Wednesday 31 December 2008

Of Alcohol, Alcoholics and Alcoholism...

It is about 8.30 pm on 31st December, 2008. The last day of the year and the time of day when many are out there celebrating the fact that they made it through the year and waiting to usher in 2009. Much alcohol will flow tonight for those who indulge, and the rest will I am sure be as drunk with emotions as we bid farewell to 2008. Tomorrow is another day.

I am sad today. I am sad today because a dear friend blogged about himself today in reference to revelry. I am sad for the narrow and judgemental view that belongs only to those who have succumbed to generalizations yet, I understand why. 

Some of the most generous people I know are also known to appreciate their single malts or wine and these are captains of industry and indeed society. From now on do I label them good for nothing alcoholics? No I refuse to. Instead I will honor them for the good they have done and I will toast to them for the greater good that they will continue to do. Here's to 2009! Cheers!!! 

Saturday 27 December 2008

Religious Pluralism? Heaven for the Godless?

This was posted by a buddy in my old school eGroup. This article in the New York Times today gives new meaning to the Air Asia tagline...Now Really Everyone Can Fly!!!

December 27, 2008

Heaven for the Godless?

In June, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life published a controversial survey in which 70 percent of Americans said that they believed religions other than theirs could lead to eternal life.

This threw evangelicals into a tizzy. After all, the Bible makes it clear that heaven is a velvet-roped V.I.P. area reserved for Christians. Jesus said so: “I am the way, the truth and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” But the survey suggested that Americans just weren’t buying that.

The evangelicals complained that people must not have understood the question. The respondents couldn’t actually believe what they were saying, could they?

So in August, Pew asked the question again. (They released the results last week.) Sixty-five percent of respondents said — again — that other religions could lead to eternal life. But this time, to clear up any confusion, Pew asked them to specify which religions. The respondents essentially said all of them.

And they didn’t stop there. Nearly half also thought that atheists could go to heaven — dragged there kicking and screaming, no doubt — and most thought that people with no religious faith also could go.

What on earth does this mean?

One very plausible explanation is that Americans just want good things to come to good people, regardless of their faith. As Alan Segal, a professor of religion at Barnard College told me: “We are a multicultural society, and people expect this American life to continue the same way in heaven.” He explained that in our society, we meet so many good people of different faiths that it’s hard for us to imagine God letting them go to hell. In fact, in the most recent survey, Pew asked people what they thought determined whether a person would achieve eternal life. Nearly as many Christians said you could achieve eternal life by just being a good person as said that you had to believe in Jesus.

Also, many Christians apparently view their didactic text as flexible. According to Pew’s August survey, only 39 percent of Christians believe that the Bible is the literal word of God, and 18 percent think that it’s just a book written by men and not the word of God at all. In fact, on the question in the Pew survey about what it would take to achieve eternal life, only 1 percent of Christians said living life in accordance with the Bible.

Now, there remains the possibility that some of those polled may not have understood the implications of their answers. As John Green, a senior fellow at the Pew Forum, said, “The capacity of ignorance to influence survey outcomes should never be underestimated.” But I don’t think that they are ignorant about this most basic tenet of their faith. I think that they are choosing to ignore it ... for goodness sake.


Monday 22 December 2008

Pre-Christmas Drinks At Ribs @ Oasis

KC Heah again came up with a very good venue and yesterday's pre-Christmas Drinks at Ribs @ Oasis was largely a KEVII and OPA affair. Mike pre-arranged the menu with manager Stephen Gonzago whose daughter co-owns the place.

Mike's army/OPA buddies, Shaffiq, Shamsul and Basri joined Tigers KC Heah, Azmi, Eusie, Liz, Harjit and yours truly together with spouses Susan (Harjit) and Albert (Liz) for a great evening.

