Thursday, May 31, 2012

Elegant Embroidery

Sunway University Toastmasters Club is adding a touch of class to our meetings. Check out photos of the two logos representing Toastmasters International and Sunway University that are being embroidered onto table cloth that will be used to drape over naked tables. These will be unveiled at our next meeting in a week’s time, i.e. June 07, 2012.

Still on the subject of Toastmastering – I drove fast as a bird on the wing to Bukit Jalil to attend the AFC Toastmasters meeting last evening – I was stuck in a faculty meeting that finished late, y’see – where I was the General Evaluator. To be honest, I was feeling a little anxious because the last time I went to their meeting, I wasn’t at all impressed. I remember the stern remarks I made in my blog.

Anyway, the meeting turned out to be so enlivening and engrossing that I too was caught up in its tightly-wrapped euphoria. You may say I was seduced by the meeting because everything – well, almost everything – went well. I didn’t show it but I was elated to have Sheryl Chieng to be the Toastmaster-of-the-Evening (again!) because she put so much exuberance into her role that I was shaken and stirred to the point that my feet didn’t touch the floor from then on. She successfully tapped into her supply of inexhaustible energy in order to give us a meeting that was enviably enjoyable. But that was not all. Grace Tan tickled us non-stop with her brand of humor that was a knee-slapping laughter fest – in fact, all of us laughed so hard and so loud that we half-expected the police to turn up at the door because neighbors down the road have complained about the ear-splitting racket coming from AFC House. The speeches were splendid and the speakers superb. And the evaluations outdid the speeches – by being stupendously superior that I became acutely aware of my own inadequacy. With the likes of Jocelyn Lim, Ahmad Zaki, Grace Tan and Daniel Teh, these evaluators offered an intoxicating cocktail of eloquence and experience, sophistication and style, and charm and charisma.

I very nearly gave in to score this meeting a 9 out of a 10, but I stopped myself just in time. After all, the meeting did start ten minutes late and that, in my book, is still frowned upon. Finally, I decided to award an 8. Whether 8 or 9, the fact remains that this was a meeting where I savored every single moment of its delectable delights. Truly, an awesome meeting!

Chilean-style Protests

I read with interest that even a supposedly progressive country like Canada has a repressive law – Bill 78. This is an emergency law passed this month, i.e. May 18, 2012 by the National Assembly of Quebec, Canada. The law restricts freedom of assembly, protest, or picketing on or near university grounds, and anywhere in Quebec without prior police approval. The law also places restrictions upon education employees right to strike and gives the police the power to arbitrarily declare approved protests to be illegal ones midstream.

The law was passed amid a long, bitter student strike over tuition hikes, but it hasn't damped down the protest. In fact, it has so outraged many Quebeckers that many have joined in nightly protests. The type of protest is loud and noisy. It is called charivari, a form of protest involving beating pots and pans in the streets. It was widely used in Chile after Augusto Pinochet – who used terror to govern Chile – banned public protest.

There is a diversity in the range of protesters – from sensibly dressed fortysomethings wearing hiking boots and kagools and long-haired students wearing only shorts to men and women pushing young children in prams and hipsters on fixed-gear bikes – was matched by the diversity of utensils they chose to create noise. Some had reached past the saucepan and wooden spoon and there were unlikely pairings as a colander and a drumstick, a pan lid and a pair of chopsticks, and a barbecue lid and a pair of tongs all being put to alternative use.

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And I liked this response by Montreal students when they were asked to send the cops the route of their protest march:

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Putrajaya Drag Race That Went Wrong

Last Saturday, just after midnight, a drag race event – that was part of the Himpunan Sejuta Belia (One Million Youths Gathering) that Najib Razak rolled out to impress a sceptical public that young Malaysians are on his side – turned ugly. The time was 12:30 AM. One competing car, a Mitsubishi Lancer Turbo lost control, swerved off the road at high speed and knocked down spectators like bowling pins – and in the process, injuring seventeen people including four who were seriously hurt. Miraculously, no one died.

NSTP pix by Fariz Iswadi Ismail

If you had read the news reports in government-controlled media very carefully, the blame for this incident at the Wadi Ehsan Highway at Precinct 19 in Putrajaya was put squarely on the victims because they were watching from outside the permitted perimeters. These youngsters intentionally put their own lives in danger – therefore, please don’t blame the authorities.

Never mind that they allowed the race in the first place when there is no sanctioning body to monitor and supervise it.

Never mind if the Wadi Ehsan Highway is not a gazetted race track.

Never mind if the barricades were so flimsy that any vehicle that decides to run amok will plough right into the sea of spectators.

Never mind if nobody seriously scrutinized the safety arrangements.

Never mind if at that time, young people should be in bed instead of watching cars race in the middle of the night.

Youth and Sports Minister Ahmad Shabery Cheek wasn’t even apologetic but he was quick to add that this incident should not be politicized.

