Sunday, 4 January 2015

When The Flood Recedes, What Do We Do?

There is no further need to discuss about the extent of damages caused by the recent flooding at the East Coast. Kelantan is one of the affected states and also one of the worst affected. As I am writing, the extent of the damages is still being counted (I hope) by the authorities (plural emphasised!).

There is no doubt of the citizenship spirits being demonstrated by ordinary Malaysians in helping those affected. I am sure many people received donations, assistance and help from people who they do not know or even met in their lives before. The volunteer themselves distributed goods donated by those who remained faceless, using facilities e.g. helicopters and 4x4 vehicles that came from nowhere. The faces of the donors will remain faceless and won't appear on tv or even social media.

While there are still places and people where food and other needs are still required, there will be a stage where more serious thinking (I am not seeing that being demonstrated, perhaps because we cannot see what in people's mind) need to be demonstrated and executed.

The victims could be classified into several categories. Those who lost their houses, those with houses but lost everything else, those whose source of income disappeared and those who can't move on with their lives because those around them fall into the earlier categories. Each of them would require different kind of assistance and this is where data and information become important. Unfortunately, this task would have to be taken by people with authorities, no amount of volunteerism could make up any shortcoming of those with power.

I am not sure how much is being worked on the re-construction stage of this continuing episode. For those who lost everything, how would they re-start their  lives? Would they be building their homes at the same spot where their houses were built, at the low level areas which are flooded year-in and year-out? Could they be moved to higher grounds? Do they need to pay for the land? Wow, so many questions! I managed to ask one of them about when would they be rebuilding their homes. The answer was very simple, "We had been rebuilding our homes a number of times and they kept on being destroyed when it flooded. Each time we build, it would cost us RM 30,000 to RM 40,000. We had given up!".

Many of us would be able to recall the song Bangau Oh Bangau. It is about finding the cause of a thin stork, which the blame eventually fall on the snake. Honestly, I have not seen any Bangau in Kuala Krai or it's surrounding area but I also hope that this song is not going to be played and replayed as well.

Friday, 2 January 2015

When Malaysians Come Together (Updated)

Without fail Malaysians will demonstrate their citizenship commitments when there is a need. This is more obvious when unfortunate events occur, when their fellow citizen brothers and sisters have to cope with challenges beyond their control.

The major flood which hit the east coast of Malaysia, especially Kelantan has created opportunities for Malaysians to come together again. Instead of just expressing their sadness on social media, many turn up themselves with all sort of relief goods to be given to those experiencing difficulties. The road leading to Kuala Krai was jammed with cars, lorries and 4x4 transporting relief goods and volunteers.

The extent of catastrophe this time around is beyond the experience of the past. Many had to leave their homes at the very last minute, when the water was rushing into their home, as they thought that they were on safe grounds, as before. Many lost their homes which were swept away and many more lost their valuables. Worse, while the water had receded days ago, some are still without proper meals and basic hygienic utilities. Electricity and water have not been reconnected because many electric sub-stations and water pumping stations were out of commissioned due to the flood.

If you were at ground zero, you will be amazed with the spirit of being Malaysians being manifested by people from all walk of life. Relief goods are arriving from everywhere, sent by so many people from all parts of the country and the roads leading to the affected areas were jammed with so many 4x4 and other vehicles ferrying goods and volunteers. While there were helicopters ferrying the same, many individuals and corporations hired helicopters to help out. It was sad when I was informed at one stage, aviation fuel was lacking.

A lot more could be written about this episode of flooding but not enough words would be able to record the sense of brotherhood being displayed but suffice to say that we, Malaysians, do have big hearts and could be counted on when needed.

Perhaps we could have more of this during peace time, when more efforts need to be provided to strengthen key public institutions which are critical for the society to be taken care of. As a country we need to be competitive. We cannot rely on historical service level and performance standards to address future demands and needs of our fellow Malaysians. Clearer exit policies for civil servants who clearly fail to perform must be made transparent and strictly enforced. It is not worth spending taxpayers money on people who only warn their official chairs but fail to deliver when the people on the street (kampungs included) really need the services.

More contributions would be needed to held the unfortunate Malaysians to move on with their lives after the flood. Kept on being Malaysians and let's live the Malaysian spirit.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

The Awaited "Boh"

I was brought up in the heart of Kota Bharu, the capital of Kelantan at the East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia (or Malaya based on the Malaysian Agreement). When my parents were serving the government in Machang in the south, I was with my grandparents (my mom's untie and her husband - Nenek and Atok) who were childless but were responsible in bringing up few other family members will full of love and affection.

Located at the Kelantan delta, towards the sea, flooding was a natural phenomena. Flood is referred to as "Boh" in the Kelantanese dialect. It normally occurs when the North-East monsoon which blows from November until March bringing heavy rain to the highlands in the south and causing high waves which slows the flow of water form the Kelantan river into the South China Sea.

Without much knowledge of weather forecasting or geography, many Kelantanese, Atok included, could read the weather patterns and guessed when the flood would arrive. We could also differentiate whether the flood was caused by local rain pour or from water flowing from the highlands based on the colour of the water. Atok, in his younger days, used to be a trader. He went to sell stuffs in Hulu Kelantan using bamboo raft and brought things back to Kota Bharu. I will write more about this wonderful Atok, a person who was very strict about honesty and integrity, later.

