Next Stop: The Red Planet?


Read these as well:-

Given the state of the country as at now, you can safely say that when we celebrate the year 2020, this country would not have achieved the status of a “developed country”. So Dr M’s Vision 2020 will remain a vision and will not become a reality, at least in 2020.

For one, religion had taken precedent in key areas of the country and have caused a mismatch of priorities. Instead of us busy with human resource development and preparing the country for a “developed” status, we are busy on which law to use and how holy or religious one must be. And I saw this in play when I went to a shopping complex one fine day and decided to drop by a bookstore as my son wanted to buy a science book. We walked around and realised that there was more books on religion than on science and mathematics. I was hardly surprised – there were more people at the religion book section than at the science & mathematics book section.

Vision 2020 is also doomed to be nothing but fancy slogan because we still place high importance on racial based policies (we still calling ourselves as Malay, Chinese, Indian, etc instead of Malaysian) and on cheap politics. But come year 2020, all is not all lost though. Year 2020 would mark the start of activities that would eventually place humans on the planet Mars by year 2026.

Imagine a human colony on another planet and we don’t have to look another 100 – 200 years for that. We will see that in the next 10 years and it is very exciting news indeed. The company that is taking the exploration one step ahead is Mars One – is a non-profit organization based in the Netherlands that has put forward plans to land the first humans on Mars and establish a permanent human colony there by 2027.

NA_384397_MADD_mars

(It may not look much now but imagine a lot more people on the surface and with high end technology which allows them to come back to the Earth and back to Mars again? Image source: Mars One)

It may sound far fetching at first and Mars One have been on the receiving end of many as nothing but a scam. Some even question the USD6 billion budget of sending humans to Mars but remember India sent its spacecraft to Mars for mere USD73 million. But think of the feasibility. Think of the possibility.

Mars One lists out the mission feasibility of a human colony in Mars in the following manner:-

Permanent settlement

The Mars One crews consist of people that want to settle on Mars. Absence of a return mission reduces the mission infrastructure radically. No return vehicle, return propellant or the systems to produce the propellant locally are required. Permanent settlement also reduces the required technology development; vehicles that can take off from Mars and return to Earth are currently unavailable and untested. Since the vehicle returning to Earth and the accompanying systems are mission critical for a return mission, they will also require backups adding to the infrastructure that needs to be delivered to Mars. More importantly, to attain a somewhat acceptable risk level, the return mission would need to be tested in a complete unmanned return trip before the first crew even departs the Earth. Even after a full test of the return system is successfully performed, the risk for a crew that will ride the first return rocket would be very high: 126 rockets launched from Earth since 1990 failed to deliver their payloads in the correct orbit.

Permanent settlement also solved the challenge of the astronauts entering into Earth’s atmosphere after having spent about two years in reduced or zero gravity environments.

Use of In-Situ resources

Mars has resources that can be used for a sustainable settlement. Water is present in the soil and can be made available to the settlement for hygiene, drinking, and farming. It is also the source of oxygen generated through electrolysis. Nitrogen and Argon in the Martian atmosphere can be mined to be the inert part of the atmosphere inside the habitat. Martian soil will cover the outpost to block cosmic radiation. Carbon dioxide can be taken from the atmosphere if the plants take in more than the humans expel.
The systems to mine water from the soil and to mine Nitrogen, Argon, and Carbon dioxide from the atmosphere have never been tested in space. Mars is however not space because there is gravity and a thin atmosphere. Additionally, the processes are all more than 100 years old. The water can be collected from the soil by breaking up the soil with a drill and harvesting the resulting debris. Argon and Nitrogen can be collected from the atmosphere by removing the Carbon dioxide through a phase change.

Solar panels

The Sun is a reliable, robust, and plentiful energy source. Using solar panels is the best choice for Mars One since it takes away the requirement to develop and launch a nuclear reactor, thereby saving time and money while avoiding the risks and concerns of the use of a nuclear power source.
Thin film solar (photovoltaic) panels will power the Mars One settlement. These are less efficient than those more commonly used in aerospace, but have the advantage of being extremely light, and are thus easily transportable. The first settlement will install approximately 3000 square meters of power generating surface area.

Existing technology

No new major developments or inventions are needed to make the mission plan a reality. Established suppliers can build each stage of Mars One mission plan. While most of the components required are not immediately available with the exact specifications, there is no need for radical modifications to the current component designs.

Every effort was made to design the mission with as little complexity as possible. The choice to send permanent settlers removes the need for a heavy lift launch vehicle, which does not currently exist. Permanent settlement makes the landing module small enough to land with current technology. A pressurized rover will not be sent to Mars until large enough rockets exists. No water recycling in the transit habitat will be present because the trip to Mars takes only 210 days. Instead, all required water is stored in tanks that also function as radiation shielding. Storage of waste that is not easily recycled is available in the settlement until more technology is available.

(Source)

And just look at the number of people who shown interest in the Mars One project:-

Mars One applicants come from over 140 countries; the largest numbers are from the United States (24%), India (10%), China (6%), Brazil (5%), Great Britain (4%), Canada (4%), Russia (4%), Mexico (4%), Philippines (2%), Spain (2%), Colombia (2%), Argentina (2%), Australia (1%), France (1%), Turkey (1%), Chile (1%), Ukraine (1%), Peru (1%), Germany (1%), Italy (1%) and Poland (1%).

