Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Birthday Dinner

We had 2 friends join us for Doug's birthday dinner tonight. The menu consisted of fruit salad, roasted tri-tip served with steamed vegetables (french beans, broccolli, cauliflower) and roasted potatoes. There was a choice of red or white wine, and the dessert was the birthday cake, which I baked myself. :-)

Duncan couldn't wait to blow out the candles! He cried because his dad didn't let him blow out the candles ... didn't want Duncan's germs on the cake! Haha. I had to cut a small piece of cake for him and put a candle on it so he could blow it out. Ahhhh, I had to re-light the candle several times so that he could continue to blow it out each time!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Politics Sarawak Style

" The existence of an opposition, without which politics ceases and administration takes over, is indispensable to the functioning of
parliamentary political systems. " -

It is hard to be in the opposition, or vote for the opposition party, in Malaysia.

How can the people dare vote for an opposition party's candidate when in doing so the people are punished? Punished by the ruling government of the day from receiving developments in infrastructure, agriculture and the like, in constituencies where the people have voted for the opposition party's candidate.

Don't people, in a democracy, have the right to vote for whomever they want? When a person is elected into office doesn't he have the right to represent the people who elected him? Is his voice, representing the people who elected him, of lesser value than the ruling majority's representatives'?

Isn't the government of the day supoosed to have the best interest of all the people, and not just to those that put them in office? Isn't the government of the day supposed to be the government of the people/state/country?

I cannot believe what the Chief Minister of Sarawak just said, “If a BN candidate wins, I can work with him. If the opposition wins, how can I work with people who criticise and oppose me?" Isn't he essentially saying, "Vote for my candidates or else, .."? I guess in Sarawak, the Chief Minister can only work with "Yes" men, and anyone who dares criticise him, will be left out in the cold. Isn't that how dictators and despots work?

It is insufferable for the government, in order to keep a hold on its power, to threaten the people by withholding development projects from their constituencies, if they do not continue to keep them in power.

As it is, the state of Sarawak has a very weak opposition. The perception of the people, is that those in power are there to promote their self-interests rather than the interests of the people. The much touted "Politics of Development" seem to benefit certain groups of people more than others. The remote areas of Sarawak have received very little of the projects promised to them despite having voted for the ruling majority so many times before.

What choice do the poor rural folks have, but to continually believe that the government will bring the promised projects, by faithfully voting for the ruling majority's candidates? When you are poor and desperately want development and progress in your rural part of the world, it is hard to ignore the "baits" and promises laid out by the ruling majority each time an election cycle comes around.

The day when the opposition party in Sarawak holds the ruling majority accountable is yet to come. For now, any criticism leveled by the opposition to the ruling majority is simply swatted off like a pesky fly.

The Star Online > Nation

Sunday April 23, 2006

Taib: I cannot work with people who oppose me


MIRI: The indigenous people in the state can use the coming Sarawak polls to decide whether they want development, said Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud.

He said he could only “lead the horse to the water but could not force it to drink.”

He added that it would be impossible for the Sarawak government to work with those who opposed everything the Barisan Nasional planned to do.

“I am saying things bluntly. The state elections is the best time to show what you want.

“If a BN candidate wins, I can work with him. If the opposition wins, how can I work with people who criticise and oppose me?

“This is straight talk, so that you know where you stand. We minimise quarrels if we want to move forward. I say don't fight or else we will frighten away investors,” he told a gathering of senior leaders from the Orang Ulu communities during an open dialogue with them here on Friday evening.

Highlighting the massive development projects he had brought to Sarawak, the country's longest-serving chief minister said if the voters chose to vote against Barisan in any constituency, there was nothing he could do for them.

Sarawak is about to face its ninth state polls.

“This is the awkward scenario. No private investors will come and start projects in areas where there are protests all the time.

“The government alone does not have the massive amount of money needed to bring development to very remote areas. For example, in the highlands, any infrastructure development project will cost over RM200 million.

“If there are protests all the time, these investors will not dare to come.”

Taib said the state government under the Barisan, had established a credibility that was well known even in foreign countries and this had greatly helped spur socio-economic growth.

At another function in Kuching yesterday, Taib remained tight-lipped over poll dates and refused to say when he would meet the Yang di-Pertua Negri to seek the dissolution of the State Assembly.

He also declined to say much about Barisan Nasional’s list of candidates, disclosing only that it was “about two-thirds finalised.”

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Malaysia's Morality Laws Won't Apply to Non-Muslims

Has the Malaysian government succumbed to the pressures of the people? If indeed the government has listened to the wishes of the people, well good for them, though in the first place the charade could have been completely avoided.

What of the Chinese couple, Kean Thong, 24, and Siow Ai Wei, 22, who had to face the consequences of the idiotic charge in the first place, and the dog and pony show of the justice system that went all the way to the nation's highest court?

Are they going to be compensated for the legal costs that they incurred in defending their right to be free from the moral police? What of the indignity, and the publicity that came with the court case?

What of the court's decision regarding the case? Is it to remain and become precedent for future similar cases?

