Misdirection of Dress Codes


(If you ask me, this is a better video to watch for the first time visitors to Malaysia and Asha Gill is lovely as usual)

I was flying in to Malaysia just the other day and yes, I was flying on MAS. It was kind of painful to see the good, hardworking people in MAS facing some uncertainty as MAS undergoes a major restructuring. But that did not stopped the stewardess on my flight from ensuring that service was and always first class.

As we were starting to descend, the onboard entertainment system was switched off and a short video on KLIA and Malaysia were shown for the benefit of the first time visitors to the country. It was not the usual video (starring Asha Gill which is many times better) but a different one. It often happens, just as I watch a video of the good things of the country – the good places to visit, the people from different background of culture, race and religion and of course, the food – I would have tears on my eyes. This time, it was no exception either. I simply love my “tanahair” no matter how long I am out of the country.

As I watched the video, something was not right. The scene is duty free shops in KLIA and the narrator mentions “items found in no other part of the world”. The next scene once this statement completes is a picture of Star Buck. Items found in no other part of the world, eh? It must have crossed the family from Australia who was sitting in front of me. They were smiling when they saw this.

Anyway, the landing was perfect and throughout the immigration & customs, it was breeze too. When I got home, the family had gone out so I took a quick shower and after an easy meal, I went to sleep only to be rudely awaken a couple of hours later by my daughter. Yup, I was back home already.

Interesting, “home” is undergoing some form of transformation as well. And I am not talking about the latest scandal to hit Najib administration – the one that was committed outside the country and one that got the Australian police in action. Nothing at moved on the biggest scandal of the century in this country, so this news was a welcome change indeed (already the IGP was quick to clear those involved from any form of CBT).

No, I am talking about the silly, petty hoo-haa on the recent misdirection of enforcing the dress codes

And it probably started with this:-

A double gold medal winning gymnast has been accused of breaking strict Islamic dress code by performing in a ‘revealing’ leotard at a top international event.

Malaysian double gold medallist Farah Ann Abdul Hadi has been slammed by some in the majority Muslim nation for her outfit.

Thousands have taken to social media to express their support for Ms Abdul Hadi after the controversy emerged while she competed at the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.

(Source)

Things somehow quiet down after the Sultan of Selangor himself slammed the critics of her attire and praised Farah for her win:-

Selangor Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah fully backs national artistic gymnast Farah Ann Abdul Hadi and has expressed disapproval at those who picked on her attire during the 28th SEA Games in Singapore.

In his congratulatory letter to Farah, Sultan Sharafuddin said her achievement had made the whole country, including Selangor, proud.

The Sultan, as quoted by local daily The Star said in his letter, “Criticising your attire should be the last matter in the minds of those who commented negatively on social media.

He added, “They should be celebrating your achievements for Malaysia and Selangor.”

In his letter, the Selangor ruler said that he hoped Farah would not take the comments of narrow-minded people to heart and continue to strive to be the best in her field.

(Source)

Then more of dress code mishaps started to trickle in , starting with the famed Sarong-gate at JPJ office:-

A woman had a shock at a Road Transport Department (JPJ) office when she was forced to wear a sarong or be refused service.

(Source)

Interestingly soon after the incident went viral on the net, they were quick to admit that there was no such rule and they went too far with this and issued an apology. At least they admitted it was the wrong thing to do.

Then we had the visitor barred from seeing her father who was admitted in the hospital at a local hospital and in the end, she was forced to wear a towel to see him:-

In a third incident at public institutions here, a woman has come forward alleging that she was forbidden from entering the Sungai Buloh Hospital here recently because she was dressed in shorts.

In her Facebook post accessible to the public that is being shared on social media, the woman who goes by the moniker Nisha Daddygal said she was then forced to borrow a towel to cover up her legs before she was allowed to visit her father who had been warded there.

(Source)

Just imagine if this was an emergency and in the wee hours of the morning. And once again, there was a public apology and the hospital administrators informed that it was just a misunderstanding on the guidelines and a newly joined security guard to be blamed.

Then we had the ultimate dress code incident – of all places, at an international airport:-

Blogger Wilson Ng wrote about his experience at KLIA’s Baggage Services Lost and Found area, where he was forced to don long black pants and shoes because the knee-length pink shorts and sandals he was wearing was deemed inappropriate.

Ng who had gone to pick up his luggage which he had accidentally left at the baggage carousel following a trip to Taipei was denied entry by a security officer at the enquiry counter who told him to go home and change because there is a dress code to enter the KLIA building and the lost and found baggage office.

(Source)

Public apology was then duly rendered and MAHB stated that it has investigated the matter and found it to be due to miscommunication on the implementation of a policy pertaining to the issuance of visitor passes at the airport.

