Officer, Perak after the assassination in 1975 of Tan Sri Koo Chong Kong, a patriot who gave his best and his life for the nation. It was suggested I was not the most senior Chinese police officer eligible for the post. I accepted the job with full cognizance of the communal dimension of the task ahead. But I was confident I would cope and, through exemplary personal leadership by word, deed and integrity, could provide the inspiration for victory, even in death.

Fully aware of my personal dangers, my family had been told I might, and accepted that I could, also be assassinated like Koo. Particularly close colleagues and intimate friends like JPC Basri, D/Cpl Choo Chan, ASP Johnny Mustaffa, D/Sgt Chung Kek Onn, DSP Wong Lim Hon, Tan Sri Rahman Hashim and ASP Zabri were in the same situation.

I did not wish to see more Chinese or officers of any other race die. With my service and security background I felt I had a better chance to survive than any. Between 1973 and 1980, discounting the first Emergency years, I had survived seven attempts to assassinate me. As Chin Peng told a common contact, I had spent most of my life looking for communists and the rest of it avoiding assassination.

It is also very important that I accepted the job of Perak CPO in 1975 not because it was proposed by the IGP but more because Tun Hanif Omar was IGP. I sensed, saw and respected what was in that man. Today, Hanif is still the same man and continues to feel happy or sad and very disturbed for the force he once led with such distinction, valor and integrity.

He was supported at the time by a multiracial breed of policemen and officers who performed their duty for nation, regardless of the dangers, more often than not, at the expense of their families who had no choice but to also come out in full support. Hanif still remembers everything, especially those who died so loyally and undauntedly under his leadership. So does his surviving team of collaborators in defense of the nation.

An apolitical and professional police force, like other “independent” service organizations, has to survive on its structured apparatus, management and administration.

The Royal Malaysian Police (PDRM) developed this capability and capacity from a relatively insufficiently tutored and experienced beginning in turbulent times during and after the war and during the Emergency. But we were generally all committed in varying degrees with focus and appreciable loyalty.

There was, of course, also corruption and malpractice in those days but not in the defining and serious degree that is now perceived in national affairs, governance and politics that now threatens to destroy the nation that had over the years achieved so much progress.

Hanif, true to himself, his character and still pulsating police professionalism has now together with the enlightened leader Tun Musa Hitam, the former deputy prime minister, and emerging broad-minded younger leaders for tomorrow like Perak Raja Muda Raja Nazrin Shah and Selangor’s ruler are coming out courageously to state their views for what they feel must be a multiracial, more balanced and less corrupt Malaysia. It is also comforting that another former IGP, Tan Sri Rahim Noor has also in recent weeks (whatever his unfortunate once single temporal lapse personally, is still an apolitical policeman at heart) pointedly stated that a Malaysian does not need to survive with any ethnic appendage or antecedence.

We need more former policemen and servicemen to come forward to reflect this defining posture so that the nation may recover its integrity and more politicians and civil administrators may play their part in genuine service to the nation. They should make their voices heard in the greater interest of the nation and not make honest and sincere leadership at and around the top relatively so lonely.

The time has come for honest reflection on both sides of the political and racial divide.

What do we honestly want of this nation of ours called Malaysia?

In 1978 I struggled to defend and protect the Jalur Gemilang for King and country. I bled inside for the nation with the contradictions and divergence that emerged as the NEP was being implemented and which had actually been planned for the whole nation. I worried for the future of the nation I believed in and trusted that our national leaders would progressively act in the greater overall interest of all communities and not concede to and abet the bigoted interests of any race, religion or creed.

I believed that enlightenment would come and I performed my job as a Chief Police Officer in Perak apolitically, honestly and at times firmly and tactfully even in the face of occasional pressures from the local political leadership who, I could understand, was pushed by untutored partisan politics from below. Pressures and frustrations that I felt, I kept mostly to myself and at times confided in my IGP.

