Wednesday, April 8, 2009



That’s the list of six PRIME MINISTERS of Malaysia, as destined or predicted. The last name Dato Seri Najib Tun Abdul Razak became the sixth Prime Minister, effective Friday 3 April 2009 with him taking his oath of office at Istana Negara, witnessed by Yang DiPertuan Agong.

Is it coincidental that the candidates were chosen according to the name of our first Prime MINISTER i.e. Tunku Abdul Rahman? Now that the listing is completed, how do we guess the next Prime Minister and the subsequences after Najib? Which bright spark will come up with a clue or premonition?

Hopefully Malaysian does not have to make that choice every five years, if the leadership in the largest Malay political party can guarantee its progress and acceptance by the populace or the voters. Can they do that with the current schism in the country’s political climate? If in the past, there were little challenges or disgruntles but since 2008 we have to accept a new trend or political consciousness in the country coupled by strong opposition trends and grassroots power. If UMNO or its component Barisan Nasional could sustain itself as government since 1957 why should it not do the same for now and the future? With the transfer of baton to a new leader on 3 April 2009, Abdullah’s era has come to its end. If it helps to check all ills or un-happenings it would do the country much good.

Anyone could beg the question how in the world can a majority win of 198 parliamentary seats out of 220 won in 2004 general election could succumb to a dismal low and losing four plus one states to the oppositions four years later. Barisan Nasional in 2008 saw the consequences of losing Kedah, Penang, Perak, Selangor plus Kelantan and not to mention federal seats too. It is a lesson to all and not only to those in politics how fast confidence can erode and how challenging and disgusted one can become when the hold on power is lost and seemingly weak. Disorganized and lack of decisive leadership and focus easily added to the catastrophe. The Federal Government in disarray with broadsides from all quarters even from its senior statesman the like of Tun Dr Mahathir had to find a way out. Salvation comes at last. A change of baton is inevitable and hopefully the next runner could cover lost ground and burst the tape, becoming a winner and greeted with cheers from supporters and spectators alike.

I suppose some people will soon come up with their own formula or methodology of the choice of future leadership in the country. Foremost as citizens we should scruple less over politics and leadership but focus on making the country prosper and the people feeling safe and respectful of its services. Struggle for power and dominance by political parties should halt after any general election allowing the triumph to hold its court till its duration is over.

This essay intended to recognize the transfer of Presidency of UMNO and Premiership of the country in a peaceful manner from one leader to another. Many would remember how the fourth Prime Minister handed his to his chosen stalwart and similarly how the fifth to the sixth without much fan-fare. Malaysia is indeed fortunate to enjoy such transition.

One must count oneself fortunate if you live to see all the six leaderships holding the reign of power; more so if you had the opportunity to meet them at close range or knew them and their works in relation to Malaysia’s historical, political and economic growth and development. It is possible in a small country like Malaysia. Possibly my younger generation would live through more than six Prime Ministers if the change is made every five years. With Tunku Abdul Rahman and Mahathir taking more than three decades, we are limited to the six only. All of course it depends on the caliber, forcefulness and the ‘Yin’ and “Yang’ of the person in office.

Could you put yourself as being one of the luckiest persons to live through the years the six Prime Ministers hold office? Though Najib is a recent supremo, Malaysians cannot deny that he has been in Malaysian politics since his father Tun Abdul Razak was the Prime Minister. By the way Najib is not the only offspring who have followed in the footsteps of their fathers to stay hooked on the political bandwagon. Tun Hussen Onn and Tun Dr Mahathir likewise have their representatives too excepting Tengku Abdul Rahman. Tun Abdullah has his son-in-law to back him.

