Monday, March 31, 2014

BN Wins Big in Balingian

Former Dalat district officer Yussibnosh Balo retained the Balingian seat for BN on Saturday with an increased majority of 6,911. Balo garnered 8,194 votes against PKR’s Abdul Jalil Bujang 1,283. Balingian in Sarawak has 13,233 registered voters and the voter turnout was only 72.33%. 

The Reds returned to the top of the EPL table for the first time since Christmas with an emphatic 4-0 win at Anfield to Tottenham Hotspur yesterday.

It took only two minutes for the first of many defensive errors by the visitors, when Liverpool’s Glen Johnson was allowed to cross from the right and force an own goal by Younes Kaboul. Then substitute centreback Michael Dawson inadvertently set Luis Suarez clear in the 25th for the Uruguayan to put away a left foot shot low into the goalmouth’s far corner – eclipsing Robbie Fowler's record of 28 goals in a Premier League season for Liverpool in the process. This was followed by Philippe Coutinho finishing off a wonderful team goal in the 55th with a low drive from 25 meters before Jordan Henderson's inswinging free kick missed everyone in the area and landed in the bottom corner (75).

MH370: A Tragicomedy

As a Malaysian, I would have liked my country to be looked upon positively by the world at large. Instead, thanks to a bumbling government, we have turned the MH370 tragedy into a tragicomedy. The world now knows Malaysia but it is for all the wrong reasons. 

Anyway, kin of the Chinese nationals on board MH370 are persisting with their protests against the Malaysian authorities. I don’t blame them because they have been given the run around from Day One. And their anger was further fueled by Prime Minister Najib Razak’s March 24, 2014 announcement that MH370 had ended in the southern Indian Ocean. Supposedly based on some mathematical calculations.

The statement itself was intentionally ambiguous. What did “ended” really mean? That there were no survivors? We know (almost) everybody took it to mean so and as a result, we saw a gushing deluge of condolences. I am saying that he too wasn't sure and that was why he picked the word that suggested something definite but at the same time, it wasn't. I did not believe him and as far as I am concerned, he was lying.

Malaysia Airlines is an accomplice to this lie. Didn't the company send out a text message stating the same thing except that the language was clear and precise, i.e. “...we have to assume beyond any reasonable doubt that MH370 has been lost and that none of those on board survived”? 

Now the British satellite telecom company Inmarsat has distanced itself from Najib’s conclusion. Inmarsat spokesperson Jonathan Sinnatt clarified that his company only played a contributing role in the MH370 investigation, despite the Malaysian government's announcement that a final decision was drawn from Inmarsat data. He added that the Malaysian government may have drawn its own postulation based not just on Inmarsat data but also on other information – “which we wouldn't know about”. 

I had used the phrase “indecent haste” to describe Malaysia’s speedy decision to want to move on. And the public at large who have been hoping and praying and even clinging on to the belief that miracles can happen seemed to have gotten tired of it all! 

Mind you, Najib had good reason to do what he did. The more the world is focused on MH370, the more the world will know that his government is incompetent and inept. 

Yesterday, MAS group chief executive officer Ahmad Jauhari Yahya made the lie even bigger when he announced that family members of passengers aboard MH370 will only be flown to Perth by Malaysia Airlines once it has been confirmed the aircraft did indeed crash there (meaning, the southern Indian Ocean). Won’t you get furious and upset with this flip flopping? 

And moreover, Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein disclosed on Sunday that he was not giving up hope of finding some of the 239 passengers and crew alive – meaning, the "conclusive evidence" wasn't conclusive enough and so he changed his story. In doing so, he is disputing his prime minister’s verdict! The end hasn't really ended!

I say, the Prime Minister must take the rap. Instead of being open and honest about MH370, he chose to lie to us. 

But it's our fault too for being gullible. We should have seen it coming. After all, it is not as if it was Najib's first time at lying. He lied about Altantuya. He lied about the Scorpene subs. He lied about the “Allah” 10-point plan. I am seeing a pattern of pathological lying here. I suppose he has learned well enough to be a survivor. Like the cockroach.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Russian Bear Bares its Fangs

Photo: Reuters/Vasily Fedosenko 

Photo: Baz Ratner/Reuters

I LOL-ed when I read that US President Barack Obama had declared that Russia is acting "not out of strength, but out of weakness" in Ukraine (BBC News, March 25, 2014). I don’t think he knew what he was talking about. Against the backdrop of Russia’s “absurd” annexation of Crimea, this is rather strange. Even the word ‘absurd’ is another example of a strange choice of words. Obama had used the ‘absurd’ word on March 26, 2014 to describe Vladimir Putin's arguments for seizing Crimea. It doesn’t matter anyhow since it is clear that Russia is the aggressor. 