(Source)

The first 3 nations are well known for their eagerness and competition in space exploration. Out of the three, US and India already have rovers and space crafts orbiting Mars. And I am pretty sure the Chinese will do so soon as well although these guys are busy exploring the moon (hmmm, they know something we don’t?). And Malaysia is involved in Mars One in 2 areas – our own Angkasawan, Dr. Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor is an ambassador for Mars One and three brave explorers from Malaysia including a woman.

SPACE: India Mars mission

(It’s only cost USD70 million to launch a space craft to the Red Planet. Trim down the money spent on wars, religion conflict and corruption and you can send hundreds of the space craft to many part of the solar system. Image source: engtechmag.wordpress.com)

Mars One is an one way trip as there is no way (presently) to bring the space explorer back. The environment is harsh and there is no guarantee, despite the mission feasibility, that the colony will succeed, especially when the next human civilization is million kilometers away (230,000,000 km to be exact) and in case of emergency, one cannot simply dial up 999 and ask for help. Rescue mission if it is to be done, will take months to prepare and execute and by then, any rescue mission would have been redundant.

Mars One itself can go bankrupt and may not be able to bring the next set of explorers to add to the colony. Anything can happen. After all, it took a lot of research, time, risk and money to send man to the moon, so what more another planet and that too for one way trip. But there are good reasons to make this trio to Mars, namely:-

To give our kids new Hope, careers and Dreams — beyond merely surviving in a world of growing terrorism, more “police state” responses, with increasing resource and energy scarcity ultimately leading to endless global wars

By finally opening up unlimited solar system resources — be it exotic fuels, new planetary minerals or endless solar energy – dramatically alter the “have not” competition between the First and Third Worlds here on Earth … the ultimate source of increasing global terrorism

By greatly accelerating these radical technologies — from “black” energy systems and propulsion to autonomous robotics, from desktop “super computers” to their ultra-broad band communications (essential to conducting “routine operations” on the Moon and Beyond) – dramatically accelerate overall national and global productivity, with startling increases in GNP and GWP

By federally subsidizing the creation of a whole new generation of consumer industries — through pioneering a literal “Second age of Space” — dramatically increase the historical “return on investment” from past NASA spending … from 23 to one to more than 100-to-one; thus, for every billion dollars invested in this New Space Program, over a hundred billion will return to the national and world economy

By finally providing accessible new sources of raw materials and energy “off planet,” processed in lunar and orbital industrial facilities, naturally reverse over a century of planetary degradation and pollution … including global warming

By accelerating fundamental solar system exploration with human beings, return equally fundamental, radical scientific information – ranging from comparative planetary data which will assist preservation of the Earth’s environment through new space installations, to answers to the origin of the human race itself

(Source)

Yes, money and human resource is important but aren’t we been busy wasting them on wars, corruption and wastage as well. Save up on those and you will plenty for the science exploration, I am sure.

Many of us, including myself are from the generation that grew with science fiction movies like Star Wars and Star Trek. Still remember ” to boldly go where no man has gone before”? It is in our nature to explore and find new worlds and the more we explore, the more we will push the boundaries of technology, science and human endeavor. And there is the prospect of rich natural resources that could be mined for humans (there was even plan to start a mining colony in the moon).

For those reasons alone, Mars One mission should succeed.

Upholding Dharma


It is a short one for this week but it has something that our country (and its good citizen) have been lacking in some areas and should be revisited. It is also something that I have been pondering on a personal basis.

Let me start with a simple case study:-

There is a junction near the housing area where a quiet number of the residents would take to make a u-turn to go to the housing area. Well, that fine as it is quite convenient for the residents. The only problem is there is a clear sign that says no u-turn is allowed. Despite this sign board and sometimes the inconvenient (and danger) posed to other road users, the residents continue to make u-turns instead of driving a bit more further and make u-turn. It may sound trivial but perhaps the residents may not be aware, they are breaking traffic law on daily basis.

The notion of dharma comes to my mind. The concept of dharma may mean many things to different people and religion. It may even have different name in different part of the world and culture. In Hinduism, dharma signifies behaviors that are considered to be in accord with rta, the order that makes life and universe possible, and includes duties, rights, laws, conduct, virtues and ‘‘right way of living’’ (Wikipedia)

Before anyone accuse me of being holier than holy (ha ha), let me assure you that it has nothing to do with religion but rather a way of life, doing the right things (as oppose to doing the things right) and ensuring that we do not hurt others out of greed, anger and of course, stupidity. You can find a variant of this in every modern society, culture and religion. Morality is one aspect of it but then the question may arise – what is right for me may not be right for you. That I agree with you. But there simpler acid test for this – be guided by the existing laws and society norms.

It can simple as following the traffic rules – don’t make illegal u-turns is one example, not driving on the wrong side of the road, put on the indicators when changing lane, wear a helmet when riding a motorbike and so on. And to something more complex like managing the country in the best interest of it’s citizen. There is no law written down to managing the country in the best interest of the citizen, of course.

This is where the society norms comes in place. No society wants to be governed by greedy, dumb, wasteful, dictator alike government – unless we are in a failing states like Zimbabwe or North Korea (but not Iran as the US wants us to believe). But we are not, we are far from countries like that. We will come across many instances of doing the right things in a day if you keep an eye and ears on it.

Asking people to do the right thing is nothing new concept. It is an age old concept.

I first came across the word “dharma” when I went to India for the first time and bought the Mahabharata from a local book store there. It was on sale (most things were) and the language used in the book was not so complicated to follow (I had to do something to kill time when the ladies were out for their shopping).