Being from Kedah could be a factor or an advantage as I had the privilege to meet Tunku Abdul Rahman and Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad not once but several times. Many others could say that their paths too crossed the two statesmen’s. The roles of historical figures or leaders become more meaningful when your path comes across them no matter how briefly or directly. A golden opportunity is lost if you sidestepped or avoided to meet them for any reason; particularly if they come within your sight and without much attempt on your part. We can talk or describe about them with much personal feelings and truth if we had that opportunity to meet and see them in person. What more if we have photos as keepsakes of our meeting or encounter. We would likely remember more the occasion where and when it happened. People who were there on 31 August 1957 alongside Tunku Abdul Rahman when he called out ‘Merdeka’ at the Merdeka Stadium would never forget the day; nor too any person who was at Baling when Tunku was there to end the emergency. Tunku lovingly known as ”Father of Independence’ (Bapak Malaysia) was born in 1903 and went through the Siamese, British and Japanese period in Malaysian history and was a lawyer by profession. Tunku studied in Britain.

I was not at the stadium but I was in Brunei when Tunku brought a long boat and rowers from his home state to race on the choppy Brunei River while there on a mission to entice Brunei to be a component of Malaysia formed in 1963. Later with Tan Sri Awang Had, the Vice Chancellor of Universiti Utara Malaysia we called at his home in Penang. That gave us an opportunity to meet and talk to him in person when he was a popular contributor to the STAR in his retirement days. Tunku held office from 31/8/1957 till 22/9/1970.

Tun Abdul Razak from Pahang born 1922 likewise lived through the British and Japanese period. Distinguished as ‘Father of Rural Development’, he was the Premier for five years (22/9/1970- 14/1/1976). I had the closest encounter with Tun Abdul Razak when he attended and officially opened a national rural development seminar at Sekolah Menengah Sultan Abdul Halim Jitra Kedah. It is to be remembered that then even national seminars did not have the luxury and comfort of large hotel halls; but nearer to the community and in this case in the compound of a residential school. On other occasions I met Tun Abdul Razak when he came to officially opened schools in Kedah; one especially at Sekolah Menengah Kuala Ketil Kedah on 26 January 1968, then as the Minister of Education. By profession Tun Abdul Razak was a lawyer and studied in Britain too.

Tun Hussein Onn from Johore born 1922 held office as the Prime Minister from 14/1/1976 to 16/7/1981. He too came through the British and Japanese period. He was declared as ‘Father of Unity’. Tun Hussein was a military officer and a lawyer. He too studied in Britain. Sadly I cannot recall meeting Tun Hussein Onn or attending any functions where he was present. Still I have photos of him and friends while they were studying in Britain; sufficient to click some memories of time past.

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad from Kedah, born in 1925 was Prime Minister from 16/7/1981 till 31/10/2003. His 22 years as Prime Minister saw many innovations and growth to the extent that he earned the title 'Father of Modernization and Globolization’. Being from Kedah I had several opportunities to be where Tun Dr Mahathir was guest of honor. More so our house being next door to his in Alor Star, it held out greater opportunities. The annual ‘korban’ at Titi Gajah saw us receiving the sacrificial cow from him on behalf of the kampong community and also come voting time he and his wife are at home again to cast their votes at Sekolah Kebangsaan Titi Gajah Alor Star. An episode in Malaysia’s history which saw street protests by tertiary institutions’ students in Kuala Lumpur saw Tun Dr Mahathir’s being recalled to the city while he was delivering a speech as the Minister of Education at Dewan Pelbagai Guna Alor Star. At the third interruption and the last by the Prime Minister himself Tun Hussein Onn, he left the hall excusing for not able to continue in view of a grave situation in the capital. A photo taken at that moment will remain a lasting throw back to a dark tint in Malaysia’s history.

Like the others before him, he too lived through the Siamese, British and Japanese period. He studied at University of Malaya (Singapore) and is a medical doctor.

Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi held office from 31/10/2003 to 3/4/2009. Hailed from Kepala Batas Pulau Pinang, Abdullah studied at University Malaya. He is neither a lawyer nor a doctor but a civil service officer before entering politics. This is the truth when I say that if you had no occasion to meet the person, you would not be able to describe him in ways otherwise. To state that I did not attend a function where Abdullah was guest of honor may not be true. On two occasions 18 August 2006 and 27 August 2007 we were at Kulim and Putrajaya respectively where Abdullah was guest of honor.