In fact, I would consider Ukraine weak. Russia certainly is not. Didn’t the Russians just walk into Crimea and take over? More ominously, there are more than 80,000 Russian troops (according to Andriy Parubiy, the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council) on Ukraine’s border – how could Obama interpret that as a weakness? 

More so, when Pentagon spokesperson Navy Rear Admiral John Kirby on Thursday had said that the Russian force there is “a composition that provides a lot of capability” – indicating that it could conduct a comprehensive assault on Ukraine. 

Maybe Obama saw the Russian gambit as military posturing. It is nothing more than just psychological warfare to intimidate Ukraine. 

Methinks, the joke is really on Obama (and his European allies). His Crimean response was the introduction of a slew of slap-on-the-wrist sanctions targeted at some Russian individuals. As if that will make Putin (left) desist from undertaking any further aggression. 

It is obvious Russia is ready. Ready for what depends on the Russian President’s intentions. Certainly, Putin doesn’t give a shit about anybody or anything. 

The truth of the matter is that the US of A is helpless. Europe is NATO, meaning No Action, Talk Only. And Russia has free rein. 

Yesterday, I was hoping for a miracle. I was rooting for Arsenal to beat Manchester City. That did not happen unfortunately but it was still good as the Gunners did manage a 1-1 draw against the latter. That will slow down the EPL juggernaut. 

As for Arsenal, their title chase is over. 

And it was also heartening to see current table-toppers Chelsea fall to a surprise 1-0 defeat at Crystal Palace. 

The above results provide the perfect setting for Liverpool to win today’s game against Tottenham and grab the top spot. 

I have no doubt that we are going to witness the three teams racing to a very tight finish in the EPL. 

And in the Scottish Premiership match that is purely an academic exercise for Celtic, they were held to a 1-1 draw against Ross County. The Scottish champions have now amassed 85 points.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

MH370 and the F1 Malaysian GP



The Prime Minister’s announcement on MH370 on Monday stank of ambiguity because it had succeeded in throwing the country into confusion. Some Malaysian states such as Johore, Perak and Penang flew their flags at half-mast. Other states did not. 

Najib Razak thought he was being clever but in the end, he just muddied the waters further.


Touching gesture: The Caterham F1 team's coordinator Graham Smith placing a MH370 tribute sticker on the nose cone of the Formula One Car at Malaysia’s Sepang Circuit. Image credit:
BTW, the F1 Malaysian GP is on this weekend. Against the backdrop of the missing MH370, Formula One drivers have tribute stickers on their helmets and others carry the stickers on their cars. The Caterham F1 team – see photo above – placed the #PRAYFORMH370 sticker on their front nose cones. 

But here’s my dilemma. I read in the same news report that a minute’s silence would be observed ahead of the race. So what’s the real situation with regard to MH370? Are we mourning the MH370 dead? Or are we praying that there are still survivors? 

I don’t know about you but I am bewildered. 

On Thursday evening, I was in Damansara Jaya to attend the D’Utama Advanced Toastmasters meeting. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay until the end – I left after the first speech evaluation – but it was an interesting meeting nonetheless. And if I may add, Tham Chee Wah’s talk was equally interesting too. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

