Saturday, December 31, 2011

Summary of My 2011

It's the last day of 2011 and a countdown party was to start at Glady's place but cancelled due to the untimely passing of her beloved mother. How is 2011 to me? If I have to give a rating, I would rate 6 out of 10 at most.

Work-wise, it has been just too mundane...nothing to shout about, really. Finance is manageable while stock & share investment has been rather lacklustre throughout the entire year For my achievements in 2011, I would say earning ACTA qualification is an added credence to my resume that probably set the trainer path for me in the near future and on the outdoor frontier, it would be the completion of two full marathons, Sundown and Stanchart and the second consecutive climb to Mt Kinabalu.

Going into 2012, a dragon year but global economy has expected to be weak. I will hit the half century mark in Feb and I have to carefully weigh my options, whether to stay put or venture out. While trying to stay positive, I am looking forward to the new year with some plans already put in place. It will still be a challenging year but life still goes on, for better or worse. I am ready for 2012, are you?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Lee Kuan Yew: At 85 The Fire Still Burns

Note from Collin Ng:
It is claimed this article is written by a nephew of Dr Mahathir, Ahmad Mustapha. It is copied the way I have received it by email from a source.

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Singapore 's Minister Mentor, Lee Kuan Yew, who was Singapore 's founding father, has always been very direct in his comments. This was the man who outsmarted the communists in Singapore (with the innocent help of Malaya then and the willing help of the British) and who later outwitted the British and outpaced Malaysia in all spheres.

Singapore practices corrupt-free meritocracy and Malaysia affirmative action.
The former attracted all the best brains and the latter chased out all the brains.
The Singapore cabinet consists of dedicated and intelligent technocrats whereas Malaysia has one of the most unwieldy cabinets. Not only that, brain-wise it was below par not even good for the kampong.

With that kind of composition, one that is very brainy, naturally Singapore, with no natural resources could outstrip Malaysia in every aspect of development. Malaysia, on the other hand, was too much preoccupied with its Malayness and the illusory 'Ketuanan Melayu' and was also more interested in useless mega iconic development rather than real social and economic development.

Whenever Kuan Yew utters anything that deemed to be a slight on Malaysia, voices were raised admonishing him. Malaysia would never dare to face reality. That Singapore had shown that it could survive was a slap on those who believed that Singapore would fold up once it left Malaysia. Therefore it was natural that these doomsayers would try to rationalise their utterances to be in their favour to combat on whatever Kuan Yew commented. Its political jealousy.

Singapore achieved its development status without any fanfare. But here in Malaysia , a development that was deceptive was proclaimed as having achieved development status. It was trumpeted as an achievement that befits first world status. This was self delusion. Malaysians are led to believe into a make believe world, a dream world. The leaders who themselves tend to believe in their own fabricated world did not realise the people were not taken in by this kind of illusion.

Lee Kuan Yew believed in calling a spade a spade. I was there in Singapore when the People's Action Party won the elections in 1959. He was forthright in his briefing to party members as to what was expected of them and what Singapore would face in the future.

Ideologically, I did not agree with him. We in the University of Malaya Socialist Club had a different interpretation of socialist reconstruction. But he was a pragmatist and wanted to bring development and welfare to the Singaporeans.
Well! He succeeded.

Malaysia was so much embroiled in racial politics and due to the fear of losing political power, all actions taken by the main party in power was never targeted towards bringing wealth to all. Wealth was distributed to the chosen few only. They were the cronies and the backers of the party leadership to perpetuate their own selfish ends.

Seeing the efficiency and the progress achieved by Singapore caused the Malaysian leadership to suffer from an inferiority complex. That Malaysia should suffer from this complex was of its own making.

In a recent interview, Kuan Yew said that Malaysia could have done better if only it treated its minority Chinese and Indian population fairly. Instead they were completely marginalised and many of the best brains left the country in drove.
He added that Singapore was a standing indictment to what Malaysia could have done differently. He just hit the nail right there on the head.

Malaysia recently celebrated its 50th year of independence with a bagful of uncertainties. The racial divide has become more acute. The number of Malay graduates unemployed is on the increase. And this aspect can be very explosive. But sad to see that no positive actions have been taken to address these social ills.