And what of Kuala Lumpur City Hall's authority to enact laws to prosecute people for indecent public behaviour? Should that authority be revoked? Or should their authority be clearly defined, and what constitutes public indecency further clarified?

These are pertinent questions - questions that need answers instead of the glib response of the director-general of the Islamic Development Department ... a response that is much too late for Ooi Kean Thong, 24, and Siow Ai Wei, 22, who were the victims of the moral police and the Malaysian justice system.

KUALA LUMPUR, April 20, 2006 ( & News Agencies) – Non-Muslims caught kissing and hugging in public will not be punished under the morality laws, a senior Malaysian government official said on Thursday, April 20.

"We will take the Muslim only," Mustafa Bin Abdul Rahman, the director-general of the influential Islamic Development Department of Malaysia, told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

He said non-Muslims, even those caught with Muslim partners, would not face action over their indecent behavior.

A furor has broken out in Malaysia over its morality laws, envisaging persecution for people caught in indecent and disorderly behavior.

The Federal Court has ruled that Kuala Lumpur City Hall had the authority to enact by-laws to prosecute people for indecent public behavior.

It gave the magistrate hearing such cases the authority to decide if hugging and kissing constituted indecent behavior.

Muslim Malays comprise about 60 percent of Malaysia’s 26 million people, while ethnic Chinese and Indians - most of them Buddhists, Hindus and Christians - make up about 35 percent. The rest are indigenous people and Eurasians.

Only Muslims

Abdul Rahman said unmarried Muslims caught in indecent behavior will be hauled to religious courts.

"If there is a report of... a Muslim couple acting immorally in an isolated place, then the enforcement will go there," he said.

"If there is evidence the couple is not married and not related then the couple will be brought to the court under Shari`ah law."

The official stressed that unmarried Muslim couples were banned under Islamic teachings from acting "immorally" in secluded places.

Supporters of a Malaysian opposition party have demonstrated outside Kuala Lumpur's City Hall to protest the laws.

Former deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim has rebuked the laws, describing the religious authorities in Malaysia as "over-zealous".

Ibrahim, the founder of an Islamic youth organization, said the issue had been taken "too far".

"It is doing a disservice to the whole Muslim orientation, the moderate Muslim view," he said.

The Housing and Local Government Minister recently warned that a strict enforcement of the morality laws would have an adverse effect on tourism, a key foreign currency earner.

Malaysia offers the image of a model Muslim country, heading towards the status of developed nation with huge buildings, beautiful cities and a fast track economy.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi launched on Friday, March 31, an ambitious development plan for Malaysia to become the first developed Muslim nation by 2020.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Thongs in Two Cities

Be careful next time how you wear your thongs and your low rise pants! Heheh, don't want to be unsuspecting subjects of some photographer!

The pictures were taken from Neal Boortz's, Redneck Scrapbook.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Protest Against No Kissing Laws

(Picture courtesy of Reuters)

It looks insignificant, judging by the number of protestors present in front of Kuala Lumpur's City Hall, but to those who are against the government legislating laws to police society's morals, that is a big first step. The authorities need to be reminded that Malaysia is a multi-ethnic country and forcing laws that are clearly Islamic on those who are not Muslims are not acceptable.

The relevant law-making bodies need to come up with laws which clearly define public indecency or else the perception is that Malaysia is moving towards Taliban type rule. What a disgrace to criminalise public kissing and hugging!

Friday, April 14, 2006
Malaysians protest against laws that make public kissing a crime

(AFP) - Malaysian activists protested at the capital's city hall against laws that make kissing and hugging in public a crime, saying it showed the "Islamisation" of the multicultural nation.

A dozen demonstrators led by the opposition Democratic Action Party's youth wing held hands and waved heart-shaped placards that read "You have the right to kiss" and "Not guilty of hugging" and a banner reading "No to moral policing".

The protest was touched off by a court's decision earlier this month to authorize indecency charges against a young couple accused of kissing and hugging in a park by Kuala Lumpur's iconic Twin Towers in August 2003.

Ooi Kean Thong, 24, and Siow Ai Wei, 22, claim they were slapped with a summons when they refused to pay bribes to two city hall officials, who have denied the claims.

"We want to send a message that it is inappropriate for local government to be the moral police," DAP youth wing deputy chief Chong Chieng Jen told AFP. "The thing about morality is that it differs among different races and religions."

"It defies the spirit of our constitution and also freedom of religion," he said. "If we do not check the trend now we are heading towards a real Islamic state, or going backwards to the medieval time."

The protesters said that while they opposed public indecency, the current law was too vague and liable to abuse and should not be enforced by local authorities.

"There should be a uniform law applicable throughout Malaysia stating clearly what amounts to indecency," they said in a statement.

The protesters accused the city authorities of applying Islamic or Shariah legal principles on both Muslims -- who make up some 60 percent of Malaysia's population -- and the non-Muslim Chinese and Indian communities.

"This is a manifestation of Islamisation of Malaysia without respecting the rights and freedom of the non-Muslims," they said.