The menu;

* Tiger Mike's Miang Kham. All veg and delicious hors d'oeuvre. Easy to get daun kaduk in the wet market
* Fried Tofu Goreng Gareng served with Cili garlic sauce. Cut the tofu in 1 in cubes.
* NZ half green mussels cooked Thai style.
* Prawn salad. Served over Arugula (rocket) with mayo and wasabe saucewith smoked salmon slices spread on the prawns.
* Fried fish fingers/calamari. Served with Tartar sauce.
* Sotong kerabu Thai style.
* Argentinian Sardines on croutons with lemon juice..

* For non-Muslims: Katapandhi vindaloo with wholemeal bread

Numerous bottled beer, 2 bottles of red wine and 1 litre bottle of JW Black Label and 1 bottle of Azmi's German sounding single malt later we were done by about 1.30 am. Sorry for the bad picture quality; bad lighting and it was a phonecam.

Saturday 20 December 2008

Of By-Passes, Transplants and Open Hearts...The Sime-IJN Fiasco

The National Heart Institute or Institute Jantung Negara (IJN) is close to my heart in more ways than one. Firstly, it is a first rate hospital doing great work for all strata of Malaysian society when heart disease remains the number one killer (we are told it will be overtaken by cancer in 2010); in this context, we know how pertinent IJN is to Malaysia, when valuable human resource is just a heartbeart away from being lost every day. Secondly, I had an angioplasty done there in 1998 by none other than the eminent, Dato' Dr Roba'ayah Zambahari.

Back in 1998 it cost RM17,000 as a private sector patient for the angioplasty and I was more than glad to pay it. I remember consulting Dr Roba'ayah for the first time in the morning and getting the angioplasty done in the evening of the same day. Although if I were a civil servant, treatment is virtually free I was thankful for not having to endure the long wait list! To me, this was a fantastic formula for sustaining this wonderful organization for ALL Malaysians. One of the greatest mysteries I find today is when I hear people seeking treatment for heart disease in private sector hospitals instead of going to IJN. We have the best at IJN and as far as acquiring experience, nothing beats the specialists in IJN who deal with the heart day in day out.

Sime Darby in health care I also know well enough through Subang Jaya Medical Center (SJMC). Back in 1985 or so when SJMC was set up, Jeannie was one of its first 2000 patients. Krystyn (1986) and J.J. (1990) were born there and SJMC remained our "family hospital" until about 2000 when we sued the hospital and one of its doctors for medical negligence. SJMC had some of the best doctors in the country yet eventually we felt over commercialization of health care messed up some of their objectivity and priority. Who is to say this would not happen to IJN in Sime hands?

Now, we hear Sime Darby wants to take over IJN but is rightly facing lots of flak from the rakyat. Events unfolding over the last few days do not smell clinically clean. This is not the first time we have heard of Sime Darby's intentions in the health care sector. There was talk years ago that the Group wanted to privatize all major government hospitals in the country and eventually the whole national public health care delivery system I think. Its insurance arm complemented Group strategies by attempting to corner the health insurance market in the country. Market players in health insurance know how they have failed.

Sime made the following announcement to the KLSE on the 17th of December:

The next day, it announces that it had received the government's approval in principle:

It claimed it received fast-tracked approval pulak! On 18th December, this was verified by our great PM-in-waiting Najib who seems to have been infected by the same flip flop disease as the PM-on-way-out when on the 19th December, he announces the deal has been postponed. What the fcuk is all this? Who is advising Najib and gave him "foot-in-mouth" disease? It does not bode well for Malaysia when our so-called future PM appears confused and punch-drunk! Who else is tugging his chain? Read this blog: Najib Statement On IJN Doesn't Jive.

Taking care of the poor and needy, Najib? Kadir Jasin had this to say, and more: "That Sime Darby is close to the government is neither a guarantee nor a comfort. Sime Darby already owns and operates the Subang Jaya Medical Centre. How many poor people are being treated there at low fees?"

To stem human resource outflow from staff pinching and potential source of funding for expansion, Najib? Then why this statement from almost all the consultants in IJN?

