Monday, December 19, 2011

Mudslinging or debate?

One Man's Meat

The two antagonists have twittered agreement to debate, but getting them into the same room to thrash out the Lynas issue without scoring political points is quite impossible.

IF a debate on Lynas were ever to happen, it might be as civil as a nuclear bomb. Fresh from the civil and intellectual public debate mobilised via Twitter between Kedah Gerakan Youth chief @TanKengLiang and the Bar Council’s @EdmundBon on the Peaceful Assembly Bill on Dec 11, Twitterers were clamouring for more debate.

The next day, @TaiZeeKin tweeted: “After @TanKengLiang on PABill, let’s keep the fever going by our 2nd (debate) series, @Fuziah99 vs @TiLianKer on Lynas!” Twitterers on TwitterJaya (the moniker of the Malaysian Twittersphere) are familiar with the “radioactive” tweet exchanges between Kuantan MCA division chief Datuk Ti Lian Ker and Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh on the controversial Lynas rare earth project.

To some, the prospect of a public debate between MCA central committee member Ti and PKR vice-president Fuziah is as mouth watering as a mug of KR1M choco malt.

@szeming87 tweeted: “I would love to see debate on #Lynas (between) @TiLianKer & @Fuziah99.”

Almost immediately after @TaiZeeKin issued the debate challenge, @TiLianKer replied: “Sure! (I) can give a point or two on how 2 b a responsible people’s (representative) without aiming to score political brownies by blasting.”

And @Fuziah99 tweeted: “I accept. Have been challenging @TiLianKer for a debate for a long time before this.”

In explaining why he wanted to debate Fuziah, Ti said: “I have been wanting to call her bluff and have been throwing her challenges for a debate ever since she blasted irresponsibly with inadequate facts and distorted information on Lynas calculated to incite anger against the leaders (especially PM, Pahang MB and even DYMM Tuanku Pahang) and fear of the masses for their health and safety.

“There have been much proven untruth and conflicting information in Fuziah’s public statements. For example, she alleged that we are using China standards and not stringent Australian standards, which is false,” he said.

Ti explained that he was “not pro Lynas, nor am I a spokesman for Lynas”.

“But I am interested to seek a solution to an issue that could have been avoided had our (Kuantan voters’) people’s representative exercised due diligence or process!”

Fuziah accepted the debate challenge despite a tweet being confined to 140 characters.

“It is not a real platform for intellectual discourse or exchange of constructive ideas. Lynas is an issue which needs to be understood properly,” she said.

“It is also an issue which is multifaceted and needs to be looked at from various angles before one can make a decision on its safety or on the viability of the project.”

Fuziah added her observation was Ti was more interested in attacking her on a personal level rather than talking about the Lynas issue.

It is not the first time both politicians have accepted a debate challenge on #Lynas, however.

Ti recalled that he was the first to issue a challenge.

But, he said, Fuziah insisted on a debate in Kuantan as “she has the upper hand in terms of a militant emotional crowd there”.

“The debate should be on neutral ground with a rational, intellectual, sincere audience out to seek a solution or a win-win situation for all parties,” he explained.

“Subsequently, whenever we engaged in a debate in TwitterJaya, she will throw a challenge but she insisted on a political agenda i.e. to pander to the emotions and fear on the ground in Kuantan whereby any attempt to explain the facts and science of rare earth will be seen to be (coming from) a ‘traitor’.”

Fuziah has a different recollection.

“I don’t ever remember him agreeing to a debate. Every time he attacked me publicly, I challenged him to a debate but he had always declined, citing that he is no expert on the issue. Furthermore, no organiser has come forth before,” she related.

“As far as I remember, I have personally challenged (Ti) to a debate at least three times. And it was on Twitter every time.”

From their exchanges, it looks like a mud-wrestling match is a more apt description than a public debate.

When both politicians agreed to the debate on Monday, @skeatx tweeted: “This will be more of a mudslinging match instead.”

If @WanSaiful (Wan Saiful Wan Jan, Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs Malaysia CEO, who moderated the Tan vs Bon debate) could get Ti and Fuziah in the same room for a debate, he probably would win a Nobel Peace Prize.

Monday, December 05, 2011

From tweets to public debate


Born of a challenge on TwitterJaya, come Sunday, tweets on the Peaceful Assembly Bill will turn public debate, with the main twitterers facing off.

IT was a match made in Twitter. After exchanges confined to 140 characters in TwitterJaya, lawyers Tan Keng Liang and Edmund Bon agreed to bring their debate on the Peaceful Assembly Bill (#pa2011) to the public arena.

And #EdmundBonDebatesTanKengLiang will roar at the Malaysian Centre for Constitutionalism & Human Rights (PusatRakyatLB) in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur, on Sunday.

Kedah Gerakan Youth chief @TanKengLiang recalled: “I saw #EdmundBonDebatesTanKengLiang on my timeline (on Nov 28) and a tweet by @saroki19 - ‘@EdmundBon agree to live debate #pa2011, well done. @TanKengLiang how? 1Malaysia waiting 4 answer’.”

Tan believed that it would be a great opportunity for him to clarify the misconception over the Bill, and he accepted the challenge.

@EdmundBon, who is with, MyConsti and PusatRakyatLB related:

“On Nov 28 the Bar Council was in the midst of mobilising members to participate in #Walk4Freedom (to protest against #pa2011 at Parliament) and naturally conversations on TwitterJaya veered towards the Bill.

“I was trying to simplify how the Bill detrimentally affects the layperson through #FunFacts and Tan was tweeting in support of the Bill.

“Then out of the blue @saroki19 asked ‘Bon care to debate’, and I said ‘accepted’.”

In explaining his challenge, @saroki19 said he wanted to find out “what kind of man Tan was, as he was famous in TwitterJaya”.

Indeed, in TwitterJaya (the moniker of the Malaysian Twitter­sphere) Tan with 10,578 followers is so popular that he has his own hashtag - #KenLiangMania.

The joke in Twittersphere is if there is an election for P223 TwitterJaya, Tan will win it.

As @kcl1308 pointed out in his tweet: “I can see people are really excited about @TanKengLiang! He (is) almost like a movie star!”

The organiser, @saroki19, noted that there was interest in the debate because people wanted to see Tan in action.

“I want to see whether TKL is as articulate as he is in TJ (TwitterJaya). And the topic is quite hot at the moment,” said @NickLiewKY. He will travel from Penang to Ipoh and then together with @JoLum500 head for Kuala Lumpur to witness the debate.

The debate is a must-watch for @DatuWil as @TanKengLiang is his punching bag.

“I whack him on Twitter when I have a bad day at work,” he said.

“@TanKengLiang is oblivious to his own irritating persistence of fighting a losing cause.”

For example, referring to Perak DAP secretary Nga Kor Ming’s “Black Metallic” remark, @TanKengLiang tweeted: “So, will DAP take any action on @NgaKorMing + @NgehKooHam? Or hope Malaysians will forget about it? @LimKitSiang”.

And @MikiChoo retweeted: “yawWwnn”.

But to Barisan National cyber troopers, Tan is a hero.

@KhanOfWar tweeted: “@TanKengLiang is a real fighter we all #SupportTanKengLiang Kudos!”

Bon, with 3,406 followers, is no pushover in TwitterJaya.

Reading tweets about @EdmundBon, you can sense a certain adoration for him.

#BonCon is a popular hastag. According to him, “activists and friends think that I somehow ‘conned’ them to do activism work”.

Some Twitterers think #EdmundBonDebatesTanKengLiang will be bigger than the October Tweet Festival in Petaling Jaya.

The festival broke the Guinness World Records for the most number of check-ins (1,935) at a Tweetup.

On Saturday, @LimMengKeong tweeted: “I’ve been learning some karate moves to protect @TanKengLiang, just in case some of his fans get too excited.”

Just like maniacal Beatles fans, @PhilipGolingai expects women will throw their panties at Tan while he is debating.

The event will be moderated by @WanSaiful (Wan Saiful Wan Jan, the CEO of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs Malaysia or IDEAS).

And @HoongLing (Chew Hoong Ling, Voice of Women president, liver donor and Durian FM DJ) has volunteered to cover the event.

Tan is hoping @TonyPua (DAP publicity secretary Tony Pua) will attend the debate so that he can consume a mug of Kedai Rakyat 1Malaysia’s (KR1M) Chocolate Malt in front of him.

The challenge (born in TwitterJaya) is if Tan dares to drink the malt drink, Pua will donate RM1,000 to charity.

Yesterday, Pua tweeted three photo­graphs of cheques totalling RM1,000.

Echoing the confusion on #pa2011, @DidiMazril cheekily tweeted in Malay: “You don’t need to apply for a permit to hold this debate?”

And Tan replied: “Police permit not needed 4 debate at @PusatRakyatLB. It’s a private place ..... unless demo outside the building.”

Is it game on for the lawyer vs lawyer debate?

Unlike Opposition MPs who staged a walkout before the Peaceful Assembly Bill 2011 was passed on Tuesday, it was unlikely Bon and Tan would #WalkOut.

And as @SmellyKateMoss tweeted: “Attention TJ! Must see!”

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Women to the forefront

One Man's Meat

The fairer sex seems to be in an apparent bid to take over control. It's happening right at our backyard with the women-only train coaches, taxis and now Malaysia's first women's radio station in Capital FM 88.9. Maybe it's time for men to re-affirm who's the boss ... or not.

MEN, watch out. If we are not careful, sooner or later women will take control and kick us out of the bedroom.

Don't give me that quizzical macho look!

The signs are there. Women-only Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad coaches. Then women-only taxis.

And now Malaysia's first women's radio station Capital FM 88.9.

To paraphrase Helen Reddy's song I am Woman, women are roaring “in numbers too big to ignore”.

And the newly-launched Capital FM promises to be “the only radio station that provides women a voice and a hub to exchange thoughts and opinions”.

“Scary”, a male friend, who comes from the Neanderthal age, told me: “This might be a start of a Woman on Top' movement”, while giving me an expression that reminded me of an eunuch.

For me, I kept an open mind. I find the idea of a women's radio station as exciting as a Jennifer Lopez and Pitbull On the Floor music video.

But I did wonder what kind of music Capital FM 88.9 celebrity presenters such as Asha Gill and Joanne Kam would play.

Would it be exclusively songs with a female theme?

Before the radio station went on air on Thursday, I asked my colleague Martin Vengadesan, a music columnist, what he thought.