Various excuses were given by Malaysian leaders why Singapore had far outstripped Malaysia in all aspects of social and economic advancement. Singapore was small, they rationalised and therefore easy to manage. Singapore was not a state but merely an island.

There was one other aspect that Malaysia practices and that is to politicise all aspects of life. All government organs and machinery were 'UMNO-ised'. This was to ensure that the party will remain in power. Thus there was this misconception by the instruments of government as to what national interest is and what UMNO vested interest is. UMNO vested interest only benefited a few and not the whole nation. But due to the UMNO-isation of the various instruments of government, the country under the present administration had equated UMNO vested interest as being that of national interest. Thus development became an avenue of making money and not for the benefit of the people.

The fight against corruption took a back seat. Transparency was put on hold. And the instruments of government took it to be of national interest to cater to the vested interest of UMNO. Enforcement of various enactments and laws was selective. Thus a 'palace' in Kelang, APs cronies and close-one-eye umno MPs could exist without proper procedure.

Corruption infested all govt departments, the worse is the police and lately even in the judiciary. Singapore did not politicise its instruments of government.
If ever politicisation took place, it is guided by national interest. To be efficient and to be the best in the region was of paramount importance. Thus all the elements like corruption, lackadaisical attitude towards work and other black elements, which would retard such an aim, were eliminated.

Singapore naturally had placed the right priority in its pursuit to achieve what is best for its people. This is the major difference between these two independent countries.

Malaysia in its various attempts to cover up its failures embarked on several diversions. It wanted its citizens to be proud that the country had the tallest twin-tower in the world, although the structure was designed and built by foreigners. It’s now a white-elephant wasting away. It achieved in sending a man into space at an exorbitant price. For what purpose? These are what the Malays of old would say "menang sorak" (hollow victories).

It should be realised that administering a country can be likened to managing a corporate entity. If the management is efficient and dedicated and know what they are doing, the company will prosper.

The reverse will be if the management is poor and bad. The company will go bust.
There are five countries around this region. There is Malaysia , and then Indonesia.
To the east there is the Philippines and then there is that small enclave called the Sultanate of Brunei. All these four countries have abundance of natural resources but none can lay claim to have used all these resources to benefit the people.
Poverty was rampant and independence had not brought in any significant benefits to the people. But tiny Singapore without any resources at all managed to bring development to its citizens. It has one of the best public MRT transport systems and airlines in the world and it is a very clean city state. Their universities, health care, ports are among the best in the world.

It is impossible to compare what Singapore has achieved to what all these four countries had so far achieved. It was actually poor management and corruption, and nothing more. Everything is done for the vested interest of the few. Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines and the Sultanate of Brunei need good management teams. They would not be able to do this on their own steam. I would advise that they call on Kuan Yew to show them what good governance is.

Why look East to Japan when it is just next door across the causeway.
Unquote

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore 2011 (SCMS)



It is my second 42km marathon this year, following the last Sundown Marathon which I clocked 4 hrs 32 mins and I hoped to clock 4 hrs 15 mins - a personal target I set for myself. One week before the race, I cut down on long distance running with Chua to give enough rest to my legs.

The race this morning was tough but fortunately for us, the weather was pretty cool and no sign of rain threatening. As expected, the adrenalin rush in me will keep me awake throughout the night. I set my alarm at 3.00am, 2 hours to the flag off at 5.00am and since MRT is running 24/7, I should arrive well ahead of flag-off time. To my little surprise, I managed to catch few hours of sleep but I was already up and running at 2.30 am. Before 3am, I was already walking to Aljunied station on my way to Orchard fully geared.

I was among the early birds and by my reckoning it should be around 3.30am (didn't have my watch on - intentional) Slowly as the clock continued to tick, more and more runners were streaming in. This year 20,000 runners registered for the full marathon, more than the 10km and 21km category. While waiting at the start point, I was hoping to catch my buddy Chua but no luck. I didn't have my mobile phone with me, again it was intentional so that I can run as light as possible. We were to be flagged off near the Mandarin Orchard and exactly 5.00am, off we went.

