Saturday, June 29, 2013

WHAT IF HAZE HAPPENED IN INDONESIA BECAUSE OF OPEN AND SLASH BURNING IN MALAYSIA AND SINGAPORE?

…WON’T THE INDONESIANS WANT TO DEMONSTRATE OUTSIDE OF THE EMBASSIES OF THESE COUNTRIES?
By Mansor Puteh



Indonesia knows it can do whatever it likes to Malaysia and also Singapore. Because they know Malaysians and Singaporeans do not behave like them – or some of them, who are mostly the Indonesians who are confused, thinking that so few Indonesians can make a difference.

Especially with the Indonesian leaders not wanting or able to do anything to do.

No wonder they had done a lot to create unnecessary discord between Indonesia and its immediate neighbors, which fortunately did not escalate simply because there are no similar fringe groups of people in the two countries who could do exactly what the Indonesians are capable of doing – including carrying their own human waste or feaces to the Malaysian embassy in Jakarta.

This act can only be done by those Indonesians.

So when the haze problem rose from Sumatera, Malaysians and Singaporeans did not go up in arms against the Indonesians. They remained cool.

Yet, Singapore’s alarm which was founded, was met with unusually undiplomatic response from Indonesia’s Agong Laksono who said Singapore was ‘crying like a baby!’

Maybe a rebuke for Agong came when Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhyono apologized to Malaysia and Singapore for the haze problem.

So far a few Indonesians have been detained over the problem for causing fire in the plantations in Sumatera, which are known to be the main causes for the haze that had enveloped much of the two countries.

Indonesia is not considered to be suffering from the haze problem as it was their own making; so they must enjoy whatever inconveniences that they experience.

It is also quite laughable when Indonesia is said to have spent a lot of money to put down the fires, yet, they did not think it would be wiser for them to stop the problem at its roots, before it became a fire, an act which should not cost too much to achieve.

A simple legislation could do the trick, so all Indonesians know how to better behave themselves with their plantations and other trees that they want to get rid of.

The question which many people in Malaysia especially want to ponder is: What if the situation is reversed? What if Malaysia and Singapore are the countries that are providing or creating haze over much of Indonesia especially Jakarta?

Surely, there will be some Indonesians who will gather outside of the embassies of Malaysia and Singapore to protest against the haze.

And if the ministers of the two countries were to say that the Indonesians were ‘crying like a baby’ and citing how the open and slash burning was created by nature, what would the Indonesians say to this too?

Indonesia is a vast country. Sumatera is very much under-developed, so there are many plantations.

Some of them are owned by Malaysian and Indonesian companies. But it would seem incomprehensible for them to allow their plantations to burn and slash trees that they had cut down, or to burn sugarcane trees in order to process the sugar in them.

The slash and open burning in Sumatera, must only be done by small plantation owners and also by people who have small tracts of land that they cultivate; it can never be done by the major corporations.

Indonesians have generally been coy to such problems. Even if the whole of Jakarta and Jawa are affected by the haze as it was in 2005, they will still not bother to try and solve the problems.

Those who were responsible for the problem in 2005 are still probably the persons who are creating the haze.

Unfortunately, the worst hit areas are Singapore, followed by Johor, where the Polutant Safety Index has gone up beyond the 300 level.

And the situation will become much worse, the more the Indonesians believe that it was an act of nature, that they could not control.

In fact, it was also the ‘act of nature’ that the Indonesians are also not able to control the outflow of Indonesians to the Tanah Melayu Peninsular who used rickety boats to cross the Straits of Melaka, to live and work in Malaysia, albeit illegally.

And when the Indonesians are arrested and detained, the Indonesian officials at their embassies hardly take notice of it.

They are only alarmed when an Indonesian maid was charged and found guilty of physical abuse of children.

They are not alarmed by the major issues.

They know if they put a stop to the illegal outflow of Indonesians to Malaysia, they can get a stiff reaction from them.

In fact, they might even think it is good for some Indonesians to leave the country to work in Malaysia as Indonesia does not have the job opportunities for them that Malaysia has.

‘Crying like a baby’ seems to be such an appropriate comment given the severity of the problem which Malaysia and Singapore have to face, for which they do not know when it will end.

Business is severely affected, and Malaysia and Singapore have the right to pursue the matter in the International Court of Justice or ICJ on this, as it relates to cross-border criminal activities, which unfortunately can be solved once and for all, if Indonesia had taken stiff measures to ensure that the plantation owners in Sumatera and other individuals abide by their own environmental laws.

So, can’t Malaysians and Singaporeans charge the Indonesian minister, Agung for ‘behaving like a child’ in this case?

It is also pathetic how the Indonesians have not bothered to respond to the offer of assistance from Malaysia and Singapore, like they know how to solve the problems themselves.

Indonesia can never be able to solve such problems, even with satellites coming into the picture and those who are responsible for the haze problem be clearly identified.

I escaped the haze problem in Sumatera. I was in the area in the south of the island early June. The plantations were still clear of any burning then, and I never could guess that they are not so now.











Tuesday, June 25, 2013

‘ENJOY JAKARTA, 2013’ AND MY DESIRE TO BE SENT TO PRISON, AND THE HAZE OF JUNE.

…AND THE CHINESE OF INDONESIA AND MALAYSIA.
By Mansor Puteh



First, someone in Palembang, Sumatera stole my main luggage, which left me wearing the same clothes for four days, since I was on the road and did not have the chance to change clothes or to by new ones.

I then bought a plane to Malaysia without continuing on my trip from Palembang to Jakarta.

I thought I would take the ferry from Melaka in Malaysia to Dumai in Sumatera and then on by bus to Pekan Baru to Palembang and then to Jakarta.

I wanted to see the sights and to do some research on the Sriwijaya Empire.

I still managed to do that.

But I chose to fly to Jakarta from Malaysia a few days later thinking that it was a direct flight and Jakarta is not Palembang.

