Friday 30 March 2012

Of Children...God- or Otherwise

When I first met Jeannie 27 years ago, she had endometriosis. This is a very painful condition caused by abnormal growth of cells (endometrial cells) similar to those that form the inside of the uterus, but in a location outside of the uterus. Endometrial cells are cells that are shed each month during menstruation. The cells of endometriosis attach themselves to tissue outside the uterus and are called endometriosis implants. These implants are most commonly found on the ovaries, the Fallopian tubes, outer surfaces of the uterus or intestines, and on the surface lining of the pelvic cavity.

In short, the condition is exacerbated by menstruation. Her right ovary had already been removed and needless to say, her child-bearing prospects were diminished. The irony is that pregnancy is a natural "cure" for endometriosis as opposed to gonadotropin drugs that artificially induce menopause. Jeannie was put on Danazol which in itself was a problem. The contraindications of the drug is arguably worse than its efficacy! She exhibited all the classic side-effects. This was no way to start a marriage but we persevered; it made us stronger as a couple and the fact that I was willing to accept a possibility of not having children probably proved my commitment to the relationship. The side-effects of Danazol itself would test any husband-wife relationship!

I could write chapters in a "How-To" manual for couples facing endometriosis but this blogpost is not about endometriosis per se. It is about children. 

Even when faced with the prospect of not having our own kids, we both felt adoption was out of the question; it just was not the same. Fortunately, against much odds we managed to have Krystyn and then J.J. but this blogpost is also not about them. 

Agreed as we did on so many aspects of life there was an obvious difference when it came to "extended family" in the form of "god-sons/daughters/sisters/brothers" and such. I was never big on such things but to big hearted Jeannie, love is not "zero-sum". So it came to past that we became god-parents to a number of children including one we fostered from The Pure Life Society.

When Jeannie was still alive it was obviously she who did the "parenting" while I was for the most part, a supportive observer. They called her Mummy while I was admittedly more the "khai yeh" in name than spirit. Nevertheless, they were by and large good kids and we saw them grow through the years.

It did not take long after Jeannie's demise for it to dawn upon me I had "inherited" a bunch of god-children. Immediately after Jeannie passed, there were notifications to be done, grief to share, the funeral to arrange, an obituary to be written, wrecked emotions to manage...consolation to succor. Yet, through it all, because of the extended family there was a comforting fellow feeling that somehow alleviated the grief. Each remembered Jeannie in their own way and all wanted to share in giving her a send-off she would have wanted. I could no longer be the godfather in name only and unwittingly the role grew on me. It is now coming to half a decade since Jeannie left us yet she remains the common factor and indeed the bond that cements the relationships. It is from this that I have even developed a sense of responsibility towards our godchildren especially from the aspect of their major life changing decisions. 

One of them recently converted to Islam and decided to marry a 24 year old Malay private in the army; she is a 36 year old divorced mother with a 10 year daughter and a reasonably successful career. The 12 year age difference speaks for itself and coupled with the fact of the fiance's limited education and English language skills, the odds are stacked against a successful union. Also, they had known each other well only for three months before deciding to marry. Even if this was an arrangement at soul level, chances are it is to learn lessons in heartaches and disappointments.

Nevertheless, she has decided to defy the odds despite my efforts to convince her otherwise. I was not even trying to tell them not to get married but to wait at least until year end. To get to know each other better. Why the rush? My objections are based not only on the above but on many other observations and knowledge of the circumstances of their decision. These I shall not mention here but they have nothing to do with race or religion; not directly anyway. We even have a Malay godson, Saiful.

What does a godfather do in such situations? What can he do? Nothing actually. So what is the point of being a godfather? As it appears...none!

My Darling Jeannie, my work with our kids are yet undone but with the godchildren, I am increasingly convinced the work cannot be done.


Kahlil Gibran in The Prophet on Children:

And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, "Speak to us of Children."

And he said:

Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts.

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.

For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;

For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Thursday 29 March 2012

Talk Cock Then Cut Cock. What's The Beef?

Chinese Education in Malaysia. How has MCA justified its existence as representative of Chinese community interest in Malaysia?

'Assailant' dares Wee to sacrifice rooster

A senior citizen, who believes he is being accused of having tried to assault Deputy Education Minister Wee Ka Siong, has denied any violent conduct on his part during last Sunday's Chinese education rally.

Lee Siak Taa, 65, today lodged a police report on the matter, to explain that he was merely giving Wee the thumbs-down gesture and did not assault the minister.

The senior citizen is also challenging Wee to take part in a cockerel sacrificing ritual in order to prove that he is not lying.

Contacted today, Dong Zong deputy president Chow Siew Hong said Lee had met his organisation’s officials this morning to explain himself.