He suggested: It's Raining Men by The Weather Girls, You Oughta Know by Alanis Nadine Morissette, Independent Women by Destiny's Child and Girls Just Wanna Have Fun by Cyndi Lauper.

The concept of a radio station targeting urban women in Klang Valley aged between 25-35 has also sizzled my Twitter timeline.

Tweeting on the station that aims to be a platform for women's issues, @adellaaudrey commented: “so what do they yak about? Shopping? Sale? Pilates? Girl power? wait, ... MEN???”

Or perhaps cerebral topics as @asohan (Asohan Aryaduray) tweeted: “Something for #CapitalFM to discuss? RT @nytimes Jailed Afghan Woman Freed but Urged to Marry Rapist.”

I was curious about the radio station. So on Thursday, the day it was launched, I eavesdropped.

In their The Jam Break segment (from 4pm to 8pm), radio DJs Xandria Ooi and Liang were talking about the advantage of dating a younger guy.

At 7.49pm a caller named Sue remarked: “It is refreshing. Makes you feel young. Nowadays, there's not much of an age gap.”

Wow! I thought. They're talking about “Cougar” (a woman, 40 years of age or older, who pursues younger men).

Such a subversive topic which 40-something men like me feel threatened.

Gleefully, Sue, the caller, added: “Men now are more open. They can talk about cooking and cleaning. And men clean better. They don't mind doing household work.”

Ouch! Looks like men will be kicked out of the bedroom to the kitchen.

The Obedient Wives Club should protest against such an emasculating statement.

Another “ouch!” was during Groovedown, a 8pm to midnight segment which offers a “safe haven” for women as they are invited to share their thoughts and questions on relationships and social lifestyle.

Presenter Sheela Haran taunted: “Guys, you can listen in as well. Maybe you will learn a thing or two.”

Looks like the “Woman on Top” movement has really begun.

Someone should start a counter movement. Perhaps we should launch a “Real Radio for Real Men”.

Perkasa boss Datuk Ibrahim Ali and Malaysia Under-23 team coach Ong Kim Swee can be a guest in a segment that talks about all things men.

We can have topics such as “Who is more handsome: Wayne Rooney or John Terry?” or “Why a woman should drop everything when the hubby is in the mood for love?”.

Men, watch out. We need to show women who's the boss.

Oops! Got to go as my wife commanded me to prepare milk for our three-year-old Apsara.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Think global or you lose out


They (Malaysian businessmen) don’t think global. They don’t want to even think Asean. For them, they are in a comfort zone and it is enough to do business in Malaysia.

NINE years ago, Datuk Ilyas Mohamed’s businessmen friends laughed when he asked them to invest in Indonesia.

“Malaysian economy was at its best until 10 years ago. We were at the peak. After that, it started to go down,” recalled the Cartrade Group executive chairman.

And Ilyas decided to enter the Indonesian market. His first deal was to buy Mandala Airlines.

The deal, however, fell through when a Singaporean company outbid his group. It put more money on the table.

But the setback did not discourage him.

“I am very fortunate as I have a business partner there, who is one of the richest men in Indonesia,” noted the 50-something businessman.

His silent partner is a low profile multi-billionaire (we’re not talking about rupiahs but in US dollars).

“He is by name my partner. But he is not interested in my business as it is too small for him. Half of Jakarta belongs to him,” Ilyas related.

(Who? Google: Artha Graha Group.)

Now, 20% of Ilyas’ business is in Malaysia and the rest overseas, mostly in Indonesia; coal mining in Kalimantan and property development in Surabaya and Jakarta.

And his friends, who laughed at him as they thought he would be conned in Indonesia, are now following his footsteps.

“Indonesia is THE market. They have 245 million people. Can you go wrong in a market with 245 million people? And the Indonesian Govern­ment welcomes Malaysian companies,” he explained.

“There are a lot of opportunities in Indonesia. They are not even developing. They are just about to develop. If you go in now it is the best time. You can’t piggy back when they are (already) up there.”

Ilyas, however, cautioned:

“Of course, the important thing is to find the right partner. Many people go there and find the wrong partner, they get conned and then they say Indonesians are ‘penipu’ (conmen).”

The Malaysian market is small as the country’s population is 28 million.

“You can do small business (in Malaysia). But if you want to think big, you have to go out (of Malaysia),” the businessman said.

How big is Indonesia?

“Out of the 245 million Indone­sians, about 10% are super rich and that’s the total population of Malaysia,” Ilyas said.

How rich is “rich”?

“Oh, they are very, very rich,” he said and gave a figure (in ringgit) which I thought was unbelievable.

The thing with Malaysians, according to Ilyas, was we think small.

“They don’t think global. If not global then think Asean.

“But, they don’t want to even think Asean,” he said.

“For them, they are in a comfort zone. Sudahlah (it is enough) to do business in Malaysia.”

Most Malaysian businessmen (and we are not talking about the bosses of CIMB etc) do not want to venture.

For example, Ilyas said, “Sri Lanka is a good market now. Their trade minister, chief justice and banker (with a bank equivalent to Maybank) came down to talk to our businessmen. But they were not interested.”

It is the opposite for Singapore entrepreneurs. With their rock solid Singapore dollar, they are rushing into Sri Lanka.

“They know that their local base is small and they have to do business outside of Singapore,” he said.

The Philippines’ economy is also booming.

“Over the past 30 years, Filipinos are fed up with politics. And they work and work, building the economy themselves. And if we are not careful, we might be sending maids to the Philippines soon,” Ilyas said.

It is politics as usual in Malaysia.

“Instead of coming up with ideas on how to create business opportunities, our politicians come up with all sort of (political) issues,” Ilyas contended.

“They are creating issues for cheap publicity. For example, you can take 10 Chinese, 10 Indians and 10 Malays and sit them down together and there will be no racial issue among them.

“But it is the politicians and not the rakyat that come up with all sort of racial issues.”

“How to be a global player when you are thinking of politics 24 hours a day?”

Ilyas flies in and out of Indonesia spending about 15 to 16 days a month in that country.

So I asked: “Why don’t you relax and do business in Malaysia?”

His eyes gleamed. “Of course as a businessman, you are an opportunist. When you see so much of opportunities (in Indonesia) you just can’t resist.”

Ilyas assures that the Indonesian market is not as hostile as its fans during an Indonesia vs Malaysia football match.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Consumed with local affairs

One Man's Meat

The Philippines looms as the next big Asean entity and Indonesia is the place to ‘park’ one’s money, but we would rather not know that the barbarians are at the gate.

THE barbarians are at the gate and yet Malaysians are more fixated with whether a mentri besar was caught for khalwat with a girl from Pasir Panjang.

Not true, says the MB. But tongues still wag.

Perhaps we should be more concerned with the fact that the Philippines will be the next big thing in Asean.

I remember reading a report saying that if we are not careful, in two decades or so we will be sending maids to Manila.

The thing about us is we are more consumed with domestic affairs than foreign happenings.

Yes, from my Twitter timeline, Malaysians are also interested in the fact that former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was arrested on charges of fraud and Muammar Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam was captured.

But we are more intrigued with when Parliament will be dissolved, and whether Parti Kita president Datuk Zaid Ibrahim will contest in Petaling Jaya Utara or Petaling Jaya Selatan.

I, too, am guilty of paying too much attention to local politics and not enough to global issues.

Yes, I’m aware of the eurozone debt crisis. But don’t ask me to get into specifics.

However, I’ve become a specialist on Kedah Gerakan Youth chief Tan Keng Liang’s challenge to DAP publicity secretary Tony Pua: he will consume a mug of Kedai Rakyat 1Malaysia’s (KR1M) Chocolate Malt if the Petaling Jaya Utara MP donates RM1,000 to charity.

The challenge came after Pua claimed that KR1M’s 1Malaysia Growing Up Milk contained eight times the permitted amount of Vitamin A and was missing essential nutrients such as Omega 3, Vitamin B1, Vitamin D, Vitamin C and folic acid.

There was so much excitement in TwitterJaya (the moniker of the Malaysian twittersphere) over the issue, with some twitterers milking the issue with clever tweets such as “Pray for @TanKengLiang because he is going to drink 1Malaysia Choco Milk”.

Another big issue on TwitterJaya has spawned the mother of all puns and has also something to do with milk.

So syiok I was to absorb these comments like SpongeBob SquarePants, until I read a tweet by @Art_Harun (the lawyer) on Wednesday.

He tweeted in Malay: Malaysian politics – last month it was about molesting breast, this month it is about cows. When will we discuss the maximum impact of the eurozone on our economy?

Ouch. Time to come out from under my coconut shell.

So I decided to find out what the barbarians (Malaysia’s foreign rivals) were up to.

On Friday, I met a 20-something think-tank director at Coffee Bean in Bangsar Village to pick his brain.

The cerebral hotshot, who wants to keep a low profile at the moment, listed three challenges that Malaysia faces.

“Population wise, we are too small. We have a population of 28 million. Compare that with Indonesia’s 245 million, Thailand’s 66 million and the Philippines’ 103 million,” said the animated man, still wearing his maroon Friday prayer shirt.

“In terms of economies of scale, our enterprises will not grow so big because our market is small. We don’t have any option but to invest outside.”

Malaysian enterprises, he said, should think Asean to survive and grow.

“We should be on the forefront of ‘big’ Asean,” he explained.

He noted that Malaysian companies such as CIMB and Khazanah were investing in vibrant Indonesia, the country to “park” one’s money.

And through Twitter, he understands how important Indonesia is to the United States by reading the tweets of the American ambassador to Jakarta.

“Food security,” he said. “Many Malaysians do not realise that Malaysia imports almost everything – rice, fish and even chilli.

“Imagine chilli! I did not know that we imported chilli until I attended a briefing by Pemandu (Performance Management and Delivery Unit).

“We are also overly dependent on foreign workers. Free movement of people is important in a globalised world.

“But certain industries, such as palm oil and construction, should train Malaysians to work in these sectors.

“Suddenly they are finding it difficult to recruit Indonesian workers as that country’s economy is booming. Indonesians would rather work in Malaysian-owned palm oil plantations in their own country than in Malaysia.”

Note to myself: download the Economist iPad edition that has, as its cover story, “The magic of diasporas: Immigrant networks are a rare bright spark in the world economy”.

In the meantime, I wonder what will happen to Tan should he drink the 1Malaysia Chocolate Malt.