The Federal Court ruled that city hall could pursue indecency charges against the ethnic Chinese couple, saying kissing and hugging was not the norm for Malaysians or other Asians and was only acceptable by Western moral standards.

Malaysia's Bar Council spoke out against the ruling, saying displays of affection are common here and that indecency charges should only be applied to maintain public order, and not because behaviour had offended individuals.

The couple are due to face the charges at city hall's court in June. If convicted, they could be fined up to 2000 ringgit (543 dollars) or jailed for up to a year or both.

Malaysia's government promotes a moderate version of Islam but the country has seen a growing influence of Islam over society in the past two decades.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

A Benevolent Dictator the Solution?

Benevolent Dictator the solution in Iraq, says Dr Mahathir

(Bernama) -- A benevolent dictator is the solution for maintaining stability in Iraq for the time being after democracy seems to have failed, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said Wednesday.

The former prime minister said such a leader could control the people from contributing to instability, which would slow down economic development.

"Maybe you have to have a strong hand to stop people from becoming violent. If you allow people to do what they think they like, the country will end in chaos. People will be fighting each other," he said.

Dr Mahathir was speaking to reporters after delivering a keynote address on "Political Stability and Sustainability as a Key Success Factor in Developing Malaysia" at the Perdana Discourse Series at the Perdana Leadership Foundation, here.

He said the Iraqis did not understand what democracy was all about when they were asked to be democratic.

"As a result, they are worse under democracy than under benevolent dictatorship," he said, adding that more people were killed during the current democracy period compared to previously.

He said democracy was good but people need to learn how to make democracy work as there were some limitations because people just could not exercise their freedom completely without caring for other people.

In his keynote address, Dr Mahathir said the sharing and sacrifices made by all ethnic groups in Malaysia had contributed to the continued stability in the country.

The Malays, for example, have stopped calling this country "Tanah Melayu" (Land of the Malays) and sacrificed Jawi as their main written language so that others could read the Romanised alphabet, and share this country with the other races.

The other races, too, were willing to make sacrifices by understanding that not 100 per cent of their demands could be fulfilled, and sharing the economic cake of the country, he said.

The one-day Perdana Discourse Series was organised by the Perdana Leadership Foundation and Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM).

I think that Dr Mahathir is wrong, wrong to assume that a benevolent dictator is the solution to instability and chaos. And Dr Mahathir is too quick to claim that democracy has failed in Iraq.

First of all, when has a dictator, benevolent or not, ever willingly stepped down from his position of power once he has assumed it? And most certainly not when peace and stability have been restored!

Another thing, when tried, when has democracy ever failed? I can't think of any country that has tasted democracy that would ever want to go back to a dictatorship. Can you? I do know, however, that there are some people ( in the former Soviet Union) who got used to their welfare being taken care of by the government, who longed to go back to that era .. not so much to the iron fisted rule of a communist government but more for the welfare that they had received under such governments.

The rule of law is needed to control disorder and chaos, not a strong hand. I totally disagree with Dr Mahathir's claim that more Iraqis have died under democray than under Saddam Hussein's dictatorship. A man who has had approximately 40 of his own relatives murdered would have no qualms about disposing anyone who is deemed a threat to his power. No one can know for sure the exact number of people killed under Saddam Hussein's 26 year rule but certainly in the hundreds of thousands. Mass graves are still being discovered even to this day. Ask any shia or Kurd in Iraq and they will tell you the horrors they endured under Saddam, and they are the ones lucky enough to be alive to tell you, unlike those that were less fortunate.

Memories of Vietnam: Part Three

The Local Hairdresser

At the campus one can get a good haircut for really cheap. The guys could get a hair cut and a shave if they wanted to. There was a wall surrounding the male students dormitory and along that wall was a row of barbers ... doing their business outdoors under a tree or a flimsy shade cloth.

But for the ladies there was only, as far as I knew, one hairdresser inside the campus. I was brought to this lady, named Mrs Minh, for my first haircut in Vietnam. I came to Vietnam with very short hair, anticipating the difficulty of getting a good haircut. But as time went on, my hair style got even shorter. Hahaha, and that could probably be due to the size of scissors that the hair dresser used ... well not really!

I have never seen a hair dresser use scissors that one normally would use for cutting fabric! But this lady used the same kind of scissors to cut her clients hair! I refused to have my hair cut with that pair of scissors she brandished around! My student had to translate for me and told Mrs Minh to use the scissors only meant for cutting hair. Heheh, every time after that first hair cut, I had to remind Mrs Minh not to use the huge scissors whenever she cut my hair.

Later on, I tried a hair dresser outside the campus gates. I even had my hair washed there. It was quite a pleasant experience. Not only did she cut and wash my hair, she also massaged my face, and put a wet piece of towel on my face and poured warm water on it! Wow, that was really nice!

A Motorcycle Incident and a Pair of Boots Story

One day, I let it be known that I wanted to buy a pair of shoes. On hearing this, a Cambodian student, Som An, offered to take me to Hanoi to buy this pair of shoes.