I was right, but only to a certain extent.

It was still pleasant to be able to return to Jakarta after an absence of nine years.

The weather was fine and not so hot, but pleasant and I was able to walk a lot in the city taking the KRT trains and local modes of travel including the ‘bajaj’ and buses packed with people.

It was more pleasant to discover that Jakarta was celebrating the 486th anniversary of its founding in 1529. And I was there to experience it.

There were many activities organized but I chose those that were held at Taman Fatahilah or Fatahilah Square at Jakarta Kota or Kota Tua.

This was where the Dutch had their headquarters when they colonized the whole country.

I enjoyed visiting the Muzium Bahari where some relics from ancient Portuguese and Dutch times are put on display other than the ‘bakso’ that are sold by the food vendors outside of the museum.

American President Barack Obama had remarked in Melayu, ‘Bakso sedap. Nasi goreng sedap’ or ‘Bakso is good. Fried rice is good’ when he met some Indonesians at a university in Jakarta the last time he was back in the city where he had grown up as a boy studying at the primary school in the exclusive and residential Menteng district.

I had a bit of ‘bakso’ as I had not tasted it in a long time. They do sell it in Malaysia, mostly by the Indonesians themselves and in the night markets.

The Melayu in Malaysia have not got used to eating the food, so most of the customers are the Indonesians living and working in the country either legally or illegally – and some Malaysians such as me.

I sat at a table in front of a young Chinese man and a young Chinese woman. They spoke in Melayu or Bahasa Indonesia.

It is not a rare sight to see the Chinese in Indonesia speaking in Melayu. But it is rare to find them doing that in Malaysia.

And I have not seen any Chinese in Malaysia eating and enjoying ‘bakso’ at the stalls in the night markets in Malaysia. They have not gotten to like the food.

And while I was in Jakarta, their Governor Joko Wibowo or Jokowi, was in Kuala Lumpur to promote the ‘Enjoy Jakarta 2013’ where he remarked how he would like to see Jakarta as clean as Kuala Lumpur.

I don’t find Kuala Lumpur to be clean. And I don’t think Jakarta can be as clean as it is now.

The main roads in and around Jakarta are clean. The areas beside the railway lines are also clean.

There used to be huts where some people used as their houses where they would cook and also change their clothes as the trains pass by them.

But this scene is gone.

I first visited Jakarta in May, 1974 just two months before I enrolled at the Institut Teknologi Mara in Shahalam in Malaysia to work on my degree in advertising.

I did not experience being cheated then. I was a young boy. So no one could think they could cheat me of anything.

The rate of the Rupiah to the Malaysian Ringgit then was 145 Rupiah to One Malaysian Ringgit.

Today, it is about 3,000 Rupiah to One Ringgit.

I could buy a large banana for twenty Rupiah then or Roops as the Caucasian tourists or visitors would say.

Now I am much older and am a person of some means, and the people in Jakarta and also the whole of Indonesia could see that.

So I can become a victim of scam.

You don’t have to tell anyone what you have and who you are; they can tell it if you fit in their profile of a potential and easy cheat-victim.

You do not have to flaunt your ‘wealth’ they can see it from a distance, from the way you carry your electronic gadgets and also your dress, even if you still prefer to be like the locals and eat ‘bakso’ and take their public transport.

I did Enjoy Jakarta even if Jokowi does not ask me to do.

He is such a simple man, who has the look of Barack Obama. In January when I was in Aceh, I noticed him on television for the first time.

This time in Jakarta, I realized that he had lost a bit of a weight. He is proud of the fact that he is transparent by also admitting to how much he earns as Governor of Jakarta about 9,000,000 Rupiah or about RM3,000.

But he lives in a large white mansion which is colonial-style in the Menteng District and not too far away from Barack’s school.

Jokowi may be Melayu or Jawa, but he has Chinese features, which indicated that his ancestors could be Chinese.

But he did not want to make that a big deal; he does not care about his ancestry or where his ancestors had come from. To him, he is Indonesian and Jawa or Melayu.

He is like the many Chinese in Indonesia who have Chinese ancestries, but who said they are from another part of Jawa. They did not want to go further back in the history of how their ancestors had come here from South China.

Most of them were boys or men. And they had married local Jawa women. And they had indeed left China for good to become good Indonesians.

They are unlike the Chinese in Malaysia who are might proud of their Chinese ancestry that they also want to bring the Great Wall of China.

They know they are not able to do that, so they settle for creating more and more Chinese schools and speak in Chinese as much as they can and some fractured Melayu when they have to.

Yet, many of them are able to get their driving licenses despite not being able to read or write in Melayu well or at all.

So far the Chinese chauvinist groups and their leaders and their political parties in Malaysia have not tried to relate to their brethren in Indonesia, or for that matter, in Singapore, Brunei, Thailand, the Philippines and the other countries in the ASEAN region.

They did not want to do that as they know the Chinese there have been so assimilated that they are not interested to relate to the Chinese in Malaysia, ever.

On the flight back the immigration officer wanted some ‘bribe’ money for losing the departure card, which I had put somewhere but not with my passport.

He said if I chose not to pay I could be fined. The amount was pittance, if it is true – 200,000 rupiah or about RM18.

I said I did not wish to pay the fine, and I wanted to be sent to prison. I could get a story worth more than RM18.

The Indonesian immigration officer was shocked. He did not think I was joking. But he let me off passing through his counter, so I was able to wait for my flight back to Kuala Lumpur.

Where in the world where you can get an interesting experience and story for only RM18?

The skies over Sumatera were clear in early June. They were also clear in Jakarta in the middle of June.


But now they are not so clear; they are hazy. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

MALAYSIAN CULTURAL CENTER ON JALAN BUDIKEMULIAAN, JAKARTA?