The dharma is mentioned a few times in Mahabharata which itself been called the story of dharma:-

Mahabharata is one of the oldest epics of our country, nay the world. It shows how dharma and karma govern our lives. Dharma is what is the right thing to do at a given time or situation. Dharma is based on wisdom, insight and human values. Dharma has many meanings and many dimensions as well – duty, truth, non-violence (ahimsa paramo dharma) and others. It is well said that “dharmo rakshita rakshata” – dharma protects he who follows dharma. However, if you do not follow dharma, you have to reap the consequences. That is karma – you reap what you sow, sooner or later.

(Source)

Failure to uphold the dharma will eventually attract bad karma. That’s universal – if you don’t do the right things, the consequences will not be good as well. If you don’t follow the traffic rules, you may get into an accident (or cause others to get into an accident).

The same with running this country. If you don’t govern the country well, it will not prosper and developed. And so. You may have heard variations of it – Murphy’s law, Newton’s 3rd law of motion, blah, blah

Knowing what is the right to do is one thing, doing it without fail is another:-

Doing right always is a very difficult task. Many a times we do not know what is dharma, what is not. Even though we know, unless it is a very usual habit of following it, at times of great stress it is impossible to follow the path of Dharma.

(Source)

In order to do thing on a constant basis, it takes high discipline and of course practice but more importantly there must be an acceptance that doing the right things should precede doing things right. It has to be habitual as well.

The Fight Against Crime


cctv--crime-prevention_52f8d4695a85f_w1500

(It always pays to have another set of eyes on the street for catch criminals in their act. The role of CCTVs in prevention of crime cannot be dismissed – it works 24 by 7 and 365 days without taking rest and it is impartial too. Infographic source: http://visual.ly)

The month April proving to be an interesting month for me

We have walked into the age of GST and the night before was rather comical – I saw a family piling up their grocery items onto the trolley to the brim. Didn’t they know that naturally there will be some items which will see the price going down with GST and there will be some with increased price?

The issues that will come with the introduction of GST maybe too early to comment. It is one good way to ensure that the Government gets its money for the development of the country. After all the, the oil and gas industry is not doing well and hence there would be less income for the Government. But there will be issues, no doubt especially with how the Government will be using the money from the GST collected (hope they will not be buying new plane and politicians taking too many overseas trips). I hope they don’t shoot themselves in the leg by imposing GST but at the same time, maintain their lavish lifestyle, wastage and unnecessary overseas trips.

Anyway, let’s move on with another news. Amidst the arrests a number of journalists recently and many arguments for and against hudud, PAS finally asked the right question:-

PAS Selangor Youth, claimed in a statement on Wednesday that hudud was the answer to the rising crime rate in the country and if DAP, for one, was against the punishment, it should counter-propose solutions.

(Source)

Finally an intelligent question and it should be interesting to see how DAP counter propose solutions to fight crime in this country. Actually it is a good question for any political party out there and citizens who may not agree that we need another set of laws in this country to fight country. If you ask me, there are couple of things can be done or rather, should be revisited.

For start, how about re-looking into how we can tighten up the security and vetting of “visitors” coming into the country, not for business or pleasure but rather for a more sinister reasons:-

A 45-year-old commandant of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis) was detained by the Malaysian Police Counter Terrorism unit in Kuala Lumpur on January 31. Intelligence sources said the man from the Middle East who arrived here mid-January was detained at a four-star hotel near Bukit Bintang

(Source)

In the past, the police have arrested a number of foreigners involved in terrorism. How they managed to slip into the country unnoticed?

And if you have read the previous blog posts, enough have probably been said on the so-called Nigerian “students” who end up caught for drug related offences. The same have been mentioned on the Iranians. And before that, the many illegal Indonesians and Filipinos. Things have improved especially with the creation of MMEA and the establishment of ESSZONE and the biometrics exercise. But there are still areas that need to be improved especially with the foreigners coming in from the Thailand and via KLIA2. Still remember the famed Latin American criminals?

And since early 2014, we had Operation Cantas which proves rather success:-

Police arrested 44,343 suspects in ‘Op Cantas Khas’ until Dec 31, last year since the nationwide special anti-crime operation was launched on Aug 17. Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said the operation obviously had positive results, whereby the crime index dropped by 4.3 per cent.

(Source)

Then there was a glimpse of “hope” when the government announced this:-

If you buy a motorcycle for your son and he rides it without a licence, you will now have to pay a RM300 fine. On top of that, your son will be fined RM300 for the offence — which obviously you have to pay. If you are unable to pay the RM600, the police keeps the bike.

The new ruling which comes into force on February 2, will affect thousands of parents who buy small motorcycles for their children to go to school. These students have been involved in minor accidents that go unreported and are also known to have joined Mat Rempit in illegal road races.

(Source)

Interestingly I almost knock down 2 boys on the motorcycle, clearly under aged and not wearing helmet and was riding on the wrong side of the road. No police around to catch these pests and get their parents down to the station. And last week, I was on the way back from donating blood and I used the Federal Highway and traffic was heavy as usual. My dad was sitting next to me and remarked that it was an unnecessary traffic jam and he was right. One main reason there was a traffic jam was due to the shameless idiots who use the emergency lane and cuts into the main lane.

Obviously we cannot expect the police to be around at all places and time. There are better things for them to do. There was a dire shortage of men in blue as well.

The IGP reckons that the force need to recruit between 6,000 and 7,000 new personnel every year. He even said that the country need more policemen to effectively carry out policing matters nationwide. That is a valid point – without enough men on the ground, policing would certainly be less effective. But moving forward, it was disappointing to hear the same IGP despite the dire shortage of men in the force, he rather harp on monitoring the social medias.