Yet, he forgot that earlier in the day, Najib Razak himself politicized the event when he told the young people who went to Putrajaya that it was important that they make a correct choice when casting their ballots, saying that his BN coalition has proven its capability in delivering positive change for the country for more than 55 years (Webpage, published May 26, 2012). And according to The Malaysian Insider, Najib received thunderous applause. He even thought he was being very funny when he drew laughter “from the adoring crowd” by mocking Bersih: “Democracy does not mean streets protests... that is demo-crazy"!

Politics is always on Najib’s mind – he cannot help it lah because his job depends on it!

Anyway, my point is that Malaysia is a funny country. A request for two hours of sit-in peaceful protest at an open field is forbidden, but dangerouse high-speed drag race at night on a public road is approved and allowed!!!

The Houla Massacre

It has now been fourteen months since the revolt against the Assad regime in Syria. As the world watches, the country continues to drown in blood-soaked violence.

The latest horrific incident was the massacre of 108 civilians, many of them children, in the town of Houla, northwest of the central city of Homs, carried out by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. Activists told of tanks, mortars and machine guns firing on civilians after anti-government protests on Friday, followed by Assad’s militia – known as the Shabiha – launching the mass-killings.

Rupert Colville, for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said: “It looks like entire families were shot in their houses.” More frighteningly, more than 30 of those slaughtered were children under the age of 10. Some of the pictures showed children who appear to have been executed with close-range shots to the head.

Malaysia continues to turn a blind eye to this and other atrocities but countries like France, Britain, Canada, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Australia have already expelled Syrian diplomatic envoys. But will this do anything to stop further killings? How many more innocents will have to die before the world decides to take action?

In the 1990s, the world failed to prevent genocide in Rwanda. We said never again. We shall soon know if the world genuinely meant it. Why am I very sceptical?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Myanmar - A Country in Transition

I haven’t been blogging about Myanmar even though the country has been enjoying positive news of late. I am just staying on the sidelines. Certainly, the country is steadily and slowly moving in the right progressive direction – but I ask myself, how long will the self-initiated reforms last?

It has been said that U Thein Sein has been making all the right moves. Since he “won” power through a controversial general election in 2010, his regime had cleverly persuaded Aung San Suu Kyi and her party, the National League for Democracy, to participate in and legitimize the April by-election for 44 seats vacated by his Cabinet ministers. Sure, her party did emerge victorious and she was even formally sworn into parliament after a brief stand-off with the government over the script of her oath.

Then what? Myanmar is still working on the process of re-integration with the international community. Economic reforms have been grudgingly slow. And like me, most parties are playing the waiting game. For now, that’s all we can do!

Yesterday I went to Cititel MidValley for the MidValley Toastmasters meeting. It was an awesome assembly of like-minded people and we all had a good time. For five reasons. First, there were thirty-one attendees, making this a fabulous turnout. Second, there were Toastmasters who came from ten different clubs – one all the way from Osaka, Japan, Yuko Fujita from the Senri Toastmasters Club. Third, the quality of the speeches and evaluations were a class above. Fourth, the Toastmaster-of-the-Evening, Sheryl Chieng gave us a sizzling meeting, proving to everyone that she is a dynamo, a hot shot, a live wire. Fifth, I had no roles at all and so I was able to sit back, relax and immerse myself wholly in the meeting. This meeting, for sure, deserved a score of an 8 out of a 10.

Media Under Attack

Sun reporter Radzi Razak who was assaulted by at least seven police officers during Bersih 3.0 is unlikely to see justice any time soon because the authorities are not serious about apprehending the uniformed perpetrators. Last week, according to his colleague, R Nadeswaran (The Sun, May 28, 2011, p 11), Radzi was summoned to attend an identification parade with a view to pick out his assailants. I was actually hoping that these miscreants would have turned themselves in – to save Radzi the trouble – but that’s wishful thinking, I suppose. Obviously, these law enforcement officers didn’t believe they were guilty nor do they feel any remorse at all. Beating up people probably helped them to feel good about themselves.

Anyway, it was an exercise that mocked our intelligence and betrayed the episode’s gravity. Despite the investigation officer being precisely told that the violence-promoting fiends were young police officers, the police brought elderly officers to be identified. And to add insult to injury, Radzi was asked to peep through the louvres on the window to identify his attackers. As Nades asked incredulously, is this how an identification parade is carried out these days?

How to respect the men and women in blue? More importantly, do they deserve respect in the first place?

Monday, May 28, 2012

Malaysians Don't Trust the EC

Independent pollsters Merdeka Center surveyed 1,019 registered voters between April 14 to 26, 2012 and found more than nine in 10 voters in peninsular Malaysia want the electoral roll cleaned up before GE13. In this survey, 48 percent of the respondents agreed that the electoral list was inaccurate and ‘embedded with doubtful voters such as foreigners, people who were transferred without their knowledge or people with multiple identities’; while 44 percent of the respondents expressed confidence that the election process in Malaysia was free from irregularity and abuse.

Bersih should feel vindicated by the above. This explains why more than 200,000 Malaysians gave up their Saturday to be a part of Bersih 3.0.