Abdullah’s course may not be as illustrious as the former Prime Ministers as his path met with several setbacks. Firstly his wife Hindon died when he was in the second year of his office and then after a tumultuous result in the 2004, came a catastrophe in the 2008 election result followed by street demonstrations and upper hands of the oppositions plus discontents from his own party itself. The breakup or even demise of UMNO and the Barisan Nasional was imminent less something fast is done. Salvation came. Will it translate into a new growth and consolation? In the meantime, Malaysians await the honorific title of ‘bapak’ that would be lauded on Abdullah. Any suggestion? Whatever it is, history will show Abdullah's contribution to the country too.

Malaysians and Malays especially look forward for a cure less temperatures keep going up and the ills of 1940’s when malaria was the fore-bearer strikes again but this time with greater consequences via other streams.

Of course with Dato Seri Najib, I would not have any contact of significance to record yet. Still I cannot say it has been a total nil since browsing through the files there is a picture to show one instance when he was the Minister of Education while on a visit to Kedah.

Striking moments of our encounters with personalities, friends and family members will always be remembered and cherished while adding to a moment in the personal or historical perspective; what more with the Number One in the country. This story translates the truth of the issue: have gun will travel (when gun-fighters offer their services) but now it reads like have evidences will publish.

The episode of changing of the guard took precedence at least in 2009 with the emphatic and emotive transfer from Bush to Obama and now in Malaysia Najib holds the court. Both accept their oath of office at a time of dire straits when economics do not give them the luxuries but enforce upon them to generate or bail-out where necessary.

I know for sure certain friends who would join in this bandwagon to associate himself with the subject in question. he was there at the Stadium on 31 August 1957 and also somewhere on an island on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia when the Prime Minister was on a visit. I am sure for him it has been a memorable experience plus many others that has not surfaced.

Imagine if we could gather all these nostalgic encounters how interesting it would be to walk back into time and see how our Prime Ministers especially have come down to meet the people. The stories would be extraordinary as captured by people on the ground minus the highlights of media coverage.

On the point of signing off perhaps some quotations would be in order:

"Every house guest brings you happiness: some when they arrive and some when they are leaving" Confucius

" The generosity of your time is the most valuable gift you can give" Sara Henderson

"The way to be safe is never to be secure" Benjamin Franklin

History in short is the story about people. It can also be your own history not necessarily famous or it makes its way into archives. If we create it the moment can be savored for many years to come. One here when we called to see Tunku Abdul Rahman at his home in Penang 1989,next on the ocassion of a seminar held at Sekolah Menengah Sultan Abdul Halim Jitra Kedah when Tun Abdul Razak officially opened the Seminar on 7 September 1968. It is to be noticed that back then, a school hall was the choice of a national seminar and of course minus all the frills and comforts of airconditioning etc. The other picture is when Dr Mahathir and wife were at home with folks of his kampong at Titi Gajah

Friday, April 3, 2009


IT'S a question on our mind especially in time of looming depression. The news is that even our former BankBumiputra now enhanced by a new founding call 'CIMB' has told its staff members to take a six month break. Excellent BUT without pay and the duration to be regulated. Imagine soon how many others will come with the same offer.

The subject in question is however not about the economic position but how do you regulate your purchases. If you choose to pay with credit cards, you would of course have chosen the counters. If you pay cash over the table, you could be at a 'warong', 'pasar malam', 'pasar minggu', a 'mamak shop' or 'kedai Mak Milah'. The transaction too would not in most cases see a transfer of a RM50.00 note because the damage would be quite minimal.

Still many would go for convenience and comfort. That naturally make them invariably choose a supermarket where drive-in parking, air-conditioning, trolleys and proper dispensing machine for their cards are available and thrown in paper wrappings instead of the indomitable plastic as an act of benevolence.

The two photos on this page speak volume of the issue in question. You have seen many fruit stalls including the seasonal 'durian' huts by the side of the road. The exclusive fruit stall at Sunway Pyramid Subang which caught my eye recently is typical of the growing trend; offering the best of the best and pleasant to the eyes. Of course pleasantly rewarding to the owner too. No worry about quality or freshness. Some of the fruits are air-flown to grace your dining tables. Still it has taken several years before such innovation or change comes in.