Yes, he may not have meant it that way but certainly his statement in light of crime and shortage of men did not go well with most Malaysians. This perception need to be changed drastically. The police can still keep their monitoring over the social media but let a specialised team in cyber laws to police to do it. Does it really need an IGP to do the monitoring himself? That is certainly not the right allocation of resources. The IGP has better things to do, I am sure.

And to help with the shortage of men in blue, the local authorities (instead of private companies, to avoid argument of cronyism) can further assist by installing more CCTVs at key areas and do the monitoring on behalf.

In that sense, AES would have greatly help to enforce the traffic laws. But no thanks to the oppositions who barked on the wrong issue and a government with a flip-flop mind, enforcement via AES was put on hold. That was a wrong move indeed. They should bring back the enforcement by AES and by a greater number. This will assist the police to reallocate resources for other work.

We don’t need another law but we certainly need to improve on how we enforce the law. That is what is more important. That is what the country needs. And that’s where we need to focus our energy, time and resources on.

Guys, Can We Prioritise on Real Issues?


Read these first:-

hudud

(Which is more critical and urgent to the rakyat in Kelantan – tabling of a new Islamic laws that overlaps & duplicates the existing convention laws or reconstruction of homes & lives of people involved in the worst natural disaster that the country have seen? It is not an issue of religion or sedition but rather an issue of priorities. Source: The Malaysian Insider)

The real question is whether we are prioritizing the right things in this country.

As you are aware, the PAS led government had tabled the Syariah Criminal Code (II)(1993) (Amendment 2015) on last week to enable the implementation of PAS’ hudud law in Kelantan. And this was unanimously passed the next day by the State Assembly, much to the irk of its partners in the Pakatan Rakyat. The Bill is expected to be tabled to the Parliament so to ensure that the Kelantan Government will be able to enforce the hudud laws.

There are already plenty of arguments for and against it in the internet and have put a considerable crack on the alliance between DAP & PAS within Pakatan. We will see how BN comes into the picture once PAS tables the Bill in the Parliament. There are also been arguments in the internet that it will not impact the non Muslims and therefore they should not be talking about it or question it or having nothing to worry about. That is not true as well – just read on how Islamic law in this country will impact the non Muslims here

For me, it is simple – the politics and religion should never mix in the first place and so is the law of the country, especially when the country is consists of multi race, multi culture society. Otherwise it will going to be a very highly sensitive issue and wide open to personal interpretations and that is going to leave things very messy. The hudud proposed by PAS itself is now opened to many interpretations – from it being the God’s law to PAS party loose interpretation of God’s law:-

Writing in his blog OutSyed the Box, he republished an old article and said the word occurred in only 14 verses of the Quran and were used only in relation to social behaviour and domestic relationships, and not in the legal sense as used by PAS. He challenged readers, both Muslim and non-Muslim, to question the religionists and explain the difference between the “hudud” of the Quran and its usage by those such as PAS.

He dismissed the PAS usage by saying: “The Hudud Laws as propounded by PAS – that is exactly what they are, i.e. the hudud of PAS.”

(Source)

The influential G25 echoed the same and in a broader perceptive:-

Questioning the necessity of hudud in Malaysia, G25 said any law passed after Independence is declared void if it is inconsistent with the Federal Constitution, as governed by its Article 4.

Citing several Islamic scholars, the group also expressed concern that the enforcement of hudud in PAS-led Kelantan would not be in line with Quranic teachings, and problematic due to its lack of modern and relevant interpretation.

G25 claimed that no state has fulfilled the pre-conditions needed to implement hudud as espoused by Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the chairman of the World Union of Muslim Scholars: establishing a pious and God-fearing society, meeting the economic needs of the public, providing employment opportunities for all, and ensuring no poverty by closing the income gap.

Citing Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies chief Prof Hashim Kamali, G25 also said Kelantan’s original 1993 hudud bill had failed to reflect Quran’s balanced outlook or contemporary Malaysian society’s social conditions and realities.

(Source)

Let’s consider the implications. Let’s ponder for a moment why there is an urgency for hudud when we already have a well entrenched and complete penal law in place? Why fix something that is not broken? There the police  to investigate and arrest the criminal and we have the good hands of the law to determine and provide the correct punishments. Yes it is not perfect, there are loopholes but then again, largely it has been working well. Now why want to introduce another set of laws that runs parallel to this and create uncertainties and injustice?

Back in 2012, Dr M mentioned this:-

“In hudud, if you steal, you can have your hand chopped off. But they want to chop off only Muslims’ hand, not the non-Muslim who steal same amount of money. Surely it’s not justice,” he told the audience during the question-and-answer session

(Source)

As I have mentioned before, the problem in this country had never been a lack of the necessary laws to curtail crime. And where there are shortcoming in the law, we always have the Parliament to make the necessary amendments to the law. So one cannot see how hudud will make things all better. Yes the punishment maybe more harsher but the same can be amended for the existing laws. Then there is an issue of enforcement as well and what if someone makes a mistake?

No doubt, the introduction of hudud into a secular country will revoke more questions. The same was the case of Eric Paulsen.

The IGP subsequently defended his action of arresting the civil rights lawyer Eric Paulsen under the Sedition Act by saying that he did it so as not to provoke a retaliation from the IS militants. He has a good and valid point there – too many people in the world do not think with an open mind when it comes to discussing on religion. They are just too emotional and are very quick to dismiss any talk on the religion – being holier than the holy. No one knows what kind reaction it will attract.