We read with concern the perceived perception that the medical staff of IJN are demanding higher pay and will leave IJN if these demands are not met.

We feel it is important that these negative perceptions are correctly put into context.

The institution was set up in 1992 as a corporate body directly under the purview of Ministry of Finance. Its board of Directors include representatives from Ministry of Health and MOF to ensure its direction and objectives of providing good quality and affordable medical care to Malaysians from all walks of life are adhered to.

In that respect, IJN has done and continue to do well, both in maintaining its moral as well as financial obligations. The institution has been self-sustaining since its inception (and has been able to pay year end bonuses annually without fail). For 2007and up to end Nov 2008, we have accumulated 285,764 number of outpatients, performed 15,084 cardiac catheterization interventions including angiograms and angioplasties, 6,094 heart and lung surgeries, 7 mechanical hearts and heart and lung transplants surgeries.

As true with any organization of our size, there will be people leaving the organization at various times in order to pursue different career paths. Over the last 7 years of operation, out of a total of 35 consultants, only 7 have left IJN to work either in local or overseas private centres. Therefore, our consultants' annual attrition rate is only 3%, and we have responded consistently over time to promote our home grown talents to fill up the voids accordingly. Currently, 75% of IJN consultants have been in their posts for more than 10 years.

All of us are salaried based on a different payscale than that of the MOH though not at par with the private centres. Periodic review of salary scale is usually undertaken, subject to approval from Ministry of Finance.

As proven from our consultants' attrition rate and longevity in serving this institution, it is logical to surmise that on the whole we are happy with the current scheme and proving it by remaining with IJN. Many of us have served than 10 years, excluding time spent within the MOH Hospitals prior to setting up of IJN.

Whilst we have yet to have a clear picture of the proposed privatization by Sime Darby, we would like to reiterate our commitment to serve IJN in its current form and want to stress that the proposed privatization of IJN must not be seen to be as a response to our demands for better pay. The medical personnel of IJN are not at all involved, directly or otherwise, in the negotiations for the said privatization.

Being responsible employees of IJN, we are not in the position to dictate the outcome of the privatization proposal from Sime Darby to the stakeholders of IJN. However, the perception that the privatization proposal is in response to demands for higher remunerations by its medical staff is misconceived and must be corrected accordingly to safeguard and preserve the trust placed upon us by our patients.

1. Sharifah Suraya Syed Mohd Tahir
2. Suhaini Kadiman
3. Nor Azlina Abdul Jalil
4. Ariffin Marzuki Mokhtar
5. Thiru Kumar Namasivayam
6. Mohd Sharif Mohd Shaffie
7. Mohamed Hassan Mohamed Ariff
8. Azhari Rosman
9. Amin Ariff Nuruddin
10. Ahmad Khairddin Mohd Yusof
11. Aiza Aizan Abdul Rahim
12. Mohd Nasir Muda
13. Shaiful Azmi @ Jamauddin Yahaya
14. Balachandaran Kandasamy
15. Azlan Hussin
16. Razali Omar
17. Chew Soon Ping @ David Chew
18. Rosli Mohd Ali
19. Robaayah Zambahari
20. Mohd Azhari Yakub
21. Pau Khew Kong
22. Sivakumar Sivalingam
23. Abdul Rais Sanusi
24. Hew Chee Chin
25. Hamdan Leman
26. Alwi Mohamed Yunus

I do not know what is going on exactly in this developing IJN fiasco but Najib is the one tarred and feathered. For one who has benefitted from the surgical removal of outgoing UMNO President and by-passing an election for the President's post, has he compromized too much to be sitting where he is sitting? Who is doing the deal? Nazir Razak? Does the country need a major organ transplant? Well at least we know we have the brains and expertise in IJN! Well done Dato' Dr Roba'ayah and gang; we the rakyat salute you!!!

Friday 19 December 2008

Both Sides Now...