In October 1978 I wrote my growing anxieties in my occasional personal diary:

“The present growing tendency, in the absence of a more powerful uniting force capable of providing common aspirations to all, is producing conflicting and constantly varying values which can only add to the social and psychological confusion in the minds of our people. The time has come when our leaders who are strong, must find the courage to come out in the open, speak their minds and do what is fair in terms of the nation as a whole and not in terms of only one race, community, group or individual. The absence of this, or the continued delay or inability to do this, is one of the main root causes for the increasing indifference or excesses of our youth and deviant religious, social and criminal or narrow political activity.

“We are in danger of developing a nation of grabbers and takers in the name of everything else but the truth. In short, we have lost the understanding and spirit of compromise which won us our Independence and which we thought could replace British power and authority and provide fair and good government to our people. Today, we have made materialistic advancement. But this has been achieved not in the spirit at the time of Independence but in in-fighting unexpressed, in resentment and hatred never fully expressed and, which continues to build up and is remembered in the minds of our growing generations. This can only lead to further disintegration of values and national unity. A more equitable solution must be found before it is too late and before the last Spartan and true Malaysian gives up and lays down his arms to die with tears for the future of his country when he would be most willing to die happily for his nation and for values which do not die.”

(Thirty years on, in 2007, our predicament still awaits a solution. The incumbent government must come out in open support at every level if it desires to remain relevant to the rakyat.)

Several weeks ago I was appalled that an incumbent police officer at Bukit Aman had written an article in the Utusan Malaysia challenging Hanif about what he had done during his tenure of service in respect of corruption. Hanif had replied suitably. I am astounded at the obvious lack of professional and historical depth of this, I believe, police PR officer who does not appear to have absorbed enough on past leaders and their work in the force, about how these officers had worked and most importantly, what they stood for in terms of the nation and positive nation-building.

I shall just say Hanif was also intensely committed in leading the most important and critical service of the nation during the revived CPM onslaught on the nation after the unfortunate May 13 crises and which we call the second (communist) Emergency. If the PDRM, in particular the Special Branch, had failed or faltered, Malaysian history would have been rewritten. This is with no discredit to the multiracial, multi-service, multi-committee and important “hearts and minds” that underlined the government’s efforts. Now some untutored politicians in Parliament had also asked Hanif what he had done in his time.

I say again he was very deeply leading the vital police force to contain communist terrorist aggression so that a more rational and integrated nation will emerge so that even the terrorists would realize and cooperate in the future for a decent livelihood and society for all. This was from 1974 to 1989 – a period of 15 years – of his 20 years as IGP.

The past may seem obsolete or irrelevant in the diverging realities of the developed present of individualism, materialism, religion and race. To a certain extent, some of our past dreams of total and purist equalities may have to be irrelevant at least for the present until all communities develop a fresh awakening led by “reborn” politicians who really care for nation and not just community or race.

However, certain basic values of the past and values on which the nation survived our critical Emergency years, our pre- and post-Independence years, will never be irrelevant and must be made relevant again, away from the racism, extremism or deviations, and the corruption that have crept into Malaysian society in the wake of the great economic, social and technological strides we have made. That has indeed been the positive side of incumbent government and its relatively better applications of politics in earlier years.

However, in its programme to create the necessary better parity for a disparaged community, deviant applications or implementation have created a permeating psychology that race is the reason rightly or wrongly, legally or illegally, regularly or irregularly, and not need and equivocal parity as government policy was meant to be. A new national security problem is being created by our own hand evolving around race, class and religion. Some politicians are insufficiently restrained as they enjoy the fruits of political dominance and opportunity in the name of race which is more a subterfuge for greater self-advancement. This is the reason and the incentive that many have become politicians. This is the reason why some younger and better politicians with nobler visions and intentions have also joined politics, hoping they can rectify things. Can they really make headway from within before they are seduced away by politics of majority decadent power and dominance within?

Our top political leadership is endeavoring to set a new direction in politics, governance and administration. Incumbent politicians face genuine problems within. They need positive independent support from outside.

We had the institutions in the police, ACA, the Judiciary and less dishonest civil servants. The new national balance and image must come from the statutory independence that must be born or seen again in these services.

The Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) has to be implemented to support the IGP within the police. Hopefully, the new draft will include the IGP as a member in the commission and not in attendance as and when required. It is not the post of IGP that may be doubted but the man who is the IGP and if we cannot find a man honest enough to be the IGP something is really very wrong with the nation.