But at the same time, I am not sure if Eric Paulsen had uttered anything else that deemed to be so serious that the IGP had him arrested under the Sedition Act or it will provoke IS. He alleged to have said “Do not simply believe that everything will be okay with hudud implementation – no basis that hudud will run smoothly in Malaysia” – I don’t see the seditious part of the statement. In plain simple English, it means nothing but fact. Eric is correct – will everything will be okay with hudud implementation especially when one have to consider that we already have a rule of law in place and the courts & the police to address the enforcement? If any, it is an opinion and is not far from what others have also said in the past few days.

This country has more challenges to address than just determining which law to use. Kelantan still reeling from worst flood in recent years and yet the implementation of hudud seems to be more critical & urgent at the moment? Why the rush when there are other matters that need to be attended more urgently like getting ready the state for the next major flood? Have they put the resources, money and time to prevent the next wave of flood? How about improving the poverty index? Or monitoring and providing better healthcare, education and enforcement in HIV cases – one of the highest in the country? The point is, there are issues far important that need to be handled first.

So come on guys, let’s get our acts together and let’s focus on what is more important at the moment. The last thing we need now is to have the wrong priorities at hand and escalating the trivial problems unnecessarily and end up running the country and its people to the ground.

Here’s Your Beef Pizza


Please read these as well:-

Pizza

(BF on the pizza list does not mean chicken, I am very sure of it but the staff insisted it is chicken. It may not look like much but add the service and the tax and soon to be GST, eating out may not be a cheap thing. Having the restaurant mixing your order is just rubbing the salt on your wounds)

Dear, that looks like beef, my wife told me as the waiter placed the pizza on the table…

Ever since I came back from overseas, my kids have been asking for an eat out for a pizza and we have been busy with other things. Then yesterday, I decided to take a day off – not because I had something urgent to do but rather I have enough leave allowance left which I know will go to waste in the coming months when I off to another work assignment. I woke up late in time for my son to be back from school. We had decided to have our lunch outside and waited for my son to take his shower. It was a while since he went to take his shower so I walked to his room, thinking that he is probably busy with his homework (he usually do) but instead he was fast asleep (he was doing his homework till late last night). Deciding not to wake him up, my wife decided to cook something simple (there was some idlis leftover from the morning breakfast as well) and decided to have dinner outside instead.

Having set the plan for the evening and had nothing to do for the rest of the afternoon, I stroll to the bedroom and played game on my phone. The next thing I remembered was my daughter waking me up – she wanted to go to the pizza place. I looked at the time and it was almost 7.30 pm. I must have dozed off halfway playing game on the phone. Now we were kind of late, no thanks to me. I had planned to go before 6 pm. There was still time I told myself. Besides my son only then woke up and sleepily walked into my room and continued his sleep on my bed. I wish I could have done the same thing but by now, my wife joined my daughter in waking me up. Since I usually spend more than time than the rest in the bathroom, I am often pushed to be the first to take my shower. The rest of them will take shower after me – it was nothing but an excuse as there was 2 other bathrooms that they can use.

We decided to go to Aeon Equine Park as my son wanted to buy new books for his revisions and I know there is a small Popular book store there. It was a working day, so driving to IOI Mall or Sunway Pyramid would be a nightmare at this time. The bottleneck there is unbelievable. By the time we reached the place, there was plenty of parking lots for us to pick. So was the seats at the Pizza Hut – we decided to have our dinner first and spend the rest of the time at Popular. Aeon usually closes at about 10 pm on weekdays. So we had to about 2 hours left which was more than enough.

Now talking about eating pizza, it has never been our first choice when it comes to us eating out. If given the option, sushi would be our first choice but then having too much of “raw food” is not a good thing either. But today we are determined to have our pizzas. We walked to an almost empty Pizza Hut and picked out seats. There is another Pizza restaurant in the same place but somehow we feel that Pizza Hut pizzas had better taste. We decided to order a personal pizza first for the kids this time – we were struggling to eat the pizza in the past when we ordered the 2 regular pizzas. After all given the lack of crowd at that moment, we could always order another pizza any time. We opted for chicken “based” pizza instead of our usual seafood “based” as my son sometimes gets rashes after taking seafood. We also opted for more side dishes this time – for a change.

One thing that I noticed is that the waiter did not repeat my orders, something that was odd considering that the franchisee is an international brand. The personal pizza that was served hot disappeared in seconds as soon it was served. The kids were hungry, so was my wife and soon even the side dishes was eaten up too. It was time to add more orders – another pizza. My son took the menu and whilst still munching food in his mouth, started to pick the second pizza – another chicken “based” pizza. Once again, the waiter did not repeat my orders.

It did not take long before the waiter to bring over the plate of pizza. The meat topping on the pizza looked somehow strange – it looked darker and overcooked. I gathered that it must be the way they prepared this pizza but my wife was quicker. She immediately noticed that it was beef topping instead of chicken on the pizza. My son was about to put the pizza in his mouth but stopped immediately once my wife mentioned “beef”. I checked further and it was indeed beef topping on the pizza. To our surprise, another waiter brought us another pizza and it seemed to the correct pizza – the meat topping was definitely chicken but when he saw the pizza on the table, he got confused and so was us. Someone had definitely made a mistake.