I aimed to maintain 6 mins per km pace, if I hoped to clock under 4 hrs 15 mins. I was striding consistently, coping well. Best of all, I kept the pacers, the 4 hrs, 4 hrs 15 mins, 4 hrs 30 mins, 4 hrs 45 mins and 5 hrs all the way behind. In fact in the first 10km, the 3 hrs 30 mins pacers were within my sight. I was pacing well within the 6 mins/km target. The first 10km took us from Orchard to New Bridge Road and into the business district. From there, we ran past F1 pit and to Fort Road. From Fort Road, we then headed to East Coast Park and all the way to East Coast Lagoon. At the first East Coast Park, I saw a lone African runner who was way ahead of the rest of the pack. He was already heading back the opposite direction to the city. He was more than 10km in front of me, covered near 30km at that juncture and I had then covered about 15km. Like the rest, we clapped as he strode past. A group of African runners were trying to catch up with him. Then further down, I saw our first local runner, an Indian. Finally, Mok, our local champion was with a group of runners who was trailing behind. Not surprising, he was nursing injury for few months and surely, he lost some of his fitness. It was still pitched dark at East Coast Park. I was glad that I was still pacing well, never stopped.

The U-turn near East Coast is the 21km mark and I cleared that hurdle without trouble. However, some few kilometres later, I started to feel fatigue of sorts. I slowed my pace and then I felt hunger, gosh! I was losing energy but there was no pain in my legs after more than 20km run. I started to walk a short distance to sustain the loss of energy from the hunger. I yearned for banana or energy gel but the water point along the East Coast stretch provided just mineral water and 100plus. Some 24 km into the race, the 4 hrs pacers overtook me but it was to be expected. I didn't attempt to keep pace with them, simply let them drift further and further from me. I started to adopt walk and run strategy, hoping to conserve some energy to the last part. After I ran past former Big Splash, I caught sight of Clarence on the opposite side. I shouted at him and he merely acknowledged less his jovial self, gave him a thumbs-up. From the look of it, I knew he was struggling. Hey, who wasn't...I was also trying to sustain the fatigue in my body and legs.

Some 30km into the race, the 4 hrs 30 mins pacers ran past me. I knew I will not be able to achieve my personal best time of 4 hrs 15 mins and under. I just have to keep going, telling myself to finish the race no matter what. Frankly, the last 10 km was the toughest when fatigue got the better of me. My legs wanted to run but my mind told me to walk. I managed to grab a banana after 30km mark at the water point but still couldn't finish the whole banana.

When one of the marhsals shouted 7km more, I was already aching all over. I wondered whether I could muster enough energy to run the last 7km and as much as I would like to, I had to switch from walking to running and back. This slowed down my pace considerably and at some 36km mark, the 4 hrs 45 mins pacers strode past me. I had 3 km more to the finish, just tag along to them I told to myself. But suddenly, my right calf pulled a cramp and I had to stop. After some stretching, I resumed my run and walk but the pacers had by then moved ahead and ahead of me.

We had to run up the Benjamin Sheares and a sign indicated this is a 'Heartbreak Bridge' because it is upslope for a good 800 metres. At that juncture, we joined the rest of the 21km runners and it was frustrating overtaking them. The bridge was packed with runners, I had to move from side to side just to overtake them (damn, they were walking as if it was a stroll in the park). It was frustrating. And near the F1 pit, 10km runners were linked to us. It was not enjoyable running the final 2km stretch from F1 to City Hall, chock-a-block with rest of the runners from other categories. I lost the inspiration to push the final 2 km, frustration got the better of me. Finally, at the final turn to City Hall, I just ran less the usual 'boost' I reserved for the final 100 metres. The clocked showed 4 hours 50 mins plus when I ran past it. Personal best was not achieved but I am glad that I have completed my 4th marathon in 3 years.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

North East Run 2011 Pasir Ris - Punggol on 20.11.2011



This North East Run which was organised by North East Community Development Council was scheduled this morning at Pasir Ris Park and we had registered for the 14km event. Winnie was supposed to run, however she did not feel confident enough as she has not been training regularly. With her not running, I will be pacing Dora and CK who will be running the year end Stanchart half marathon.