I really appreciated the help the students offered me. It cost them time and money (for petrol) to take me to Hanoi. Hanoi is over 20 km from the university, and just before you enter the main city center, there is a bridge where you have to pay a toll, not much but still it cost the students something.

So one evening Som An took me to Hanoi. We visited a few shoe shops, and finally I found a shop where I saw the shoes that I wanted. While I was trying out the shoes, Som An stood at the entrance of the shop, keeping an eye on his motorcycle. It was easy to lose your motorcycles or bicycles in Vietnam.

When we were done, we walked toward his parked motorcycle. A lady sitting on the sidewalk selling some food, said something in Vietnamese. Som An laughed, so I asked what that was all about. "Somebody just siphoned some of the petrol in my motorcycle."
"What?!" I exclaimed. It was unbelieveable that someone could do it almost right under our noses, and in fact right in front of the food vendor!

I was quite indignant the whole time we rode back to the campus but Som An simply shook his head and laughed over the whole incident. To this day I still cannot figure out how he could be so cool over the whole incident.

The picture at right shows me with the Cambodian student, SomAn, standing at the steps of the Guest House. The boots I was wearing in the picture were the ones I bought. The flowers in my hands were a gift from him to commemorate my birthday.

A Lieutenant-Colonel

Most Sundays, Tony (Singaporean colleague), would take me to a Vietnamese speaking church in Hanoi. We didn't understand a word of the service but there were people at that church that we really liked. One of the church leaders was a professor at the university where Tony and I served.

But the most unlikely person in that church was a Lieutenant-colonel of the Vietnamese army. He wasn't there to worship but to "befriend" Tony. Tony had warned me about this guy before I actually met him. Tony suspected that he was keeping tabs on the activities at the church and also of Tony. I asked Tony how we should behave when we were with him. Act naturally because we had nothing to hide.

So one day I met Lieutenant-colonel Cuoung for the first time after church. He offered to take us out for drinks and after the drinks he told us that he would like to have pictures taken of all of us. We couldn't refuse that offer, and he quickly called a free-lance photographer who was hanging around the beautiful Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi.

On the way home from church Tony and I laughed over the whole incident. We wouldn't be surprised if our pictures were in some government file or other! Heheh.

Tony only stayed another 3 or 4 months after I arrived. When he returned to Singapore, I and an American volunteer named Kris, were the only foreign teachers left. During that time, I had a surprise visit from Leiutenant-colonel Cuoung at the Guest House. He said he was passing through the area and decided to drop by and pay us a visit. He asked me why I never attended church anymore, and I told him, there was no one to take me to church any more since Tony left.

Actually, I started attending an expat church after Tony left. I was sure the lieutenant-colonel was aware of that activity because none of us at the expat church believed that the authorities were unaware as to who exactly attended the expat church!

L-R: Tony, Lieutenant-colonel Cuoung, and me.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Memories of Vietnam: Part Two

A Soldier and Dog Meat Story

Not long after I arrived at the university, a young man dressed in a military uniform entered my classroom. The first thing that crossed my mind was, "He's a spy!" I was quite bothered by it, and this young man started asking lots of questions during the class. I couldn't understand him at all because his English was really bad. I tried very hard to figure out what he was saying, but ..

Anyway, he became a regular in one of my classes. His name was Dung (pronounced Zoo-oom). He turned out to be a pretty friendly guy and I was able to figure out much of what he was trying to tell me as time went on.

One day, he asked me if I'd like to go to his barracks and join him and his colleagues for a dinner to celebrate some past victory of the Vietnamese military against some chinese aggression .. I think that was what it was. He arrived at the Guest House on his motorcycle.

As we were riding along, he turned to me and asked, "Do you like dog meat?"

"Dog meat? Never tried it before! I don't think I want to try it either," I said.

"Oh", and he stopped his motorcycle and started mumbling to himself. "Never mind", he said, and we continued on our trip.

The military barracks were not that far from the university campus. As soon as we arrived at the barracks, he called one of his friends and spoke something in Vietnamese. And then I saw the man get on his motorcycle and off he went. I wondered what that was all about.

There was only one other lady in the room where the dinner was held. Nobody spoke any English there, but Dung was very nice and translated for me. The other guys had some questions for me, and so Dung did the translation.

There was plenty of food on the table, but nobody started eating until the man who had gone off on his motorcycle came back. And guess what he brought back with him? Hahaha, steamed chicken! Apparently, the whole meal on the table consisted of dog meat! Dog meat cooked in many different ways! Hahaha.

So that evening I only ate chicken and some rice, and one of the sauces meant for a dog meat dish .. even that was not very satisfactory because the chicken still had lots of red on it .. not as cooked as I would like it to be! I left that dinner party still feeling very hungry.

On another occasion, Dung invited me to a relative's house in Hanoi for dinner. It had rained a lot that day and the road was quite wet. I had to put on my rain suit just to stay dry. Some roads in Hanoi were quite flooded, and Dung was quite wet by the time we got to his relative's place.