Prejudice must have its limits. If necessary, even a man with some minor blemish in the past but with greater compensatory qualities could make a good IGP. From my experience, even former high-level communists who saw the correctness of our national visions and mission at the time had joined us and risen high in national service through the Special Branch. Basically it is the sincerity in the man that matters.

The IPCMC, as I saw it last, does not allow the inclusion of any former police officer or anyone with links to the force. This pre-supposes that there has never been an honest policeman. Yet any other professional can be. This is preposterous.

We have to admit there is decadence embedded in our society across the board. This will destroy us from within rather than the enemy from the outside. We are our own enemy and destructor. Honest cries and views, some very loud and pointed, have emerged from a growing number who sincerely wish to warn and deflect us from a nationally suicidal course.

They should not be misrepresented as harmful to national unity and goodwill.

The bogey of a political opposition is less convincing in the present which only needs more courageous corrective action and political will. However, the Opposition must realise that the recent episode involving the burning of our national flag is not acceptable, whatever the grouses. You have elements, party or otherwise, who are in the same category as those who commit the excesses that the incumbent government is being accused of. Nobility of vision is always stronger when outside the portals of opportunity.

The nation has to be seen in values that are common and exemplified by leaders who are brave enough to state these values openly.

A nation’s integrity cannot be sustained by only a few leaders at the top. It has to be openly declared and sustained by all politicians and especially by more levels of leadership in government and organization.

The real substance of nation and patriotism lie in the Federal Constitution and the Rukun Negara and every government official should declare on oath on assumption of office that they fully understand the tenets of these documents which provide for the correction of imbalances, irrespective of race, and the just protection of the rights of the indigenous people without prejudice to the other communities.
The keywords are transparency, integrity and accountability.

Datuk Seri Yuen Yuet Leng served in the Special Branch and was Perak CPO.

Sunday 23 September 2007

The Second Birthday Celebration After Mummy's Farewell

It was godson, Saiful's 22nd birthday on the 21st of September and it was celebrated in true Mummy fashion with birthday cake, dinner and "ang pow" for good fortune.

Bought Saiful his birthday dinner at Chilis One Utama last night.

This was the second celebration after Mummy left this earth and wherever she is now, she will know that her lessons are not forgotten, her loved ones continue to be close and celebrate life, and the love for her is never diminished. She is always with us wherever we are.

Continuing in the "cup cake" style birthday cake she started for Mummy's 48th birthday, Krystyn arranged for slices of cake to the preference of each person present. Looks like the days of the big birthday cakes are over......

Whose was the first birthday celebration after Mummy's farewell? Who else could it be but HRH Prince Cheah on the 27th of July!!

Thursday 20 September 2007

Retrospection: Personal Encounters With Death (3); June 1986. A Youngest Daughter's Consternation.

I really did not know my mother-in-law very well. No let me rephrase; my mother-in-law did not really know me very well. We were like "a chicken and a duck"; I could not speak Cantonese well and she could understand nothing else. However, I hoped she believed that my intentions for Jeannie had always been honourable and sincere. In the year or so that I knew her she was a kindly woman that gave me the impression that she was melancholic. Well, maybe I was wrong or maybe it was because of the stories Jeannie told me about the hard life her mother endured.

She passed away sometime in June 1986 when Jeannie was about 4 months pregnant with Krystyn. On that day, Jeannie was with her in OUG where she stayed with Jeannie's youngest brother, Benny. I was at the office that afternoon when Jeannie phoned me that her mother told me to go over for dinner and that she had put some soup to boil. About 30 minutes later, Jeannie phoned me again sounding frantic; her mother had collapsed in the bathroom! I told her not to panic and to do what she could as I was rushing over immediately. It took me about 25 minutes to get from Bangsar to OUG.

When I got there, my mother-in-law had already passed away. Jeannie had somehow managed to drag her to the bedroom and lay her on the floor with her head propped on a pillow. She would have been too heavy for Jeannie to heave her onto her bed alone. Jeannie was inconsolable. The neighbours had called a doctor from a nearby clinic and I think he had arrived minutes before or after me. My memory is hazy. The doctor pronounced her dead.