Next, a housewife visits the open stall and meets with all the excitement that comes at a weekend market day. The morning sun welcomes the throngs of shoppers and happily she would greet or be greeted by friends and neighbors who made their way to the same place. For sure all items on sale will be fresh and transported at lightning speed to the market place by either motorbikes of motorcars and fresher than fresh. The housewife would failed in her culinary display or prowess if she failed to add a 'curry' dish in her weekend menu. She has to get the best of the curry spice. Here she has all the choices.

Now where do you shop? In short it has to be at the place that offers the best of the two world. Quality, friendliness, good price and whatever that meets your preference. Cost wise. I believe it is left to the purchaser.

A modern fruit stalls with all manner of fruits on display and at your choosing. Local as well imported fruits are there for your choice. Even dried fruits are available and dates in all its varieties are also on display. You would be tempted not to walk away without several bags of your delights. Clean and attractive it makes fruits now a hit and the stall a puller.

A world of difference in marketing as it stands now. Believe me it we adopt the same marketing style even the varied curry paste for 'gulai ikan. gulai daging, kurma, pindang, dalca' and others would be a sight even at the best of the supermarkets. Maybe soon we dare see this 'rempah' stall at KLCC in all its colors and hue. After all curry paste is a hit overseas now and curry paste sold at the choicest of localities would make our curry paste an international choice .

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


I cannot for a moment think of any maiden whether in distress or not that is happy to be in an unexpected and welcome happening but certainly I know I am . Why not? Yesterday while at Baling town, with some moments to spare I gave a concerned look at the only clock tower in the town. Its uncared, mismanaged surrounding and not to speak its own less sparkling dressing marked by months of untouched paintwork would certainly shy many from giving a second glance.
Thankfully I did have a long look and for the first time too. I have been to the town many times. In fact I lived there for two years in 1968 and 1969. Yet I miss this out. You would wander all over the places pulled by all manner of attractions, appreciating and proposing others to do likewise less they miss out on something worthy. Yet right in front of our very eyes; we remained blank. Baling too is no ordinary district or town. It is steeped with it own historical landmark any Malaysian would know.

Clock towers abound. Still not too many in Kedah. There is one in Alor Star and another in Sungai Petani. This one in Baling is the third I believe. Moreover it is ticking and alive. The very moment I passed by it , it struck the hour of 4.00 pm producing a quiet striking sound audible within perhaps a twenty-five yards area. Perhaps its chime that made me look up at its four faced feature. No familiar name or symbol on the clock's face. Still one word stood out: "GENTS". I would agree that I have never come across such a brand name. That would not be left unanswered. Being in Baling specially or in any other parts of the country it would have been days later when you would find an answer to such predicament. No now. Globalization and the internet comes to your rescue. I got an instant answer. 'Gents' is a famous clock maker in England. Gents' clocks are antiques. 'Gents' came to Baling town in 1959 or even earlier.

You can see the clock tower as it stands now, by the side of the main road, in front of the former District Officer, now the Municipal building or Pejabat Majlis Tempatan and in front of the town mosque. Maybe too hemmed in by unwanted trees and side buildings.

Particularly intriguing is discovering the inscriptions at the base of the tower. Here the brief founding and opening of the clock tower could still declare its early story. The laying of its foundation was performed by "YTM Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Ketua Mentri Persekutuan Tanah Malayu pada 21. 8. 1957 : 25.1.1377" and on "Wednesday 25 .2.1959 DYMM Sultan Abdul Halim Muazzam Shah" declared it opened. Particulars of donations from well wishers tells the contributions from the community at that time.

This is an interesting discovery. Much more could be derived. In particular the story of 'Gents' itself and how many other clock towers with the same mechanization in the country could be a story by itself. I would particularly like to see the inside of the Baling clock tower. Surely it calls for a next visit to town.

The Baling Clock Tower with it four sided time-face in front of the town mosque and the Baling hill as its background.

Inscriptions at the base of the clock tower. Notice the spellings as then used

Who contributed and how much they contributed towards their town clock tower all is told here. Am wondering whether we do the same now or we leave this to the authorities only! maybe other towns now need clock towers as well so as to be punctual.