Wrong dress code incidents since I was back is unlikely to be small mistake, oversight or “opps, they misunderstood the instructions”. We never had these problems in the past – so why now and why so frequent in recent weeks?

Then one guy opened his mouth:-

Non-Muslims should dress more “appropriately” in public places out of “respect” for Muslims who will sin upon seeing people, including non-Muslims, who do not cover their “aurat”, Perak Mufti Tan Sri Harussani Zakaria said amid the controversy surrounding conservative dress codes enforced at government departments.

“Even when we wear properly but we see other people who show their ‘aurat’, it is haram,” Harussani told Malay Mail Online yesterday.

“They should show respect for Muslims and dress more appropriately; they cannot be showing their thighs. It is not wrong for them to dress how they like, but they must be considerate because when we bump into them at public places and see this, it is considered haram for us (Muslims),” the conservative cleric added.

(Source)

Perhaps that explains why Marina Mahathir is having a tough time shopping for a good Baju Melayu for the upcoming hari raya – she calls it the Arab Colonialism. But then again, I too stopped wearing jippa some years ago already – it is more on the change of fashion, environment and preference, I guess.

But then, it seems like things were getting out of hand and it was not big surprise when ex-civil servants and lawyers commented back as follows:-

Former high-ranking civil servants and lawyers have blamed the recent spate of strict enforcement of dress codes at government buildings on the intolerant attitude of certain “holier-than-thou” Muslims imposing their Islamic values on Malaysians of other faiths.

It was also a case of little Napoleons trying to be “more pious than the Pope”, they said. They added that it was time Putrajaya put a stop to this moral policing, saying the leadership must take a firm stand against those who abused the rights of the people seeking services at government departments. They also said Cuepacs, the umbrella group of civil service unions, had no business endorsing such actions.

(Source)

Even the Old Man noticed the stupidity in enforcing the silly dress code and commented:-

Malaysia is now sliding backwards and is acting like Saudi Arabia in its zeal to impose a dress code on the public, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed said today.

He said it was a person’s right to wear shorts in public, and, “as long as they aren’t naked”, they should be allowed to enter a government building or hospital. “In government offices, certainly there is a dress code. But that is an office matter.

“Public matters are different. We shouldn’t be telling others what to do, they aren’t Muslim,” he told a press conference after a buka puasa event with Perkasa in Kampung Baru, Kuala Lumpur.

He said dress codes in government buildings should only apply to its staff, and not visitors, especially those who are not Muslim.‎ “We are now sliding backwards. Soon, not only shorts will be an issue. If a woman leaves a house without a burqa, it will be considered wrong.

(Source)

If you ask me, as far as I could remember, Malaysians have generally dressed well and they know their limits when they are in the public areas (although there are some exception to this but they are in the smallish minority).

And one wearing shorts or skirts that is knee level is nothing compared to some Mat Salleh backpackers who come to this country wearing nothing but T-shirts that looks like rags from our mamak stalls and very short, shorts. Some even looks unwashed for weeks. And yet we welcome them with open arms and a very big smile. It is not like they have committed high treason wearing short pants. It is just how they dress themselves as they backpack to this part of the world and there is nothing wrong with it.

angkorwat dress code

(No doubt there must be some sense of protocols and dress code in place when one visits Government departments for official business, temples and even one’s home even in other countries. One cannot be wearing their sleeping dress or be half naked when they are there on official businesses or when they are on holy grounds. Image source: http://www.happinessplunge.com)

In the 1980s when me and group of friends from my neighborhood decided to attend the Open House at Istana Negara, our parents made sure that we are dressed well and wore proper shoes (we wore our finest on that day). And I also remember whilst we were waiting in the long queue to see the King, a policeman stopped a man in front and informed that he could not meet the King as he was wearing a sandal seemed extreme but even back then, we understood that there was minimal adherence to protocols.

And couple years ago when we are at resort’s swimming pool, the life guard on duty barred couple of guests from entering the swimming pool because they did not have their swimming attires on (they only had t-shirts and short pants). There is places when one cannot simply walk in wearing just any clothes.

But whilst one can understand the minimal need for protocols, it does not make any sense to impose the same for a visitor who is visiting a patient or a passenger looking for a lost luggage. And even if one goes by the arguments of the Perak Mufti that the non-Muslims must show respect to the Muslims by dressing properly, one must remember that:-

1. Respect is a mutual thing – it cannot be forced upon by rules and regulations. And respect should not be limited to just wearing the right clothes. There are many other aspect of respect that can be done without the need to force another to wear a different clothes

2. Wearing shorts or skirts that shows the knee is nothing new in this multi racial country. Even our police used to be in khaki shorts many years ago (still remember?). And I even saw a number of Muslims wearing short pants when they were at a local hypermarket after they had opened fast couple days ago. Even at night, it was terribly warm. Why now it had become a big issue? Why a show of knees can shake up one’s faith on God? If someone gets all too excited by seeing the knees, then something is not right with that person.