Monday, November 14, 2011

No bowing out for the seladang

One Man's Meat
By Philip Golingai

PRM, a left-wing party in the country, is looking for a resurgence in the coming general election

A DIE-HARD Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM) supporter trudged up a long flight of stairs to the party headquarters on the third floor of a shoplot in Petaling Jaya.

I could literally hear the 57-year-old man’s knee creaking as he spiritedly - one step at a time - advanced towards where PRM was celebrating its 56th birthday on Friday.

On the way up, he talked about the days in the 1960s when, as a boy, he put up PRM posters during the election campaign against the “kapal layar” (the sailboat logo of the Alliance, predecessor to Barisan Nasional).

“It was during the Vietnam War era when anti-Americanism was the rage and support for the party was at its height,” he recalled.

PRM won the parliamentary seats of Kuala Lumpur and Johor Baru in the 1959 general election.

At 11am sharp on 11.11.11, PRM president Rohana Ariffin and her comrades cut a cake with the party’s logo - the head of a seladang (the Malayan gaur), witnessed by about 50 people, including two party members who were ISA detainees.

After the party, I spoke to Rohana, a retired associate professor of Universiti Sains Malaysia.

A bit wary of attending a party with leftist leanings as it is the season to attack all things linked to Socialism, I asked the president to explain her party.

“The socialist party - as far as we know it in Malaysia - believes in the democratic process of being elected into power and not through armed revolution,” said the 60-something who was wearing a red bandana.

“If you ask what socialist ideology is, it believes that all production of the country should be for the consumption of the rakyat first and not so much for profit.

“You can make a certain amount of profit but the rakyat’s interest comes first, especially that of the working class.”

PRM is one of Malaysia’s oldest political parties. It was founded as Parti Rakyat on Nov 11, 1955 by Ahmad Boestamam, Dr Burhanuddin Al Helmy and Ishak Mohamad.

“The party was strong in the 1960s and 1970s. But since it was the only legitimate left-wing party in the country at that time, the Government came down hard on people with socialist ideologies,” said Rohana.

“When you look at the evolution of the party, most PRM leaders (such as Boestamam, Kassim Ahmad and Syed Husin Ali) have been detained in prison.”

In 2003, PRM was thought to have been dissolved when it merged with Parti Keadilan Nasional to form Parti Keadilan Rakyat.

“At that time, the party leadership was quite ‘tired’ because society would not accept us as they saw PRM as left-wing and there was a popular movement which was Keadilan, so they decided to merge.”

However, like the seladang, PRM stubbornly refused to become extinct.

“The only problem with the merger was that we should have had a last delegates’ meeting to dissolve the party in an honourable manner,” Rohana recalled.

But in the haste to merge, the leadership “forgot” to do so.

In 2005, die-hard supporters convened a national congress and “resurrected” the party as it was never de-registered.

During the interview with Rohana, PRM supporters would quietly slip RM10 or RM50 to the party president as they bid goodbye to her.

“This is our culture,” she explained. “We are a very poor party and we rely on financial support from our members. Usually what we do is pay with our own money for an event we organise and then our members will give donations.”

It is heart-warming for Rohana to see die-hard supporters climb the steps to attend the party’s event.

“For example, there was a 70-something member who came from Sungai Tembiling (in Pahang) by boat and bus and he told me, ‘Parti Rakyat is my party and I will never change’,” Rohana related.

“And even among the young the spirit is there. Our party is rejuvenated by the young who are interested in left-wing politics.”

The young, she said, were fed up with the infighting in Parliament between the Government and the Opposition.

“There is no compromise or middle ground in any issue that the two coalitions can’t see the trees for the forest.”

The party is seeking relevance in the next election.

It is targeting to contest in seats like Selayang, Balik Pulau and Petaling Jaya Selatan.

The seladang, which can’t be put to pasture, is hoping left-wing politics will make a resurgence.

Friday, November 11, 2011

YB a mind reader?

One Man's Meat

If you are not the Prime Minister or on whispering terms with him, don’t pretend you know when the election will be called.

EVEN at the eleventh hour, some Malay­sians were still speculating whether something big – other than the once-in-a-lifetime wedding date – would happen on 11.11.11.

Yesterday, my smartphone was bombarded with SMSes asking whether Parliament would be dissolved today.

The spread of such speculation can be blamed on politicians who think they can read the Prime Minister’s mind.

Since speculating on the election date has fevered Malaysians, let me list 11 things politicians – to borrow a DAP battle cry in the Sarawak polls – should ubah (change) about themselves.

1) If you are not the Prime Minister or on whispering terms with him, don’t pretend you know when the election will be called.

Yes, it is a powerful feeling to have people lean closer to listen to your theory that it is 11.11.11 because 11 is the PM’s favourite number. But such coffeeshop talk is not good for those planning a life in November.

2) Don’t be a jack-in-a-box politician.

Just like a certain party president who appeared out of nowhere and was PhotoShopped cycling next to the Prime Minister, there are political unknowns who suddenly pop out like a jack-in-a-box.

On the day Parliament is dissolved, they declare themselves a candidate.

If you want to be a candidate, at least let your presence be felt. Perhaps tweet (ie on the Auditor-General’s Report) or lead a fiery protest against something (ie Elton John’s concert).

3) Don’t be a foul-mouthed politician.

Just because you wear a T-shirt with a Superman logo, it does not mean you have superpowers to abuse your rivals with expletives that will make even Kim Kardashian blush. Win over your voters with a cause.

4) Don’t pull a Carlos Tevez.

Make sure that you don’t miscalculate and book your holiday on the day Parliament is dissolved. If not, you would end up holidaying in China while your comrades are campaigning.

They would accuse you of behaving like the Manchester City striker who was charged for refusing to play when told to do so by his coach.

Perhaps you should listen to more coffee shop talk on when Parliament will be dissolved.

5) Don’t be a yo-yo politician.

Meaning: don’t be consistently inconsistent. Don’t say “yes” to hudud today and “no” tomorrow. Chameleons are great for the Animal Planet series but not for Parliament.

6) Stop being a drain-orientated politician.

If you are a politician of a certain status (ie an exco member), don’t proudly tweet that you are solving your constituents’ drainage problem.

Your state has bigger problems than a blocked drain. Leave that to your municipal councillors.

7) Be a frog prince.

Don’t be a political frog who would jump party the moment you experience a political awakening while sleeping in Parliament.

Surprise your voters so that when they “kiss” ugly you, you turn out to be a frog prince as honourable as Nelson Mandela.

8) If you are not Nelson Mandela, don’t compare yourself to Nelson Mandela.

There are politicians from both sides of the political spectrum who have shamelessly compared themselves to Mahatma Gandhi, Dalai Lama and Nelson Mandela.

Funny thing is that some of them are more Silvio Berlusconi than Mandela.

9) Quit if you are a has-been politician.

There’s nothing more dangerous than a politician who is looking at the rear-view mirror of his political career.

A has-been politician might join a “trustworthy” non-governmental organisation and start accusing his party of things (ie corrupt practices) he was blind to when he was in power.

10) Don’t promise to build a bridge even when there’s no river.

That’s all. Oops, only 10 whereas I promised 11. Well, like a politician, I lied.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Driving home a message

One Man's Meat

While on holiday in the Gold Coast of Australia, former Miss Malaysia finalist Leng Yein fell in love with a pink-coloured Hummer H3 limousine. She has acquired one for herself and turned it into an expression of girl power.

WHAT happens when a female model buys a masculine sport utility truck – a pink Hummer H3 – the only such vehicle in Malaysia?

Last month, Leng Yein, a former Miss Malaysia finalist famous for publicly admitting she had gone under the knife, bought a greyish blue Hummer.

And to celebrate Girl Power, the 26-year-old model turned the “manly” vehicle into a “girl’s car”.

It was – to borrow a cliche, love at first sight, when Leng Yein saw a pink-coloured Hummer H3 limousine in the Gold Coast in June.

“I went yeah! I can turn this manly vehicle into a girl’s car because no man will want to drive a pink car,” she recalled.

“The Hummer already stands out because of its bulk, and I told myself; ‘why don’t I turn it into a symbol of girl power to show that women can drive any car guys drive’.”

During her Australian holiday Leng Yein rented a white-coloured Hummer H3 as there were no pink-coloured ones available for rent.

She drove it for more than a week and liked its “steadiness. I felt like the Queen of the road.”

But when the model returned to Malaysia, she did not rush into buying a vehicle associated with Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was among the first to own a Hummer.

“I knew General Motors in the US had stopped its production and I was worried that if the Hummer breaks down, it would be hard to get it running again,” she said.

Leng Yein dilly-dallied until Oct 9 when she flipped through a local car magazine and saw in the classifieds a brand-new full specs H3x, the only one in Malaysia, for sale.

She bought it and dressed up her spanking new Hummer H3 by giving it a “pink frock” with lots of chrome (rims, sidestep, bumper and tyre cover).

“I chose chrome because it looks like a mirror and girls love mirrors. And pink and mirrors go together. It is definitely girlish,” she added.

“But surely,” I asked, “you did not just buy the Hummer to make it girlish?”

She said: “No I got it because it is strong, outstanding, solid, fierce, steady, powerful, tough and rare.”

The model was reading a laundry list of reasons why she bought the Hummer which she listed on her Facebook page that has about 100,000 friends.

“It is about my identity. When people see a Hummer they go ‘wow!’ and want to see who is driving it. And it is sexy to see a girl driving one,” she said.

Leng Yein wouldn’t want to be caught dead driving her vehicle in its original greyish blue colour.

“If I drove a Hummer in any colour other than pink, it would be a guy’s car. And people would think that I was driving my father’s car,” she explained.

Driving the Hummer makes the model feel like she owns the road.

Even when she’s in a traffic jam in Kuala Lumpur, she does not feel like she’s stuck in traffic.

“Motorists will give way to my Hummer,” she said with a mischievous smile.

“Or maybe they give way because they would like to see who is the driver of the rare pink-coloured Hummer.”

Leng Yein also gets updates on her Facebook page from friends who spot her dream car.

“They will post ‘Jie (Leng Yein’s nickname) I saw your car parked in KL or I saw your car at a toll booth in Penang’,” she said.

Leng Yein’s Facebook address is prominently displayed on both sides of her Hummer’s exterior.

“I knew that many sponsors will be interested to contact the owner of this loud pink vehicle. So I put my Facebook address there so that sponsors will know who to contact,” she explained.

The pretty pink vehicle also displays her sponsors’ logos.