On last Friday, I had a 28.5km run with Chua and I know better not to push too much but pacing Dora should suffice. In fact, we had a bet. If she runs under 1 hr 30 mins, she wins and beyond, I win. The stake - lunch. Based on her current performance, I am confident that she can clock under 1 hr 25 mins and I am likely (glad too) to lose this lunch bet to her.

This morning, I picked her up at Ang Mo Kio station at 6.15am where she took the first train from her house at Admiralty. We then headed to Pasir Ris to pick up CK who was already waiting at the kiosk near his home. We arrived at Pasir Ris park well before 7am. To my surprise, traffic was not heavy and there were ample parking lots nearby too. At that instance, my gut feel told me not many runners were expected for this event. The men's event was to flag-off at 7am and we advised CK to run with the men while I will pace Dora in the women's event which was to be flagged off at 7.15am. While waiting, I met Alan Cheong who was competing in the men's 14km run. We had a quick exchange and wished each other well before he moved further ahead. At a glance, there were probably lesser than one hundred runners in the women's category. DPM Teo Chee Hien was the guest-of-honour who flagged off both the men's and women's runners.

At 7.20am, we were finally flagged off. It was a cool morning but rain in the early morning made the ground muddy and shoggy. The route around the Pasir Ris park is about 7 km and we had to make 2 loops around the park. As there were not many runners, the run was quite a breeze. We were passing many women runners in front and at some point, some of the men too. Dora was running her normal pace but I can hear her heavy breathing. Typical of her, she did not want any water in the first station. We were running some 2 km by then. Some parts were undulating and we had to avoid pool of water along the route. Otherwise, the route was mostly even and hard.

About 7km into the run, another batch of 7km non-competitive runners were flagged off at about 8am. We ran into them and had to manoveur around the runners in order to push ahead. I can sense Dora's frustation whose run momentum was disrupted trying to pace in front of them. At some point, we had to run on wet grass patch. We managed to move ahead of many of these non-competitve runners. The weather was getting a little warmer by then. Dora kept looking at her watch. When we ran past the 10km mark, she looked at her watch and said, "shit or alamak I am not sure, 59 secs." I knew she meant it was just under 1 hour and that we had 4 km to go and wondered whether we could touch home under 1 hour 25 mins. With 4km left and we just clocked under 1 hour at 10km mark, barring any unforseeable we should be able to achieve our target. I just told her to ignore her watch and concentrate in the run. Her pace was steady in the first 10km but slowed somewhat in the last 4km. In the last 2km, I moved ahead for her to tag on me. I kept looking back to make sure she was within sight. When we reached the 1ast 100 metres, I rooted her to make a final dash. She did despite the agony she was in and we touched home together. There was no timing shown but by our reckoning, we had come under 1 hour 25 mins and I have lost the bet. CK was already waiting for us at the finishing and his timing was not that far from us either. Both CK and Dora are ready for the year end marathon after this trial run. I had a great run with CK and Dora this morning.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Malaysians Getting Ripped Off

To an average worker, is life better off in Singapore or Malaysia? Hear this from one Malaysian.

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By Mimi Chih

When Tunku Abdul Rahman decided to expel Singapore from the Federation of Malaya leading to the Independence of Singapore on August 9, 1965, the world did not expect this tiny island Republic with a population of 1.8 million then to stand tall as one of the original Four Asian Tigers, along with Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan 46 years later. Well, this Lion City has certainly ventured forth roaring all the way with a lion heart.

How does one measure the success of a country? To the people, it is reflected in their overall standard of living. Not every country is lucky enough to have a team of intelligent people whose passionate objectives drive them to make their country a better place to live – for everyone. Singapore is one such country. Today this island republic has one of the highest standard of living in South East Asia.

Which Malaysian could imagine that some 46 years after the split, Singapore’s exchange rate to the ringgit would hit a dizzying rate of RM2.41 (Nov 11, 2011)? August 1972 was the last time that the SGD (Singapore Dollar) was almost on par with the (RM) ringgit at SGD100:RM100.10. For an average wage earner in the Lion City making SGD2500 a month, going for a 10 days holiday to the US or Australia or Europe once a year is a relatively small matter.