…AND THE INEFFECTIVE METHODS TO INVITE INDONESIAN ARTISTES AND FILMMAKERS, WHO DO NOT HELP TO CREATE BETTER RELATIONS BETWEEN THE TWO COUNTRIES.
By Mansor Puteh



Every time I visit Jakarta, Indonesia, I would make it a point to go to Jalan Budikemuliaan. It is a short street by the side of the more popular Jalan T. H. Thamrin, named after one of the prominent leaders of Indonesia.

And not so far away from Jalan Budikemuliaan is the Monumen Nasional or Monas which is the tall obelisk tower standing in the park at the edge of which is Istana Merdeka which is the official residence of the president of the republic.

The Malaysian government owns a piece of land on this road, and it was where the Pusat Pelajar Malaysia (PPM) or Malaysian Students’ Center was.

I stayed there when I visited Jakarta for the first time in May, 1974, and found it very convenient and also cheap to lodge at.

It was the first stop for many students from Malaysia visiting Jakarta, until it was closed down.

The next time I paid the place a visit in 1995, I found it vacant. The PPM had been moved to another place.

And few years after that I paid the place another visit and found that the buildings had been torn down and it is just a vacant space.

The signboard says that the property belongs to the Education Department of the Malaysian Embassy in Jakarta, and it sits on prime land, across the street from Bank Negara Indonesia, which is the national bank of Indonesia.

I am not sure what plans the Malaysian government has for this property in Jakarta, but for me, I would like to propose that a new Malaysian cultural center be built on it, so that it can become a showcase of Malaysian culture in the city.

And it can become the main focus of the intimate relations that Malaysia and Indonesia has, which must be reconstructed and structured so that elements from amongst the angst-stricken members of the local populace cannot cause this relations to turn sour, when and as they please.

The center which I want to propose can be called the Tunku Abdul Rahman Malaysia Cultural Center in Jakarta or Pusat Kebudayaan Tunku Abdul Rahman Malaysia di Jakarta.

This complex can also have galleries for exhibitions, halls for forums and also hostels for Malaysian artistes visiting the city for performances, which can be arranged regularly so that cultural activities related to Malaysia and Indonesia can be organized.

Screenings of new and old Malaysian films and forums to discuss them can also be organized.

These can surely become a major attraction to the young and creative inclined people in Jakarta, so in time, the center can become the main focus of attention of the city’s culture vultures.

The end result of which can be seen in the form of the merging of the minds, thoughts and actions of the people of Malaysia and Indonesia.

A bookstore can also be opened in the center where books from Malaysia can be sold and made available to the public who may not have the access to such facilities in Jakarta or anywhere in Indonesia.

And in this way, both countries can benefit from it.

I am surprised that there have never been any serious attempts to forge bilateral relations on the people-to-people level by Malaysia and Indonesia.

Most of the time, focus has been only on the need for such attempts, but nothing concrete has materialized, after lengthy speeches with predictable contents have been shared to the media of the respective countries by dignitaries from each other’s countries.

Even in 1974, I knew that the PPM was a focus of attention to the locals in Jakarta who found the Malaysian Students’ Center to be attractive to the young who would come to mingle with the Malaysian students who are temporarily located there.

Unfortunately, this gesture was never appreciated by the Malaysian authorities who did not know how to seize it so over time, and after the PPM was closed and moved elsewhere, such personal communication between the Malaysian students and the locals seized to happen.

So no wonder over the last many years, there had been unnecessary discords that were created by some small and fringe groups of people in Jakarta, who may not have known the special ties that bound our two countries and the history of how they came about.

I am confident the Tunku Abdul Rahman Cultural Center on Jalan Budikemuliaan in Jakarta can be such a useful center where not only cultural activities are held regularly, but also social, intellectual activities that can encourage better bilateral relations between our two countries in ways that cannot be imagined, or which would cost a lot to achieve.

Malaysia and especially Finas have spent a lot of money to invite filmmakers and other artistes from Indonesia to perform in the country or to give workshops over the last few decades.

Finas especially has invited Teguh Karya, Ariffin C. Noer, Christine Hakim, Eros Djarot, Slamat Rihardjo, Garin Ngroho and Alex Komang to attend film festivals in the country and also to give workshops or to act in films produced by Malaysian film companies.

Unfortunately, this method of engaging them with the hope that they could become better members of the public in Indonesia who can cause the creation of better relations has not happened.

However, the Indonesian counterparts have not reciprocated the deed by inviting Malaysian filmmakers and other artistes to perform or to give workshops in Jakarta or anywhere in Indonesia.

Till now no Malaysian filmmaker has been invited by them. And chances of any of them being invited by Indonesia are still bleak, with almost no chance of it happening, since the Indonesians do not have programs of exchanging visits by their artistes and filmmakers like we do here in Malaysia.

Therefore, the job of promoting and encouraging bilateral relations between Malaysia and Indonesia is mostly done by Malaysia, with the Indonesians not doing anything at all.

So no wonder, there are some skirmishes in Jakarta when small fringe groups of angst-stricken Indonesians who would gather outside of the Malaysian embassy in Jakarta to voice their discontent on petty issues.

But generally all these were created by their own government agencies which have not tried to create a better environment to allow their own people however marginalized or fringed they are and however angst-stricken they may be, to not resort to violent acts.

Such acts can only be construed to be the failure of Indonesia to create the right and proper environment that can discourage such physical acts from happening in their own capital city.

Whereas the Malaysians do not copy what the Indonesians had done outside of the Malaysian embassy, even if they could do so.







Thursday, June 20, 2013

WHAT MORE DO THE CHINESE WANT? (APA LAGI CINA MAHU? OR ‘MAHU CHINA LAGI APA?):

…THE TRUTH IS THAT THE CHINESE IN MALAYSIA HAVE GOT MORE THAN WHAT THEY COULD EVER GET, SO THEY CAN TRY TO EXERT THEIR POSITION BY VOTING THE DAP, PAS AND PKR WITHOUT CARE – AN ACT WHICH CAN BACKFIRE, WHICH CAN FIRE UP THE PASSION OF THE MELAYU.
By Mansor Puteh


The Chinese language is such that the grammar is totally different than that is found in English and Melayu, so one can string a series of words in either way to form a sentence that sounds the same.