Picked this commentary ("A Letter To All Malays") by a certain Allan C. off Aisehman's blog who picked it off Lim Kit Siang's blog. Read in conjunction with Demi Negara's heavily one-sided ramblings: Racial Polarisation and the Forging of Bangsa Malaysia what comes to mind is Joni Mitchell's song, "Both Sides, Now". Can some of my friends in UMNO please rebut Allan C's comments?

Both Sides, Now...Joni Mitchell

Rows and floes of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons evrywhere
Ive looked at clouds that way

But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on evryone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way
Ive looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
Its cloud illusions I recall
I really dont know clouds at all

Moons and junes and ferris wheels
The dizzy dancing way you feel
As evry fairy tale comes real
Ive looked at love that way

But now its just another show
You leave em laughing when you go
And if you care, dont let them know
Dont give yourself away

Ive looked at love from both sides now
From give and take, and still somehow
Its loves illusions I recall
I really dont know love at all

Tears and fears and feeling proud
To say I love you right out loud
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds
Ive looked at life that way

But now old friends are acting strange
They shake their heads, they say Ive changed
Well somethings lost, but somethings gained
In living evry day

Ive looked at life from both sides now
From win and lose and still somehow
Its lifes illusions I recall
I really dont know life at all

Ive looked at life from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
Its lifes illusions I recall
I really dont know life at all


A Letter To All Malays
by Allan C

I am a Chinese Malaysian male with diverse groups of friends - Tamils, Malayalees, Sikhs, Jaffna Tamils, whites, Eurasians, and Babas and Nyonyas.

The problem is I have very few Malay friends.

Umno tells them I am a threat to them..

Umno tells them I am undeserving of equal rights.

They might even believe it, and since I don’t want to think any less of them, I prefer to keep my own counsel.

Generally I don’t talk much about anything important with Malays, and certainly not about politics.

I think meaningful friendships between Malays and non-Malays are becoming rare in Malaysian society.

There is not enough dialogue between Malays and non-Malays at the ground level. Umno speaks from both sides of its mouth - telling the Malays the non-Malays are a threat to them, and then turning round to tell the non-Malays that their rights will be protected.

At other times it may say the reverse, the key denominator being what it needs to say to win votes at the time, and the ethnic composition of the audience. After 51 years of Umno’s divide and rule, it is no wonder that race relations are a joke.

With Biro Tata Negara, Khir Toyo and Ahmad Ismail to lead the way, only a fool will think Umno wants good race relations. Umno leaders wants good race relations only when it will keep them in power. Power and money are the real motivations for Umno’s political leaders.

After the twisted judicial treatments and twisted sentences meted out to the likes of Lim Guan Eng, Anwar Ibrahim, Teresa Kok and Raja Petra Kamaruddin, I think we can safely rule out any semblance of a sense of right and wrong and common decency as a meaningful guide to Umno’s decisions.

There are a number of things I want to put across to my imaginary Malay audience in cyberspace - you - particularly if you believe every racist, inflammatory, bigoted, and demonised stereotype, opinion piece and fabricated news that Ahmad Ismail, Khir toyo, Utusan Melayu, and Biro Tata Negara tells you about me.

If I were a Malay leader, this is what I would say. The Malays totally dominate the aristocracy, cabinet, parliament, judiciary, police, military, and huge government bureaucracy. The Malays have the highest birth rates.

You have benefitted from the racial quotas in education, commerce, licenses, contracts, jobs and promotions - funded by non-Malays. Therefore if you are feeling aggrieved, if you are feeling angry, and if you are feeling insecure, you need to ask yourself why…

If Umno tells you that your culture, language, race and religion is threatened by non-Malays and non-Muslims, i would suggest you think critically before you act. Umno has destroyed any hope of English literacy amongst the Malay masses.

Without English literacy the professions are out of the question for you. High-paying jobs will be hard to find. You will be handicapped in your career and business. Umno tells you that the non- Malays have advanced economically at your expense.

Umno loves to say that the non Malays have used unfair means to advance by cheating you.

