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Lunar New Year of the Monkey 2016

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It’s good that I could spare a moment to post this greeting to all my blog readers. Personal and works commitment have taken me away from blogging this year. But I intend to continue when time permits.

In four years of civil war in Syria, one of its most beautiful cities has met with total devastation. Watching the two-part documentary on Al Jazeera this evening, I could not help wondering how in this day and age this man-sponsored destruction could have taken place. I could understand if this occurred in the 13 th century but this is the 21 th century with advanced education and technology. 

There seemed to be a total breakdown in the art of negotiations and the absence of leaders who could persuade their people to think of the consequences of the civil war. The role played by superpowers like the U.S. And NATO countries doesn’t escape my rumination on the fate of the city and her people. Of course President Assad is not without blame, pummeling the city with bombs as if it was not part of his country. What kind of people who live in Syria? They would rather die than coming up with peace terms. I noted a crudely written banner which said ” Our city is destroyed but the revolution continues“. Very noble indeed and I thought this was a scripted Holywood movie!

  

The destruction of Aleppo (net image)

And I saw at the same times on CNN, BBC,CCTV and AlJazeera news, thousands of Syrian migrants on the Greek border fighting to board trains to Macedonia on their way to find sanctuary in Germany and other European countries. What kind of revolution is this when your people are running away in droves? The people left behind are suffering with massive infrastructures’ destruction, lack of foods,medicines and inhabitable buildings. Almost every family is affected.

 I cannot help shaking my head. Cooler heads are just not in the vocabulary of these people or are the people of Aleppo expecting the West to help them by enforcing no-fly zones like they shamelessly did in Libya?  They continue fighting Assad because they thought help was coming. Well how wrong they are! I too cannot help thinking that external powers of Iran and Russia, President Assad’s  erstwhile  supporters, have also contributed to the death of Aleppo.

A sad thought indeed. I don’t think Aleppo could be revived in my lifetime. The folly of man driven by hatred.

I notice that people who are deeply religious are the ones who are very hard to convince on a lot of things that they see as contrary to their faith/belief. When they look at you, you’ll never fail to see that smugness, as if they are saying ” I am safe and you’re the dumb one”.

They are contented in their own way and leave everything to God. So strong is their faith, they will not budge even if they are threatened with the law. I saw on TV this evening how a group of Christian florists who would not give their service to gay couple’s weddings because of their belief. I wonder whether they would also not give their service to others not of the same belief as them?

The same situation is seen among religious Malaysians who are adamant about having their way because to them it’s what their religion teaches them and they absolutely cannot contravene their belief. Their steadfastness quite often borders on insensitivity towards other faiths.

The above examples are typical of people who have refused to think and gradually thinking becomes hard as they progressively become lazy and seek the least resistant paths And not only that, they then become dependent on others to think for them and this is where the ” religious teachers and glib speakers” come in with verses from the Holy Book and the sayings (hadiths) of the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, purportedly by him even though some of those sayings were recorded 200 years after the prophet’s demise. They just accept what the so-called clergies say and regurgitate the ideas to others without processing the information. Some of those ideas create disunity and dissatisfaction  in the multi-cultural community.

To make matters worse, they also expect others to accept whatever they expound. Amazingly, many are going their way as thinking becomes hard.

I am getting jittery. Next month I am going  to travel overseas on business with Malaysia Airlines (MAS). Despite the unresolved scare of the missing MH370, I still decide to fly MAS.

This morning I read a Reuter’s report about a mechanical problem on MAS flight MH192 Boeing 737-800, with 166 people on board, from Kuala Lumpur  to Bangalore . The news has also been quickly picked up by the New York Times here and the other online news portals all over the internet. Burst tyre? Faulty landing gear? This is definitely not good news to frequent travellers like me.

Incidentally, this is the same flight that had technical glitches forcing it to turn back to India , MAS flight MH 193 Boeing 737-800 from India enroute to KLIA on Sunday 15 April 2012! Return journey. ( in my blog on MAS “Near Misses”). 

MH 192 turned back and abandoned journey to Bangalore, safely landed, thanks to the heroic pilot! (21 April 2014) -Photo courtesy TODAY

MH 192 turned back and abandoned journey to Bangalore, safely landed, thanks to the heroic pilot! (21 April 2014) -Photo courtesy TODAY

The other recent incident involving MAS  flight MH066 to Incheon, South Korea that was forced to land in Hong Kong on March 23 2014,  is still nagging me. And that fire in MAS maintenance workshop, destroying documents shortly after MH370’s disappearance  is also most disturbing. It doesn’t look  at all good on the company.