3. And we are not expected to “cover up” from head to toe in this hot, humid environment. There must be a reason why people in the Middle East historically cover themselves up in the first place (and it had nothing to do with religion) but please don’t expect us to be idiots and cover up under the Malaysian weather and end up with foul stinky sweat and smell at the end of the day.

4. And more importantly, there are more pressing issues facing the individuals, society and the country than what one wears to a Government office. Someone who just wears sandals, shorts and t-shirts but hard-working, earns his money from legal means and is good to his family, friends and neighbors is thousand time better than someone who may wear that seems to be conforming to one’s faith but living off from dubious means of income, spread lies, hatred and confusion.

Petrol price just went up and recent survey shows that all not well with the implementation of GST and the Government is stuck with scandals – one after another and the implications on the country’s economy is dreadful especially after what we saw happened with Greece. Are we becoming the next Greece in this part of the world – the question may not be if but when? And yet, some people hardly moved by the fact that MARA overpaid RM66 million more for some property in Australia and sees no wrong done on this. No one had even offered to tender their resignation on this.

And if these silly trends are left unchecked, don’t be surprised if one day, these same people who is very very much afraid of short pants and low skirts places a menacing guard at the entrance to check the color of your underwear and if it is not to their color of liking (or brand), you are forced to go back and change them before you are allowed in to do your official business.

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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.

MAS: Logic Defying Economics


10646790_10152011612137255_5541438258304506051_n

(Will it work or it is going to be RM6 billion down the drain again? This is going to be the last chance for MAS and the people who are managing it. We do not want to see another bailout in 2018! Image source: TheStar)

It is going to leave the economists around the world speechless. It may even cause the rules of economics to be re-written all over again and the geniuses that came up with this brilliant plan will be worshipped as the God of Economy for many years to come.

If you do not know what I am talking about, well, read this first:-

Khazanah Nasional Bhd has unveiled a 12-point plan to enable Malaysia Airlines (MAS) to achieve sustained profitability within three years of de-listing, by the end of 2017.

Its managing director Tan Sri Azman Mokhtar said the plan involved a comprehensive overhaul of the airline.

“At its core, the plan involves the creation of a new company, (NewCo) which will house the ‘new MAS’ and the migration of the right-sized workforce and work practices and contracts into NewCo,” he told reporters at a special briefing at Khazanah headquarters on Friday.

(Source)

When I talked about re-writing the books on economy, blah, blah, I was not talking about Khazanah’s plans to restructure MAS. They seems to be doing things by the books and whether it will work or not, we will know in the next 3 years. One just hopes that they had identified all the correct shortcomings and have addressed them comprehensively in their plan. In an interview with the first CEO of MAS, it is obvious that there have been some serious bad decisions made in the past and all these must be addressed too:-

Generally, MAS poor performance is due to its wrong business plan and the loss of flight MH370 demoralized the staff and MAS has to handle this. How to do it? MAS must change its business plan. What’s wrong with the plan? The thing that is wrong with the plan is the choice of its routes which it has been plying for the past 15 years.

Those routes are now overcrowded with all the low cost carriers. The market now wants to fly domestic and regional and 80 per cent of air travellers want to fly budget. Only the rich and the businessmen fly full service. So MAS has to do something to capture that 80 per cent market. It has to reshuffle and realign its aircraft fleet. Utilizing Firefly as the main carrier for domestic and regional. The rest, let MAS handle.

And take a second look on the use of the A380. Does MAS really need six of the super-huge aircraft. No need to file for bankruptcy. Don’t be ridiculous.

Maybe in some departments there are a surplus of workers but we have to look at it in totality. We can’t lay off 5,000 workers out of the 20,000 employees which MAS has. It does not have to lay a single worker if it is restructured properly. But we have to take a look at the salaries of some of the management team of which I was told touch more than RM100,000 a month.

Why must they be paid such a huge amount at a time when MAS is in the red and why do you axe workers with low salaries? I question how the board of directors can approve such a huge salary. How did it come to this?

I question why MAS use the A380 which is hardly utilised but cost millions to operate.

Why do we need the six air-crafts? That is one out of a thousand and one issues plaguing MAS. MAS also wants to sell the MRO and the person who proposed it does not know anything about the aviation industry. Engineering plays a huge part in the MAS makeup and plays a vital role in safety, efficiency, integrity and operations.