The dinner at the relative's place was to commemorate the death of a relative who had died many years before in some war or other. The Vietnamese are really into ancestor worship and they really venerate their long dead relatives.

All I can say about this dinner was that it was a lot better than the one I had at the military barracks! Heheh.

Despite his friendliness, I still had my suspicions about Dung. I even asked him straight to his face if he was a spy. He only laughed and said, "No, I am not a spy."

P.S. I returned to Vietnam again in 2002 with Doug and his friend, Ed. Dung was there to meet us at the hotel we were staying in. I still teased him about being a spy. He still denied that he was ever a spy. The evening we arrived, Dung and Quoc, another former Vietnamese student, took us to a restaurant where eel noodles was served. I had specially requested for eel noodles because I remembered how much I enjoyed it when I lived in Vietnam and had wanted Doug and Ed to try it.

A Medical Procedure

Have you heard of a procedure called barium enema? If you haven't, here's a very descriptive article. It does a better job at decribing it than I can ever do! The only thing I have to say about it is that it is a most uncomfortable procedure and something that I do not wish to repeat any time soon, if at all possible, ever again!

What I would like to share here is the preparation I had to undergo before the barium enema.

In order for the procedure to be possible, your bowels have to be completely clean. So I was put on a special diet for 3 days. I was only allowed one solid meal a day, a small portion of baked/broiled/boiled fish or chicken and 2 slices of bread, that had to be taken by 8.00 a.m. The rest of the day I could only take liquids - clear broth, clear juices, soft drinks, tea or coffee with non-diary creamer, and all the jello I can take. I had never felt so hungry in my life! Liquids are a poor substitute for a nice solid meal. I now know what it means to go to bed hungry. :-(

The third day was the hardest. I had to take a full glass of clear liquid every hour. Then at 12.30 p.m. I had to take something called phosphate soda. Yucks! It tasted like 10 salted plums (somboi)! Horrible! I almost threw up what I had taken! That would have been bad. And do you know what phosphate soda does to your system? I think you can guess! Yes, it makes whatever is left in your tummy loose, very, very loose!! I had to run to the toilet countless times all throughout the afternoon. I still had to take the full glass of clear liquid all that afternoon too.

Then in the evening I had to take 4 tablets ... it did exactly what the phosphate soda did and its effect could be felt in the morning; the morning that I had the procedure done ... today to be exact!! As if that is not enough, I had to use a suppository, an hour before I left the house. If you don't know what a suppository is, go look it up in a dictionary! Haha.

I wasn't allowed to take anything this morning. Before I left the house, I made sure I brought some biscuits in my handbag! Heheh, after the procedure, I couldn't wait to eat something. Not that I was in any shape to eat anything. I was still suffering the after effects of the barium enema. :-(

We did stop at a Greek restaurant for lunch. I ordered a gyros sandwich, and I think that lunch was a little too heavy for my tummy ... my bloated tummy from the barium enema. Anyway, I was glad, really glad to finally have something solid in my tummy! :-)

P.S. I wished it was possible to have had pictures of me taken during the whole procedure! I told the doctor as much! He (a chinese doctor) just laughed at me. It would have helped you understand better what I had to go through.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Memories of Vietnam: Part One

First Impressions

Ten years ago, this month, I arrived in Hanoi, Vietnam to serve as a volunteer English teacher at the Hanoi Agricultural University. I spent almost two years in Vietnam.

What a culture shock it was! Everything looked strange. The buildings that I saw along the road to the university were tall and narrow. Paddy fields were every where. People on bicylces and motorcycles. Horse carts. The smell.

As soon as I had put away my stuff in my room at the Guest House in the campus grounds, Tony Lau, my colleague from Singapore (he'd already been there 2 years) took me to one of the food stalls in the campus. I had noodles but I didn't have much appetite .. the floor was too dirty! On the floor were food crumbs, soiled paper napkins, flies, .... :-(

Despite the initial shock, I adjusted quite quickly to life at the campus. I was the new foreigner at the campus and with all the attention I got, I felt like a celeberity! :-) The students were very friendly and eager to speak English with me. The English Language Department staff were very welcoming and made me feel quite at home.

My classes were held in the evenings, and my job was to give them additional language classes other than those they received as part of their curriculum. The initial classes were always interesting because only a handful could speak English reasonably well, and the rest, most of the time I just had to guess what they were saying! Haha. But I got quite good at deciphering what they wanted to tell me.

Besides teaching students, I also gave classes to a group of professors. They were really nice people and so eager to practise their English with a non-Vietnamese. I also taught staff at the Research Institute of Fruit and Vegetable. The Institute was just a few kilometres outside the university campus.


The food offered by the food stalls at the campus were simple fare. The majority of the students at the university were very poor, and therefore could not afford anything fancier. Boiled kangkong and cabbage, and lots of rice, were staple food for the students. Initially it was hard, but as time went by, I began to enjoy the food and even had my favourite food stall. The funniest thing I saw as I ate among the students, was the sight of food served in a little plastic basin (it wasn't a bowl!), and in it were the rice and whatever else that was ordered. I couldn't eat from that little basin. It reminded me too much of my dog's bowl! Haha. Anway the food stall owners knew who I was and of course I got my food served on nice little plates.