“There are many companies that want to advertise on my car. For example, there are six or seven car tinting companies that want to be my sponsor,” she revealed.

The model, who is currently hosting SEMA 2011 (the largest auto show in the world) in Las Vegas, has also received several calls inviting her to showcase her Hummer in events such as the Auto Fair.

Looks like the pink Hummer is getting to be as famous as Leng Yein.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Anti-climax in ‘Seks Islam’ book

One Man's Meat

The Obedient Wives Club (OWC) controversial pocket-sized Malay-language sex guide sold exclusively to its members is more of a mother’s labour of love for her son who was getting married.

IF I got RM50 for every time someone asked me a copy of Seks Islam, I would be as rich as Alex Comfort, the author of The Joy of Sex.

On Oct 21, in Petaling Jaya, at a press conference organised by Obedient Wives Club (OWC), the author of Seks Islam, Perangi Yahudi Untuk Kembalikan Seks Islam Kepada Dunia (Islamic Sex, Fighting Jews to Return Islamic Sex to the World), Hatijah Aam (pic) gifted the book to journalists.

Speaking via Skype from Mecca in Saudi Arabia, Hatijah, the OWC founder, told the club members: “Please present the book now to the media representatives.”

“We don’t want to hide it. We want to be transparent.

“We want to show that we are not hiding our (sex) knowledge,” she said.

And the dozen or so journalists became proud owners of the controversial pocket-sized Malay-language sex guide sold exclusively to OWC members for RM50.

Instantly, When I – @philipgolingai – “live” tweeted that I had a copy, I received several requests for a copy.

In my office, almost everybody I met was excited over my owning THE book except for this one guy who got aroused for the wrong reason. He thought I had a copy of the Auditor-General’s Report.

It seems everyone I knew lusted for the knowledge on how to graduate from kindergarten-level sex to PhD-level sex.

Who wouldn’t want to read a book advocating “spiritual sex” (a man could “come” spiritually to all his wives simultaneously even though they’re in Ipoh, Kuala Lum­pur, Singapore and Johor)?

And, by the day, the book is getting more notorious. Last week, the Sarawak government banned the distribution of Seks Islam in the state.

As my friends flipped through the book, their initial remarks were: “No picture ah?” or “No graphics ah? All words?”.

Sorry to disappoint, but the book isn’t the Comfort’s titillatingly illustrated Joy of Sex.

In fact, the 115-page booklet was a mother’s labour of love for her son who was getting married.

The preamble to Seks Islam – from its research – OWC found that what a woman sexually provided her husband was 10% of what his real sexual needs were.

“The wife thinks her 10% is 100%. She’s also dumb not to want to be taught about sex. She has a prejudiced perception that sex is obscene,” wrote Hatijah.

Chapter one explains why OWC was formed, chapter two talks about Hatijah’s husband, the late Al-Arqam founder Ashaari Muhammad, chapter three about giving 100% loyalty to your husband, chapter four is a guide for the future groom and chapter five is a letter to the bride.

Yawn. Yawn. Nothing that really makes me blush.

A friend, however, told me to check out page 75 as it contained "graphic description".

"Belum pun jemu, berhiburan di bibir mulut, tangan suamiku seperti tidak mampu dikawal-kawal untuk segara menangkap buah-buah dadaku dan diramas-ramaskan dan dimain-mainkan putingnya sepenuh hatinya. Aku pula mengalami rasa nikmat yang tidak terperi," Hatijah wrote in Malay.

Roughly translated: "I was not yet bored with oral 'entertainment' but my husband could not control his hands and they quickly caught my breasts and with his heart's content he squeezed and played with my nipples. And I experienced a pleasure which was not painful."

Hatijah also explained the difference between a man and a woman.

A man is held hostage by his desire. In order words, just like peeing, when a man has to go, he has to go.

A woman, however, can turn off and turn on her sexual desire as if it were a switch.

“If a wife loves her husband, she must instantly fulfil his sexual needs,” she advocated.

The climax of the book is in its conclusion.

Hatijah writes about her two-month training with Ashaari to become a heroic and angelic wife.

And she revealed her late husband could perform sex simultaneously with his wives, spiritually.

“Intimacy is much more pleasurable and ‘lighter’ through spiritual sex compared with physical sex,” she wrote.

Hatijah writes about seks serentak (simultaneous sex) but she does not reveal how to do it spiritually.

Perhaps, as she said in the press conference, what was taught in Seks Islam was just the tip of the iceberg (20%) of her sex knowledge.

So what has the book – as its title suggests – got to do with Jews?

From what I gather Jews have been propagating “extremely pornographic” illicit sex.

Am I missing something in life?

I’m not sure what I was expecting from the book. Techniques on how to please a Uranus chick with eight breasts?

For all its hype, reading the hyped book was an anti-climax.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Taking sex to the PhD-level

One Man's Meat

The Obedient Wives Club wanted to keep it under the covers but since it leaked out, interest for its sex-guide book has yet to reach a climax.

FRIDAY’S press conference by the Obedient Wives Club (OWC) reminded me of Salt-n-Pepa’s 1991 hit song Let’s Talk About Sex.

The hip-hop song goes: “Let’s talk about sex. Yo, I don’t think we should talk about this. C’mon, why not? People might misunderstand what we’re tryin’ to say, you know? No, but that’s a part of life.”

That about sums up the exasperation of the club embroiled in a controversy after it published a pocket-sized 115-page Malay-language book titled Seks Islam, Perangi Yahudi Untuk Kembalikan Seks Islam Kepada Dunia (Islamic Sex, Fighting Jews to Return Islamic Sex to the World).

To clarify media reports that the book encouraged a man to have an orgy with all of his wives, five OWC officials (including two men) met the press.

At the start of the 90-minute press conference in Petaling Jaya, OWC national chairman in Malaysia Fauziah Ariffin read a statement from Hatijah Aam, the club founder.

Hatijah, one of the wives of the late Al-Arqam founder Ashaari Muhammad, said the sex guide was only for OWC members who were married.

“We are disappointed with those who distributed the book without our knowledge until it created a misunderstanding,” she said.

Fauziah then tackled the controversial issue of “seks serentak (simultaneous sex)”.

“Simultaneous does not mean that on the bed there is one man and four women,” she said with a sarcastic laugh.

“When a man has reached a high level of spirituality, his wali (spiritual guardian) can come in contact with his wives wherever they are.

“Maybe one wife is in Ipoh, another in Kuala Lumpur, in Singapore or in Johor but he can ‘come’ to his wife simultaneously. That is the wonder of spiritual sex.”

Wow! I thought. Note to myself: evolve from missionary position. But was “spiritual sex” possible, I wondered.

As if reading my thoughts, Dr Azlina Jamaluddin, a dentist and OWC leader, said it was not something a common person could comprehend.

“To you there might be no logic to what we are saying,” Dr Azlina explained. “But when Prophet Noah built an ark on a mountain at that time there was no logic in what he was doing.”

Mohd Rasidi, a male member of the panel, claimed what was taught in the book was “high level” sex. “It is PhD-level,” he said.

“To understand the book,” said Fauziah, “the author of the book herself wants to talk to the media via Skype from Mecca.”

And Hatijah’s voice filled the conference room.

In an exasperated tone, the 57-year-old Malaysian woman based in Saudi Arabia said the club purposely did not sell the book to non-members because the public would not be able to comprehend it.

In other words, you and I are practising “kindergarten-level sex” as compared with “PhD-level sex”.

And, quoting the Quran, Hatijah went deep into the theory of “spiritual sex”.

Here are some of Hatijah’s insights on sex.

> If your spirit is pure you can have sex with your wife even though you are abroad fighting a war.

> God allows sex sports. And to be good in sex you need practice.

> Orgasm releases a pain killer and helps with fever. But don’t have affairs on the pretext of curing your fever.

> Orgasm prevents wrinkles.

> Sex can make you younger. Jogging can be replaced by “sexcercise”.

> Only animals have sex without mukadimah (foreplay).

> It is important for a woman’s breasts to be sucked in order to prevent breast cancer (quoting a BBC news report).

During the Q&A session, I asked: “I’m curious, has the panel experienced simultaneous sex? Have you reached the PhD-level of sex?”

And – I’m not sure whether I imagined this – the panel members lowered their heads as if they felt sexually inadequate.

After a hush-hush discussion among themselves, Mohd Rasidi said: “So far, it is a knowledge that we are still trying to understand.

“We have not experienced it as our roh (spirit) has not reached PhD-level,” he explained.

“How about Hatijah?” I asked.

And Azlina, the dentist, said: “We have not experienced it yet. We are still trying. The person who has experienced it is Hatijah Aam. Hopefully one day, God willing, we can reach that level.”

Hatijah also revealed that she was writing a second sex guide book.

“The first book revealed 20% (sex knowledge). But the second book will reveal 100%. But we will make sure the public will not get their hands on this book about heaven on earth,” she added.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Anyone for orang asli seafood?

One Man's Meat

The five wooden restaurants in Kampung Orang Asli Sungai Temon are perhaps the only orang asli seafood restaurants in the country. Not surprising is that the restaurants are run by the Orang Seletar, or the Orang Laut, who depend on the sea for a living.

CAN you image “orang asli” and “seafood restaurant” in the same sentence?

Last month when googling “seafood restaurant + Johor Baru” I was dumbfounded to discover there were several orang asli seafood restaurants along the coast of Johor.

I told myself I must check out an orang asli seafood restaurant when I’m in JB as I was curious to know the dishes it served. Garoupa steamed with petai? Prawn cooked in bamboo?

When I was in JB to write about the Orang Seletar, an orang asli community who used to be sea nomads, People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Johor chairman Datuk Dr Siva Kumar introduced his orang asli bureau chief Eddy anak Salim to me.

Eddy’s family owns Salim seafood restaurant in Kampung Orang Asli Sungai Temon, a fishing village at Danga Bay. The villagers are Orang Seletar (also called Orang Laut), who make a living from the sea.

As you enter the wooden restaurant on stilts, you’re greeted by a signboard written in Orang Seletar language: Salemat Kian Kaun. Man Kedai Kami (roughly translated: Welcome. Eat at our shop).

The open-air restaurant has a view of Johor Baru city and Singapore’s Woodlands.

And what we ate in the restaurant was ... surprise, surprise ... seafood dishes typically found in Chinese-owned seafood restaurants.

“Why Chinese-styled seafood dishes?” I asked Eddy, a 32-year-old Orang Seletar.