The truth is Umno leadership has advanced economically and socially at your expense by destroying your competitiveness but to cap it all, they have succeeded in making you blame the non-Malays for their mistakes.

Umno makes you think that the way for you to reach global competitiveness would be to oppress and hamstring the non-Malays with steep racial quotas for jobs, licenses, and university places.

The truth is that it is the competitiveness and grit of successful Malays and non-Malays who compete in the open market in open competition that acts to provide every Malaysian - you and I - with the best goods at the cheapest prices.

You could buy a good quality, long lasting, reliable Japanese car in any other country for what you pay for a crappy Proton in Malaysia . Meanwhile, the AP scam that gives select Malays a license to smuggle in thousands of cars without paying duty will never be awarded to anyone other than the most overly privileged, wealthy and connected Umno elite insider - and definitely not to you if you are an ordinary decent Malay.

With Umno’s wholesale corruption, and racist propaganda that scapegoats and demonises the non-Malays to play on your fears and anxieties, our beloved country will come to resemble the uneducated, unproductive, expensive, impoverished countries like Burma , Indonesia , Philippines and Zimbabwe .

Umno leaders will do anything to stay in power and wealth, and that includes to divide and rule with lies, judicial abuse, and more. In the beginning the NEP picked the low-hanging fruit so there was an easy prosperity for everyone but now the signs of terminal decay are everywhere.

Economic and political reality has come back to roost, and if you are still poor, you need to ask why filthy rich Umno leaders are telling you that the non-Malays continue to cheat you of your rights and prosperity. The truth is that the success of any Malaysian in the open market that is subject to open competition will benefit all Malaysians.

Businesses, academics and professionals who have succeeded because of their competitiveness, innovation, hard work and determination bring prosperity to all Malaysians. Non-Malays and Malays who compete in the open market, if they succeed, it is because they offer everyone - you and I - a better product at a lower price.

Businesses and businesspersons who have succeeded because of a government-sanctioned cartel or monopoly that denies others the chance to compete will make all Malaysians poorer - that is, except the lucky filthy rich Umno-BN leaders who gave themselves or family or cronies the cartel or monopoly - APs, Proton, UEM, Renong, Bank Bumi - in the first place.

If you are reading this letter, I can presume that just like me, you did not get the exclusive contract, license, cartel or monopoly either. The truth is you and I and everyone else have been made poorer by the system that Umno has created.

If the economy is heading for a downturn, and if the financial crisis affected your business, and you are wondering why people in other countries don’t work as hard as you, and still earn much more money, then you will begin to understand that they live in a superior system.

Their leaders do not rob and abuse their citizens as much as in Malaysia . If you drive a Proton and they drive a Japanese car for the same price, then you are never going to be as well off as them.

Advanced progressive modern countries have achievement- based values, equal rights, open competition, meritocracy, and legislate against racism.

Such countries will have wealthier and healthier citizens who are not any smarter than you, and who will not be working harder than you, but they will be better informed than you, their kids will receive a better education than yours, and they will be earning lots more money than either you or me.

Umno will tell you that advanced countries like Singapore have prospered at your expense. The truth is that Umno will never give you a superior system. It cannot reform because it has an addiction problem. Umno leaders are addicted to huge amounts of easy money - your money!

Umno will tell you that their addiction to your money is in your best interests.

Umno will say they only take money from non-Malays. Umno will say it is your fault if you are addicted to Umno’s Ketuanan Melayu policies and bumiputera privileges..

The truth is that Umno is addicted to your tax money, and Umno will try to weaken your will to succeed on your own by getting you mentally addicted to their falsehoods. Unless Umno can make you feel addicted to your privileges, and make you feel unable to compete, and frightens you with the non-Malay bogeyman (or bogeywoman like Teresa Kok), and that he or she is a threat to your safety, finances, future, race, language, culture and religion, then Umno knows it will lose your vote in open competition to PKR and PAS.