I asked the waiter to confirm which is one is our real order (just in case we made a mistake) and there was more confusion as the waiters talked to themselves and double checked the order. To my dismay, the first waiter insisted that the beef topping pizza was INDEED chicken pizza. I looked at her and she must have read my mind and quietly walked away. Then another guy came over, apologized and took away the beef pizza. He then brought over the correct pizza but by now, the damage is done. My son had lost his appetite for pizza (I know he was still hungry) and my wife had lost interest. I ended up finishing most of the pizza myself.

We decided to leave and forget this small mishap for the time being. I waited at the counter to pay the bill and once again, I got another apology from the lady behind the counter. But a surprise was waiting us. The bill included the wrongly delivered beef pizza. There was another customer at the counter, so I waited patiently for another battle on wrong orders. I explained to the lady that the beef pizza was wrongly delivered to us and thus should not be charged to us. In fact I wanted to say that Hindus don’t eat beef but one look at the lady behind counter seems to tell that she lacks this basic knowledge.

And this is not the first time, some people had assumed that non-halal in this country only means one thing – pork to the Muslims. And forgetting that non-halal also means beef to the Hindus and the Buddhists. Another round of discussions and checking with rest of the waiters (I thought they have settled this issue earlier). Good thing for the restaurant and the staff – I was somehow kept my cool and just want to settle the issue. The manager finally showed his face and went over to the counter and re-do the bill. He returned the extra amount but rather hesitantly, as if we made the mistake and not his staff. Better than nothing although I was still at the losing end if consider the service tax and govt tax (short changed about RM1++, ha ha).

Good day out for dinner however ruined for the day but somehow the staff apologizing for the small mistakes soften the damage. Interesting change indeed.

Sarawak Report Expose on 1MDB


1mdb-01

(A 42 billion time bomb that had already exploded on everyone’s face but a lot of people in this country are not aware of the blast – no thanks to a sneaky fat guy and a clueless PM. Until today, I am lost why they put billions of taxpayers money in Cayman Island unless it is meant for some shady deal. Infographic source: http://poskod.my/cheat-sheets/10-things-know-1mdb/)

In a country where the police chief can take action based on tweets and Facebook postings, there is only eerie silence by the police, MACC, Bank Negara and the pro-Government politicians on the largest scandal expose by Sarawak Report on the 1MDB

And if you have missed the story, the crux of the expose has been this:-

Together with London’s Sunday Times newspaper, Sarawak Report has completed an in-depth investigation into the trail of the missing billions at the heart of Malaysia’s 1MDB (One Malaysia Development Berhad) financial scandal.

We have obtained access to thousands of documents and emails relating to transactions by 1MDB, including its initial joint venture with the little known oil company PetroSaudi International from 2009.

What the documents establish is that, in spite of copious official denials, the entire joint venture project was conceived, managed and driven through by the Prime Minister’s associate and family friend the party-loving billionaire tycoon, Jho Low.

The documents also prove that the USD$700 million so-called “loan” that was supposedly repaid to PetroSaudi as part of the joint venture agreement, was in fact directed into the Swiss bank account of a company called Good Star, which is controlled by Jho Low.

That money was then partly used to buy out Taib Mahmud’s UBG bank in Sarawak at a very advantageous price for the chief minister and his family, who had been failing to get a deal on the open market.

PetroSaudi had agreed to act as “a front” for Jho Low on such deals, according to the documents, and it was a subsidiary of PetroSaudi International registered in the Seychelles, which bought UBG, using money siphoned from 1MDB.

(Source)

USD700 million of taxpayers went to someone’s personal pockets and 1MDB continues to bleed. And it did not stop there. Then almost on the same day, The Edge had this story on 1MDB:-

From 2009 to 2014, 1Malaysia Development Berhad’s (1MDB) initial US$1 billion was shuffled and swapped around, in an apparent bid to avoid scrutiny by its string of external auditors, The Edge Malaysia reported.

In its March 2-8 issue, the business weekly provides a timeline of how the government-owned strategic investment fund disguised the money trail of its initial US$1 billion for five years, raising the question of whether 1MDB is as profitable as it claims to be, or is merely rich on paper

By August 1, the money in the Caymans had grown to US$2.33 billion, and in November and December, 1MDB announced it had redeemed the entire amount.

However, instead of repatriating the money home, 1MDB president Arul Kanda Kandasamy said the December redemption of US$1.11 billion would be kept offshore as a currency hedge, while the first redemption would be “substantially utilised” for a separate settlement agreement on a different project.

“What can be surmised from the events of the last five years is that 1MDB kept entering into deftly structured transactions timed to avoid vigorous scrutiny by its external auditors about the money,” The Edge said.

(Source)

Whether it was a case of sheer recklessness or blatant corruption and fraud or simply a case of bad business decision, one thing that is clear – the allegations and evidence that has been presented by Sarawak Report cannot be taken lightly. There is overwhelming notion of fraud, corruption and mismanagement of public funds written all over it.

And already search for scapegoats have started:-

It appears that the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has begun the process of trying to wash PM Najib’s hands clean of what may turn out to be the biggest political and financial scandal in recent Malaysian history, according to analyst Shahbudin Husin.

Tied to that process may be a search for a scapegoat, he writes in a blog entry that indicates his belief that the 1MDB controversy is close to reaching a climax.

(Source)

Given the kind of damage that has made by Sarawak Report’s expose, it is apparent that Najib and his Government cannot remain silent. The more they remained silent, the more crystallize the allegations will be. And finally, probably given the pressure within his Government and outside, the PM has now directed the Auditor-General to vet the 1MDB’s accounts. He even goes on to say something interesting (and probably a concept that is rather alien in this country) – “If any wrongdoing is proven, the law will be enforced without exception”.