Already the whole world is putting its microscope on MAS following that “unprecedented aviation disaster” that is MH370;  now these mechanical problems are coming in quick succession. What is going on?

What is going on in the engineering/maintenance section of MAS? Have all the good engineers and mechanics who have been with MAS for years left MAS for AirAsia?? I remember reading about Tony Fernandes saying AirAsia would stop sending its aircrafts for maintenance by MAS: does he know something that we don’t? Or MAS’s planes are getting older and hence have problem being maintained? What about possible cost-cutting measures affecting maintenance schedules? Or have the work culture in that section changed and technical staff are getting lackadaisical? Or on the sinister side, could it be a sabotage? What is going on?

There were other cases like this in the past but due to that monstrous mystery, things are just not the same. We the Malaysian public demand that MAS puts its act back together and concentrate on safety of its aircraft passengers. MAS needs to do this even at the expense of calling for external experts to investigate its maintenance section. I have read about unpleasant going ons in MAS maintenance section from blogger Wee Chee Kiong who seems to have inside information and able to give us the latest on incidents involving MAS.

Much as I want to help MAS by continuing flying with it, I am not going to risk my life knowing full well that the airline is having frequent mechanical issues with its aircrafts. If I feel this way, what about other air travellers who have no emotional connectivity with MAS at all? I bet more than 90% of these people are not going to fly with MAS anymore.

We the taxpayers are an important stakeholder of MAS, albeit faceless and mostly stricken with apathy, should wake up and demand the overhaul of MAS management. If the CEO of MAS has any dignity left, he  should resign over these frequent mishaps which one of these days will turn into another disaster. We don’t want another MH370.

Please PM Najib, step forward now  and be a leader for once and act on this national problem which can affect people’s lives and Malaysia’s good name.

Honestly, I don’t believe that the heroic efforts by the pilots could be sustained at 100% success rate if the mechanical failures keep recurring on their aircrafts. I have so far refrained from blogging about MAS Engineering/Maintenance section but I cannot take it anymore with this latest near miss.

In the meantime, I have emailed my assistant to change my MAS London flight booking in late May 2014 to another airline with a heavy heart.

I read with deep sadness the sudden tragic death of Karpal Singh, the Lion of Jelutong, this morning.  The man is a fighter to the end. The lone and courageous voice of dissent to prick the conscience of autocratic,extremist leaders of both political persuasions. The man who does not fear  to speak out against injustice,unfairness and impartial men at whatever level they are.

I have always followed his political life and admired his legal mind. Before the accident which confined him to a wheelchair, he was very active in defending court cases. Everyone having to fight his case in court would like to have Karpal as his lawyer. Despite his physical disability, he marched on and earned our greatest love and respect. He is in a class of his own: truly exceptional.

I am sure others far more eloquent will be able to write about Karpal Singh. I am waiting to read and treasure such memories of him. He is a true politician. His recent conviction on “sedition” was poorly received by people who hold impartiality sacred.

There will predictably be happy voices on news of his death but what they don’t realise is they have been blind to this man’s outstanding contributions in the legal and political fields. Some ,no doubt, would say this is their God’s will to remove Karpal from talking against the Hudud law. To these ignorant people whatever that happened to someone they dislike means God is on their side. Wait till the tables are turned.

Karpal Singh’s death is a great loss to Malaysia. My condolences to his family.

I will greatly miss Karpal Singh. I mourn his passing.

 

Karpal Singh (28 June 1940 – 17 April 2014). May You Rest in Peace, Sir.

Karpal Singh (28 June 1940 – 17 April 2014). May You Rest in Peace, Sir.

 

Post Notes:

One of my blog readers corrected my description of the late Karpal Singh as the Tiger instead of the Lion of Jelutong. I prefer the word lion as I remember the brave Richard the Lionheart of England.

Anyway, Lion is a better description for Karpal based on the writing of a zookeeper here. According to the writer, quote ”   Lions generally have more fighting experience – they often clash with other prides, whereas tigers tend to avoid conflict whenever possible”.