“My father (Salim anak Palun, the 50-year-old Tok Batin, or village head, of Kampung Orang Asli Sungai Temon) learned to cook Chinese food. And our customers (from Johor and Singapore) prefer this style of cooking,” he related.

Eddy then told the story of his forward-thinking father who probably started the first orang asli-owned seafood restaurant in Malaysia.

“My father was unlike other orang asli of his generation. He mixed with other races and he learnt from them,” he said.

Salim owned fish, prawn and clam farms in the fishing village founded by his father Palun anak Teton from a mangrove jungle.

“But 20 years ago my father knew his livelihood would not last forever as he saw that development would pollute the waters where we made a living,” Eddy said.

“So, my dad decided to fulfil my grandfather’s wish to turn his tuckshop into a seafood restaurant.”

When Salim seafood restaurant became popular, Eddy’s relatives living in Kampung Orang Asli Sungai Temon also opened their own restaurants. Now there are five wooden seafood restaurants in the fishing village.

But Eddy’s clan is an exception among the Orang Seletar community in Johor.

Perhaps their village’s proximity to Johor Baru played a role in them rising out of poverty.

Many Orang Seletar living in relatively remote coastal areas in Johor are finding it difficult to eke out a living.

“For example, at Sungai Tiram, they are not educated and not all of them want to work in a factory,” explained Eddy, who is an SPM graduate.

“They’d rather make a living out of nature just like our ancestors. But the oil palm plantations and sand mining companies are polluting the rivers and the sea where they usually fish.”

The villagers whom I met at Perkampungan Orang Asli Kampung Pasir Salam at Sungai Tiram are proud of their heritage.

They related how the Orang Laut used to command Tebrau Strait and the coasts of Johor and Singapore.

“As late as 1980s, some Orang Laut still lived in sampans. That was our way of life.

“We were born in sampans, we lived in sampans and we died in sampans,” said Eddy.

As I savoured the sweet and sour crab and buttered prawn during my 3pm lunch, primary school boys (Eddy’s cousins) were living the idyllic life – jumping into the sea from a stilted restaurant in Kampung Orang Asli Sungai Temon.

But development is rapidly encroaching into their life.

From the restaurant, you can hear the construction of the multi-million Danga Bay development.

The big question mark for the Orang Seletar, who have lived in the village for three generations, is whether Kampung Orang Asli Sungai Temon has to make way for a concrete seafront jungle.

Dr Siva believes an amiable solution can be found between the villagers and the developer.

Rapid development has also polluted the surrounding waters in the fishing village.

“Twenty years ago it was easy for us to make a living from the sea. In two weeks we could get RM1,000 worth of catch,” Eddy related.

“Now, you’re lucky if you can get RM20 worth of catch in a day. We cannot depend on the sea anymore.”

Now the seafood restaurant business is more dependable.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The many hats of a politician


Having to settle a broom fight between two 60-something neighbours, play private investigator and exorcise ghosts are but some of the more interesting tasks asked of an MP.

POLITICIANS tweet. They do it mostly to gain a point or two over their political rivals. But their tweets also give an insight into the life of a politician.

One politician whom I follow on Twitter is @limlipeng – Segambut MP Lim Lip Eng. Occasionally, Lim will tweet about the “innocent but ridiculous” requests he gets from his constituents.

@limlipeng tweeted: “A parent wants me to run background check on his soon(-to-be) daughter-in-law. Grr ...”

“These parents from Jinjang asked me to find out the marital status of their 20-something son’s future wife (who is 10 years older than him),” the DAP politician explained.

“They heard rumours that she was a divorcee or was staying with another boyfriend and they wanted me to do PI (private investigator) work for them.”

Lim told them that their son was an adult and they could not control him for the rest of his life.

Who do you call when you live in a condominium facing a stretch along busy Jalan Kuching that is accident-prone and believed to be haunted? Ghostbuster Lim.

“I’ve received at least three complaints from people living in that condominium.

“They told me that a particular spot is accident-prone because a ghost appears in the middle of the night to frighten motorists,” the Segambut MP said at his service centre facing Jalan Kuching.

“They told me to ‘cleanse’ the road but I’ve not done it yet.”

Lim also tweeted about settling a broom fight between two 60-something neighbours over a parking lot in front of their luxury homes in a gated community in Desa Park City.

“They quarrelled using vulgar words in Cantonese.

“One ‘auntie’ could not take the verbal abuse and she took a broom to whack the other ‘auntie’. And the son – who saw his mother being beaten – told the assailant that he would kill all her family members,” he said.

The assailant lodged a police report about the death threat and the man (a senior government officer) ended up in a Jinjang lock-up.

He called Lim to settle the case, who managed to get the case withdrawn by asking the man to apologise to his neighbour.

The Segambut MP’s job also involved negotiating a former VIP’s loan shark debt.

“I received a call from a Datuk who lives in Taman Tun Dr Ismail.

“When we met at a nearby coffeeshop, he showed me photographs of him with prominent leaders, including national and foreign dignitaries taken about 20 to 30 years ago,” he said.

“He said he helped a friend who was in deep financial trouble to borrow money from some Ah Long. However, his friend ran away and could not be traced.

“The Datuk gave me the names of five Ah Long and asked me to negotiate with them to delay payment of the debt (about RM80,000) for about two weeks.”

The Segambut MP tweeted: “Two of the five Ah Long agreed to extend payments owed by a Datuk in TTDI to end of the month. This is the best I can do for him.”

Once, Lim was approached by a 50-something woman who claimed to be a journalist with a “critical link” to a case involving a prominent Taiwa­nese politician who killed a political rival in Taiwan 10 years ago.

“I met her and she showed me photographs of her with Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou, former Taiwan president Chen Shui-bian, Taiwanese Cabinet ministers and high-ranking bosses of Sin Chew Jit Poh (Chinese daily).

“She wanted me to organise a press conference to highlight that Taiwanese hitmen were pursuing her,” he said.

Lim told her that he would only organise a press conference if she lodged a police report. However, the woman refused, alleging that Malaysian police were in cahoots with the Taiwanese killers.

Twitter is also a medium for the MP to interact with his constituents.

@nizran77 tweeted: “@limlipeng: Besides looking for potholes in @ttdiTV, can you add: Remove Massage + Ah Long ads? Anno­ying!”

Lim replied: “It’s on my list.”

“Any weird request that you’ve not tweeted about?” I asked Lim. He grinned.

There are times when the happily-married MP has to entertain “dirty calls”. And it is not about dirty drains, but rather female admirers who want to vividly describe their sexual acts with their ex-boyfriends.

That and receiving life-threatening calls all seem to be part of a YB’s job.

Monday, September 26, 2011

All quiet on the border front


Malaysians flocking to the Thai town of Golok for cheap food and shopping are as much victims of bomb blasts that target sleazy entertainment joints that supporters of a militant movement frown upon.

So how’s Golok? I asked a supervisor at a parking lot in Rantau Panjang next to the Golok River that separates Kelantan and Thailand’s Narathiwat province.

“Look at the car park. It is practically empty. Usually it is filled with cars,” said Mie of the RM5 a day parking lot, about 100m from the Malaysian immigration check point.

Four days after the triple bombings at Golok in Narathiwat province that killed four Malaysians (including a three-year-old boy) and a Thai national, and injured 50 people, Malaysians are staying clear of the border town in Thailand’s restive deep south.

“Are you going in without a passport?” Mie asked as I negotiated for a motorcycle ride into Golok town about 2km away.

I raised my eyebrows.

“There are men who don’t use their passport so that their wives won’t know they’ve been to Golok,” he said.

I asked him if it was safe to venture into Thailand without using a passport.

“Actually can. It is just a matter of whether in your heart, you feel safe,” said Mie.

“If you want to be safe, the hotel to stay in Golok is Genting Hotel (which has no relation to the famous resort in Pahang).

“It (the hotel) is closer to the Malaysian border – therefore clearer Malaysian mobile phone reception – and further from central Golok,” my colleague Syed Azhar told me.

“Don’t stay in Marina (in central Golok). It is located next to the entertainment centres, and can be a target.”

Room 904 in Genting Hotel has stained carpets and the smell of stale cigarette smoke permeated the air.

It was as if the room represented Golok.

“Where did the bombs go off?” I asked the bellboy in Malay.

The bellboy, a Thai Malay Muslim, pointed towards central Golok, about 2km away.

“Toom toom there at Marina Hotel and Merlin Hotel,” he said. “Now Malaysians are afraid to come to Golok.”

Once I had unpacked and hidden my iPad and passport under the bed, I went to look for a motorcycle taxi.

Pai toom toom,” I told the driver in the little Thai that I knew (in Thai, pai means “go”).

He smiled and nodded his head. And he drove me to YB Karaoke, a greenish-coloured joint. Seated outside were smiling female GROs (guest relations officers) with brownish tinted hair and slender bodies.

There was no sign of “toom toom”.

Oops, I realised it was a classic case of “lost in translation”. He thought I wanted “boom boom”.

Boom boom, I was told, is the main reason Malaysian men visit Golok.

But that night there weren’t any. There were no Malaysian men with sweet, young Thais hanging on to them in Sin City.

The other Malaysians drawn to the border town are families on the lookout for cheap food and shopping.

“Boom! boom!” I told the driver with a tone that sounded like a bomb blast. And he understood that he had taken me to the wrong place.

The three bombs hidden in two motorcycles and a car set off a few minutes apart on Sept 16 night targeted two karaoke joints and a popular eatery near the Merlin and Marina hotels.

The bomb that killed the Malaysians was hidden in a car parked near the eatery. The place had an eerie, abandoned atmosphere to it.

Across the eatery, in Merlin hotel, a shattered glass pane has still not been replaced.

The day before I visited Golok, I was in Universiti Utara Malaysia in Kedah to interview Duncan McCargo, an expert on Thailand’s Deep South conflict.

I asked him why Golok was targeted.

“I don’t know who did it. Or what their particular motive was,” he said.

“But clearly this kind of incident is very effective in harming trade, in reducing the income that these communities receive from people coming from Malaysia.

“Many of the people who sympathise with the militant movement don’t like the entertainment industry.

“They don’t like bars, they don’t like prostitution and they don’t like a lot of the things that they see as symbols of the activities in Sungai Golok.

“And they don’t like the tourists going across the border to patronise those kinds of services, which they can’t necessarily access in Malaysia.”

