Thought of the day

I thank whatever gods may be / For my unconquerable soul. / I am the master of my fate / I am the captain of my soul. ~William Ernest Henley, Invictus

Government's promises are like the Ringgit, they depreciate with time.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Letter to the Prime Minister

Dear Najib,

Aren't you the Malaysian Defence Minister back in 2007? Shouldn't you at least care to explain to the rakyat on the disappearance of the RM50 million jet engines now since the cat is out of the bag?

Instead, what I observed is that you are shedding all responsibilities like nobody's business, stepping aside in apathy while poor Ahmad Zaid Hamidi, our current Defence Minister is trying to wipe the shitty asshole in helter-skelter. Where is your accountability and integrity?

As a Malaysian, I am deeply saddened that we have an irresponsible and scandalous premier heading the regime. To me, you failed! So we can forget about the KPI and NKRA bullshit altogether.

Yours sincerely,

Mama, I failed my KPI and NKRA:(

Come clean, Najib!

鄭丁賢‧皇家空軍人才濟濟 (RMAF full of talents!)

Ayam Penyet Ria ~ Hot

CY and TK brought us once to Lucky Plaza for this remarkable Indonesia cuisine - Ayam penyet. Don't really know what "penyet" means, but from the pronunciation I reckon it must be related to something being smashed. Anyway, who cares as long it is sinfully delicious, right? From the menu, we realized that other than chicken, we can have promphet penyet, sotong penyet, catfish penyet,...,penyet...penyet...penyet. Wonder why the Indonesians like to smash their food:p

There are two Ayam Penyet Ria restaurants at the plaza, on the 1st and 4th floor respectively. My Indonesian friend told me that he prefers the one on the 1st floor, somehow the dishes there taste better. Frankly, I can't tell the difference, especially after you spread the bud-numbing belacan on the chicken and shovel it into your mouth. Trust me, the belacan do give you the kick to go back for more!

Location: Lucky Plaza, Orchard Road, Singapore.
Opening Hours: 11.00am-9.00pm (Daily)
Contact: +65 6235 6390

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Friday, December 11, 2009

No Signboard

Best chili crab in town, no signboard. I prefer the branch at The Esplanade!
Just order one Sri Lankan crab, some bun for a light meal.
Add Malay-style fried noodle to eat till full.
Steamed bamboo clam with garlic is fabulous, too!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Malaysian Maverick: Mahathir Mohamad in Turbulent Times

Mahathir: "Wah piang! It's only RM100 billion lar!!"

Book Review: Malaysian Maverick: Mahathir Mohamad in Turbulent Times

Written by John Berthelsen
Friday, 04 December 2009

by Barry Wain. Palgrave Macmillan, 363pp. Available through Amazon, US$60.75. Available for Pre-order, to be released Jan 5.

In 1984 or 1985, when I was an Asian Wall Street Journal correspondent in Malaysia, an acquaintance called me and said he had seen a US Army 2-1/2 ton truck, known as a "deuce-and-a-half," filled with US military personnel in jungle gear on a back road outside of Kuala Lumpur.

Since Malaysia and the United States were hardly close friends at that point, I immediately went to the US Embassy in KL and asked what the US soldiers were doing there. I received blank stares. Similar requests to the Malaysian Ministry of Defense brought the same response. After a few days of chasing the story, I concluded that my acquaintance must have been seeing things and dropped it.

It turns out he wasn’t seeing things after all. In a new book, "Malaysian Maverick: Mahathir Mohamad in Turbulent Times," launched Dec. 4 in Asia, former Asian Wall Street Journal editor Barry Wain solved the mystery. In 1984, during a visit to Washington DC in which Mahathir met President Ronald Reagan, Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger and others, he secretly launched an innocuous sounding Bilateral Training and Consultation Treaty, which Wain described as a series of working groups for exercises, intelligence sharing, logistical support and general security issues. In the meantime, Mahathir continued display a public antipathy on general principles at the Americans while his jungle was crawling with US troops quietly training for jungle warfare.

That ability to work both sides of the street was a Mahathir characteristic. In his foreword, Wain, in what is hoped to be a definitive history of the former prime minister’s life and career, writes that "while [Mahathir] has been a public figure in Malaysia for half a century and well known abroad for almost as long, he has presented himself as a bundle of contradictions: a Malay champion who was the Malays’ fiercest critic and an ally of Chinese-Malaysian businessmen; a tireless campaigner against Western economic domination who assiduously courted American and European capitalists; a blunt, combative individual who extolled the virtues of consensual Asian values."