 

 

 

 

 

I cannot agree more with this writer here on the need to be able to speak English well when expressing ourselves at the global level. Not only what  we present  to the international audience  but how we articulate is equally important. The use of  suitable words, the understanding of  technical terms, good pronunciation, body language and appropriate emotion go a long way in making a point.

The first few days of the press briefings chaired by the Head of the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) appeared chaotic with him moving here and there while making points though his English is good but his nervous mannerism was stressful to watch. The other three guys could also speak English but at that early stage of MH370’s disappearance they appeared hesitant. I remembered the army guy was saying about a “reciprocal turn back” by the jetliner but the following day he retracted the information.

The DCA Head was restless and at times appeared wanting to get away from the briefings in a hurry leaving reporters exasperated for information. If only he could have been more briefed himself before appearing to answer those questions fired from all around him! I felt there was a lack of coordination between Malaysia Airlines and the DCA. even the last words heard from the cockpit of MH370 are not correct, from the laidback unconventional “Alright, goodnight” now today 01 April has been changed to ” Good night Malaysian 370″,  I really don’t know what to believe now. There were so many so called ” facts” which needed to be changed.

The situation was much better with the Acting Transports Minister leading the press briefings. Many people including the foreign press have praised the Minister for his calm handlings of the international press. His “flawless English” and ability to take unprepared questions in English are admirable. I don’t think other Ministers apart from Khairy Jamaluddin ( the Oxford-educated Minister of Youth and Sports) could carry themselves in such a heated situation. I cringe at the thought of Zaid Hamidi (Minister of  Home Affairs), Liow Tiong Lai (Former Health Minister) and some other ministers with their poor command of English, leading such an international briefing.

If PM Najib who is said to be “leading from behind” doesn’t see the need to equip our children with English, I fear future leaders and civil servants would not be able to handle the international community with such finesse. Well, you can talk in Bahasa Malaysia but imagine your information being lost in translation!

I remember attending an international meeting in Thailand when the Governor of the province’s welcome speech was so badly translated that the he kept correcting the translator and later he just had to speak in English himself  to get his points across. We the audience were roundly confused till we heard it from the horse’s mouth so to speak.

MH370’s disappearance has many lessons for Malaysians to learn from and certainly good communication is one of them. Unless PM Najib thinks laterally, I don’t think he will reconsider the need to make English an important lingua franca in our education system.

English medium schools were ceased in 1982, that is 32 years ago and if a student who learnt in English was 18 then, he would be 50 now and would be among the last who could really speak and interact in English relatively well. In 10 years time, we will have half-baked English speakers. That is why those below 50,  now becoming associate professors in Universities and a few was interviewed on Television about  MH370’s disappearance spoke atrocious English, as lamented by the above quoted writer.

The abolition of PPSMI (the teaching of Math and Science in English) is a shortsighted policy that will affect our future generations facing a fiercely competitive world. The lack of ability to follow technical instructions will surely set us back in the scientific and technological fields.

Just imagine, even the flight simulator of the MH 370’s captain has to be sent to the United States  for analysis. We are just not capable in many hi-tech areas and yet so shamelessly arrogant. As the Malays say “bodoh sombong” (stupid but arrogant).

While the whole world is focussing on Malaysia following the mysterious disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, here we are charging an 81-year old man for putting forth his ideas and arguments.

Kassim Ahmad an 81-year old former political activist being escorted by religious officers

Kassim Ahmad an 81-year old former political activist being escorted by religious officers to shariah court ( source: staronline)

Many of those who were earlier not familiar with Malaysia are looking up and reading up on our country and many are also commenting on our social and political systems such as this American News article. But of course, these people who are bent on  making Kassim Ahmad an example of their man-made power, do not bother and so is, it appears, the BN (National Front Coalition) government which is on its way out in the next general election to be called in 2018 (unless the main coalition party that is UMNO : United Malays National Organisation, reform itself).

Shut-up and tape your mouth and shut your mind

Tape your mouth and shut your mind

Look at the kind of country we are living in. We are not supposed to think, we are not supposed to speak out and have intellectual discourses. The government establishes this body which hunts such brave people who want to open the mind of others ruthlessly down. Charge, try,sentence,fine and jail them!

No wonder we will never move forward in the scientific and technological fields because part of our mind are not supposed to think and reach for the stars. We will forever be using other peoples’ technologies and be subservient mentally to those worthless countries in the Middle-East which practise repression and suppression and mete out archaically cruel punishments.