In case you’re curious, no, I did not have the time for an ancient Thai massage with a happy ending.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A new spin on the conflict


Thai police and the military are saying that drug dealers had a hand in orchestrating the deadly coordinated bombings in Golok last Friday.

ON Sunday morning, Thai expert Duncan McCargo was “slightly surprised” when he read in a Malaysian newspaper about the triple bombings in Golok, Thailand.

“What was very striking is the paper (not The Star) was quoting Thai security officials suggesting that it had something to do with drugs, (thus) giving credence to that line of argument,” McCargo, a University of Leeds professor specialising in Thailand, related in an interview at the Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) campus in Kedah.

“I was slightly surprised that the commentary in the newspaper did not in any way critique this sort of line of explanation.”

McCargo was referring to the three bomb blasts in Golok in Narathiwat province that killed four Malaysians (including a three-year-old boy) and a Thai national and injured 50 others on Sept 16.

In a statement, Thai authorities alleged that drug dealers had a hand in the deadly coordinated bombings in the Thai town about two kilometres from the Kelantan border.

“I don’t know what caused this particular incident because it has not been investigated yet. But the fact that it has not been investigated yet does not stop the Thai authorities from immediately speculating along a particular line,” noted the author of several books on Thailand including Tearing Apart the Land: Islam and Legitimacy in Southern Thailand and Rethinking Thailand’s Southern Violence.

Research by McCargo and Srisompob Jitpiromsri of Prince of Songkla University, Pattani in Thailand’s Deep South (Narathiwat, Yala and Pattani) has shown otherwise.

“We are very, very critical of a recent trend which is actually a revisitation of an earlier trend by authorities in Thailand to claim that a lot of the violence in the Deep South are basically crime-related incidents,” said the Briton who is also a distinguished professor at the School of International Studies in UUM.

Thai authorities, according to McCargo, talk about these attackers not as “terrorists” or “militants” but as “perpetrators of violence”.

“This generic phrase has crept into news reports because it has been fed to journalists by police and the military who have decided to keep on talking about ‘perpetrator of violence’. Srisompob and I are deeply sceptical that this is a very useful way of explaining most of these incidents,” he said.

“It is perfectly possible that people could be killed in relation to drug smuggling and other (crime-related) stories. But with the scale of the (Golok) incident – three bombs going off in a tourist area – the idea that it was to get revenge on the Thai police seems pretty far-fetched for me.”

According to the Bangkok Post, the first of three explosions went off at 6.40pm opposite the Teochew Association.

The blast, which came from a parked motorcycle, wounded a large number of passersby, both tourists and locals, and killed a Thai. About 15 minutes later, another motorcycle bomb went off in front of a bar about 300m from the first explosion. Several Thais and Malaysian tourists sustained shrapnel wounds. At about 7.20pm, a third bomb exploded from a car parked near a food stall opposite the Merlin Hotel.

There are undoubtedly, admitted McCargo, some incidents in the Deep South where there aren’t any political incidents.      

“Some of them are your normal tit-for-tat killings. Southern Thailand, and Thailand as a whole, is a very violent society. It has the second highest murder rate in Asia,” he explained.

“Thais don’t like to be reminded of this fact but actually, they’ve got a very, very serious violence problem all over the country.”

But with 4,700 people killed since 2004, the Deep South conflict is the third-most intensive insurgency in the world after Iraq and Afghanistan.

Not a normal crime

This figure, argued McCargo, did not commensurate with normal crime.

“Some of them may be normal crime but something else is going on which is much bigger. When people are shooting at military vehicles, attacking army bases, you can’t explain these incidents by reference to ordinary crimes,” he said.

“But the Thai authorities are doing the very best to claim that everything is normal, everything is all right, that Thailand is safe, everything is okay.”

It is quite dangerous, according to McCargo, to keep on talking that way as the logical assumption when you have a large bomb going off is that it is in some ways related to a political motive – some kind of separatist ethnic conflict.

The Thai authorities are in denial of the nature of the conflict. They refuse to admit that it is politically motivated and are more interested in inventing other explanations.

“They don’t want the outside world to think of the conflict as a civil war. Once you admit that, then you admit you’ve got a real legitimacy problem inside the Thai state,” he explained.

“They don’t want to admit that some kind of political problem exists. They want to believe that everybody loves Thailand, all Thais are happy to be Thai, everybody in Thailand is happy, everybody who goes to Thailand loves it, Thais are smiling, and so on. Bits of those things are true. But not all the time and not everywhere.”      

What’s happening in the Deep South, according to McCargo, is the 64 million dollar question.

“That is what we are trying to get to the bottom of. This is a multi-casual conflict. There’s no one simple explanation,” said the professor who in 2005/2006 – driving mostly by himself in an old Mercedes Benz – visited all the red zones in the three Thai Muslim-majority provinces to research the Deep South conflict.

“My belief is – while this does not account for every violent incident – at the core of the problem is the crisis of legitimacy. You have 1.3 million Malay Muslims within these three provinces who have the potential to not fully embrace a Thai identity,” he explained.

“Undoubtedly some of these people will say, ‘we are Thai, we are happy with the label of Thai’. But a large majority of them are less than 100% happy with the label Thai and would tell you that they are Malay or talk about their identity in some other way.

“There’s a historical explanation to it. Like most countries which are not an island, Thailand has a problem with borders. Thailand’s borders are extremely messy as most of them – with Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia – have changed over time. You’ve got people inside Thailand who might not necessarily think of themselves as 100% Thai.”

But that is not how the Thai state sees it.

“The Thai state believes that everybody is loyal to the basic principles – nation, religion and king. And everybody sees themselves as Thai,” McCargo noted.

In summary, the professor said there was violence in the Deep South because there was a militant movement.

“People leading this movement are radicalising mostly kids from 18 to 25 to carry out these attacks. They are able to do the radicalisation as there is an underlying legitimacy deficit and underlying political problem,” he said.

The Deep South conflict can be solved. But it needs to be solved with a political solution.

“That is the difficulty. The Thais don’t want to admit that it is a political problem, which is why they are talking about drugs and ‘perpetrator of violence’. If they can just admit that it is a political problem, that they have less legitimacy in that part of the country, then they can start to address it,” McCargo explained.

“Thais are in denial. This latest incident (in Golok) to me is an illustration of that. They are burying their head in the sand and they have been talking in this way for the last seven years.”

Monday, September 19, 2011

Is Malaysia's history all about semantics?


The debate over when is Malaysia Day, Aug 31 or Sept 16, will continue as there are still differing views. But one thing is certain – there are Malaysians who are very passionate about our history. 

Last week I had my Zainal Kling moment. In case there are those who are clueless on the recent big issue concerning Malaysia, here’s a summary.

Datuk Prof Dr Zainal Kling of the National Professors Council stirred a historical controversy when he declared that Malaya was never a British colony but only a “protectorate”.

Last week, in this column, I wrote an article titled “A lesson on Sept 16”.

It was a history lesson that the Federation of Malaya, not Malaysia, was created in 1957. And that Sabah and Sarawak did not join Malaysia – they formed the country together with the then Malaya and Singapore on Sept 16, 1963.

That was that, I thought. Until I received brickbats mostly from my fellow Sabahans. Though most comments were good-hearted ribbing, I felt as if I was a snake that bit its own tail.

There were jocular warnings that Sabah will use its special immigration power to bar me from entering my state.

There were also warnings that went for the jugular. I was accused of living in Kuala Lumpur too long.
Factually correct, as I’ve been living in Greater Kuala Lumpur for more than 25 years. But parochially incorrect as you can take Philip out of Sabah, but you can’t take Sabah out of Philip.

And it was as if I did not live through Parti Bersatu Sabah’s ‘Sabah for Sabahans’ political era.

Factually, there was nothing incorrect about my article. It is just that I neglected to mention something that is close to the heart of many Sabahans.

The first brickbat was from a reader who may or may not be a Sabahan or a Sarawakian.

Sonny68mak emailed: “If I recall correctly my history lessons, Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore declared independence on Aug 31, 1963.

“They could not form Malaysia on that day because they were waiting for the official referendum results to be declared by the United Nations which was delayed by Jakarta and Manila’s protests at the UN,” wrote the reader, who could even be a Singaporean.

“So therefore the Borneo states independence was effective Aug 31, 1963. They formed Malaysia on Sept 16 as two-weeks-old independent sovereign states.”

“Please ask your Prof friend to recheck the facts so that the public is not confused.”

Fair comment, I thought. As if I was debating the issue, I would have taken a similar stand.

However, just to show him that I was not a hack, I replied: “Yes, I did check that fact with the Prof.”

“I told him for example, North Borneo gained independence on Aug 31, 1963 so it must have been an independent country,” I wrote.

“He said ‘no’ as even though the British granted independence to North Borneo on that day, it still administrated Sabah.”

As soon as I sent that email, I received an SMS from a Sabahan who is a veteran journalist. Though the timing of his SMS was coincidental, it was as if he sensed my “betrayal” in cyberspace.

The 40-something journalist SMS-ed: “I beg to differ. On Aug 31, 1963, the Union Jack came down and the Sabah flag went up. Sabah and Sarawak were independent nations until Sept 16, 1963. You’re selling propaganda. Ha ha”.

Immediately I called him. And after 30 minutes we agreed that history is about semantics. And, quoting Winston Churchill, “History is written by the victors”.

Then I received a call from a Penangite who is more Sabahan than me. Well, he has lived in Sabah for more than 20 years.

“We can buang negeri (kick you out of Sabah) you!” he said.

“Your article missed the point. You should have written that Sabah was a country before it formed Malaysia! And you should have written that 1/3 of Sabahans wanted to form Malaysia, 1/3 did not want to and 1/3 were undecided.”

“You’ve also missed the point that it was four equal nations (Malaya, Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore) forming the Federation of Malaysia.”

“But, but, but,” I replied. “The point of my article is just to discuss Sept 16.” “No, you missed the point!” he said.

“Do you know that Sept 16 is also Lee Kuan Yew’s birthday?” I said, just to change the topic.

However sharp the comments I received throughout the day, it was delightful to know that 48 years after the fact, Sabahans are still passionate about their history.

Still, it made me feel as if I had sold Labuan to the Feds. Wonder where’s Zainal Kling? I need a hug. And some historical semantics.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Ibans find niche in Johor


A large number of Ibans have settled down in Johor, driven by economic necessity.