The "Buy-their-loyalties" By-election

The Balingian by-election has been flourishingly described as a “buy-their-loyalties” polls, which is startling considering the seat has been a BN stronghold since 2001 when former chief minister Taib Mahmud won the seat. In the 2011 state election Taib retained the seat by 5,154 votes. In the earlier 2006 polls he locked in a majority of 5,726 votes.
Still that did not stop Sarawak’s Infrastructure and Communication Minister Michael Manyin from pledging to build a 11-kilometer missing link road between Kuala Serumpai and Kuala Tatau at a cost of RM230 million! Only in Sarawak, a missing link road can get you votes. Villagers are going to be so indebted.
If you do your sums, this means that on the average one kilometer stretch of road in Sarawak would cost between RM1 to RM1.5 million to build. I must mention that somebody is also going to make reams of money on this deal.
The above-mentioned project and many others in Balingian will all receive generous infusions of funds that can be expected to exceed the total sum spent on the constituency in the last five decades!
After all, Balingian falls in Sarawak’s ‘industrial’ zone. Taib’s pet project Sarawak Corridor for Renewable Energy (Score) is sited in the Mukah parliamentary constituency where Balingian sits.
Not only that but local residents have been ceaselessly bombarded with reminders that a big victory will be a show of gratitude to Taib and an endorsement of his successor Adenan Satem’s administration.
It is expected that this by-election will be a shoo-in for BN. However, the opposition PR-PKR is hoping to eat into BN’s previous majority. BN, on the other hand, is aiming for a landslide victory. And Chief Minister and Sarawak BN chairperson Adenan Satem even expressed his wish to see the PKR candidate lose his deposit.
My hope is that Sarawakians become wiser.
Yesterday, I was at PJ’s Jalan Yong Shook Lin to attend the IJM Toastmasters meeting. The meeting started five minutes late and by the time it concluded, we were behind by 37 minutes. The speeches were alright but the evaluations were better. Thankfully, Table Topics met with a much better response. I found the members were eager but their enthusiasm was muted. Maybe, because it was a lunchtime meeting, therefore, it was not easy to get energized at that time of the day.
Anyway, that sums up the meeting. Personally I thought it could be better-organized. I would give this meeting a 2.5 over 10 score.


Ridhuan Tee Promotes Cendol on MAS Flights

Ridhuan Tee Abdullah (left) in his Sinar Harian column on Monday wrote something topical in the wake of the MH370 saga. He drew up a list of lessons to be learnt from this particular incident. 

First, female flight attendants should don the hijab. It is not about shielding their aurat (parts of body to be covered according to Islamic teachings) and protecting their modesty. He gave another equally important reason, i.e. it can prevent hair from dropping on the food. 

Hmmm, Ridhuan has a point there. But hair shedding is a relatively common phenomenon. Maybe MAS should recruit cabin crew who has an Alopecia condition. Problem solved. And why target the women only? Men too shed their hair, y’know! 

He mentioned about being annoyed that stewardesses wore short and see-through attire. I had not realized that MAS cabin crew uniforms have been changed. The last time I flew – okay, it has been almost four months! – I only saw them wearing the iconic sarong kebaya uniform (above photo). It is time to have an eye check and perhaps even change my glasses – I didn’t see what I was supposed to see although Ridhuan did. 

Of course I wish they would show more (as in the photo below) but fat chance! 

Second, Ridhuan suggested that the national carrier stop serving liquor on its flights. Instead, MAS should serve cendol (a sweet coconut milk dessert  see photo below). 

Alright! I love cendol, so I am okay with it. And while he's at it, why not get MAS to also serve sirap, sirap bandung, teh tarik, teh-o, teh susu, teh ais, teh halia, 3-layer tea, kopi-o, kopi susu, kopi ais, horlicks, milo and many other local (non-alcoholic) beverages? 

Third, he said he has no problems being frisked by airport security before boarding a flight. His words were more like an invitation: "Fondle me to your heart's content for the dignity and security of our beloved land”!

I hope he didn’t mean that. Sometimes, what you wish for is what you get!

After you have read the above, some of you may be confused. Confounded. Maybe, even many of you. You are likely to ask how the above is related to MH370. Please don’t ask me. I am just as confused and confounded as you are. 

Ridhuan Tee Abdullah is good at being himself. He is who he is. What he lacks in intelligence, he more than makes up for in stupidity.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

PR is Not Having it Easy in Sarawak

Campaigning for the Balingian by-election is supposedly in full swing but news have been scant. In any case, Pakatan Rakyat is not having it easy in Sarawak. 

PKR stalwarts Saifuddin Nasution, Tian Chua, Rafizi Ramli and Zuraida Kamaruddin were all denied entry into the state.

Sure, Sarawak has the power to bar them but that authority must be exercised strictly within the limits of the Federal Constitution as prescribed in Article 9(3) of the Constitution and the Immigration Act. And the trio had wanted to engage in legitimate political activity. What is wrong with that? 