MAS has to fully control that business and if properly managed can become an income earner. During my time, MAS maintains and services aircrafts from the US, Australia and Canada. MAS made money out of this division. So why do you want to hive off this division to another company and then buy back the service from the very same firm? MAS will bleed even more just like the catering business. Although MAS has a 30 percent stake, it has to pay a high price for the food. MAS can sell a small stake but make sure it still controls MRO. Don’t sell the entire stake.

(Source)

Anyway, we’ll see this one closely. Very closely indeed. However, the one that is going to rewrite the books of economics is going to be this:-

Khazanah Nasional Bhd not only intends to recover every sen of the RM6bil investment into Malaysia Airlines (MAS), but wants to make money on the venture, said Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

The Prime Minister, dismissing perception that the money pumped into the airline was a bailout, said Khazanah would be injecting the money to make MAS a viable organisation.

“This is not a bailout but an investment. Khazanah intends to recover every single sen of the RM6bil and more,” he said after chairing the monthly Umno supreme council meeting Friday.

(Source)

And this:-

Umno mouthpiece Utusan Malaysia has given the thumbs up to the comprehensive revamp plan to revive loss-making Malaysia Airlines (MAS), saying that the move to turn the national carrier around will not affect its services.

Awang Selamat, the collective voice of the paper’s editors, said he was confident the national icon would be back in the black in three years, based on stringent regulatory controls over the 12-point plan unveiled by state sovereign fund Khazanah Nasional Berhad yesterday.

“The emphasis on these aspects will have a significant impact on the recovery effort. It also differs from previous efforts which have ended in failure.

“We are also confident such changes will bear fruit and more importantly, the services of the national carrier will not be affected,” he said in the column today.

(Source)

Yes, firstly use the word “investment” instead of “bailout” to hide the fact that IT IS a bailout. Then tell the whole world that the money spent on the bailout, opps err, investment will be recovered. And continue with the statement that the entity that was put in charge of the bailout, sorry, investment is doing it because they want to make money on the said venture. I wonder how many millions was paid to external consultants to come up with such brilliant idea to substitute a bailout with an idea of investment. Can they for once call a spade a spade? Malaysians are not that dumb, you know?

Then secondly get the editor of a newspaper (that is deep in shit themselves with RM11 million loss), to put on the hat of a learned economist and turnaround specialist to say that the proposed turnaround plan will definitely work and all that will happen in 3 years as promised. And this is despite of many failed attempts to turnaround the national carrier in the past by the same group of people. After all, if the editors are so smart and confident, why the paper is not making money themselves? After all, Khazanah themselves was reported to say this:-

Khazanah, which has injected more than 5 billion ringgit into MAS over the last 10 years, said its new fund injections would be strictly tied to the new company meeting performance targets.

“Success is by no means guaranteed,” Khazanah said.

(Source)

And even the Old Man has his doubts:-

I may be wrong but I think Khazanah’s 100% ownership of MAS will not be much different from its 70% ownership. We are going to see a lot of new people who will receive huge salaries, allowances and bonuses and not much else. That I believe is how Khazanah operates.

(Source)

Whatever bullshit that will be spinned in the next 3 years, one thing will be sure – the taxpayers need to be prepared for the worse to kiss their RM6 billion (or more in the coming years) goodbye. Unless of course, certain things happens.

The Government through Khazanah must have the will-power and political clout to make real changes that will see the RM6 billion to be spent on the turnaround plan of MAS be recovered with every cents accounted for in 3 years time. They must look beyond the color of the skin when it comes to picking the right people to run the airline (and never this piece of idiotic thinking again) and it should not be limited to Malaysians alone. Priorities must be set right and must be followed strictly.

They must not be swayed with likes of extremists like Perkasa, Pekida, Isma (do I need to say more?), dumb “keris wielding” politicians (who will make noise for the sake of making noise) or inexperienced consultants with unbelievable fat payroll (who may prolong the misery for more fat salary). Otherwise they will end up digging deeper into the taxpayers money for another turnaround plan after 2018.

And more importantly, they must always remember that national pride and the nation’s good name is at stake here and thus no matter what, this turnaround plan must work. No ifs or buts. They must remember that the RM6 billion that will spend on the turnaround plan belongs to the taxpayers (and not from their own personal pockets) and every cent must be accounted for. I hope so they will or otherwise we will talking about another turnaround plan in 2018.

Selamat Hari Merdeka!!

MH370: Lesson in Crisis Management


Frankly speaking, the last thing we need now is a missing plane…

flight-mh370

(I had to pinch myself when I first heard about the missing plane. I flew MAS on a regular basis and I prefer flying on a Boeing 777 than Airbus. Having a missing plane was something that all Malaysian did not expect to hear on a Saturday morning. The disappearance remains a mystery and a multi country search to date have revealed nothing to date. Image source: http://engtechmag.wordpress.com)

There was another trip scheduled up North last weekend for some religious function. However we did not go alone this time around. We hooked up with my brother in law and his family at our usual stop at the R&R. It was still early in the morning on Saturday and we had a good breakfast to kick-start the day. We then drove in a convoy with my usual “Speedy Gonzales” brother in law in tow and keeping within my speed limits (after all, driving within the speed limit on the highway is more relaxing, safe and fuel efficient than being a speed demon on the highway).