I learnt to eat all kinds of things while in Vietnam. One of our (students and me) favourite activities in the summer was to go out and drink fruit smoothies .. delicious! My favourite was durian belanda smoothie. And I learnt to eat lots of freshly made yogurt. Boy, did that cause my stomach to "sing". I was/am lactose intolerant! :-( Other than smoothies, students always invited me to join them for "snail eating" sessions. The snails were really tasty! I learnt to use the lime tree needle (duri) to pull the snail meat out of the shell. Wow.. tasty with the fish sauce dip! And how about the silk worm pupae?! Heheh, I tried, but it tasted like insect to me, if you can imagine how insects taste like!

Busy-Body Guards

Vietnam was and still is a communist country. At the university, the foreign teachers, as well as foreign students (from Cambodia and Laos) lived in a gated compound. There was a guard at the gate, and no Vietnamese student was allowed to visit the foreign teachers unless specifically invited by them. Even then they were not allowed to stay too long. Many times my students got scolded by the guards for visiting me.

The foreign students didn't have trouble bringing in their Vietnamese girlfriends to their dorm. I guess foreign students were less of a threat to the Vietnamese.

Keeping out students was not the only job the guards had. I knew they were keeping tabs on my activities. The Guest House cleaning lady was also "spying" for the university. :-) Anyway, I got used to it. But the hardest were the rumours and speculations of sexual encounters between me and other male guests living at the Guest House. I just looked at it as being kampung type mentality for people who had nothing better to do but speculate about other people's private lives. be continued! ...

Friday, April 07, 2006

Political Censorship

Bloggers muzzled in Singapore elections

Government prefers 'orderly debate' to 'online chaos'

Simon Burns in Taipei, 04 Apr 2006

Politically themed podcasts will be temporarily banned during forthcoming elections in Singapore, a government minister said yesterday.

Dr Balaji Sadasivan, Singapore's information and communications minister, argued that free-for-all debate could "confuse and mislead the public" and insisted that politically themed blogs must be registered with the government.

Dr Balaji made the comments to clarify existing regulations in response to a question tabled by a fellow ruling party member during a parliamentary session. His comments were later posted on his ministry's website.

"In a free-for-all internet environment where there are no rules, political debates could easily degenerate into an unhealthy, unreliable and dangerous discourse flush with rumours and distortions to mislead and confuse the public, " he stated.

"Private or individual bloggers can discuss politics. However, if they persistently propagate, promote or circulate political issues relating to Singapore, they are required to register with the Media Development Authority.

"During the election period, these registered persons will not be permitted to provide material online that constitutes election advertising."

Singaporean law limits the promotion of political parties and viewpoints during elections.

While Dr Balaji acknowledged that some podcasts could be "quite entertaining ", he warned that the "streaming of explicit political content by individuals during the election period is prohibited under the Election Advertising Regulations".

In addition to podcasts, Dr Balaji said that all streaming online audio and video of a political nature would not be allowed.

"We recognise that people in our society will have their diverse opinions and some will want to share their opinions. But people should not take refuge behind the anonymity of the internet to manipulate public opinion," Dr Balaji stated.

Singapore is a parliamentary democracy with a population of 4.5 million and has been dominated by the same political party for more than 40 years.

While the island's government has been lauded for providing a high standard of living despite very limited natural resources, it has been criticised, both overseas and at home, for perceived restrictions on human rights.

Government ministers occasionally sue opposition politicians and other critics for defamation.

While a date for Singapore's next parliamentary elections, due by mid-2007, has not yet been set, media reports suggest that the government is most likely to call them during the next few months.

Do you think that Malaysia will soon follow suit? If Malaysia implements a law such as Singapore's, those of us who love to comment on political issues and politicians, would have to submit to a database! Who is to say which individual's political discussion is ok and which is not? I don't see how the authorities in Singapore can police political blogs, and how they can make people register with their Media Development Authority.

I also don't see how Singaporeans who are well educated can easily be confused and misled by so called "rumours and distortions". A little heated debate is always good; the government will have to defend and clarify any of their policies to the public, unless of course if there are truths in the so called rumours, then of course the government would rather not have the people know about them!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

To Wear or Not to Wear

The New Straits Times, Kuala Lumpur

Wednesday, 22 March 2006, 08:25

Tudung a must for women cops at functions


With immediate effect, all policewomen will have to wear a headscarf at official functions.

The surprise directive was made by the Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Mohd Bakri Omar recently.

The New Straits Times understands that all policewomen taking part in the 199th Police Day celebrations parade on Saturday will wear the headscarf.

Bakri told the NST that the change was introduced for the sake of uniformity. He said that those wished to remove the headscarf after the parade may do so.

"It is for every woman officer to wear during the parade. It is not compulsory during other occasions but Muslim personnel are encouraged to wear it at all times.