ABOUT 15 years ago, M.M. Samy noticed an unfamiliar chattering among a group of people in a coffee shop in Masai town, Johor.

“They were not speaking Malay or English. It sounded different. It was not a language that I’ve ever heard,” recalled Samy, MIC assemblyman for Permas Jaya in Masai, about 25km east of Johor Baru.

Later, when Samy stumbled on more of these “strange sounding” people, he found that they were Ibans from Sarawak.

“At that time, there were not many of them in the Pasir Gudang area. You could see one or two of them in coffee shops. Then I saw more of them in Masai town,” said Samy, whose state seat is part of the Pasir Gudang parliament constituency. “Now there are so many of them.”

What Samy probably did not realise at that time was that he was witnessing the gradual migration of Ibans across the South China Sea from Sarawak to Johor.              

Arguably, Johor has the largest number of Ibans living outside of Sarawak. The number ranges from 10,000 (according to Samy) to 40,000 (Dr John Brian Anthony of www.

One of the early Ibans to live and work in Masai is Gong Anak Sandah, who hails from Engkilili, about 156km from Kuching.

In 1990, Gong left Sarawak’s capital to look for greener pastures. In Kuching, he earned about RM7 a day fixing bulldozer engines, while in Pasir Gudang, he made about RM20 a day working in the electrical department of a shipyard.

“I felt it was rugi (a waste) to leave my hometown. But I had to do so as it was difficult to find a high-paying job in Sarawak,” recalled Gong, 52, his voice almost drowned out by Iban songs at a karaoke session at the coffee shop next door.

“When I found a job in Pasir Gudang, I could breathe easier as I was able to feed my family,” said Gong, who has 12 children aged seven to 30.

When Gong first moved to Masai, he felt like a foreigner. At that time, there were not many Ibans living in Masai.

“Back then, when you walked around Masai town at 6pm, you could spot about 10 Ibans. Now there are hundreds of them. If you want to see more Ibans, just go to the supermarkets,” smiled Gong.

Better economic opportunities in Johor drove hundreds of Ibans to abandon their home state.

According to John Brian of, his kinsmen started to migrate to Johor in big numbers in the late 1990s, when major construction in the booming oil and gas town of Bintulu in Sarawak was completed.

“We have a tradition called berjelai (an Iban word for journey). The purpose of berjelai is to seek knowledge and fortune,” he explained.

“When there were no jobs for skilled and semi-skilled workers in Bintulu, many headed for Pasir Gudang, a booming oil and gas town, and shipyard.”

These Ibans, noted John Brian, had no choice but to leave Sarawak as “there was nothing for them back home.”

The Ibans have made themselves felt in their adopted state. There are several Iban-owned shops in Taman Megah Ria in Masai. There you can find several Iban coffee shops selling kolo mee (a famous Sarawakian noodle dish), Apai Jamming Studio, Gereja Methodist Iban Johor, Gagasan Dayak Iban Malaysia Bersatu (GAIU or Iban Dayak United Malaysian Organisation) office and a shop selling CDs of singers from Sarawak.

On Wednesday and Sunday afternoons, there is a Tamu Dayak (some call it Pasar Borneo) where popular Sarawakian products – fresh and salted terubok, live sago worms, midin (wild jungle fern) and wild boar – are sold.

Some of the churches in Johor have masses conducted in the Iban language.

The Ibans studying in Johor schools, according to Samy, contribute to national integration as they have introduced their culture to the other students.

“I’ve attended school functions where students danced the ngajat (a traditional Iban dance),” he related.

For these Ibans, Johor has become their home. Transplanted Sarawakians such as Gong have become Johorean. If before Gong spoke Malay like a Sarawakian, now he could pass off as a native speaker from Johor.

“I consider this place as my kampung halaman (village). We have made the surrounding jungle our own. We hunt for wildlife such as monitor lizard, anteater, wild boar and porcupine in the nearby jungle. We also look for vegetables which many locals are not aware are edible,” said Gong.

However, his heart belongs to Sarawak. “One day I will go back and live in Sarawak. I’m worried that if I don’t take care of the paddy fields and rubber plantation in Engkilili, someone will grab it,” he said.

According to GAIU Johor president Sai Malaka, the Ibans here can be divided into two categories.

Some like Gong plan to work in Johor (or Singapore) and save enough money (about RM100,000 to RM150,000) so that they can return home and invest in a business.

Others plan to live permanently in the adopted state as life in Johor can be pretty comfortable.

“Just take transportation; the journey from one Johor town to another is superfast because of the highway. In Sarawak, such journey may take a day,” explained Sai, 45, owner of Panggau Libau Paradise restaurant in Taman Megah Ria.

Back in Sarawak, it takes Sai nine hours to travel from his longhouse in Katibas to Sibu town. This includes a six-hour boat journey to Song, a small river station. From Song, it is another three hours on an express boat to Sibu.

“Unlike my house in Masai, my longhouse in Katibas has no piped water or electricity. The closest hospital is nine hours by boat,” said Sai.

However, there is no denying that Sai misses his longhouse.

“What I miss most is the community bond in the longhouse. Here (in Johor) it is difficult to trust anyone. Even though you think someone is your friend, he might steal your motorcycle. True friends – that’s what most Sarawakians living here miss most,” Sai lamented.

Monday, September 12, 2011

A lesson on Sept 16


The federation of Malaya, not Malaysia, was created in 1957. Sabah and Sarawak did not join Malaysia – they formed the country together with the then Malaya and Singapore on Sept 16, 1963.

ON AUG 31, I spent my Merdeka Day holiday tweeting history lessons. I found certain historical inaccuracies on my Twitter timeline as annoying as – to misquote a tweet from @ATM2U – seeing a straight man eat cupcake.

For example, one of Malaysia’s tycoons tweeted: “Independence day for Malaysia today.”

As a Sabahan, I just had to correct him even though he is worth a billion times more than me. So @PhilipGolingai admonished: “Sir, independence day for Malaya. Malaysia was formed on Sept 16, 1963.”

Then someone – not the billionaire – tweeted: “Why Singapore not celebrating Malaya’s Indepen-dence day?”

History was definitely not her favourite subject.

I replied: “When Malaya declared Merdeka, Singapore was under the British. On Sept 16, 1963, Singapore, Malaya, Sabah & Sarawak formed Malaysia.”

My colleague @ChiaYingTheStar (Lim Chia Ying) tweeted: “How can a tv station say Happy Birthday to M’sia on Aug 31?? My gosh, no wonder kids can never learn real facts?”

On Merdeka Day, Faridah Stephens, daughter of one of Malaysia’s founding fathers, Tun Fuad Stephens (Sabah Chief Minister), reminded her Peninsu­lar Malaysian friends of our country’s history.

“(Some of) my friends wished Happy 54th Birthday Malaysia. They always say Malaysia. But it is not Malaysia’s independence but Malaya’s,” she lamented.

On Facebook, Faridah watched a video clip of Negaraku sung in Chinese. The rendition was “beautiful” but the ending of the video was a “dampener”.

“Alamak, I thought, when I saw ‘Happy 54th Birthday Malaysia’ at the end,” she said.

How did her friends’ respond to her reminder?

“Some people went quiet,” she said, laughing heartily.      

Some Malaysians mistake Aug 31 for Malaysia’s birthday, according to Faridah, because “we tend to be West (Peninsular) Malaysia-centric”.

“Many forget that Malaysia did not exist until 1963. Malaysia was not created in 1957. Sabah and Sarawak did not join Malaysia, they formed the country,” she said, adding that “I’m just stating a historical fact.”

To get my historical facts right, I called my old classmate, then a history buff, at La Salle secondary school in Tanjung Aru, Sabah.

“Why are there Malaysians who confuse Hari Merdeka as Malay-sia’s birthday?” I asked Danny Wong Tze Ken, a history professor in Universiti Malaya.

Wong lectured me on the birth of Malaysia. Here’s a summary: On Aug 31, 1957, the Federation of Malaya was established. It was expanded into the Federation of Malaysia on Sept 16, 1963. The country became larger with the inclusion of Singapore, Sarawak and Sabah. And in 1965, Singapore left.

“If you think of the day for independence for Malaysia, then Sept 16, is logical for Sabahans and Sarawakians as that was when both states achieved independence, in 1963. But for the people of Peninsular Malaysia clearly it was Aug 31, 1957, as that was when Tunku Abdul Rahman declared Merdeka,” Wong explained.

“So when is Malaysia’s birthday?” I asked.

“The best answer is to take the case of the United States. Their independence day is July 4, 1776, even though at that time there were only 13 colonies. Although the rest of the United States was incorporated only later, all the 50 states observe July 4 as Indepen-dence Day,” he said.

“So when is Malaysia’s birthday?” I asked again.

“As a newly formed Federation of Malaysia the birthday of Malaysia will be Sept 16 whereas the Independence Day of the country remains on Aug 31,” he said.

Wong said over the years, Sept 16 was no longer celebrated as Malaysia Day.

“In Sabah it was celebrated as the TYT’s (Governor’s) birthday. And Sabahans wondered why that day was then celebrated as the TYT’s birthday and not as Malaysia Day,” he added.

“It was only last year that Sept 16 was declared a public holiday to commemorate the formation of Malaysia,” the historian said.

So, on Friday, if you are on Twitter, don’t forget to tweet “Happy 48th Birthday Malaysia!”

Monday, September 05, 2011

Ha! Ha! and Malaysian hrumph

One Man's Meat
By Philip Golingai

We used to be able to make racist jokes and laugh at them because they were so shamelessly funny. But now people have become so sensitive that many things need to be taken into consideration before making a joke.

“WAIT! You don’t like hamburgers! Don’t you? You like ice cream! Ice-cream!” a woman shouted at a man about to take his first bite into a hamburger at a fast food joint.

“But I’m lactose intolerant,” the man protested.

“But it is Summertime!” the woman said in a sing-song manner and the camera focused on her exaggerated look – wide eyes and a gaping mouth.

Introducing “Summertime” (the Hamburger episode), a two-minute plus video clip that pokes fun at the controversial television advertisements which caused a public uproar last month.

It is a series of three video clips which you can view by searching for “Summertime 1tv” on YouTube.

The production of the video clips, according to Davina Goh who played the food police, was “a very casual thing”.

They were shot in about three hours in Petaling Jaya last month.

“My friend Colin Shafer (a Canadian social science lecturer based in Petaling Jaya) felt strongly about the TV advertisements.