We reached our destination rather early in the morning and my brother in law then overtook me at the toll plaza but then when we reached the house, he was no where to be seen. I called him on his phone but the line was engaged. After a while, I saw him driving up to the car porch, visibly shaken and very upset. He then told me about the MH370 that had gone missing and he knew the crew rather well (you see, he works with MAS). We then spent the whole day glued to the TV seeking the latest news for the missing MH370 (with me gladly forgoing sleeping in the hotel for any positive news on the missing MH370) and him busy with sms-es, whatapps and calls with his colleagues and friends, all for the latest news on the missing plane.

And that is the time, we got a rude wake up call on Malaysian style of crisis management. Whilst foreign news channels already putting up the missing plane as breaking news and providing more insights (CCCTV even had assembled some experts panelist in the newsroom), the local channels – TV1, TV2 and TV3 are still in the lala land and showing programs that has nothing to do with missing plane (one even had cartoon on the air). Thankfully this boo-boo did not last long (perhaps thanks to the criticisms in social medias on how the local news were sleeping on the biggest news of the year) and now we have Astro Awani providing all round news coverage on MH370.

Then as more reports – both official, unofficial and of course, an avalanche of speculations poured in widening the mystery over the missing plane, the level of crisis management by the Malaysians authorities becomes more apparent. It did not go unnoticed in the foreign media. One even mentioned:-

“They’re handling a huge global issue as if it was domestic politics,”

(Source)

But you cannot blame Malaysia for this. Well, think about it – with relatively very few natural disasters (except for the annual flash floods where crisis management is nothing to shout about – just see what happened during the flooding in Kuantan) and man made disasters (like the Highway Tower tragedy), Malaysia actually have a very few reasons to beef up its crisis management structure and readiness.

Even with this incident of a missing plane – it is still feels like one is in a bad dream. My brother in law said the same thing when he first heard the news. There was no reason to believe that a MAS plane could go missing. There were no initial terrorist threats, the aircraft maintenance level is high and the flight crew is very competent. So the initial fumble up by the Malaysian authorities in dealing with this crisis is highly understandable and slowly but surely, once reality had kicked in, you can see a proper coordination and updates coming through on the incident. In my opinion, the current Department of Civil Aviation director-general Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman is doing a fine job handling the crisis despite unwillingly being thrown into the unknown. But that does not mean, there is no room for improvement and the missing MH370 shows we still have a long way to go.

Datuk Azharuddin

(The DCA chief, Datuk Azharuddin at the center of the crisis and he is backed up by the key people from MAS, the Air Force and the APMM. Image source: The Malaysian Insider)

Don’t get me wrong. The basic crisis management structure is there but by the time they get into the action of a proper crisis management, many days would have lapsed. This often would be compounded by having too many people wanting to take the lead and make decisions and statements which sometimes contradict each other and causes things to be more confusing. The lack of coordination between the various departments and the lack of information sharing is simply sad. Same happened during the Lahad Datu crisis and the same is happening in the current handling of the MH370 disappearance:-

The Malaysian authorities have come under fire following conflicting accounts on the last known position of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 before it went missing. The New York Times said the authorities had repeatedly said they were doing their best but Putrajaya and the airline had issued imprecise, incomplete and sometimes inaccurate information, with civilian officials contradicting military leaders.

The New York Times report said Rodzali’s statement stunned aviation experts as well as officials in China, who had been told again and again that the authorities had lost contact with the plane more than an hour earlier, when it was on course over the Gulf of Thailand, east of the peninsula. The latest information also caused an uproar on Chinese social media sites. “Malaysia, how could you hide something this big until now?” said one posting on Sina.com Weibo, a service similar to Twitter.

David Learmount, operations and safety editor at Flightglobal, a news and data service for the aviation sector, said the Malaysian government seemed evasive and confused, and he questioned why, if the remarks attributed to Rodzali were true, the government took so long to reveal evidence about a westwards flight path.

(Source)

Take the instance of the flight path of MH370. The Air Force is now coming forward (later denying it but not completely) and saying that the plane may have crossed over the Peninsula to the Straits of Malacca. Before that, it was the case of the 2 impostors (at one point, it was 4 people) and another is the actual people who did not check in. This has not been really settled with both MAS and the police seems to be making conflicting statements.