Boh is something which not considered evil to many Kelantanese, then. Perhaps there were more trees which could absorb the heavy rainfall and slowed the flow of the water from the south to the Kelantan delta. Now, as people pursue their millions, logging is one of the keys to wealth, both for the loggers and those with power to approve logging concessions.

When I was small, the colour of the Kelantanese river was blueish but now it is just like the "the tarik" as we know it. Even when those who are inclined to Islamic ideas are in power, I have not seen any changes in the logging practices in the highlands. Just wondering whether the Islam as believed by this group has no environmental protection element when Islam, as I understand it, treats environment protection as part of good governance, expected from any government. 

Flood or boh was celebrated as a sort of festivities, in most cases. I could hardly recall a time when they were catastrophic. I could still recall swimming in the cold flood water and most people would be moving around the flooded town with certain feeling of enjoyment. I was aware places which would be severely hit and people would need to be evacuated. Perhaps because these places were at the lowlands, we were not that sensitive to the sufferings of these unfortunate Kelantanese. Many senior Kelantanse would recall Boh Air Merah, one of the major floods where the colour of the water was reddish, as one of the severe ones which caused heavy damage in Kelantan.

It is very sad to know many parts of Kelantan are flooded this few days, amongst the worst in the history of the state. Just by knowing the level of the flood water in certain places, whether they are at knee, naval or chest levels, I could gauge the severity. I was told that many areas which were not flooded before are experiencing severe flooding. Many people are stranded without supply of food. How do I know this? I have friends on the ground sharing with me the real situations on the ground which are not reported on tv. This is how technology has made the difference when disasters occur. No longer realities could be painted differently.

One elements of flood is its predictability. While many will say, and I believe, that this is an act of god (what else happen without his command?), I can't accept any excuse that those who are in charge of flood relief were not able to prepare themselves earlier. It will always start with heavy rain but that alone is not enough to create a disaster. When the wind start to be stronger, we will start to worry. And then, there are places which will be flooded EVERY YEAR without miss, and as mentioned earlier, this happen only as a particular part of the year. Off course the severity could not be predicted but those who are paid to do the job has no excuse for not being prepared.

I salute Malaysians who have on their own accord arranged volunteer flood relief efforts, in addition to those from the authorities. This is also a new trend where volunteer works could outpace official efforts, in certain situations. When citizens have to take charge, what does this mean?

How do we know the worse would be over, when Chinese New Year comes, as simple as that.

Friday, 12 December 2014

The value of a tourist spot

Islands are natural tourist attractions. While Malaysia does not have many islands such as Indonesia and Singapore, we have managed to developed many of our islands, especially from the tourism perspectives.

Penang or also known as the Pearl of the Orient has been a famous commercial centre since the early days. Once a free-port, Penang today is still famous for its tourism appeal although economically it has managed to attract many global electronic manufacturers to locate their facilities around the island.

Tioman and Redang are other islands which are known for their beautiful beaches and marine lives. Their value propositions are different from Penang. Sipadan in Sabah is one of the best dive locations in the world. As a person who use to dive before, I have not been there as I was told that once you go to Sipadan, other dive sites will not be the same again.

I suppose islands have their natural beauty and that attracts people to  go and enjoy those natural features which having a break from their normal routine at their offices or businesses. Naturally, with higher number of tourists, the demand for infrastructures will increase, resulting in more buildings and other facilities are built. This will later spur commerce and more physical structures would be needed as well. How far should we go before these new additions to the ecosystem start to provide reduced value, from the angle of tourism?

I don't have the answer but certainly I would like to see more of the natural beauty to be preserved so that they can be enjoyed by our children and theirs.

These are some of the photos of Langkawi from my recent visit. Mostly on the natural beauty of the island taken using my iPhone 6.

Golfing at the Els Club, Datai, Langkawi.
The world, from the eyes of a crab.
The reflection of the raising sun.
A fishing boat, waiting for its owner.
How tall is this light house?
Morning cruise?
Hoping for early morning luck!
Noah's ark?
Having breakfast
Landing down!

Monday, 1 December 2014

An Orphan Golfer I am

There are many milestones in one's life but not that often one's club membership gets terminated. This happened to me today when officially my membership of Perangsang Templer Golf Club (PTGC) was terminated. The PTGC had been sold to a property developer to be developed into a mixed-development project.

PTGC is not the first golf club that suffers from this fate. Many other golf clubs around the Klang Valley are being developed into property projects due to the increase in property prices. Too tempting for the owner to maintain the clubs facilities and dealing with members' behaviours when the other option is to sell the properties off for handsome profits.

Although PTGC was owned by the Selangor state government which has a lot of money in its bank account, the temptation to "unlock the asset value' was too high. Notwithstanding the green surroundings of the club which is irreplaceable, as many people would say, "money speaks"!. I am not sure, in the case of preserving the ecosystem for future Selangorians, this was a wise move.

Some may argue that golf is an elitist sport. Well, I am not sure in the context of where we are as a society today, providing opportunities for Joe Malaysians who are from the middle to low income bracket to have something useful to do over the weekend is so. This was what PTGC did.

Anyway, this is already history. While some of the club members are trying to frustrate the deal through some level interventions, the fate of the PTGC was sealed when the membership of the members are terminated effective from today.

Just to capture the memories of the golf course, I went to play for the last time on Saturday. I did not play well but it was a memorable one. For a club which helped me to reduce my golf handicap from 36 to 24 (or about there), it deserves a posting here.