So, ‘Apa lagi China mahu?’ can also be asked, ‘Mahu Cina mahu apa?’ and ‘Mahu lagi Cina apa?’

The Chinese in Malaysia were given more opportunities to develop economically, which were all offered by the British and later Melayu when Tanah Melayu achieved independence on 31 August, 1957.

But they never once acknowledged this, and much less to thank the Melayu for doing that to them, for without which many of them would be where they were when their ancestors first arrived in Tanah Melayu, with the shirts on their backs.

Remember: Most of the night-soil carriers in Malaysia were Chinese with some Indians. There were only a handful of them who were Melayu.

Night-soil carrying was a profession that still existed till the early 1970s after the bucket system for collecting it was replaced by the flush toilet system.

If it was not done, chances are many Chinese and some Indians today would still be carrying other people’s night-soil or ‘tahi’ as the Melayu say it.

And most of the ‘amah’ or house-help in wealthy Melayu families were Chinese men and women.

Tunku Abdul Rahman employed more Chinese men and women in his staff at The Residency when he became prime minister.

He wanted to give them employment and the younger ones worked as gardeners.

Old photos taken at the Residency show how many of them were Chinese compared to the Indians and also Melayu.

And the Melayu were said to look after the country to govern and administer it so that the Chinese could continue to prosper.

The economic plans for the Chinese were more advanced and widespread than those of the Melayu, who were happy to be allowed to remain stuck in their villages tending to their crops for their daily sustenance, and all their savings were spent on their once in a life-time trip to Mekkah for Haj. And they would die happy knowing that they had such a placid life.

Yet, the Melayu did not complain.

The Chinese continued to prosper not because they were ingenious, but because they were allowed to prosper by the Melayu who if the Melayu were insistent, the Chinese would not have an inch of land to work on and much less to own.

However, with their strong economic presence, the Chinese today are demanding more than what they could chew and get, i.e. political control and ultimate dominance.

They do not say this in words. But their actions belie whatever hidden agendas they may have, or those in DAP and other Chinese-based parties including those in Barisan Nasional.

Chinese political parties serve their own community more than the whole community regardless of whether they are in Barisan or Pakatan Rakyat.

They know how to benefit from both coalition with the Melayu leaders in them kow-towing to their every demands.

For the sake of forging national unity or ‘muhibbah’ the Melayu are willing to bend.

They have bent to low that their backs are now bent so much so that they can now lick their own feet, while their buttoms are hit by the Chinese.

Yet, the Chinese do not feel as thought they have been given respect by the Melayu and are still demanding for more.

They have economic power, so now they want political power.

Unfortunately, the political power they crave comes at a time when their economic power is shrinking as much as the size of their population is.

So by 2050 they represent no more than fifteen percent of the total population of the country with the Melayu and other Bumiputera getting eighty percent of the population.

When this happens, the Chinese would be in serious trouble.

The reason being the Melayu can’t forget what they had tried to do today, so the new economic and other policies have to be tuned to meet with such aggression that the Chinese today have shown on the Melayu.

The Chinese in Indonesia suffered after the country gained independence from the Dutch, because they had sided with the aggressors.

The truth is that the Chinese in Malaysia today is preparing the groundwork for the totally obliteration of whatever goodwill that their ancestors had tried to create so that the new generation of Chinese do not suffer in the end.

The earlier Chinese knew whatever negative efforts they did would have serious repercussions on the mentality and thinking of the Melayu, who had to be woken up from their slumber.

The Melayu are slowly waking up.

And when they have finally woken up, they will start to ask, ‘Apa lagi Melayu mahukan?’ 



Friday, June 14, 2013

CAN REACTIVATING THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT IN ALOR SETAR, KEDAH CAUSE PULAU PINANG TO GO BUST?

…ISN’T IT TIME FOR THE GOVERNMENT TO REVISIT THEIR IDEA TO DO THAT?
By Mansor Puteh


The Chinese in Pulau Pinang when it was under Barisan Nasional, so they had cloud, protested vehemently when the government wanted to construct a new international airport in Alor Setar, Kedah.

The Chinese in Pulau Pinang feared if this happened, the economy of the state would go bust.

But what they did not realize was without the construction of the airport, the economy of Kedah would go bust.

They did not care about Kedah; they only cared about themselves.

And what this also meant was that they only cared for the well-being of the Chinese in Pulau Pinang who then formed the majority in the state.

They did not care about the well-being of the Melayu in Kedah who formed the majority in this state.

The Chinese in Pulau Pinang did not care what the government had done to the state to give it a higher economic profile all these years, that had allowed the state to develop.

They did it at the expense of Kedah and the Melayu.

But then, Pulau Pinang was a stronghold of the Malaysian-Chinese Association and Parti Gerakan Rakyat or Gerakan, so the government had to take heed of what they wanted, and got it.

So Kedah was left behind economically without the airport. It only has a small airport for domestic use.

But now Pulau Pinang had gone to the opposition.

Having done much to the state, by the government the majority of the Chinese in this state chose to vote opposition. It was a wise move.

But it can also be a stupid move. How?

If the government revisit the idea of developing a new international airport in Alor Setar and turn Kedah into a new economic powerhouse in the north of the Melayu Peninsula.

If this can be done, Pulau Pinang can go bust.

It must be allowed to go bust since the people there do not deserve to be given any preferential treatment over the others, who are the Melayu in Kedah who had to suffer just to accommodate the interests of the Chinese in Pulau Pinang who now have to depend on the Democratic Action Party or DAP for their own economic survival.