Wain was granted access to the former premier for a series of exhaustive interviews. It may well be the most definitive picture painted of Mahathir to date, and certainly is even-handed. Wain, now a writer in residence at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore, is by no means a Mahathir sycophant. Advance publicity for the book has dwelt on an assertion by Wain that Mahathir may well have wasted or burned up as much as RM100 billion (US$40 billion at earlier exchange rates when the projects were active) on grandiose projects and the corruption that that the projects engendered as he sought to turn Malaysia into an industrialized state. Although some in Malaysia have said the figure is too high, it seems about accurate, considering such ill-advised projects as a national car, the Proton, which still continues to bleed money and cost vastly more in opportunity costs for Malaysian citizens forced to buy any other make at huge markups behind tariff walls. In addition, while Thailand in particular became a regional center for car manufacture and for spares, Malaysia, handicapped by its national car policy, was left out.

Almost at the start of the book, Wain encapsulates the former premier so well that it bears repeating here: Mahathir, he writes, "had an all-consuming desire to turn Malaysia into a modern, industrialized nation commanding worldwide respect. Dr Mahathir’s decision to direct the ruling party into business in a major way while the government practiced affirmative action, changed the nature of the party and accelerated the spread of corruption. One manifestation was the eruption of successive financial scandals, massive by any standards, which nevertheless left Dr Mahathir unfazed and unapologetic."

That pretty much was the story of Malaysia for the 22 years that Mahathir was in charge. There is no evidence that Mahathir himself was ever involved in corruption. Once, as Ferdinand Marcos was losing his grip on the Philippines, Mahathir pointed out to a group of reporters that he was conveyed around in a long black Daimler – the same model as the British ambassador used – that the Istana where he lived was a huge mansion, that he had everything he needed. Why, he asked, was there any need to take money from corruption? Nonetheless, in his drive to foster a Malay entrepreneurial class, he allowed those around him to pillage the national treasury almost at will, which carried over into Umno after he had left office and which blights the country to this day.

Wain follows intricate trails through much of this, ranging from the attempt, okayed by Mahathir, to attempt to rescue Bumiputra Malaysia Finance in the early 1980s which turned into what at the time was the world’s biggest banking scandal.

In the final analysis, much as Lee Kuan Yew down the road in Singapore strove to create a nation in his own image and largely succeeded, so did Mahathir. Both nations are flawed – Singapore in its mixture of technological and social prowess and draconian ruthlessness against an independent press or opposition, Malaysia with its iconic twin towers and its other attributes colored by a deepening culture of corruption that has continued well beyond his reign, which ended in 2003. Mahathir must bear the blame for much of this, in particular his destruction of an independent judiciary, as Wain writes, to further his aims.

Mahathir, as the former premier said in the conversation over his mansion and his car, had everything including, one suspects, a fully-developed sense of injustice. He appears to this day to continue to resent much of the west, particularly the British. Wain writes exhaustively of Mahathir’s deep antagonism over both British elitism during the colonial days and the disdain of his fellow Malays (Mahathir’s parentage is partly Indian Muslim on his father’s side), especially the Malay royalty. That antagonism against the British has been a hallmark of his career – from the time he instituted the "Buy British Last" policy for the Malaysian government as prime minister to the present day.

Robert Mugabe, in disgrace across much of the world for the way his policies have destroyed what was one of the richest countries in Africa, remains in Mahathir’s good graces. Asked recently why that was, an aide told me Mugabe had driven the British out of Zimbabwe and was continuing to drive out white farmers to this day, although he was replacing them with people who knew nothing of farming. That expropriation of vast tracts of white-owned land might have destroyed Zimbabwe’s agricultural production. But, the aide said, "He got the Brits out."

For anybody wishing to understand Mahathir and the nation he transformed, Wain’s book is going to be a must – but bring spectacles. The tiny type and gray typeface make it a difficult read.

And a disclaimer: Wain was once my boss. -asiasentinel

Couldn't wait to grab a copy:)

Run, Forrest, Run!

Joined the 10km marathon, fortunately did not collapse at the finish line like what happened to me during the penang marathon. Clocked 1h32min this time. Target next year is 1h15min.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

PLUS: Drastic Improvements Needed

Every fun festive seasons, it is a consuetude for those residing far away from home to return to their hometowns. In a place like Malaysia where the public transportation system is far from comfort and efficient, almost everyone needs to own a private vehicle. And all this conjures up into an incubus for all travellers who are coerced to travel via the "sometimes 2 lanes, sometimes 3 lanes" North-South Expressways (NSE).

Two lanes ain't enuf lar, brader!

How can I convince PLUS Berhad that it's time to expand the NSE from the pathetic dual-lane into at least 4 lanes?

Source: Department of Statistics, Malaysia.