Let’s talk on Auditor-General’s reporting in the past. How effective it has been to 1. curtail and avoid similar incidents of wastage & abuse in future and 2. in booking the culprits of wastage and abuses? Since the PM is asking the AG to check 1MDB’s account, we also want to know if the Government would be serious in taking actions if there are some findings by the AG?

Back in 2014, Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam wrote this:-

Unfortunately these management weaknesses and the consequent wastage of public funds continue to stubbornly persist. This is happening despite the Auditor General’s previous exhortations, to improve our standards of good governance.

In this first installment of the Report for 2013, it appears that 283 spending related issues were raised as for the first 4 months, which is well over the 256 spending issues raised by the AG, for the whole of 2012!

This trend is alarming and must be dealt with very seriously!

The Auditor General has to his credit now made 109 new recommendations for improvement in financial management. But the rakyat will ask what will be done with them? Will these recommendations be ignored and will mismanagement and financial wastage continue regardless?

Hence should not the PAC recommend tougher action and even name and shame these recalcitrant Ministries which are responsible for the loss of hard earned public funds?

(Source)

Transparency International Malaysia in 2013 said “It will also make a mockery of the Government, when the Auditor-General’s reports are not being taken seriously after it has identified the shortcomings within the administration” (Source)

And Tony Pua from Pakatan echoes the same:-

“While welcoming the investigation on 1MDB’s financials, Pua said the report should also include, but not be limited to the following:

• Auditing and identifying the redemption trail of the investments in Cayman Islands and the whereabout of its proceeds;

• Auditing and identifying the exact investment holding, true value and whereabouts of RM13.39 billion of “Level 3 Assets” identified in the March 2014 Financial Report;

• Confirming if 1MDB had attempted to borrow RM2 billion from local tycoon Ananda Krishnan to repay its debt and determine 1MDB’s cashflow shortage to meet its RM42 billion debt obligations as well as contract commitments which is likely to require a government bailout;

• Confirming if all historical emails in the 1MDB mail server were “wiped out” in December last year, as claimed by the Sarawak Report.

Pua said the Auditor-General should also conduct a forensic audit of 1MDB with the assistance of professional forensic auditors “to uncover any financial shenanigans in the company particularly in the light of (the) expose by the Sarawak Report and the mind-boggling PetroSaudi transactions from 2009 to 2012” and explained the same had been done in the RM12.5 billion Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) scandal in 2009.

(Source)

And thanks to the good people in Sarawak report, things have started to pick up pace despite it is not a new issue and the troubled 1MDB & the dubious way of handling the matter by people linked with 1MDB has been in the mainstream news for some time now.

And with the expose, the calls for accountability and transparency have not been louder, clearer and more direct to Najib:-

He notes that there have been reports that 1MDB will be wound up. “Oh, my God! For six years we’ve been told that everything was safe and fine. And now, suddenly, there’ll be a winding up?”

But Ariff says he figures it’ll take months before the Auditor-General can complete his task because of the mountains of documents involved. “What’s worse, much computer data have been destroyed.”

He notes that another Umno leader has alleged that there’s a political conspiracy behind the attacks on 1MDB and he discloses that the allegation came even as he was writing his article.

“If it were true that there’s a political agenda, it would be justifiable because the objective would be to expose a government that has made it possible for abuse and corruption to happen, in fact given a licence for them to happen.”

“In all these six years, it’s not public funds that the government has been protecting, but thieves and robbers.”

(Source)

Now there are talks of dismantling 1MDB and dissolve it thereafter. It may depends on the outcome of the AG report. The question is whether we will be calling the fat guy in for questioning and squeeze the truth from him on the shady USD700 million transfer? And since the PM is also the Finance Minister and this owns 1MDB, accountability and thereafter his resignation if wrongdoings are proven? Sarawak Report claims that all historical emails have been wiped out – so what is left to investigate if more evidence have been tampered with?

We do not want another PKFZ fiasco where the biggest losers at the end of the day is the taxpayers.

Off to a Funeral


mas

(No matter what, Malaysia remains where my heart and soul lies at the end of the day. And nothing kicks starts the notion than flying on the national carrier whilst having hot delicious nasi lemak for company)

Somehow it was great to fly back on MAS – for a couple of things.

One, it was good to hear safety announcements in Bahasa Malaysia again. Two, they served nasi lemak for lunch which was a sure sign that we are heading back home. And one of the first things that I did once I am back home was to catch up on my sleep. I could not help it – I even doze off whilst I was having conversations. Having a weekend and then thereafter the CNY holidays was just perfect to catch up on a break.

So I thought…

I was made “aware” of a distinct relative who was admitted to hospital in a serious condition. And last weekend, the dreadful news came. The relative had passed away. Being a distinct relative, there was always an option for me to simply opt out from going for the funeral. Further, the funeral was taking place in Johore – a place that was considered “quite far away” to drive (although it was almost the same distance and time to drive up North). The one that nails the urge for not going is that the funeral was taking place on a Sunday (I was working on Monday)

But there was 3 reasons that was prompted me to attend this funeral. First, despite it being a funeral of a distinct relative but he was somehow linked with other relatives who are closer to me. And there will be questions raised in the next family gathering. I had some obligations to them. Second, my father in law who is staying up in Taiping is taking the bus (yes the bus – we did not know, otherwise we would have picked him up half way) all the way to Johore for the same funeral. If he can take the bus and travel for 8-9 hours, then what’s stopping us with cars half way through from attending the same funeral, right? And third, the deceased had the same (well, almost) age as me (and brother in laws). Somehow, that made me to decided to go for the funeral.