The Chinese there did not care who had caused the state to develop. They only care who should govern the state, now that it has developed. They chose an almost Chinese-majority party who do not care for the well-being of the Melayu.

There is no doubt that the Chinese in Pulau Pinang had made a grave mistake for voting opposition as it can backfire only if the government and especially Umno know how to go about solving the matter, i.e. by constructing a new and larger international airport in Alor Setar and turn Kedah into a new economic powerhouse.

After all the people of Kedah who had also tried their luck by voting for PAS, now realized their own folly by turning their backs against them in the last general elections.

So it is time for the Kedah to be given some preferential treatment and to allow the state to develop and directly compete with Pulau Pinang.

Have those in Umno and the Melayu in Kedah forgotten how the Chinese in Pulau Pinang threatened not to support Barisan if the airport was built?

Have the Melayu in Kedah also forgotten how the Chinese in Pulau Pinang did not care for their well-bring but only for the well-being of the Chinese in Pulau Pinang?

Those in Pulau Pinang only wanted Kedah and the Melayu majority there to suffer just to allow Pulau Pinang to continue to prosper.

Now that the threat of the Chinese in Pulau Pinang has been released, by them having voted DAP en masse, maybe it is the right time for the Kedah and government to construct the international airport in Alor Setar to spur its economic growth.

So it was good for the Chinese in Pulau Pinang to give the state to DAP so that Kedah can now go on their own way and develop itself, and by doing so can also cause Pulau Pinang to have a stiff competition that it did not want to see as the Melayu in Kedah were too innocent to believe that the Chinese in Pulau Pinang would continue to vote Barisan if Kedah chose to remain backward.

Even when Kedah was given to PAS, the PAS government did not do anything to the state, and allowed it to stagnant.

Now that the people of Kedah were smarter and returned the state to Barisan, so it is the right time for them to give Pulau Pinang a run for their money and see if DAP is good for Pulau Pinang, that the Chinese there thought they were, now that the DAP are in their second term as government of the state.

Pulau Pinang’s economic growth therefore can be said to be dependent on the state of the economy of Kedah, who chose to remain backward simply to look after the interests of the Chinese in Pulau Pinang.

Now that the tables have been changes, maybe the state of the economy of Pulau Pinang too must be changed.

Kedah cannot suffer because they want Pulau Pinang to prosper.

Pulau Pinang must be strong enough to face competition from Kedah so that the DAP can prove to its voters that they are deserving leaders, and their choice to vote them in, was not wrong.

Kedah can prove this to be wrong, for them to go for DAP.




Tuesday, June 11, 2013

POURING INNER AND PRIVATE THOUGHTS IN SOCIAL MEDIA…AND ALL FOF WHAT?

By Mansor Puteh



Social networks are mostly an open diary. It exposes one’s personal and private and innermost thoughts on anything under the sun, which one would not normally share with the others.

But the act of posting such short snippets of one’s thoughts can be a good release for one who now seems to be pressured from retaining them in one’s heart or head for too long fearing that they may backfire.

They don’t add up.

Sometimes it can be embarrassing for those who write and pour out their feelings to strangers and some friends, when all that they can do it to keep them and absorb all the emotions he has and accept it as part of the process of growing up.

There is no need for anyone to express one’s inner thoughts to the public. Most of them are not valid. They are just impulses one gets when faced with issues. All of these can be suppressed and not acted on.

So pouring such thoughts may be akin to one lying on the couch in the office of a psychiatrist.

An educated person, however, may keep his private thoughts to himself and if he has issues with them, he would find ways to overcome them when they start to appear as personal problems.

He would take up a hobby, or visit another country, or even play games.

The creative person, on the other hand, can find other avenues to vent out his frustrations, anger and stupidity, which is through whatever medium he can get hold of, some of which may be in the form of scribbling words or painting objects on walls, to turn into graffiti.

But for those who do not have these avenues, the social networks offer them such outlets.

Unfortunately, for many, they do not realize that writing and thus exposing one’s inner and private thoughts in such networks, may become viral and also dangerous as well as criminal.

Why would anyone want to share one’s inner and private thoughts, anyway?

They should be kept to one’s own self.

They are part of one’s own personal mental and intellectual as well as creative development, which is no more than the normal course of one’s life, a journey one would take to reach a new destination, feeling better and more matured from having gone through such phases in one’s life.

One must have gone through so many phases in one’s life until one becomes better off mentally and psychologically and also intellectually as well as culturally and socially and perhaps even economically, too.

There is no need for anyone to share one’s thoughts all the time, especially those that may be harmful to one’s personal being.

It is too bad that social networks have been wrongly used by such a small group of persons.

But this does not mean that they are not good.

They have created wonders, especially if they bring people of like-minds together and sometimes long-lost relatives and friends.

This is perhaps the only good reasons why such media networks to exist. They are not for anyone to pour scorn and vent one’s anger or share defamatory remarks on others.



Saturday, June 8, 2013

THE CONMEN OF DUMAI, PEKAN BARU AND PALEMBANG: HOW SO FEW INDONESIANS DESTROY THEIR TOURISM INDUSTRY AND THEIR OWN LIVELIHOOD.

By Mansor Puteh




They do not care that what they do to the tourists who come to their cities are cheated, as long as they can cheat them and the others again and again, to make a fast rupiah, even if it means that in the long-run, the local tourism industry goes bust.

This is what has happened to the tourism industry in Sumatera, and also some parts of Jawa.

So no wonder there are now not many foreign tourists who would want to travel in these two areas of Indonesia trapsing alone and taking in the local sights.

There are many things to see, especially with its colonial Dutch and also ancient history spanning many centuries and involving many religions before Islam overcame all of them.

However, there are now so few foreign tourists in Sumatera. Those who travel in Jawa are mostly those who are there for other activities and businesses in Jakarta and want to go to Bali and have to pass through Jawa.