Currently, Malaysia's population is estimated at 28.31 million, where 80% are residing in West Malaysia and 63.6% of them age between 15 to 64 year-old (14.4 million). Assuming that every seven individuals from this set make up one family, so we have about 2.057 million families who are going to pack and buckle up and hit the highway every peak seasons, balik kampung to visit the old folks (4.6%). And assuming each family travels in our esteemed Proton Exora, which is 4.592m in length, it totals up to 9,449km if we line them up bumper-to-bumper. So how many lanes do we need on the 966km NSE to fit all these MPVs?

10 (5 in each direction).

Ok, I may be exaggerating too much.

Let's cut 1.5 million Malaysians off the road, say they stay close to their hometowns and do not need to use the expressway. Now, let's remove another 1.5 million from the initial sample size because they can't afford to own vehicles, instead they take public transports like express buses or flights or for some sad cases, unable to secure a ticket home.~boohoohoo Another 1.4 million citizens fled the country for no reason. Finally, we are left with 10 million loyal NSE users, 1.4 million Exoras on the NSE. So, how many lanes do we still need?

6.79. Nose to nose.

See! Three lanes also jam lar, brader!

So, with the rough model with the pictures supplemented above, isn't it evident enough that PLUS Berhad should commence the expressway expansion, like 10 years ago? As a mainboard listed company on the KLSE, PLUS Berhad definitely acts like a goofy which lacks in strategy and planning to promote growth, only to execute its shrewdness in splendour to increase the toll charges based on a "mysterious" undisclosable contract endorsed by the government.

Why should we pay first class fee, only to get third class facilities?

Why should we accept the toll hike y-o-y, when the travelling time increases likewise?

Why call it the expressway, when my speedometer can only clock less than 50kmph half the journey?

Shouldn't the Transport Ministry look into this for the sake of the rakyat?

And why are the people tolerating this injustice?

Sometimes, I just don't understand.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Ong Cheng Huat Seafood Restaurant (王清发)

This is one of my favorite restaurant up north at Butterworth. EC introduced this place to us during one of our makan-makan trip when I was working in Penang. Subsequently, I'd revisited this place for couple of times with my colleagues and friends back then, and now with my family whenever we visit our sis:)

The restaurant is situated quite secluded off Jalan Bagan Lalang. One may easily miss the turning if he/she does not pay enough attention to spot the restaurant sign board along Jalan Bagan Lalang. And even if you do swerve in in time, it is quite a challenge to manoeuvre your vehicle through the sharp and narrow corners (only two) to reach an opening to the destination. Nonetheless, when there is a will, there is a way. Here is a short description on how to get there:
  1. After exiting Juru Tol, continue to drive along the North-South Highway.
  2. Exit left at Sungai Dua, exit to Bagan Ajam and go up flyover.
  3. Keep left to exit to the left at the traffic light, it says Mak Mandin/Bagan Lalang on the sign board.
  4. The restaurant is on the right hand side.
It is famous for its signature dishes: fried quail (we called it 小鸡), steamed red snapper, prawn crackers, coconut tuak (an alcoholic beverage made of fermented coconut flower dew).

Fried quail. Must try!

Oooo Lala

Fried mee.

Fried mee hoon

Prawn crackers

Steamed red snapper. Must try!

Some say that you have never been to Butterworth if you didn't patronize this restaurant.

Location: 2004, Bagan Lallang, 13400 Butterworth.
Opening Hours: 11.00am-5:30pm (Close on Monday)
Contact: +604-331 4782 / +6012-453 5188 (Always better to call beforehand)
How to get there: map

Duck Egg Char Koay Teow

Sis brought us to this famous duck egg char koay teow stall at Jalan Kulim, Bukit Mertajam, a shabby hawker center under a huge banyan tree. As can be seen from the picture, the char koay teow is fried with charcoal, which is deemed the BKM (best known method) to fry koay teow. This is of course coupled with the formidable combo of duck egg + lard + cockles. The duck eggs undoubtedly yield richer taste and thicker texture compared to regular chicken egg while the lard really heightens the fragrance of the dish.

Mom and dad went there twice on previous trips only to return in despair as the stall was not open. So this time we were really lucky and when we probed further, the boss revealed that he would take a day off whenever he feels like it. But worry not, two of his siblings are running similar stalls nearby, one near the taxi station and another one near the BM railway station.

Nice to look, good to eat!

Location: Jalan Kulim, In between of Taman Kuari and Taman Jaya/Sentosa
Opening hours: 8pm - 1am (Sunday - Thursday), 8pm - 2am (Friday & Saturday)
How to get there: map

大山脚 鸭蛋猪油炒更香


价格:大RM3.00 、小RM2.50、荷包蛋RM1、加料另计。






The taste of my childhood

The breakfast set served at Gecko Cafe reminds me of the times when my dad brought us to Port Dickson so many years back. Remember the breakfast at the Guthrie service apartment?