My main concern and priority was Jeannie as she was pregnant and very, very emotionally attached to her mother. I knew that her brothers and other family members would know what to do about the funeral and I was not about to interfere with any decisions that were about to be made. My first thoughts were that I had to watch over Jeannie and if she had any stand she wanted to make on any issue that met resistence (since she was the youngest in the family) I would support her. Other than that I was mainly an observer in the proceedings that unfolded and volunteered mainly logistic support.

The preceding week had been very rough on Jeannie. She had brought her mother to a gynaecologist for a bleeding complaint and it had been diagnosed as cervical cancer. Jeannie had decided with Benny that it was superfluous to tell their uneducated mother for the time being and instead let her undergo radiotherapy as recommended by the oncologist. Her mother also had a heart condition and it was deemed that her heart may not survive chemotherapy. The radiotherapy was to take place the following fortnight. That was the reason why Jeannie was with her mother almost daily to ensure she ate right and be "fortified". Why her heart gave in at the time it did remains a closed book but the fact remained that she died in Jeannie's arms.

Jeannie's mother had always shared so much of what was in her heart with Jeannie; her opinions, her wishes, her feelings, her frustrations, her thoughts, and indeed reasons for her apathy towards certain people including some of her own children. It was even more so after Jeannie had moved back to KL from Malacca the previous year. Unfortunately, Jeannie was also undergoing major changes in her own life at the time (not least because I was in the picture) and to her consternation she could not devote more time for her mother eventhough she was back in KL.

There were many family matters that were privy between mother and daughter (Jeannie naturally told me most things although we had decided that I would not stick my nose into the Koo family affairs). Things that Jeannie even brought to her own grave.

One such matter which I will reveal now is that Jeannie convinced her mother months earlier to do a will and bequeath all her property to Benny who was the one taking care of her mother during the preceding few years. The good intention was to prevent a sibling war over their mother's portion of the estate left behind by their father who died intestate. There were also some properties in the mother's name. It was deemed that Benny was level-headed enough to do the right thing in the eventuality. Whether he finally did or not, only his own conscience would know. He did however pay a big portion of his mother's funeral expenses. But then again, this was probably because his brothers felt he should justifiably do so. Jeannie for her part insisted on only having the pair of simple ear-rings her mother was wearing at the time she died and two suits of her clothes. Those earings have been given to Krystyn today.

Did my mother-in-law accept this son-in-law of hers? Maybe the following true story says something:

My MIL passed away during the 1986 Fifa World Cup held in Mexico. According to some Chinese beliefs and traditions, after the demise of a person there are certain dates to observe certain prayers and offerings. These dates usually coincided with multiples of seven days after the death. Since Jeannie was not working at the time she volunteered to look after her mother's alter for at least the first month. That was how both of us ended up staying at Benny's place and sleeping in Jeannie's mother's room for a month after her funeral.

England played Argentina in the quarter-final and that was the game Diego Maradona scored the now infamous "Hand of God" goal. Because the competition was in Mexico, the games were played/telecasted at 3.45 am Malaysian time. I tried to stay up for the game but was too tired and distinctly remember turning off the TV and lights at about 2.00 am with Jeannie fast asleep beside me. The next thing I knew, I was awakened by the sound of the TV in a still darkened room and as I opened my eyes, Diego Maradona just within his own half received a pass from Jorge Burruchaga (some say it was Hector Enrique).

He then began jinking his way past six Englnd players before scoring what is now called the "Goal of the Century" or "The Greatest Goal in FIFA World Cup History"! That was in the 54th minute of the game and the TV also showed a replay of Maradona's despicable "hand ball" goal scored just three minutes earlier. Did my MIL turn on the TV and then wake me up just in time to watch the "Goal of the Century" being scored?

Well, only Jeannie and I knew.

Monday 17 September 2007

RWC - Tonga beats Samoa

So much for my predictions in Group A. Tonga has just done England a huge favor by beating Samoa 19 - 15 last night. To me it was an upset.

If England does go through to the quarter-finals, it will be the Wallabies waiting for them. A chance for Australia to avenge the 2003 Final loss by thrashing England perhaps.