Dong Zong officials later accompanied Lee to a nearby police station to lodge a report. His statement was later recorded.

Met later, Lee admits to scolding and heckling Wee over his failures and sticking his arm out to give the minister a thumbs-down.

‘Did not raise fist’

However, Lee was adamant that he never raised a clenched fist, as claimed by Wee.

After lodging the police report, Lee challenged Wee to slay a cockerel at the Sin Sze Si Ya Temple (near Central Market) together with him for Wee to swear and prove his innocence.

The sacrificing of a white cockerel by two parties in front of the deity’s altar is a tradition used to prove innocence. Devotees believe that harm will befall those who lie during this ritual.

Lee is a retiree who was brought to the rally by a friend, but ended up being photographed within close proximity to Wee when the deputy minister was wading through a hostile crowd.

Wee was photographed touching his left cheek after the close brush with Lee. The minister later claimed he was assaulted by someone who raised a clenched fist.

Despite police claiming that Wee was not assaulted, the deputy minister insists that he did feel a touch and could clearly identify the would-be assailant.

Lee not a party member

However, Wee said he would not lodge a police report because heforgives the attacker and would prefer to let the matter rest.

Lee said that he was very emotional when Wee crossed his path because he was frustrated that the latter kept making “upside down” remarks through the media.

“There are not enough Chinese schools (in the country), and he should go to apply (for more schools). (However) he didn't do so, but just kept talking through the media.

“I became more and more angry after reading this,” he said.

He also clarified that he didn't utter any vulgar remarks against Wee and didn't wear political colours to the rally.

“I do not join any political party and I'm not interested in politics,” he added.


The Real Beef

(New Straits Times) - Chinese education in Malaysia has not received even the basic treatment guaranteed it under the national education system.

CHINESE SCHOOLS: The Chinese community is asking for what is due to their schools as set out in the Razak Report in 1956

LAST Sunday, several thousand people converged on New Era College in Kajang for the "325 assembly" organised by Dong Zong and Jiao Zong to protest the shortage of teachers in Chinese schools.

Some quarters have questioned what the Chinese community has to be angry about and why they are "asking for so much" when Chinese education has already been given plenty of leeway in the country.

However, this is a view that fails to understand the historical context of Chinese education in Malaysia -- the Chinese community is not asking for more, but merely what is due to their schools as set out in the Razak Report in 1956.

The Razak Report saw the ultimate objective of educational policy as bringing together all races under a national education system in which the national language is the main medium of instruction, while preserving and sustaining the growth of the language and culture of other communities living in the country.

This was to be achieved through national primary and secondary schools which used Bahasa Malaysia as the medium of instruction, as well as national-type primary schools which could use vernacular languages for teaching but had to teach Bahasa Malaysia as a compulsory subject. All these government schools would use a common syllabus.

As part of the national education system, therefore, the vernacular primary schools were also to receive similar government assistance given to national schools, including funds and land for development, as well as trained teachers.

However, Chinese education in Malaysia has not received even the basic treatment guaranteed it under the national education system.

A description of national-type Chinese primary schools in the 1970s sounds no different from what it is today: "(the schools) were plagued with a number of problems... insufficient funding, insufficient qualified staffing, insufficient places for students, and a high rate of failure among students who had gone on from primary to secondary schooling," Lee Ting Hui wrote in Chinese Schools in Peninsular Malaysia: The Struggle for Survival.

Rural Chinese schools are under-enrolled and lack proper infrastructure, while urban schools are over-crowded and unable to cater for the vast communities in cities and suburbs.

The Chinese community, consisting of parents and local businesses, often have to raise private funds for the development of their children's schools.

Then there is the lack of trained teachers for Chinese schools and the use of temporary teachers to fill the gap (more than 1,000 employed each year).

These problems persist despite the clear policies set out in the Razak Report, because of poor implementation.

Resources have not been properly allocated and teacher training programmes are not planned well to achieve the required numbers.

The government has tried to address Chinese school problems but we have now reached a critical point where stop-gap measures are not effective anymore.

The Education Ministry's eight-point plan shows that the measures to be taken need not be drastic, simply logical.

What is most crucial is that the long-term measures be implemented urgently and sustainably.

I am optimistic that the plan reflects the government's efforts to look at the teacher shortage problem holistically and systematically.

The ministry's special committee is already holding a dialogue with the stakeholders -- this needs to continue, with the educationist groups explaining the real problems on the ground and proposing solutions.

Politics and emotion have to be taken out of this conversation. Providing fair treatment for Chinese schools will not reduce the integrity of the national language or hinder integration among races.

Chinese (and Tamil) schools are simply asking not to be left behind in terms of resource allocation and development under the national education system.