"If they choose not to wear, it is not a disciplinary offence."

This directive has caused some concern among non-Muslim personnel. They say that the wearing of a headscarf carries a different connotation in some cultures and religion.

For example, Sikh women usually wear a head cover when attending prayers and funerals.

The directive states that policewomen can only wear headscarves of two colours - blue and off-white.

The off-white scarf is for traffic policewomen.


At the Dewan Rakyat yesterday: Nazri accuses Kok of ‘hatred for Islam’
Reports by Leslie Andres, Shamini Darshni and Ranjeetha Pakiam

March 28

AN Opposition MP was yesterday accused of "hatred for Islam" during a clash with a minister over the directive for policewomen to wear tudung during parades.

It started when Teresa Kok (DAP-Seputeh) told Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Nazri Aziz that the directive had violated human rights.

Nazri disagreed, saying the directive concerned uniformity.

This could be seen from the fact policewomen were not compelled to wear the tudung except when taking part in parades.

"It is not going against human rights, it is a matter of uniformity. For instance, parliamentarians wearing the Number One uniform are required to wear a songkok, even though they are Chinese or Indians.

"These people still remain Chinese or Indians and have not converted to Islam. Yang Berhormat (Kok) only shows her hatred for Islam when she brings this subject up," he said.

Kok did not take the remark lightly and demanded that Nazri retract it. She also called the Chair to make a ruling but Deputy Speaker Datuk Dr Yusof Yaacob said it was not necessary and ordered the proceedings to continue.


Local News: PM: Tudung compulsory for police parades

Posted by: azlan on Saturday, March 25, 2006 - 07:28 PM

Kuala Lumpur- Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Abdullah has made it clear that it is optional for policewomen to wear the "tudung" or headscarf while performing their daily duties but the tudung is compulsory for those taking part in official parades.

He was commenting o­n the circular issued by the Inspector General of Police, requiring all policewomen to wear the "tudung" or headscarf at official functions, which has attracted debate in the Dewan Rakyat.

On Cabinet's decision to allow government doctors to work part-time in private hospitals or clinics as locum, Dato’ Seri Abdullah said the decision has been made and he does not propose to change it.

The decision was announced by Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek yesterday.


Saturday March 25, 2006

Meeting with PM over tudung ruling


KUANTAN: A private meeting will be held with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi over a circular compelling all policewomen to wear headscarves at official functions.

Deputy Internal Security Minister Datuk Fu Ah Kiow said there appeared to be some confusion in the circular issued by Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Mohd Bakri Omar.

“In my understanding, non-Muslims are given the option whether or not to wear tudung. This is in line with the Government’s policy,” said Fu.

“However, the wording of the circular appears to be contradictory and needs further clarification,” he said.

Fu added that he and the other Deputy Internal Security Minister Datuk Johari Baharum would discuss it with Abdullah, who is also Internal Security Minister, for a decision and a directive on the issue.

In making the order for policewomen to wear headscarves, Mohd Bakri had said it was for the sake of uniformity.

The ruling reportedly made non-Muslims unhappy, leading to a shouting match between government backbenchers and Opposition MPs over the issue in Dewan Rakyat on Thursday.

In Kuala Lumpur, Johari said the wearing of headscarves was only for official parades for the sake of uniformity.

“It is only compulsory for those taking part in such parades. It is for them to look nice and uniformed,” he said, adding that the ruling did not apply to the 199th Police Day celebration yesterday, as it was “just a gathering.”

Johari said at other times neither non-Muslim nor Muslim policewomen would be compelled to wear headscarves.

“There is no compulsion, not even for Muslim policewomen. But if they want to wear, it is good,” he said.

On concerns raised by certain parties that while it was not compulsory to wear tudung, those who chose not to might be intimidated, he said: “The directive is very clear that it is only for parades.”

Meanwhile, Gerakan Youth described the directive as shocking, saying it contravened religious rights and violated the Constitution.

“The headscarf should not have been imposed on uniform units in this country,” vice-chairman S. Paranjothy said, adding that the police force was a uniformed body and changes should not be made at its whims and fancies.

I remember when I was forced to wear a headscarf during orientation at ITM, Shah Alam many years ago. As you all know ITM is an all bumi institution but then again not all bumis are Muslims. I hated wearing the headscarf and being forced to wear the baju kurung. I only had one pair of baju kurung, and the orientation lasted for 2 weeks. So can you imagine, what else I had to wear during the orientation because the baju kurung was hanging on the clothesline?! If anyone made me do the same thing today, that person would get a good piece of my mind! What galls me most was that my student ID card had a picture of me wearing the headscarf, and I had to carry that card with that ridiculous picture of me for a year! I looked like a turtle with it's neck sticking out! Grrrr!

So I am disappointed that the PM has endorsed the IGP's directive to make all police women, whether Muslim or not, to wear the tudung .... only at official functions ... later that "official functions" became "only during parades". So which is it now? Doesn't it seem like back-pedaling on the part of the IGP?