The Harmony Silk Factory by Tash Aw

I just finished this first-effort novel by Tash Aw and ruminating on the story. Actually not so much the storyline but the way the story was presented.

It was in the form of narration by three people and the interesting thing is that all three give their own account which differs because they narrate from their own perspective.

The Harmony Silk Factory is a story set mainly in the Kinta Valley and Dindings District from 1920 to the mid 90s. Coincidentally, I was in Taiping over the weekend when I finished the book and the drive to Taiping from KL passed through many of the geographical areas/features described in the book.

Tash Aw was born in Taiwan to Malaysian parents, he grew up in Kuala Lumpur before moving to England in his teens. He studied law at Cambridge and Warwick and then moved to London to write. After graduating he worked at a number of jobs, including as a lawyer for four years whilst writing his debut novel, which he completed during the creative writing course at the University of East Anglia, alma mater of writers such as Kazuo Ishiguro of The Remains of the Day. Indeed his writing style is reminiscence of Ishiguro.

The novel won the 2005 Whitbread Book Awards First Novel Award as well as the 2005 Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Novel (Asia Pacific region). But did I enjoy the book? Well it took me 2 weeks to read so it was not exactly "unputdownable" to me!

There were quotable parts which may sound glib but need introspection to make sense of like:

"We humans have a remarkable capacity to disguise emotions.

We suppress feelings, we force ourselves to forget things until, finally, we truly believe those things never existed.

Its how we survive isn't it?"

"What about death?"

"You mean: would I forget a person once he's passed on?"

"Exactly. Their face - their image -would stay with you, of course. You'd remember how they looked. The details may become vague, but you'd still remember. Just like a photograph. In your mind's eye, you'd be able to recreate all their habits - the way they slept, how they ate: everything. But would you remember how you felt about them? And how they felt about you?"

"No, I don't think so."

"Nor would I. Death, I believe, erases everything. It erases all traces of the life that once existed, completely and for ever. Of course we help it in its task - we're the ones who do the forgetting"

Well, maybe but.....................

In the final analysis, I think Tash Aw has potential but I believe this young man needs to gather more "experience" in order to be more emphatic in his writing. The book was certainly not worth the RM40.00 I paid for it; worth a read out of curiosity but only if it was borrowed.

Friday 14 September 2007

Retrospection: Personal Encounters With Death (2); 15/10/85. An Eldest Son's Consternation.

My father passed away on 15th October, 1985. He was 54 years young and it was probably due to a massive stroke or heart attack. It was superfluous to find out anyway; it was not as if knowing the cause of death would bring him back. I had lost my best friend.

I can still remember that day so clearly. Jeannie and I had lunch with him and he seemed O.K. After lunch, Jeannie went to settle matters with Avon Cosmetics as she had tendered her resignation a few days earlier. I went back to my office in Bangsar and had hardly got through the door when my uncle phoned to say my father had collapsed and was being rushed to Pantai Hospital. By the time I arrived at the A&E in Pantai he had already passed away. That lunch had become a farewell.

I was 26 years old and still trying to find my feet. Two weeks earlier I was drinking with him at a pub and we were discussing family issues that seemed so compelling then. I remember he was not a happy man at the time; frustrated that his life seemed a dead end street. Some of his children were being exactly as he did not want them to be. His eldest son (me) had just started out in the general insurance industry and seemingly was not about to fly high anytime soon enough. I remember saying to him, "Papa, please give me time" as if in promise that I will soon come to my own and ease things for him; not knowing 2 weeks was all that was left.

By October 1985, I had known Jeannie for more than 6 months and we were already very close. I do not think my parents were ever prepared for a Jeannie! To them, their son was still this small town boy in a big bad city. They were probably expecting me to bring home a girl instead of a woman! And Jeannie was a woman in every sense of the word! She was mature, confident, outspoken and she wasn't born yesterday. Though she did not drink, she smoked and could carry a conversation with the best of them. My parents were apprehensive that she seemed to have so many friends who were men! They missed the trees for the woods and overlooked that she was basically very grounded in traditional Chinese values. I suspect that in their private conversations they must have been worried that their son would be "drowned" in a relationship with a Jeannie! Afterall, she was my first serious relationship that they knew of and in fact she was.