On the change of flight path, if it is true, is not only unfair to the various countries especially Vietnam who have pitched in their valuable time and resources looking out for any evidence of the plane. It is also unfair to the family and friends of the missing passengers who have kept in the dark on what had happened to their loved ones. It is also shows the state of chaos and confusion that the authorities are in even within themselves. And that is very embarrassing. On the other hand, the shortcomings and loopholes in the national security is just too glaring.

The Air Force said that they did not intercept the plane because it was not classified as hostile (I read somewhere that it is because the plane was flying away from Malaysia but once again, this information is not made known for all). Damn, didn’t these people learned anything from the 9-11 when commercial planes were used in the act of terrorism. Didn’t a commercial plane deviating from its original flight plane without a proper authorisation raised a red flag to those manning the radar station?

What about the 2 Iranians who managed to slip out using stolen passports? It was reported that these Iranians came in to Malaysia using Iranian passport but then exited using stolen foreign passports. Don’t the immigration department kept the entry records to compare? No wonder KLIA have been a haven for drug dealers and carriers and criminals from Iran, Nigeria, Latin America and other red-flagged countries. Someone had kept both their eyes closed for a long time now and let these parasites to slip in and out on a regular basis. Will the incident MH370 disappearance be the catalyst for a real change on how we can tighten the vetting of foreigners coming to country?

Anyway no point to talk about the past at the moment. We still have a plane missing and that should be the main focus for now.

I recall Datuk Azharuddin in one of the press conference as saying that they wish not indulge in speculations but rather deploy a more scientific method to identify and search for the missing plane. I liked the way he stressed the point and kept his confidence up. Of course having contradictory statements coming from his team does not help in stressing the scientific method to find the plane. This lack of information sharing and contradictory statements to the media should stop immediately. All statements should be made by only one person and that person is not the IGP, the military key officers, the Transport Minister and the various politicians who try to make their 2 cents (and their share of the limelight) worth at the time of the crisis. And that person should be Datuk Azharuddin.

And speaking of deploying scientific methods to find the missing plane, the last thing we need now is these clowns (surprisingly endorsed by the administration) to make fun of the whole incident. There is a big difference between praying in silence and making a sick circus show in an international airport and in front of the foreign media. These clowns should be arrested on the spot and thrown into a mental asylum for a long, long time. They have turned a serious search and rescue investigation into a laughing stock of the world. It was basically a show of the middle finger to the missing passengers, relatives & friends in grieve and the heroic search and rescue team from the various nations.

Let’s just hope that the plane could be found soon and we can start to investigate on what had really happened.

Chennai Trip – Conclusion


(Been lagging lately due to work and other assignments and holidays)

(The Chennai International Airport’s departure area – brightly lighted and well furnished but the crowd can still give you an headache. Sorry, no photos of the secured areas – the officers looked too menacing and strict)

I kind of have forgotten to do the conclusion for this post, so here is it…

The trip to Chennai came to a quick end for my wife – she did not have enough of the shopping but as far as I was concerned, I was looking for a safe return back to Malaysia. I already was missing the good, clean food and the weather back home.

The hired 4 wheel drive that suppose to pick us early was no where to be seen and I was getting worried. It was almost an hour drive from the apartment to the airport and I had no idea how was the traffic from the apartment to the airport at that point of time. The last thing I need is for us to miss the flight because we got stuck in a traffic jam. Our Indian relative noticed my facial expression as I kept looking out the window for the ride. The uncle (the head of the family) started to make some phone calls and it was not long before, I saw a white 4WD snaking along the narrow lane in front of the apartment.

Getting our luggage down from the apartment was made extra difficult – compounded by the fact we had extra “kilograms” added after several days of shopping (which is why we had extra but empty luggage brought from home). With the minutes ticking away and in the mid of the Chennai heat, we had to bring down the overweight luggage rather quickly – I think we damaged some part of the luggage. We managed to load the luggage into the car and we were off to the airport without further delays.

Chennai airport was still undergoing renovations so the departure area was still a nightmare. We had to park far away from the actual departure entrance and there was no luggage trolley at sight. Thankfully our relatives walked around and managed to find some empty trolleys. Customer service sucked big time – no porters helping out and the crowd outside looks so disorganized. We bid “goodbye” and “thank you” to our host in Chennai who been very generous and helpful during our stay in Chennai and headed towards the check-in gates. I could see a long queue at the very entrance of the terminal – things were not looking too good.

Out of the many security scanners around, only one was working so imagine the chaos. The many lines converged into one and some of the passengers were rather ruthless – despite seeing small children at the queue, they just push ahead, pushing the small children aside and jumping queue. The security guys near the scanners did not do much to ease down the mess. Anyway, we managed to cross over the line without any “bad incidents” and headed towards the MAS check in counters. Once again, we confronted another chaos here – the local MAS staff did not really cared about the queue, leaving us to fight over to get the right line – kind of reminded me of this.

