Saturday, February 19, 2011

Suprise Guest

Saturday, 19 February was just another weekend as far as I was concerned and when 330pm rolled by the few of us just went to the academy for another jiu-jitsu class. Imagine to our surprise when Prof John Frankl swung by to pay us a visit. Well, his intention was to see Marcos but unfortunately Marcos was attending a convention in Singapore.

Aaron was going to teach class but since we had a visiting black-belt with us, Aaron decided to ask John if he would mind taking class for the hour. To our delight he obliged us and then it was virtually a 1.5 hours of private lessons for the bunch of us with the focus on escaping from the opponent whose game-plan is to tie you up from the bottom to delay time. And damn was it good or was it good!

After class, we started our Open mats and John rolled with bunch of us and and in-between gave us pointers on our respective games and hopefully we didn't embarrass ourselves while rolling.

Click on this link for a short bio of John.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Message For Today

Did you feel His presence?

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Price of Malaysia's Racism

Malaysia's national tourism agency promotes the country as "a bubbling, bustling melting pot of races and religions where Malays, Indians, Chinese and many other ethnic groups live together in peace and harmony." Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak echoed this view when he announced his government's theme, One Malaysia. "What makes Malaysia unique," Mr. Najib said, "is the diversity of our peoples. One Malaysia's goal is to preserve and enhance this unity in diversity, which has always been our strength and remains our best hope for the future."

If Mr. Najib is serious about achieving that goal, a long look in the mirror might be in order first. Despite the government's new catchphrase, racial and religious tensions are higher today than when Mr. Najib took office in 2009. Indeed, they are worse than at any time since 1969, when at least 200 people died in racial clashes between the majority Malay and minority Chinese communities. The recent deterioration is due to the troubling fact that the country's leadership is tolerating, and in some cases provoking, ethnic factionalism through words and actions.

For instance, when the Catholic archbishop of Kuala Lumpur invited the prime minister for a Christmas Day open house last December, Hardev Kaur, an aide to Mr. Najib, said Christian crosses would have to be removed. There could be no carols or prayers, so as not to offend the prime minister, who is Muslim. Ms. Kaur later insisted that she "had made it clear that it was a request and not an instruction," as if any Malaysian could say no to a request from the prime minister's office.

Similar examples of insensitivity abound. In September 2009, Minister of Home Affairs Hishammuddin Onn met with protesters who had carried the decapitated head of a cow, a sacred animal in the Hindu religion, to an Indian temple. Mr. Hishammuddin then held a press conference defending their actions. Two months later, Defense Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi told Parliament that one reason Malaysia's armed forces are overwhelmingly Malay is that other ethnic groups have a "low spirit of patriotism." Under public pressure, he later apologized.

The leading Malay language newspaper, Utusan Melayu, prints what opposition leader Lim Kit Siang calls a daily staple of falsehoods that stoke racial hatred. Utusan, which is owned by Mr. Najib's political party, has claimed that the opposition would make Malaysia a colony of China and abolish the Malay monarchy. It regularly attacks Chinese Malaysian politicians, and even suggested that one of them, parliamentarian Teresa Kok, should be killed.

This steady erosion of tolerance is more than a political challenge. It's an economic problem as well.

Once one of the developing world's stars, Malaysia's economy has underperformed for the past decade. To meet its much-vaunted goal of becoming a developed nation by 2020, Malaysia needs to grow by 8% per year during this decade. That level of growth will require major private investment from both domestic and foreign sources, upgraded human skills, and significant economic reform. Worsening racial and religious tensions stand in the way.

Almost 500,000 Malaysians left the country between 2007 and 2009, more than doubling the number of Malaysian professionals who live overseas. It appears that most were skilled ethnic Chinese and Indian Malaysians, tired of being treated as second-class citizens in their own country and denied the opportunity to compete on a level playing field, whether in education, business, or government. Many of these emigrants, as well as the many Malaysian students who study overseas and never return (again, most of whom are ethnic Chinese and Indian), have the business, engineering, and scientific skills that Malaysia needs for its future. They also have the cultural and linguistic savvy to enhance Malaysia's economic ties with Asia's two biggest growing markets, China and India.