My father had no problems with proudly introducing Jeannie as Keat's girlfriend and indeed they got along very well; he considered Jeannie more as a friend rather than potential daughter-in-law. He used to nick her cigarettes and felt comfortable enough with her to rummage through her handbag for them. They shared a lot of laughs. He even told her she was safe because "Keat thinks anything more than a mouthful is a waste!", referring to the obvious part of the female anatomy. But I think in his heart of hearts, he was not at ease. In character with his often terse disposition, one of his one-liners to Jeannie was, "Try not to bully Keat" and I think that reflected more of what he thought of me than of Jeannie.

The above was the backdrop when my father passed away. His death was the first time I had to face the passing of someone so close to me let alone someone who had been the anchor in my life. The previous experience was when my German Shepard died in my arms after being poisoned and it was only a pet.

I was devastated not so much for having lost my father but more for no longer being able to do all the things I wanted to do for him. That was my consternation and my biggest consolation was that I had Jeannie with me and the emotional support she provided eased much of my pain.

Of all the things in life that we take for granted, the greatest irony must be that death is one of them. Ours was a family that was irreligious sometimes to the point of irreverence. For a Chinese family, we never had an altar at home and though we observed some of the major festivals it was more out of tradition and filial piety rather than religious practice. My father was an athiest but that did not mean he was frivolous about values. He concertedly preached his own brand of morality based mainly on humanist ideals. One of the values he advocated was fair play and tried to instill that sense in his children. He felt that the sense of fair play would keep us on even keel and that it would take care of much of the rest.

However, the thing about that sort of upbringing meant that when my father died suddenly, we (including my mother) were at a lost as to what to do with his body! We could not jolly well just put him in a casket and stick him in the ground! There were no professional undertakers like NV Multi Corporation then and one could imagine the incertitude.

That was why my mother turned to Jeannie and my then brother-in-law, Phang Wai Yeen. Looking back, Jeannie did not have much choice in the matter and to appreciate the magnitude of her beneficence, one had to first look at her very Cantonese upbringing. It is considered taboo for one who is not a part of the immediate family to participate so intimately in funeral rites; the superstition is that it would bring about bad joss for ones own family. Regardless of whether this was common belief, the fact remained that Jeannie was brought up believing. She sought the advice of her mother who told her to go with what her heart told her.

That was how within hours, funeral arrangements for my father were organized by Jeannie who was only my girlfriend and Wai Yeen who was then still married to my eldest sister; both so-called "external" parties. As a Chinese this admission does not make me proud; I have had to live down this shame ever since!

Jeannie as my wife later would not risk history repeating. Her concerted efforts with our children pertaining to the basic Chinese value of "family surname" and J.J. being the future "flag-bearer" has been vindicated. In fact, Jeannie was the reason why we own the domain name "" and her constant drumming to me that she will die a "Cheah" underlined her strong conviction to things "family"! To me, Jeannie was more a Cheah than all my siblings and shame on them! This is one of her legacies that is ingrained in our children.

Though my father had no religious nor spiritual beliefs, the over-riding concern was to at least have some form of rites to mark his farewell. Actions carried out with the best of intentions like having a Buddhist group chant prayers meant to elevate a departing soul, avoiding certain superstitious acts, having proper modes for people to pay their last respects, etc. were the guiding considerations.

Jeannie was the only one with a semblance of any experience in such matters since her own father had passed on a few years before. Of course the major decision to cremate was my mother's to make and Jeannie organized things accordingly. She had to make certain judgement calls with the support of Wai Yeen on matters that none of us could even think of, let alone have any preference about. One such decision made with the best of intentions, was to not have my mother witness the actual cremation. This did not go down well with my sibling/s who took the opportunity to latch on to an issue to snipe, rant and rave about. I am still disgusted today that many who stood by haplessly and unable to contribute much positive inputs, would choose to later criticize and harp on every little contentious issue.