But the authorities in Jawa are more present so the travel industry and those in the lower end of it know how to behave, unlike those in Dumai, Pekan Baru and Palembang who do not seem to have such a setup.

Conmen and more conmen, acting alone or in small groups surround unsuspecting tourists or out-of-towners to fleece them of whatever they can.

It mostly comes in the form of the purchase of a ticket for short trips or longer ones.

The transportation system in Sumatera and most parts of Indonesia is so bad that it is primitive; it leads some who are at the lower end of the industry to feel enamored by their new-found power, to threat those who are not familiar with the places they are at.

So in the end, they allow themselves to be cheated, conned and lied, again and again, as the back of tricks the conmen in Indonesia have seems to be bottomless.

I have been to many parts of Jawa, Sumatera and Bali over the years.

But nothing compares to my experience in Dumai, Pekan Baru and Palembang in Sumatera recently.

These are not exactly important or interesting tourist destinations in Indonesia. They are out-of-the-way places. One therefore has to be there for a reason in order to want to be there.

Some only want to pass through these cities to go elsewhere such as to Medan, Banda Aceh or even to Jakarta in Jawa.

I could have flown to Palembang and Jakarta, but I chose to take the ferry from Melaka in Malaysia to go to Dumai.

The trip lasts two and a half hours. The fare is reasonable at RM170, return, with twenty ringgit in port charges.

There is a new port terminal at the Melaka Port. Its location is secluded that it does not allow for hangers on and even petty traders, or even taxis to park there to get passengers.

Melaka is not like Dumai across the Straits of Melaka.

Dumai is something else. The port city is small and it looks like Melaka in the 1960s, with a bit of activity at the port itself and the town is unkempt. But the people there seem to be happy with it.

I have no complaint with Dumai or the people living in this city.

But I have some complaints with the few who flock around the tourists who just landed there after sailing in the ferry.

Why must they want to flock and pester them to take up their offer of a trip to the city or anywhere? Can’t they be left alone to decide whose transport service they want?

I got a man who drove me and two others to the city where I was able to buy tickets to go to Pekan Baru for 90,000 rupiah. The price is too high for the trip which lasts five hours.

The length of time it takes to go to Pekan Baru from Dumai is mostly due to the poor quality road, with some parts which are under repairs. Generally the road is narrow and windy. If it is straight and wide, one can get to Pekan Baru in about one hour, or less.

The petty transport agents who swarm anyone who looks alien at the port will somehow settle with one of them who would take him to the bus depot to buy tickets to go elsewhere, and in my case to Pekan Baru, from where I have to take a connecting bus to Palembang.

It was late at night when I and two others arrived in Pekan Baru. The driver sent us to a bus stop to get the tickets for 250,000 rupiah per person, saying that they were for the super executive bus with only thirty-five passengers.

We were sent to the bus terminal which looks like one which we could find in a small town made of wood, where we had to wait till four a.m. before the bus came. And it is not a super executive but a less glamorous one with a seating capacity of forty-four passengers. And it is not a direct service, but one which stops everywhere dropping and picking passengers.

The trip from Pekan Baru to Palembang took twenty-two hours with many stops, and passengers smoking whenever they like with some even playing music on their cell phones and other devices.

They do not care if their act annoys you; all they care is that they smoke and listen to loud music.

Palembang is another story. And this is where the nightmare for me starts, at the final stop which is just beside a street at two a.m.

I was swarmed by some local petty owners of the ‘ojek’ or small motorcycles who offer to take us to a hotel in the city which is at the most ten kilometers from where we were.

We declined to take the offer to travel on motorcycles and got Hassan who said he could get his brother to come in a Kijang to take us to a hotel in the city. He asked to pay 450,000, saying that the trip is thirty-five kilometers.

I offered to pay him 300,000 rupiah but he asked for fifty thousand rupiah more.

A ramshackle ‘angkut kota’ or van stopped and he asked to enter it. He pretended it to be the Kijang van he had asked his brother to bring. I knew he was cheating me.

I got the ‘angkut kota’ driver to offer me 100,000 rupiah for the three of us to go to a hotel in the city, but Hassan stood in front of the van to stop it from going anywhere.

He then offered 300,000 to take us in a Kijang that someone else had driven over and stopped behind the ‘angkut kota’ van. He pretended that it was his brother driving it. It was not; it was just another driver with his Kijang van.

I then agreed to take the Kijang for 300,000 rupiah. And we started to remove our bags from the ‘angkut kota’ van. However, before we got all the bags, the van moved on taking my own bag along.

I lost the bag. I asked Hassan to ride his motorcycle and chase it. He did but returned some minutes later and said the driver had told him one of the passengers in the van had dropped off taking the bag with him, and there was no way for him to know who it was.

Hassan lied. He did not get the van and spoke with the driver. He returned with another lie and created another one to cover the earlier lies.

I then went with two others in the Kijang to go to a hotel in the city and arrived there not long later, the trip of which was no more than ten kilometers. It was not thirty-five kilometers that I had agreed to pay 300,000 rupiah for.

I got to Hotel Duta Syariah and stayed there a day with the two others.

I lost my bag and was left with the clothes I was wearing on when I first left Melaka on the ferry to go to Dumai a day earlier.

I then decided not to proceed on to Jakarta and booked tickets for the three of us to return to Malaysia the next day.

So on 4 June, we flew to Malaysia with me wearing the same clothes I had worn the last four days.

I felt lighter without my bag, but my heart was heavy.

I lost the bag with my clothes and other personal items comprising of a GPS, cables for my digicam and phones. These are not expensive items that the person who had stolen them could get from.

Chances are he could not sell the GPS as it was code-locked.

There is nothing in the bag that he could use without feeling guilty. He could sell them, but who would want to buy clothes that have been worn again and again?