Many other bloggers voice their unhappiness and dissatisfaction over the treatment of Kassim Ahmad whom they regard as a Muslim thinker and not a mere follower of outdated thoughts. You can read one good write-up here.

At the rate we are going, it looks like we will forever be turning the other cheek until our natural resources are depleted and we are all then good only at preparing  for that “heavenly” life after death (how pathetic!).

The tragedy is, we are a democratic country which chooses to curtail the freedom of expression in the name of religion.

This is the eighth day of MH370’s sudden disappearance  and still there is no sign of it despite an extensive international search on expanding areas based on whatever minimal flight data related to the Boeing 777-200ER.

Friends and relatives of those in the ill-fated flight are getting restless and emotionally-spent. The counselling team is doing a difficult job. Even our Acting Transports Minister admitted that he found it difficult to meet with the grieving relatives as there was no new information as to where the aircraft might be.

Joining all Malaysians in Prayers

Joining all Malaysians in Prayers

Malaysians too are also feeling the impact of the plane’s vanishing as we struggle to make sense of  the voluminous information, opinion and analysis from air-crash investigation experts. There are many speculations but they are not doing us any good until we find the aircraft and factually determine the fate of those 329 souls on board.

No modern jetliner has had similar crash characteristics before. This is, as stated by the head of Malaysian Civil Aviation, indeed “an unprecedented aviation mystery”.

As harrowing as it might be, we are forced to wait for the authorities  to do their job and find that needle in the haystack. And stop the blame game and the scapegoating of our politicians and senior civil servants. Even the Shaman (bomoh) has his way of looking at “solving” the plane’s disappearance, albeit in the mumbo jumbo way. I look at him and his motley gang performing the rituals at KLIA with sadness in my heart but not contempt. They genuinely want to help employing ways that they believe in, much to our embarrassment.

The Shaman and gang doing their bits to help find the missing MH370. Complete with western suits and tie!

The Shaman and gang, complete with Western suits and tie, performing rituals at KLIA, to “help” find the missing MH370

International communities helping us include China ( more than 65% of the passengers on MH370 are Chinese) ,Vietnam ,Thailand, Philippines Indonesia,  India , Australia, America, Singapore, Cambodia as well as the hundred thousand of volunteers performing  crowdsourcing of satellite images on the internet. We hope they will not give up yet.

First in the Gulf of Thailand, South China Sea, later the Strait of Malacca, Andaman sea and the latest is in the Indian Ocean, millions of kilometer squares of searching, MH370, we are waiting harrowingly for you to show up.

Today we are entering the sixth day of the sudden disappearance of our Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. A lot of heartache ,anger , frustration, drama ,confusion , accusation, you name it,  have been hurled upon us as the missing aircraft with 239 people on board have yet to be found.

Despite the distracting issues on security and terrorism, something is nagging me about the way the jetliner vanished. I am not convinced that there was an attack on the aircraft though there is that problem between China and its restive  Uyghurs ethnic minority who are mainly Muslim. Nope, Malaysia with our warts and all is a friendly country, gentle as a mouse such that people of all kinds come to our country and doing all sorts of business, legal and illegal with lax restrictions.

I am more into the mechanical failure of the plane. There was something catastrophic that overwhelmed the pilots, crippling , catapulting  the aircraft ; sending it into smithereens: mid-air disintegration ( I choke up when I am writing this word!). Yes, a bomb could do that as well. But my unsubstantiated and non-scientific gut feeling favours mechanical failure.

Surfing the internet on Boeing 777, I found this report of American regulators’ warning on crack and erosion on this kind of aircraft before the current disaster. My only hope is that the plane wreckage and the black box would be found to unravel the cause of the crash which could take  a few years. The same aircraft has been reported to have been repaired following an accident in Singapore whence its wing was clipped. I found this history rather disturbing having loyally followed a series of Aircrash investigations on TV. Repaired minor cracks combined with potential cracks and corrosion: wouldn’t that spook you?

The jetliner MUST BE FOUND at all cost  to help the grieving friends and relatives find closure and the living find the cause of its currently presumed  “mysterious crash”  and come out with ways to make air-travel safer.

Let’s hope it is finally found following the detection by satellites of images which appear like a plane wreckage  within the suspected crash site in this latest CNN report here.