Of course, one could argue that discrimination isn't new for these Chinese and Indians. Malaysia's affirmative action policies for its Malay majority—which give them preference in everything from stock allocation to housing discounts—have been in place for decades. So what is driving the ethnic minorities away now?

First, these minorities increasingly feel that they have lost a voice in their own government. The Chinese and Indian political parties in the ruling coalition are supposed to protect the interests of their communities, but over the past few years, they have been neutered. They stand largely silent in the face of the growing racial insults hurled by their Malay political partners. Today over 90% of the civil service, police, military, university lecturers, and overseas diplomatic staff are Malay. Even TalentCorp, the government agency created in 2010 that is supposed to encourage overseas Malaysians to return home, is headed by a Malay, with an all-Malay Board of Trustees.

Second, economic reform and adjustments to the government's affirmative action policies are on hold. Although Mr. Najib held out the hope of change a year ago with his New Economic Model, which promised an "inclusive" affirmative action policy that would be, in Mr. Najib's words, "market friendly, merit-based, transparent and needs-based," he has failed to follow through. This is because of opposition from right-wing militant Malay groups such as Perkasa, which believe that a move towards meritocracy and transparency threatens what they call "Malay rights."

But stalling reform will mean a further loss in competitiveness and slower growth. It also means that the cronyism and no-bid contracts that favor the well-connected will continue. All this sends a discouraging signal to many young Malaysians that no matter how hard they study or work, they will have a hard time getting ahead.

Mr. Najib may not actually believe much of the rhetoric emanating from his party and his government's officers, but he tolerates it because he needs to shore up his Malay base. It's politically convenient at a time when his party faces its most serious opposition challenge in recent memory—and especially when the opposition is challenging the government on ethnic policy and its economic consequences. One young opposition leader, parliamentarian Nurul Izzah Anwar, the daughter of former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim, has proposed a national debate on what she called the alternative visions of Malaysia's future—whether it should be a Malay nation or a Malaysian nation. For that, she earned the wrath of Perkasa; the government suggested her remark was "seditious."

Malaysia's government might find it politically expedient to stir the racial and religious pot, but its opportunism comes with an economic price tag. Its citizens will continue to vote with their feet and take their money and talents with them. And foreign investors, concerned about racial instability and the absence of meaningful economic reform, will continue to look elsewhere to do business.

John Malott
U.S. Ambassador to Malaysia,

This article is reproduced from You can read the actual article here

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Sungai Lembing

Since it was the Chinese New Year and all, we decided to make a day trip to Sungai Lembing which is about 40km from Kuantan. For those of us who can remember our geography lessons from yesteryear, Sg. Lembing was a town built on 1 commodity : tin. It once housed the largest, longest and deepest subterranean tin mine in the world which made it a bustling town until the collapse of the tin market in the 1970s.

Perhaps the most overlooked part of the tin industry since its collapse is the resultant levels of contamination left behind by the mining activities with varying levels of arsenic, iron, copper, lead, manganese, nickel, and zinc leeching into the Kenau river and surrounding areas. You can read the report here

The town itself has 1 main street and is lined by pre World War 2 shophouses on both sides. There are of course other attractions in Sg Lembing. I didn't get to do much as I only spent 2 hours there. But check out this tourism website for more information.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Pantai Tanjung Tembeling

fishnet is strung along these poles to trap fish brought in by the tides

The sea is about a kilometer out at this hour

Shark that was trapped by the low tide

Siput. These things can be at least 5 inches long

Low Tide

This little stretch of beach has been a haunt of mine since I was a kid. This is a less popular beach compared to its more famous sibling, the Teluk Cempedak beach. I've always liked this beach since it is generally less crowded and when the tide is out you can walk out half a kilometer to a kilometer towards the sea and explore the mudflats to your heart's content.

I had my kids with me along this time and it was cool teaching and explaining to them about the ecosystem of the coastline, the flora and fauna of this particular beach. Mind you, I'm no expert, it's just stuff I've picked up along the way trolling this beach all these years past.

If you are interested, here's the map to the beach

View Pantai Tg Tembeling in a larger map