Hassan said he had worked and lived in Malaysia fourteen years and married a Melayu woman from the country.

Yet, despite having spent so long in Malaysia working where I guessed he had saved a lot to allow him to decide to return to his country, he is now riding ‘ojek’ to earn a living.

How could anyone earn that much riding ‘ojek’ in Palembang? One has to cheat to get by. And cheating is what he had done to get 300,000 rupiah for the ride I took to go to the city and for losing my bag.







Wednesday, June 5, 2013

AN EXCITING TEN-DAY WALKABOUT THROUGH THE MANY CENTURIES OF ANCIENT AND MODERN IRAN…


Photos and story by Mansor Puteh



Iran is not really an out of the way place; for it sits in the crossroads of civilizations of diverse backgrounds whose history that stretches for more than five thousand years, with its history that is intertwined with global political happenings in the major different eras and epoch through all this time.

It is just that our history books had not bothered to include the interesting historical episodes that happened in this country and also in this part of the world so for so long this region known generally as Central Asia had relatively been left until fairly recent times, when modern-day travelers now known simply as ‘tourists’ can trek to search for the mysteries of ancient Iran.

Malaysia’s only direct connection to Iran however, can be seen in the adoption of the ancient Farsi fable known simply as ‘Laila Majnun’ whose manuscript having been written in the Arabic text and became available to early Melayu film producers who got the temerity to produce a feature film on the two lovelorn couple to become the first Melayu film to be produced in 1933. It starred M. Suki, who was touted as the first Melayu film hero. It was said to have been made mostly in India. Unfortunately, no copy of this film exists today.

And no wonder too there are many Farsi words in the Melayu vocabulary that we have not taken for granted; words such as ‘nenas’, ‘awas’, ‘soal-jawab’ and so on all have Farsi origin, although some of them may also have Arabic origins. 

The end of the Silk Road which cuts through the country, for travelers and merchants from Europe to trade in all sorts of wonderful produce from the Far East, especially China, caused by the advent of sea travel with the construction of the steam ships, has left Iran virtually with a treasure trove of historical experienced many of which are written on concrete walls and other fallen cities.

This is the country where Alexander the Great sometimes referred to by Muslims as Iskandar Zulkarmain or the ‘Two-horns Iskandar’, Genghis Khan and many other ancient warriors had trekked through vast desert lands to venture into the then unknown territory to leave imprints of their adventures and personal discretion for modern-day travelers to Iran to marvel at and wonder why they had bothered to come from so far and to leave so much that has of yet not been fully understood.

So what the modern-day travelers who have a penchant for ancient history of the world vis-à-vis Iran, may be able to browse through the brochures, catalogues and information gleaned from the internet to piece together the events that had happened at any of the particular place he visits, and if he has a keen eye and even smell for history, he can learn much and benefit a lot more than the ordinary tourists who only like to shoot photos of the ancient historical sites and trample on the lands which Alexander the Great and also Genghis Khan had once also trampled upon.

‘Persa’ or Persepolis known by the Greeks stands stoic with its pillars standing tall to tell even the passing and casual visitors to this ancient site of how splendid it was when it was a city full of life, color and even intrigues.

No wonder, Alexander the Great found it expedient to burn it down.

But the wide Meydan Imam in central Isfahan City has recovered much of its splendor when the authorities dutifully reclaimed the old buildings which surround the square so much so that it becomes the central focus of the entire city, which in the month of June was covered by green foliage with the trees standing at the sides of the roads.

Yet, this city sits in the middle of a harsh desert, which is not too partial for vegetation. Underground water system and the many dykes or channels created by the early architects of this city just knew how to make full use of the water that they can collect from the nearby hills to ensure the city becomes green in summer.

Mashhad, is like Las Vegas in Nevada in America, as I knew it. The only difference is that Mashhad is not a vice or sin city. It does not night life or casino. The Darvishi Royal Hotel in the center of the city must be a six-star hotel with a large chandelier falling from the high floor in the lobby.

Yet, immediately beside it is a narrow building whose with cannot even allow a small car to be parked in front of it, that the authorities was smart enough to decide not to demolish to make way for the construction of the hotel, and it is squeezed by a ‘madrassah’.

And at the end of the wide boulevard in front of the six-star hotel where we stayed, is an old Masjid where the mausoleum if Imam Reza is and it is also where thousands of local visitors would flock to it everyday. Food is also provided for them.

We had earlier visited the mausoleum of Hafez, the famous and popular Persian poet of old, who is still revered by many Iranians till today.

No wonder, there are hundreds of visitors to his tomb who had come from morning till night to pay homage to him, by even having to pay for the five hundred toman (or 5,000 riyal) entrance ticket.  

And on another front, a visit to the site of Padideh City tells how the Iranians are truly embarking on a new development program to ensure that their ancient history can blend nicely and comfortably with the history that it desires to create today. And we are not talking about their nuclear program aimed at generating economic advancement for the country, but the economic development that can be seen in the huge commercial complex called the Padideh City outside of Mashhad

But nothing can be more appropriate or uncanny than making a visit to the palaces of the former Shah of Iran, Shah Reza Phalavi which sits on the foothills of the mountains, in a compound that is connected to the city by a wide boulevard where tall trees stand beside it from where the former Shah and his wife and children would descend every now and then to venture to the city to be with his subjects.

The palaces are preserved and shown to the public, local or international for them to marvel at where a tall bronze statue of the former Shah was left but with the part of the body cut, leaving only the legs from the thigh down.

I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to travel around Iran over ten days in June when it was near summer traveling in the bus and taking flights to all the major cities in the country all of which have a different and peculiar history of its own, that is more interesting when they were centers of political activities through the different eras of the country, most of which were in the pre-Islamic era.   

The temperature was like that of Malaysia, except that the level of humidity was low so we do not sweat despite walking long distances and physically exerting so much trying to make sense of what lay before us.