“We (together with two actors) wanted a very abstract approach to responding to the controversy,” said the 28-year-old actor, who is currently rehearsing for Datin Seri Tiara Jacquelina’s contemporary spy caper The Secret Life Of Nora.

The video clips – with over-the-top acting – were too abstract for some viewers.

“A few of my friends told me ‘I don’t get it’.

“Most found the video clips just funny, but I don’t know whether they understand it or not,” she said.

Here are some of the comments she received on Twitter and Facebook: “love ur cross-eye pose on 1TV. Hahaha!”, “I like your insane twitching eyeball at around 0:58” and “wow ... that’s mean hahaha”.

In making the videos, Goh realised that Malaysia was a complex country.

“There was a scene where I wore a towel over my head, and I questioned myself whether it was appropriate to wear a towel over my head,” she explained.

“That made me realise how Malaysians have become so sensitive that we have lost our sense of humour.”

“No,” the actor corrected herself.

“We have not lost our sense of humour. We have just lost the concept of what is our humour. We don’t know what to laugh at anymore. We don’t know what is appropriate and what is inappropriate.”

“Everyone is just so highly strung that when we think it is appropriate to laugh at something, it is actually not.”

So what is the state of Ha Ha Ha in Malaysia?

“I find it fascinating,” she observed.

“We’re in a country which is a melting pot of everything – culture, race and religion. We used to be able to laugh at ourselves. We used to make racist jokes and laugh at it because it was so shameless (funny).”

“But now Malaysian humour has so much baggage.

“There are so many things you need to take into consideration before you make a joke.”

Here’s a “racist” joke Davina made. “An Indian, a Chinese and a Malay were stuck in a magical room where they could only escape by telling a lie about themselves.”

I’d better not publish the joke. Never know who I might offend. Anyway the punch line is “I think”.

Goh is a TV commercial model (such as for Dynamo, Whisper and DiGi). The Peranakan Chinese has also been on several “most gorgeous Malaysian” lists.

I asked her: “How come you are on FHM (one of 12 finalists for FHM Magazine’s ‘Girl Next Door’ Competition, 2009) as you are more wacky than sexy?”

“Many people have told me that. Why did you do it, you are too intelligent for FHM?” she said.

“I just like dipping my toes into everything.

“Yes, I’m wacky but strangely enough men find that sexy.

“The fact that I am really funny and cooky, men find that really attractive as not many girls know how to let their hair loose.”

One of the tweets on Goh’s “Summertime” video is: “if only I could let myself go like you! Master show me the way”.

Indeed, she’s the master of letting herself loose.

“People like hanging out with me as they say I am one of a kind. I don’t know what that means.

“But I know that I do a lot of things my friends will probably not do because there is a lot of social restraint about handling yourself in public and doing things on impulse,” she explained.

Too bad when it comes to racy jokes about Malaysians, Goh has to tie a bun and be prim and proper.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Making sense of swelling house prices


Where previously it took about two to three months for a house to be sold, now it is more like a week. And prices have shot through the roof.

LATELY, my favourite pastime is driving around USJ Subang Jaya to look for houses for sale. I’ve no intention of buying a house. I just like to know the market value of the property in my township, which is about 20km from Kuala Lumpur.

A week ago I saw a “For Sale” sign and I punched in the real estate agent’s number.

And I was pleasantly shocked to discover that a link house a few metres from mine was sold for RM390,000.

Yeah, I thought, I’m 39% a millionaire.

Well, maybe 33%, as my link house is at a T-Junction and faces west.

I was also shocked, because I assumed 20 x 60 link houses in USJ 13 were priced around RM250,000 to RM300,000 (depending on whether the owner had extended the unit).

My assumption was based on my immediate neighbour’s link house having been sold for RM218,000 last year.

I was told it went for a song as the market price was around RM250,000.

Yes, I regret not buying that house.

For the rest of my life I will be living next to a symbol of my lack of foresight.

Is my other neighbour’s house really worth RM390,000? Curious, I drove around USJ 13 looking for “For Sale” signs.

And my calls to real estate agents confirmed the RM390,000 price tag was not a fluke, or a “fake” like the RM14.5bil golden yacht.

Each time I call a real estate agent I get a “wow!” moment.

The prices are unbelievable in this award-winning township USJ (UEP Subang Jaya).

For example, an abandoned, dilapidated 3,000 sq ft corner house in USJ 3 went for RM715,000.

A basic one-and-a-half storey house in USJ 11 was sold for RM450,000.

I’ve been making so many calls to real estate agents that I’ve become an adept real estate agent of sorts. I can now size up a unit and correctly guess the asking price.

Now my favourite question is not “how much?” but “why is the price unbelievable?”

One real estate agent told me “the prices don’t make sense”. To make sense of the property market in USJ, I had a chat with M.L. Ho, Property Watch head of operations.

“How’s the market for USJ houses?” I asked the real estate agent with 15 years’ experience in the business.

“Very vibrant – in the sense that there are more buyers than sellers (10 genuine buyers to one seller). In terms of pick-up rate, there has been a sudden surge since the beginning of this year,” Ho said.

“So has the jump in prices. We have not seen this for a long, long time.

“In fact a price jump – some of them 60% – is very unprecedented in the property market.”

Usually, a house is sold around a week after the “For Sale” sign is put up.

Previously, it took about two to three months for a house to be sold.

The jump in prices was “so fantastic” that it caught many buyers as well as the experienced real estate agent himself by surprise.

His 29-year-old software engineer son was looking for a RM400,000 house early this year.

“We were stunned when we found out that the prices (for the size they were looking for) had shot up to 500K,” related Ho, who lives in USJ.

“Unfortunately for my son, the price of houses just keeps going up. There is a rush to buy property in USJ. Buyers are sort of panicking because there is a lack in supply.

“We thought the prices have gone haywire.But, the thing is, if you don’t buy, there are always people who are willing to buy.”

Until now, his son is still searching for a house.

“My advice to him is to slow down and wait for the scenario to change as I think the property price has reached a very, very dangerous level,” he said. However, some may disagree with me on this.”

The surge in house prices, according to Ho, is due to the fact that there is no more land around USJ for development.

It is also because developers are building expensive houses in USJ (a newly-launched link house in USJ Height costs about RM800,000).

The “fantastic” house prices in USJ are reflective of the property market in the Klang Valley.

“There is a surge in prices, especially for landed property,” Ho said.

The property market is so hot that I constantly receive flyers from real estate agents asking if I want to sell my house.

When I read the “invitation to sell” letters, I wonder whether I live in a bubble.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The kiasu and kiasi of being Singaporean

One Man's Meat

According to former Singapore Miss World Ris Low, Singaporeans are always hustling and bustling. Life is very stressful, very ‘kiasu’ (overly-competitive) and very ‘kiasi’ (afraid of doing something wrong).

FOR someone who can’t wink, former Singapore Miss World contestant Ris Low sure can think.

Or that was the impression I got from the Singaporean who was named as one of Asia’s 25 most influential people by CNN’s affiliate website CNNGo in 2009.

The 21-year-old beauty queen sure had a lot of things on her mind when I interviewed her to get the low-down on her nation.

Singapore, a five-hour drive from Subang Jaya, has been my second home as I’ve got in-laws living there.

I enjoy my weekend stay in the island republic. But each time I’m in the Little Red Dot (as former Indonesian President B.J. Habibie described Singapore) I wondered what makes our southern neighbours tick.

Even though I’m on holiday, there’s always something stressful about the island republic. Is it because its parking space is narrower than in Malaysia or drivers love to honk when you’re a tad slow to respond to a green light or the “ticking” ERP (Electronic Road Pricing, an electronic system of road pricing based on a pay-as-you-use principle)?

And, I thought, who was better to explain Singapore than Miss Singapore World 2009. Low, according to CNNGo, is “singularly responsible for giving Singapore its catchphrase of the year (2009) – the infamous ‘Boomz!’”.

Life as a Singaporean, said Low, was “very competitive.”

“We are always hustling and bustling. Very fast pace. Very kiasu (overly-competitive). Very kiasi (afraid of doing something wrong). Very stressful,” noted the beauty queen in an interview at a McDonald’s in a suburb of Singapore.

An example of kiasu behaviour, according to Low, is Singaporeans will queue up when they see a long line.

“They don’t know what they are queuing up for but they assume if there is a queue there is something good at the end of the line,” she explained.

Low’s definition of kiasi is “everybody covering their own backside”.

“For example, Singaporeans like to talk about politics among themselves but they will not voice it out at another level (publicly),” she related.

Curious to go beyond the clichéd description of Singaporeans being kiasu and kiasi, I asked “What’s the big advantage of being a Singaporean?”

“Our passport is very good that we don’t need visa (to visit another country),” Low said, with a look that could be described as “Boomz”.

The disadvantage of being a Singaporean, according to Low, is “you can’t afford to have a past”.

“Once you have a past, Singaporeans are very unforgiving,” she revealed.

“My case is the perfect example,” she said, referring to her conviction for credit card fraud. Eventually, about two months after being crowned Miss Singapore World 2009, she had to give up her title.

Low continued: “I hope Singaporeans will stand up for their own people. Almost every beauty queen in Singapore has been put down by these cowards who sit behind their computer and bully us by saying we are ugly.

“It is very sad that they are stepping on us to make themselves taller,” she added.

“What’s a distinctive Singaporean character?” I asked.

“When you need help, everybody just stares at you,” she noted.

“For example, I witnessed an accident and I gave first aid to the victim. Then I asked the uncles and aunties who were watching to call 911 but nobody came forward to help. All they were interested in was to take down the car’s plate number.”

It was the same when a man pulled down Low’s strapless dress while she was in a taxi queue last year.

“I asked for help. But nobody helped me and the man managed to run away. I felt like a fool. I felt like digging a hole and burying myself so that I would just die,” she revealed.

“Singaporeans are too caught up in their own world – always vying for money and status. They have lost their heart.”

But Low also admitted there are Singaporeans who did not appreciate help.

“I once tried to help an old lady cross the street. I offered to carry her shopping bags because they looked heavy and she looked frail,” she related. “But she scolded me because she thought I wanted to steal her shopping bags. It was so embarrassing.”

Turning philosophical, Low noted: “In Singapore nobody has pure intention. Everybody has an agenda. So I understand why the older you are, the more you lose hope in life.”

At the end of the interview, the beauty queen attempted to wink and failed. Smiling, she apologised, saying “my facial muscles are not trained to wink”.