As for Datuk Nazri Aziz, it was a cheap shot for him to calll MP Teresa Kok's objection to the wearing of the tudung by the non-Muslim police women as "hatred for Islam". This kind of rhetoric from a Muslim minister is not helpful to the discussion. This only implies that any objection to anything that has to do with Islamic practises that affect non-Muslim as being anti-Islam. How else can a member of parliament who was elected by her constituents speak on behalf of her constituents if she is shut up every time she raises objections?

As for the songkok reasoning, Datuk Nazri shows his ignorance. Isn't it true that to be a Malay is to be a Muslim? And in Malaysia Muslim women wear the tudung as part of their adherence to their religious beliefs, and when a non-Muslim woman is made to wear the tudung is it not her right to object to it? I think the male MPs have accepted the fact that the songkok is part of their official uniform, but the tudung has never been part of the police uniform. The directive by the IGP is just that, a directive. There were no amendments to the official police dress code, and therefore the directive to wear the tudung, under their cape, I presume, just so the police personnel look uniform during a parade is only a preference by one IGP.

Today, the wearing of the tudung is a directive, tomorrow same said directive could be the law. Isn't it any wonder that non-Muslims feel like they are being forced to abide by the laws of the Muslim majority?

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

No kissing please, we are Malaysians!

I thought I misread the story ...I thought the story had taken place in some Middle Eastern Muslim country! Is this really Malaysia? I don't really like to see young people kissing and necking in public, but just because I don't like to see it, doesn't mean that people should stop doing it! Moreover, why should public displays of affection be a crime?!

I found this quote from one of the judges most amusing! "So, they should be given freedom to live as they like? The constitution allows all citizens to do that (hugging and kissing) even by the roadside, in public park?"

Tuesday, April 4, 2006

The Sun

PUTRAJAYA: The local government has the power to establish by-laws to prosecute citizens who behave disorderly in public, the Federal Court ruled yesterday.

Chief Justice Tun Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim, together with Federal Court judges Datuk Alauddin Sheriff and Datuk Richard Malanjum, unanimously held that the Datuk Bandar of Kuala Lumpur (DBKL) was correct to charge two students for behaving indecently by hugging and kissing at Kuala Lumpur City Centre Park.

The court ruled that Section 8 (1) of the Park By-Laws, the section invoked by the Datuk Bandar to punish persons caught behaving indecently in public was constitutional.

Following the ruling, two students, Ooi Kean Thong, 24, and Siow Ai Wei, 22, will have to defend themselves against the charge levelled against them at the Kuala Lumpur City Hall Court.

Their case is fixed for mention on June 1. Both had pleaded not guilty to committing the offence at the park at 5.20pm on Aug 2 2003.

If convicted, they could be fined not exceeding RM2,000 or jailed up to a year, or both.

Ahmad Fairuz said the (Federal) court's answer to constitutional question referred to them, whether Section 8 (1) is ultra vires the Local Government Act 1976 and infringed Article 5 (1) of the Federal Constitution (relating to freedom of life) was in the negative.

The two students had challenged the validity of Section 8 (1) contending that the Local Government Act 1976 which is the parent act governing local authorities did not empower the Datuk Bandar to make local by-laws on matters of decency.

They alleged that they were given a summons because they refused to bribe the enforcement officers. In January last year, the two officers pleaded not guilty to corruption charges in the Sessions Court and their case is pending.

Counsel S. Selvam, for the students, submitted yesterday that the Datuk Bandar had failed to consider the fact that Malaysia is a multiracial country and that the act of hugging and kissing is an expression of love which should be encouraged.

"The students should be given freedom to live but there was serious infringement by the Datuk Bandar of the two students' fundamental liberty and constitutional rights," he said.

Ahmad Fairuz said: "So, they should be given freedom to live as they like? The constitution allows all citizens to do that (hugging and kissing) even by the roadside, in public park?

"In England, those acts are acceptable to the people in that country but is kissing and hugging acceptable to Malaysian citizens? Is the act according to the morality of the Asian people?"

Selvam replied that there was nothing wrong with hugging and kissing because it was an act to express their love.

He said the Datuk Bandar had created a law which was prejudicial and caused hardship to both students and this was unfair.

Deputy public prosecutor Manoj Kurup argued that it should be left to the trial judge to decide whether the act of hugging and kissing was a disorderly behaviour.

He said there was no need to have specific words in the act to legislate by-laws for a specific purpose.


The original story that was published online at Taipei Times in 2003.

Couple charged for affection

A Malaysian couple caught by enforcement officers holding hands in a public park have been charged in court with indecent behavior, local media said yesterday. Ooi Kean Tong, 22, was charged Wednesday for allegedly hugging and kissing his girlfriend Siow Ai Wei, 20, in a Kuala Lumpur park, the New Straits Times reported. Ooi pleaded not guilty. If found guilty, he could face a maximum fine of 2,000 ringgit (US$526) or a year in jail or both. The case provoked a public outcry at the time when the couple said they were only holding hands and alleged that they were issued a summons because they had refused to bribe the officers, who were charged with corruption in January.