It is regrettable that Malaysians cannot move freely within their own country! 

Classy Celtic clinched the Scottish Premiership title in stylish fashion yesterday – their third Scottish title in a row with seven games to spare – when they ruthlessly demolished Partick Thistle 5-1. The goal scorers for Celtic were Anthony Stokes (4, 90), Liam Henderson (49), Stefan Johansen (53) and Kris Commons (90). Partick Thistle managed to get on the score sheet once through Christie Elliot (85).

The victory established an unassailable 26-point lead over second-placed Aberdeen as Celtic became champions for the 45th time. And it is the earliest the Scottish top flight has been secured since Rangers won on March 16 in season 1928-29!
Congratulations, Celtic! 

Manchester City's comprehensive victory over Manchester United in Tuesday's derby meant that all eyes were on Anfield and the Reds did not disappoint. They continued their winning streak, this time carving a 2-1 win over Sunderland.

In the thirty-ninth minute, Steven Gerrard produced a stunning free kick from 23 yards that Vito Mannone could not keep out. And in the forty-eighth minute, Daniel Sturridge curled in his twentieth league goal to make it two-zero. The Black Cats refused to surrender and Ki Sung-Yueng headed home fellow substitute Adam Johnson's corner (76). 

The Reds now move into second place.

MH370: "Conclusive Evidence" Points to Indian Ocean

My earlier post (“MH370: Where Are You?”) on the MH370 search-and-rescue that was dated March 20, 2014 pertains. Now the “assets” are being re-deployed to focus on the southern Indian Ocean in an area covering 460,000 sq nautical miles. 

Hishammuddin Hussein, the Acting Transport Minister repeated his Prime Minister’s position that “conclusive evidence” (their words!) pointed out that the missing airliner did end in the identified area (The Star, Malaysia, March 26, 2014, p 02). 

Malaysians who trust these two individuals may be surprised to know that Australia’s deputy defense chief Mark Binskin – whose country is spearheading the search (the ‘rescue’ has been conveniently dropped because it would seem they are just wanting to find any sign of wreckage of the said plane) – was more upfront when he admitted: “We’re not searching for a needle in a haystack – we’re still trying to define where the haystack really is” (ibid, p 42). 

As I have said, what and who to believe? 

Last evening, I was at Level 1, Telekom Malaysia Convention Center in KL’s Jalan Pantai Baharu. The purpose of my presence at the Telekom Toastmasters meeting was to deliver my CC speech #6 titled “Hurt”. My evaluator was Lachmichand (Lucky) and this was Round 1 of Project 15. I am really thankful that clubs are giving me speaking opportunities and Telekom is one of many.

Overall, the meeting went well and I would give it a score of 6.5 over 10. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

MH370: No Closure Yet

Just a day after Najib Razak made the announcement, Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein (left) stated that there will be no closure for MH370 passengers' families unless debris is found to confirm that the aircraft had gone down. He said there was no solid proof of MH370's whereabouts.

And he made the promise that "we will do whatever it takes to locate MH370". He did point out that French authorities had spent two years searching before finally locating the bulk of the wreckage (and the black box) of the ill-fated Air France flight 447 – which disappeared in June 2009 – in the vast Atlantic Ocean. 

That may be so but it took search teams only five days before they found debris. 

In MH370’s case, nothing has been found yet. It is therefore important that we do not abandon the search. 

The world may have gone weary with the waiting and therefore, I am seeing an outpouring of grief since Monday. And all of this was because of a simple statement that the Prime Minister made, i.e. “…flight MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean”. 

But if you have someone on board MH370, you would want to wait for a little while longer. At least until wreckage or some debris is found to confirm that MH370 did go down to the bottom of the Indian Ocean. 

Last evening, I was at the Taman Indrahana Toastmasters meeting at the Cobra Club in Lorong Utara B in Petaling Jaya. I presented my CC#3 speech titled "Second Place” and Lim Thian Seng was my evaluator. This was Round 3 of Project 15. [I have so far already started on nine rounds of the CC manual but I have yet to kickstart another six to make it 15, which is my original goal for this calendar year]. 

Yesterday’s speeches were generally good and so too were the evaluations. A good meeting overall and it deserves a score of an 8 over 10.