It was time for planning for the one day trip to South and it was similar to the trip to the East Coast but with a small difference. We going to use my car as I am going to do most of the driving. It was a good opportunity to test the new tires. And to ensure it is going to be a fast drive down South and back, we decided to leave the ladies & kids at home (we already anticipating massive traffic jam on the way back, so it is best to leave the ladies and the children at home). In the car, would be me and 2 of my brother in laws (one is the substitute driver and another is our navigator – he had been to the house once)

The plan was finalised on Saturday evening (it took some time on the phone with various parties to finalise who was going and who was staying). My brother in law would pick up his wife and his daughter and another of the brother in law in the morning and meet me at my house. He would leave his car and drop his wife & daughter at my house (my wife and my kids will be around to keep them company).

map

(The trip down South – frankly the time and distance was similar to the trip up North but somehow it was less tiring. Perhaps it was because it has been almost 15 years since I made the trip to South)

We suppose to leave from my house (since it is nearer to the South compared to our 2 houses) at 5 am. I woke up at 4 am and by 4.45 am was all ready for the trip. I had even double checked the car and parked it outside the porch so that my brother in law can park his car easily. I also set the GPS coordinates and locked in the destination. At 5 am, he was no where to be seen. He finally showed up at almost 5.30 am – it was still good as my deadline remained 6 am (assuming we have a 4 hours to drive). The three guys finally left at about 5.45 am.

The journey to Johore was rather a pleasant one and surprisingly is not tiring compared to the trip up North. I hardly fell asleep along the way despite waking up earlier than usual. My new tires, Michelin XM2 was holding well and was quiet all the way. I had checked the route before hand (thanks, Google Map) and had decided to only use the GPS once we had reached the exit of the highway. No speeding on the highway and I maintain to the left lanes whenever possible. We made 1 pit stop at Pagoh for breakfast (a sorry looking nasi lemak with un-reasonable price was waiting for us). Quick breakfast and we were back on the highway and there was still more than 100 km to go before we reach the deceased’s house. Traffic was still sparse and it remained a smooth drive. It took us less than 4 hours including pit stop.

Using GPS is a must when venturing into an unfamiliar place and it was the case here too when we reached the house without getting lost. An uncle of mine who was not using GPS, got lost 4 times in the same area before finally finding the house. Fearing that there will be a big crowd later, we parked the car on the main road, some distance from the house but where I can still see the car from the house. We noticed a large tent outside the house which affirmed that we are at the right place. No familiar faces at the tent in front of the house, so we walked into the house. The coffin was in the middle of the house, surrounded by grieving family members. We said our condolences and prayers and headed back to the tent outside the house. The smell of chemicals inside the house was overwhelming and I started to feel dizzy.

Sitting under the tent outside the house with my brother in law (my father in law joined us soon after – he was tired after an almost 9 hours of traveling by bus) and with a fresh breeze, my head started to get clearer. Not many people have arrived despite the scheduled time for the deceased body was suppose to be taken to the crematorium. It suppose to be at 10 am but soon 10.30 am and 11 am had passed and soon it was showing 11.30 am. I looked at my brother in law and he looked at me – we suppose to leave at 11.30 am if we are going to make it home early. My brother in law went and talked to one of the relatives on the “status” – apparently there were some delay and we have to wait at least another 2 hours for the final ceremony (it actually took longer than that). I don’t blame them – no one prepares for a funeral upfront.

Wait for another 2 hours?

Well, that was our cue to take a “walk” to our car and head back home. Since there was a funeral, there were no “good-byes” and “see you later”. We quietly walked to my car – good thing it was parked far away and near to the house, otherwise our “early” departure would have been very noticeable.

traffic

(When things slows down on the highway, just make sure the car has enough petrol and the bladder empty. It was good that the traffic was moving despite the heavy traffic)

We had to head back to the highway, so GPS came in handy again. But before we do that, a short pit stop for fuel and use of bathroom was necessary. As I drove out, I misjudged a junction and took the wrong road. Thankfully the GPS was quick to recompute the route and in fact came out with a route with less traffic (so we could “fly” towards the highway). Soon, we found the toll plaza but it was not the NS toll booth (we mistakenly thought it was the NS toll). It was actually the 2nd Link Expressway. There was no lane for cash but instead all need Touch N Go for access. The problem was I left my TNG card at home and my brother in law did not have one either. Cars started to pill up behind us and when I thought we had a big problem at hand, I remember I had the Tesco loyalty card in my wallet and that came with TNG feature. It even had enough credit for the toll. We were saved!!

It was not long before we reached the actual NS highway and initially the traffic flow was good. We managed to clock 110 km/h most of the route. But once reached Negri Sembilan, the traffic started to crawl. R&R was packed full with cars as well. We made our pit stop at Ayer Keroh for fuel and a very late lunch. We could not find a parking spot but at further up front, we managed to find a spot and had an excellent nasi lemak with a good portion of chicken. There was long queue at the petrol station as well. Then it was back to the crawl on the highway. We finally reached home almost at 8 pm and despite being stuck with traffic jam most of the way (no thanks to road works and a couple of broke down express buses).

Despite I drove to and fro such a distance, all in one day, surprisingly I was not feeling that tired or sleepy. And after the late evening shower, I was still feeling fresh to drive to restaurant near the house for dinner.