These were people who almost managed to put up an obituary in the papers with the message, "To all my friends, the next time we meet the drinks are on me!" before I forced NST to withdraw it under threat of legal action. That obituary would have tarnished the memory of my father and branded him as nothing more than a drunk. If that was what my father amounted to in their own memories, it was up to them. To me he was a giant of a man; period!

In the end, things that were done with love became twisted by the warped small minds of certain spiteful individuals with their own insidious agenda. The seeds of discord had been sowed that would grow into a wedge between Jeannie and the rest of my family. This would haunt our relationship together even long after we were married.

There is no doubt in my mind that if my father had lived another 10 years, he would have got on famously with Jeannie. She would have endeared herself to him as he had to her from day one. He always had a special place in her heart. I am also sure he would have enriched the lives of his grand children, Krystyn and J.J. through the creation of fond memories. Instead, at the time of his passing he was probably still apprehensive about Jeannie mainly out of misguided concern for me. The unkindest cut would have been that he probably mentioned so to my mother; planting the prejudice that shaped future sentiments and events. C'est la vie.

Monday 10 September 2007

The Webb Ellis Trophy - RWC 2007

Who will lift the Webb Ellis Trophy in 2007? After the first games have been played it is deja vu 2003! Southern Hemisphere teams rule!!

Three semi finalists are virtually certain to be the New Zealand All Blacks, the Australian Wallabies and the South African Springboks. The rest seem to be making up the numbers and this time around England is a shadow of their victorious 2003 team. Host nation France having shockingly lost its opening game to the Argentinian Pumas will probably not top Group D and may end up meeting the All Blacks in the quarter finals. That should be the end of the Froggies.

If France can somehow manage to top the group by beating the Irish and if the Pumas falter, it would probably have Scotland in the quarters. They should then qualify for the Semis.

What a semi-final round it would be! Probably Boks vs Wallabies and All Blacks vs France. Judging by their first game the reigning champion England will be going home early. I think it will be a Wallabies vs All Blacks Final.

Standard of play so far? Too early to is powerhouses vs minnows for now. I think the Western Samoans are still the team to watch. They may have lost badly to the Boks last night but judging from the 1st 20 minutes they are a solid team. They probably packed it in after Bryan Habana's tries so that they will be ready for England; that is their real target! Tonga and USA in the same group will be easy meat for the Samoans. In comparison, the Fijians do not pack enough power in the forwards to match the other "second tier" teams.

I Dream Of Jeannie: A Lover's Call

Something happened last night. I dreamt of Jeannie for the first time since she passed away 2 months ago. It was a good dream, an intimate dream; it was reliving certain loving moments we shared numerous times before.

Then this morning the number 27 (Jeannie's favorite number) appeared in my life again. I was reading Nuraina A. Samad's blog and came across this Kahlil Gibran (our favorite poet and philosopher) poem, "A Lover's Call" that I felt describes Jeannie and I so well. Upon further net-search, I discovered that the poem was Chapter 27 of Kahlil Gibran's book of poems, "A Tear And A Smile"!!

A message My Angel sent me? Please read.

A Lover's Call

Where are you, my beloved? Are you in that little paradise, watering the flowers who look upon you as infants look upon the breast of their mothers?

Or are you in your chamber where the shrine of virtue has been placed in your honour, and upon which you offer my heart and soul as sacrifice?

Or amongst the books, seeking human knowledge, while you are replete with heavenly wisdom?

Oh companion of my soul, where are you? Are you praying in the temple? Or calling Nature in the field, haven of your dreams?

Are you in the huts of the poor, consoling the broken-hearted with the sweetness of your soul, and filling their hands with your bounty?

You are God's spirit everywhere; you are stronger than the ages.

Do you have memory of the day we met, when the halo of your spirit surrounded us, and the Angels of Love floated about, singing the praise of the soul's deed?

Do you recollect our sitting in the shade of the branches, sheltering ourselves from humanity, as the ribs protect the divine secret of the heart from injury?

Remember you the trails and forest we walked, with hands joined, and our heads leaning against each other, as if we were hiding ourselves within ourselves?

Recall you the hour I bade you farewell, and the maritime kiss you placed on my lips? That kiss taught me that joining of lips in love reveals heavenly secrets which the tongue cannot utter!