And early in February, I was again able to visit this country to sample winter, and visit their most popular winter resort on top of the Alborz mountain range which literally surrounds the City of Tehran, causing the temperature to be regulated and not too cold despite the weather hovering at freezing point sometimes.

AN EXCITING TEN-DAY WALKABOUT THROUGH THE MANY CENTURIES OF ANCIENT AND MODERN IRAN…


Photos and story by Mansor Puteh



Iran is not really an out of the way place; for it sits in the crossroads of civilizations of diverse backgrounds whose history that stretches for more than five thousand years, with its history that is intertwined with global political happenings in the major different eras and epoch through all this time.

It is just that our history books had not bothered to include the interesting historical episodes that happened in this country and also in this part of the world so for so long this region known generally as Central Asia had relatively been left until fairly recent times, when modern-day travelers now known simply as ‘tourists’ can trek to search for the mysteries of ancient Iran.

Malaysia’s only direct connection to Iran however, can be seen in the adoption of the ancient Farsi fable known simply as ‘Laila Majnun’ whose manuscript having been written in the Arabic text and became available to early Melayu film producers who got the temerity to produce a feature film on the two lovelorn couple to become the first Melayu film to be produced in 1933. It starred M. Suki, who was touted as the first Melayu film hero. It was said to have been made mostly in India. Unfortunately, no copy of this film exists today.

And no wonder too there are many Farsi words in the Melayu vocabulary that we have not taken for granted; words such as ‘nenas’, ‘awas’, ‘soal-jawab’ and so on all have Farsi origin, although some of them may also have Arabic origins. 

The end of the Silk Road which cuts through the country, for travelers and merchants from Europe to trade in all sorts of wonderful produce from the Far East, especially China, caused by the advent of sea travel with the construction of the steam ships, has left Iran virtually with a treasure trove of historical experienced many of which are written on concrete walls and other fallen cities.

This is the country where Alexander the Great sometimes referred to by Muslims as Iskandar Zulkarmain or the ‘Two-horns Iskandar’, Genghis Khan and many other ancient warriors had trekked through vast desert lands to venture into the then unknown territory to leave imprints of their adventures and personal discretion for modern-day travelers to Iran to marvel at and wonder why they had bothered to come from so far and to leave so much that has of yet not been fully understood.

So what the modern-day travelers who have a penchant for ancient history of the world vis-à-vis Iran, may be able to browse through the brochures, catalogues and information gleaned from the internet to piece together the events that had happened at any of the particular place he visits, and if he has a keen eye and even smell for history, he can learn much and benefit a lot more than the ordinary tourists who only like to shoot photos of the ancient historical sites and trample on the lands which Alexander the Great and also Genghis Khan had once also trampled upon.

‘Persa’ or Persepolis known by the Greeks stands stoic with its pillars standing tall to tell even the passing and casual visitors to this ancient site of how splendid it was when it was a city full of life, color and even intrigues.

No wonder, Alexander the Great found it expedient to burn it down.

But the wide Meydan Imam in central Isfahan City has recovered much of its splendor when the authorities dutifully reclaimed the old buildings which surround the square so much so that it becomes the central focus of the entire city, which in the month of June was covered by green foliage with the trees standing at the sides of the roads.

Yet, this city sits in the middle of a harsh desert, which is not too partial for vegetation. Underground water system and the many dykes or channels created by the early architects of this city just knew how to make full use of the water that they can collect from the nearby hills to ensure the city becomes green in summer.

Mashhad, is like Las Vegas in Nevada in America, as I knew it. The only difference is that Mashhad is not a vice or sin city. It does not night life or casino. The Darvishi Royal Hotel in the center of the city must be a six-star hotel with a large chandelier falling from the high floor in the lobby.

Yet, immediately beside it is a narrow building whose with cannot even allow a small car to be parked in front of it, that the authorities was smart enough to decide not to demolish to make way for the construction of the hotel, and it is squeezed by a ‘madrassah’.

And at the end of the wide boulevard in front of the six-star hotel where we stayed, is an old Masjid where the mausoleum if Imam Reza is and it is also where thousands of local visitors would flock to it everyday. Food is also provided for them.

We had earlier visited the mausoleum of Hafez, the famous and popular Persian poet of old, who is still revered by many Iranians till today.

No wonder, there are hundreds of visitors to his tomb who had come from morning till night to pay homage to him, by even having to pay for the five hundred toman (or 5,000 riyal) entrance ticket.  

And on another front, a visit to the site of Padideh City tells how the Iranians are truly embarking on a new development program to ensure that their ancient history can blend nicely and comfortably with the history that it desires to create today. And we are not talking about their nuclear program aimed at generating economic advancement for the country, but the economic development that can be seen in the huge commercial complex called the Padideh City outside of Mashhad

But nothing can be more appropriate or uncanny than making a visit to the palaces of the former Shah of Iran, Shah Reza Phalavi which sits on the foothills of the mountains, in a compound that is connected to the city by a wide boulevard where tall trees stand beside it from where the former Shah and his wife and children would descend every now and then to venture to the city to be with his subjects.

The palaces are preserved and shown to the public, local or international for them to marvel at where a tall bronze statue of the former Shah was left but with the part of the body cut, leaving only the legs from the thigh down.

I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to travel around Iran over ten days in June when it was near summer traveling in the bus and taking flights to all the major cities in the country all of which have a different and peculiar history of its own, that is more interesting when they were centers of political activities through the different eras of the country, most of which were in the pre-Islamic era.   

The temperature was like that of Malaysia, except that the level of humidity was low so we do not sweat despite walking long distances and physically exerting so much trying to make sense of what lay before us.

And early in February, I was again able to visit this country to sample winter, and visit their most popular winter resort on top of the Alborz mountain range which literally surrounds the City of Tehran, causing the temperature to be regulated and not too cold despite the weather hovering at freezing point sometimes.