If the government shows sincerity in going forward with the eight-point plan, there could potentially be a 10 per cent swing in Chinese votes back to the Barisan Nasional. Otherwise, we could be looking in the eye of a perfect storm.

Friday 23 March 2012


This was in Malaysiakini today. The report of the out-of-court settlement makes one wonder why go to court in the first place. Eyewash? There will be red-eyes now for sure; what was the TR trade-off that was valued so highly by the government? Go figure...

Tajudin's RM589mil Danaharta debt written off

Tajudin Ramli need not pay the RM589 million he owes Pengurusuan Danaharta Nasional Bhd as part of the out-of-court settlement he reached with government-linked companies (GLCs) last month.

This was confirmed to Malaysiakiniby people in the know after Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua (left) claimed on Feb 15 that included in the secret settlement recorded by the Court of Appeal between Tajudin and several GLCs, the former Malaysia Airlines (MAS) chairperson need not pay his debt.

"From my sources, I can confirm that the debt has been completely written off as part of the settlement. I knew about this from inside sources. The settlement caused an immediate loss of RM589 million," Pua had told Malaysiakini last month.

The settlement followed Tajudin's agreement to withdraw his appeal against a Dec 7, 2009, Kuala Lumpur High Court decision, and against several GLCs and litigants that included Telekom Malaysia Bhd, Naluri Corporation, Celcom (M) Bhd, Atlan Holding Bhd and CIMB Group.

'Former big players making a comeback'

Three years ago, the High Court ordered Tajudin to pay the amount to Danaharta, which was the sum he owed for his controversial purchase of MAS shares in 1994, paving the way for the tycoon to control the national carrier.

At the same time, the court had also struck out Tajudin's RM13 billion counter-claim against the GLCs.

Danaharta's residual assets, now managed by Prokhas Sdn Bhd, a wholly-owned company of the Finance Ministry, has not shed any light on the terms of the out-of-court settlement that was reached last month.

Danaharta was set up to avert the collapse of the banking system in the wake of the 1997-98 Asian Financial Crisis which saw many companies unable to repay their loans.

Sources confirmed with Malaysiakini that Pua was correct in his assertion that Tajudin's RM589 million debt had been written off.
"Pua's statement has not been rebutted. I have come to understand that it has been confirmed that the debt has been written off...," said one of the sources who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"There is also a strong belief that the government is paying Tajudin further (as part of the settlement)," added the individual.

The source also said some of the former corporate players in the economic go-go years of the 1990s were "coming back into the picture".

'Tajudin has money to pay debt'

Those familiar with the case said Tajudin has the means to pay the sum he was ordered to by the court as he owned a horse ranch on a huge parcel of land in Kuang, Selangor - called Al Raudhah (Garden of Paradise) - as well as a four-star hotel in Langkawi.

"The authorities could have seized his properties to recover the losses. Questions have to be raised as to why this was not done and why Tajudin is being given such immunity," said another source.

Those familiar with the case also claimed that despite the out-of-court settlement, the government may have incurred expenses that could run into millions of ringgit, including payment for legal services in the court case that has dragged on for six years.

The GLCs had filed their suits against Tajudin for failing to pay RM1.79 billion for his 1994 purchase of a 32 percent stake in MAS.

The government bought back Tajudin's shares in 2000-01 at RM8 a share, which was said to be more than double the market price at that time - a decision that received much public outrage.

After a long court case, Kuala Lumpur High Court judge Anantham Kasinater found Tajudin to have originally owed Danaharta a total of RM1.4 billion, and that the former Celcom and Technology Research Industries Bhd chairperson had failed to settle the reduced debt in four instalments spread over three years.

"Danaharta had pursued the case, but Tajudin failed to settle his dues. The two parties subsequently reached a settlement on Oct 8, 2001 that included a RM468.18 million 'hair cut'," Anantham had said in his 2009 judgment.

No response from Tajudin's lawyer

Last month's out-of-court settlement was also bogged by controversy after the revelation of Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Nazri Abdul Aziz's letter to the GLCs dated Aug 8, 2011, asking that they settle their legal battle with Tajudin.

Nazri (left) later said that the letter was merely "an advice".

However, Tajudin had, before last month's settlement was reached, submitted an affidavit and quoted Nazri's letter as a directive to settle the case out of court.

It was also reported that MPs were not happy when four questions on the settlement were rejected by Parliament on grounds of sub judice as there were related on-going cases in court.

Pakatan Rakyat MPs have also demanded that Parliament form a parliamentary select committee to probe the settlement.

Malaysiakini has tried to contact the lawyer representing Tajudin for confirmation and further explanation that his client was not required to pay anything to Danaharta, but there has been no response.