That kiss was introduction to a great sigh, like the Almighty's breath that turned earth into man.

That sigh led my way into the spiritual world announcing the glory of my soul; and there it shall perpetuate until again we meet.

I remember when you kissed me and kissed me, with tears coursing your cheeks, and you said, "earthly bodies must often separate for earthly purpose, and must live apart impelled by worldly intent. "

But the spirit remains joined safely in the hands of love, until death arrives and takes joined souls to God.

"Go, my beloved; love has chosen you her delegate; over her, for she is beauty who offers to her follower the cup of the sweetness of life. as for my own empty arms, your love shall remain my comforting groom; your memory, my eternal wedding."

Where are you now, my other self? Are you awake in the silence of the night? Let the clean breeze convey to you my heart's every beat and affection.

Are you fondling my face in your memory? That image is no longer my own, for sorrow has dropped his shadow on my happy countenance of the past.

Sobs have withered my eyes which reflected your beauty and dried my lips which you sweetened with kisses.

Where are you, my beloved? Do you hear my weeping from beyond the ocean? Do you understand my need? Do you know the greatness of my patience?

Is there any spirit in the air capable of conveying to you the breath of this dying youth? Is there any secret communication between angels that will carry to you my complaint?

Where are you, my beautiful star? The obscurity of life has cast me upon its bosom; sorrow has conquered me.

Sail your smile into the air; it will reach and enliven me! breathe your fragrance into the air; it will sustain me!

Where are you, me beloved?

Oh, how great is Love!

And how little am I!

...........Kahlil Gibran (Chapter 27, A Tear And A Smile)

Monday 3 September 2007

Liverpool On Top!!

Liverpool FC is on song! Top of the English Premier League table for the first time in 5 years. Could this be the beginning of the kind of consistency that will bring the Premier League title to Anfield? The picture would have been better if referee Rob Styles had not given that contentious penalty which allowed Chelsea the 1-1 draw!

Anyway, this year the squad has the depth to mount a serious challenge for the league. Being a Liverpool FC fan since 1969, I have witnessed the glory days of the club in the 70s and 80s when most so-called Liverpool fans in Malaysia today were hardly old enough to kick a soccer ball! I am from the Tommy Smith, Emlyn Hughes, Ian Callaghan, Roger Hunt, Ian St John, Chris Lawler, etc. Bill Shankly era just before the Ray Clemence, Steve Heighway, Larry Lloyd, John Toshack, Kevin Keegan, Phil Neal, Phil Thompson, Ray Kennedy, etc. days under Bob Paisley.

Ray Clemence was my idol when I played goalkeeper for Perak schools in 1976! Those days, football fans actually played football unlike now when everyone seems to be a pundit but hardly ever touched a football let alone kick one.

Many Malaysian Liverpool fans only know of Kenny Dalglish in his later years as player and manager and not as the young replacement for Kevin Keegan who had left for Hamburg SV. Not many remember Liverpool's pedigree in Europe really only began after winning the UEFA Cup by beating the Gunter Netzer powered Borussia Monchengladback 3-2 on aggregate in 1973. "King" Kenny cost only £500,000 from Glasgow Celtic in 1977 and you cannot even buy a reserve player for that price today. Steven Gerrard earns that in a month!

The decade of the 80s was undoubtedly the greatest era for Liverpool FC although before the 2005 Champions League victory (and the 2006 Final) Liverpool's last dominance in Europe ended two decades earlier in 1985 with the 0-1 loss to Juventus at Heysel Stadium that also saw the crowd stampede tragedy.

English clubs were subsequently banned from Europe for 5 years. Essentially the same squad continued to dominate the English League under Kenny Dalglish as manager until 1989-90 and the death knell was sounded when Graeme Souness replaced Dalglish in 1991.

Now more than one and a half decades later, are we witnessing a REAL resurgence? Only time will tell. This is the first time after so many years a die hard fan like me can see a flicker of that Liverpool "swagger" in the team play. The confidence will grow with each good result and this time around there is cover for most positions so injuries will not critically affect the shape of the team. More importantly, they are again scoring goals almost at will. Hopefully I can recover some of the betting losses over these last few years!!

You Will Never Walk Alone!