S Ambiga suggested the Election Commisison (EC) has lost its mandate as an independent body overseeing Malaysia’s electoral process. The Merdeka Center survey proves that public confidence in the EC has sunk to a new low. To put it bluntly, the EC is not doing its job!

Still, only 39 percent of respondents understood Bersih’s key demands. There is a genuine need to educate these Malaysians and Bersih should really conduct outreach programs. Don’t organize information sessions for the converted – please!

It is interesting that the EC deputy chairperson Wan Ahmad Wan Omar (above photo) has dismissed the survey results. He maintained confidence that voters would not dispute the GE13 outcome or be upset should BN stay in power. Wah, he is so bloody confident BN will be victorious! Or maybe he knows that all that “fixing” will ensure BN wins anyway!?!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Singapore's Opposition Retains Seat

The Workers’ Party has retained the northeastern constituency seat of Hougang in a closely watched by-election in Singapore. Its candidate, Png Eng Huat (above), cruised to victory with 13,447 votes against PAP's Desmond Choo's 8,210 votes. This represents 62.1 per cent of votes for WP, slightly down from the 64.8 per cent the party polled in the general election last year.

The victory was achieved despite mainstream media coverage that WP secretary general Low Thia Khiang reportedly described as hinting of “character assassination”. At least there was no Najib bullshit such as "You help me, I help you".

The by-election was triggered when the Workers' Party sacked Yaw Shin Leong, its member of parliament for Hougang, over his failure to respond to allegations of personal indiscretions.

It must have been a bitter pill for Singapore’s PM Lee Hsien Loong to swallow but to his credit, he took it like a gentleman when he remarked "The PAP will continue to be present in Hougang". You won't hear these sort of words from Najib. Come to think of it, Najib Razak has no class!

The Hougang by-election – don’t forget it was only a by-election – has just 43 eligible voters overseas, and yet they set up 8 polling stations around the world! Please permit me to show my middle finger to Malaysia’s Election Commission and I am telling them pointedly, don’t give any more stupid excuses!

With Png setting out to deliver what he promised during the by-election and his PAP opponent pledging to carry on his work on the ground, Hougang will continue to be a closely-watched political arena.

Yesterday, I blogged about the Bangsar incident. I do not believe that the allegation of UMNO-directed violence is without basis. Lembah Pantai UMNO Youth chief Sazali Kamilan has himself admitted that there were about 100 of their members at the PKR ceramah on Thursday night (Sunday Star, May 27, 2012, p 12). I am sure they were not there to be inspired by Nurul and Anwar!?! Or maybe somebody wishes to confirm that those fellas were there because they wanted to cross over to PKR?

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Ribena Berry at PKR Gala Dinner

Not all political fund-raising dinners feature only speeches – sometimes, you get to be also entertained. Take this PKR Gala Dinner at Bandar Utama on May 04, 2012 – listen and enjoy Ribena Berry’s take on Malaysian politics, The 1Malaysia Virus:

This morning, I was at Bandar Pusat Damansara to attend the HELP University Toastmasters meeting. This must be the exam period for members because attendance was very poor. Fortunately, with the support of Toastmasters from other clubs and three non-Toastmasters – we were able to muster a decent quorum of ten.

In spite of this, the meeting was still enjoyable because there were four good speeches and evaluations. Really, their quality compensated for the lack of numbers. I was roped in to be the General Evaluator. And I was voted the Best Table Topics speaker too. My score for this meeting is a commendable 7 out of a 10.

It's Raining Stones, Eggs and Water Bottles

On Friday, Mahathir issued a warning in his blog that violence would rule the streets should Pakatan Rakyat lose in GE13. Don’t we all know that Mahathir is senile and so, whatever he is babbling about is probably only half-true? Meaning that violence will manifest – not by PR but rather by UMNO.

Already we are seeing the increasing use of violence against the opposition.

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On Thursday, anti-PKR goons tried very hard to disrupt an opposition ceramah in Lembah Pantai by raining stones, eggs and water bottles, resulting in at least two persons seriously injured. The TV Selangor website also reported that groups of Mat Rempits revved their engines in a bid to unsettle the PKR speakers. Even power supply was interrupted. And a tweet by Nurul Izzah mentioned that Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad discovered his tyres had been slashed.

I suppose this is a sign of increasing desperation by UMNO and their allies.

PKR has held UMNO responsible for instigating the violence. As Nurul Izzah Anwar, who is also the Lembah Pantai MP said “UMNO has crossed the line where all violent acts are nothing less than a declaration of war against the public, giving free license to launch attacks against people and murdering democracy”.

Now I understand why Mahathir is floating the prospect of violence. It has finally dawned on him that UMNO and BN can be voted out of Putrajaya in GE13. When that happens and PR is installed as the government of the day, the long list of abuses of power and financial irregularities during Mahathir’s 22 years as Prime Minister could be the subject of a full criminal investigation. For all you know, he may already have packed his bags and bought a flight ticket to get ready to flee the country.