The biggest obstacles to Malay progress are low standards and low expectations.
Umno tells you that you cannot compete with the non-Malays. Yet there are so many parameters to what is better or not that it is impossible to measure them all. It is illogical to think that someone else is better than you.

To believe that you cannot compete is a very low expectation that guarantees very low standards, and it is the last thing you would ever want to leave to your children. The solution requires guts and faith - in you. You must insist on open competition, meritocracy, equal rights, and an end to all forms of racism.

You are not inferior, you can compete, and you control your own destiny.

If you allow Umno to brainwash you, and your children, then low standards and low expectations become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The NEP has inevitably deteriorated to become a scam whereby Umnoputras will get all the benefits and be laughing all the way to the bank and everyone else gets poorer funding their excesses - mansions, wives, fat bank accounts, licenses, contracts, monopolies, APs. You get nothing, and I get even less than nothing - blamed for being the pendatang.

PAS and PKR want to change the NEP so that it will help the poor of all races but since the Malays form the bulk of the poor, then the Malays will automatically benefit exceedingly, and no one will feel left out or despised.

We must create a superior system of government that will be efficient, productive, progressive, competitive, and meritocractic - one that can hope to outperform Singapore - if we are to hold our heads up high, in open competition, and without prejudice.

The Malays will still totally dominate the aristocracy, cabinet, parliament, police, judiciary, military and government but in a country that is progressive, meritocractic, educated, progressive, prosperous and respects equal rights, human rights and freedoms.

This would be real legacy worth leaving to your children.

Choose wisely . . . . .

Sunday 14 December 2008


I have just retrieved data from my desktop hard disk that crashed in end-2004. There were so many photos in there that I had not backed up but thankfully, I have not lost them. It has taken me 4 long years to get myself to retrieve the data. Going through the stuff made me realize why.

2004 was the turning point for the worse. It was the year that marked the beginning of Jeannie's drastic downhill slide; health wise. The arrival of Prince Cheah into our lives on July 27th was the best thing that year as he added so much joy to Jeannie's life as she struggled with her health.

2003 had been good. We moved to Bukit Antarabangsa in June 2003 and after 5 years in a condo, moving back to landed property was a refreshing change. Jeannie and I managed a trip to Korea in September before a family holiday to China in November. Things were almost exactly as what we dared to expect them to be. Jeannie at 44 looked her best ever (in my eyes anyway) and I was hopeful it was a mirror of glowing health internally.

Just before Chinese New Year in January of 2004, Jeannie began having abdominal problems. For a change, we spent Chinese New Year (late January) in Langkawi but it was a miserable holiday as Jeannie was not well at all and was already losing weight drastically. A barium enema examination immediately after, showed a constriction in her colon. A colorectal specialist at a medical centre (a Dr. Q) was quick to "confirm" colon cancer (99.90% sure it seems-without even a blood test or biopsy) and recommended surgery. Our world fell apart but we should have realized then why he specialized in rectums.

The only reason why we consented to the operation was because surgery was the only option to remove the constriction that was restricting Jeannie's bowel movements. He was so certain it was due to a growth within the colon and not something external like adhesions. He should not have been so smug about his cancer diagnosis. He could have spared us the trauma of cancer anxiety and he could have prevented a chain of events that ultimately cost Jeannie her life-I shan't elaborate.

Somehow his remark after the surgery, "Mr Cheah, it's a miracle! The 0.10% came through!" did not sound comforting as he went on to confirm that the constriction was external and due to adhesions! Now, even you know why he specializes in rectums. The last I heard, he attributed another of his patient's unexpected improvement to a miracle too; it must be his habit or he must think he is Jesus Christ or something!

Jeannie never really recovered from that trauma and the surgery also took its toll. Certain people will rot in hell (if there is one) for the chain of events caused by the trauma. That was how 2004 and Jeannie's battle with weight loss began. The following pictorial tells the story (please also see slide show at the end of this post):

24th December 2008 UPDATE:

Created the above slideshow of photos from 2004.