The staffs at the counter looked inexperienced and were facing problems with passengers insisting to check in their overweight luggage without the need to pay for it. The staff also looked lost when had to print out the boarding passes for the passengers who are on transit. Pity the young lady at the front of us who had to transit in KLIA and had to take another flight to Australia. That delay caused us to loose some good seats – we did not get seats in the same row but we managed get at least one seat by the window. We sorted out the seats so that we arranged the window side seat for the “Big Boss”. That made the day for my son even though it was a night flight and he cannot see much once we are up in the air.

With the boarding passes at hand, we headed towards the immigrant checkpoint. From afar, we were given immigrant exit form and advised to fill up in full (the word “full was strongly stressed). So, we did as was advised, but not some of the locals who thought their names will get them through the immigrant with breeze. They had half filled forms and tried to talk their way through.

The senior looking uncle at the gate before immigration counters looked fragile and weak but he amazed us when he stopped some people at their tracks and asked them to fill up the form first. He did not even moved a bit when the stubborn locals raised their voice and tried to use their “connection” powers. They were told to buzz off and come back with fully filled form. We later found out that the old, fragile looking man is the head of the immigration at the airport – no wonder he can stand up to the nonsense put up by the locals. The immigration officers were professional and courteous – they even chit chat with my son as he stood in line to get his passport stamped.

(The “Big Boss” managed to get his seat of choice on the return flight and soon got busy with the in-flight entertainment system)

Another round of security – mostly handled by officers from northern side of India and they were very strict about this. Despite the long queue and security check that seems to be taking forever, we appreciated the strict and detailed checking. After the horrors in Mumbai, the last thing we need is some bomb blast by a crazy terrorist in Chennai airport.

The waiting area was jam packed but we managed to get a nice cozy spot. We decided against any purchase of souvenirs at the airport because 1. The price was a nonsense (it was also 10 times more than the normal price) and 2. The “duty free” shop was manned by someone who looked like some drug peddler at some back lane (read dirty clothes and harsh language).

Boarding announcement was rather rudimentary and before we know it, a long line started to form. Good thing was we already anticipated this and stood somewhere at the front of the queue. We had to pass another security checkpoint before we reached our seats – I felt proud to be a Malaysian as the Indian passengers were fast appreciating the clean interior of the MAS cabin and high quality service from the award winning cabin crew. There was some delay before the plane can take off – as usual, some idiots went missing and the rest of us had to wait for them. Then after almost 10 minutes, we were ready to take off.

The big boss soon got busy with the in-flight entertainment system and he rarely slept during the journey back. The flight back home was not that long and the MAS cabin crew service was top notch as usual – pity them having to deal with those Indian passengers who probably taking the plane for the first time. Some of the idiots were so busy drinking away beer and wine throughout the flight and just before we landed, we hit turbulence and these idiots immediately puked on their seats (did they know how to use the disposal vomit bag?). I saw a couple of them, drenched with nasty vomit all over their pants and shoes and thankfully none of them was too near to us – otherwise they would have gotten nasty blow to their head as well. Hmmm, perhaps I should add this to my list here.

That rather messy incident was the conclusion of my very first trip to Chennai (and India) and I must say that it was eye-opening trip. My wife got her shopping done and we all had a great time in time, largely thanks to our Chennai host. And since I have been to Chennai once, I know which pitfalls that I need to avoid the next time around.

Read the whole series here

The Departure, The Arrival


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Day 1 in Bangkok

You know you can never be ready whenever leaving for an overseas assignment. It always happens to me – documents to be printed at the last minute, last minute meetings, last minute rush to the bank, last minute rush to exchange the foreign currency and other last minute etc. Despite that, there is always a feeling that I have missed something.

For the flight to Bangkok, I tried to get a window side seat but you know what, I was late. The flight was full (in fact overbooked and there were people who were on waiting list at the airport) and the best seat (if you can call it “best”) that I got was the middle seat in a row of four.
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* My ride to Bangkok – MAS Airbus. It was little crammed and its in-house entertainment system was nothing to shout about (there was none) but there was proper meal served and the service was good

The flight was great (despite of my uncomfortable seating) except for a short time when there was terrible turbulence when approaching Bangkok. They had to even cancel the serving of hot drinks in the name of safety. We don’t want anyone spilling a hot cup of coffee on his or her pants don’t we? We ended up having orange juice to go down with our meals. My “Mat Salleh” neighbors were gentlemen enough – they were either sleeping or was reading a really thick novel. I can’t say the same for my Thai neighbor – he took off his shoe and was sleeping away with his socks in clear view. Although it was rude but I did not complain though – the socks were clean and were not smelly (unlike some Malaysian who I know).
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* The culprit caught on camera – some people can be oblivious to the sensibility of others

Glancing around the plane for photo shots, I realized that most of them who were sitting at the window side were sleeping. What a waste of location! I quietly put away my camera when we hit more turbulence. Vibrations are the last things that my camera needs. A piece of advise for MAS – it will be calmer for the passengers if a fast paced Mexican music was not played during heavy turbulence. The more I was listening to it, the more I felt like I was in an action movie with terrorist flying to crash the plane (Die Hard 4?).

The touchdown in Bangkok International Airport was smooth. The hiring of the taxi from the airport to our (yes, there are 3 of us here) hotel was even smoother (assisted by 2 very helpful staff at the taxi counter). We just went to the taxi counter immediately after the customs, told them where we want to go, paid about 800 Baht for 3 of us and almost immediately a taxi in the form of a Toyota Camry was waiting for us. We would be staying in different hotels during our stay here in Bangkok. The hotel rooms are fully booked during this season so we had no choice but to hop around (great because then we won’t be bored with one hotel food).
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* Our ride to the hotel – comfortable, safe and reasonably cheap. The taxi driver was one the kindest guy I ever met.

The first was at Riverfront Residence, which was facing the great river of the Chao Praya (in case it rings a bell, read your Geography books). I was given a one-bedroom apartment, which has a small kitchen (complete with utilities), living area and an attached bedroom & wardrobe.
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* The view from my room – the river is partially hidden but I can still see the boats plying up and down the river

We did not dare to venture out much on the first night – language was a big problem here in Bangkok. Very few people speak English – if there is one, it broken English. So we ended up having dinner at the hotel restaurant, which was even great because it was nearer to the river (we can even see the people on the boats). The food was great but the price was not – it was a bit pricey but with a great view, it was somehow worth it.

So much so for our first day in Bangkok – It was time to hit the bed for a better day tomorrow
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* The bedroom – inviting and soothing to weary travelers

(Filed under Del.icio.us Tag: Other Trips)
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The unexpected “Christmas Gift” from MAS to “MAS”


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(MAS in the good old days when we were proud call it as our national carrier – Picture source: www.Airline.net)
Christmas was early in MAS; at least it was in the MAS Chairman’s office with a gift of RM1.5 million worth paintings to adorn his office walls

At times when MAS is increasing it’s airfare due to escalating expenses and keep posting huge losses, the last thing that we would expected from them is a RM1.5 million expenditure for some paintings. “Good” excuses were given by the Deputy Transport Minister of course – “maintain the stature of the place” and “the money came under MAS’ current expenditure”. He must been an idiot to utter the said excuses and expect people to buy it (sorry to say idiot but there is no other logical explanation). We won’t buy it of course but I can bet that some clowns in Parliament would with their eyes closed and open arms.

I wonder what kind of “benefit” the painting will give if it is placed in the MAS chairman’s office? MAS chairman Datuk Dr Munir Majid who has been in the news for coming up with some “drastic measures” to cut down cost, seems to pleasure him with a little luxury, a luxury of RM1.5 million. Oh course, we forget on the other “lame” reason given that it is part of the current expenditure. I suppose that the other unnecessary expense that is bogging down MAS is also part of the current expenditure? Way to go, MAS. At this rate, you will bleed yourself (and the nation) to death faster.

I admit that in the end it is a corporate decision of course – they can spend on whatever they want to spend but when the rakyat’s money is pumped into the company indirectly to keep it afloat, this is certainly going to raise our eyebrows. It demands a full accountability. If MAS had given RM1.5 million worth of air-tickets like what Air Asia have done, it would have been a better publicity to the carrier than just 3 paintings hanging in the Chairman’s office. The rakyat at least could have enjoyed something in return and propelled to support the carrier further.

Lim Kit Siang in his blog informed that Munir and Idris Jala told the Parliament that MAS is considering selling the paintings. Note the word – “considering”. If the allegations in MGGPillai are true, the resale value of the paintings may not even fetch couple of thousands of ringgit, it may even just cost RM300. That is a shortfall of almost RM1.2 million, down the drain. Lim Kit Siang asks who is going to bear the cost on the shortfall. Munir? Very unlikely! The rakyat? You are right on there.

So, is the RM1.5 millions is just a tip of iceberg or more “Christmas Gifts” are on their way for Munir and his gang in MAS?

Read the allegations on how MAS is wasting rakyat’s money with Munir’s free for all expenditure and Chris Andrews appointment at MGGPillai at here and here. . Fact or fiction? Judge it for yourself and you are left to wonder whether the Deputy Transport Minister is telling the truth to the Parliament?

(Filed under Del.icio.us Tag: Governance)