What happened to Malaysia? In 1965 when Singapore was expelled, Malaysia had everything that the island republic glaringly lacked – ample land, a plethora of natural resources, an operating government, and 9.3 million people.

Unfortunately, in the 46 years that has come to past, Malaysia has been bogged down by a number of issues which are clearly distracting the government from doing what it is supposed to be doing.

The ruling government (UMNO) in Malaysia is debating whether education in English would be significantly beneficial to the rakyat, the opposition PAS’ vehement stance in wanting to forcibly implement the hudud laws and banning Elton John from performing in Malaysia because of his sexual orientation, and the Obedient Wives Club’s proposition that Muslim women should be obedient and strive to approach sex with their hubbies not just on a physical level but on the higher spiritual realm.

There are also questions posed to DAP’s national chairman Karpal Singh by MCA’s leader Datuk Seri Dr. Chua Soi Lek whether a non-Muslim should first convert to Islam if they wanted to be deputy prime minister should Pakatan become the ruling government. These are just a handful of endless annoying issues which UMNO has had to deal with on a daily basis.

In 2011 Singapore’s population stands at 5.18 million (63% are Singaporean citizens while 37% are permanent residents). Malaysia’s population as at July 2011 is 28.73 million. Without getting into advanced mathematical calculations, one would deduce that economies of scale would be more achievable in the country that has 28.73 million people versus 5.18 million. This is not the case.

The cost of living is relative to the ability to earn. Lets establish the value of currency in terms of the wage rate (Malaysia does not have a Minimum Wage rate yet). In Singapore the average general worker such as a merchandiser in a supermarket /department store or the cashier serving you at Mc Donald’s earns SGD5.50 – 6.00 per hour. In Malaysia similar positions start at RM4 – 6 per hour.

But take a look at how much things cost in Malaysia. A kopi si peng costs SGD0.90 to SGD1.20 in clean kopi shops/food courts in Singapore while it costs RM1.80 to RM2.00 in Malaysia. A Chinese roasted duck costs SGD18-25 each . In Malaysia, at the market rate of RM48 per bird, eating roasted duck is a luxury.

As my niece, a 2 year Sunway College graduate with an Accounting degree and ACCA cert is fond of saying, “A person earning peanuts (SGD peanuts, OK) in Singapore can still afford to buy Peter Pan Honey Roasted Peanut Butter imported from the US. A Malaysian earning peanuts in Malaysia can’t even afford to smell any peanut butter.” She adds, “SGD10 in Singapore goes a lot further than RM10 in Malaysia!”

Needless to say, Malaysia has already lost her to the Lion City – talk about brain drain. More than 13 young Accounting graduates from her circle of friends have eagerly taken the same path.

How is it that the cost of so many basic foods and day to day consumable items end up being so much more expensive in Malaysia? Malaysian politicians need to start talking in a meaningful language to the people. For a start, they can talk in terms of bringing down the cost of foods and consumables in Malaysia while striving for a decent standard. The rakyat will surely want to listen to the party that can talk sense about making their RM10 go further than at its current limpy and lethargic rate. It would be nice for average income earning Malaysians to be able to afford US made Peter Pan Honey Roasted Peanut Butter.

Forget the hudud laws for now. Being obedient wives is interesting…. but it’s not an urgent matter. Lets not fret on this issue. Why must a capable non-muslim candidate convert to Muslim to be the Deputy Prime Minister? Would converting to Muslim make the candidate a better Deputy Prime Minister? Finally, do let Elton John dazzle the Malaysians for just one nite – he is not a terrorist. He is truly an accomplished, world class musician and entertainer.
Unquote

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Why Malaysia is not a member of the Asia Tigers Club of Singapore, Hong Kong, S. Korea and Taipei

Personal note: Why are we, Singapore constantly praised by foreigners while our very own people continue to discredit the good works of our government? Read this article by one opposition member in Malaysia.

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By Dr Chen Man Hin, DAP life advisor

Can PM transform Malaysia to become a high income nation in 2016. When he cannot improve the economy to join the Asia tigers club of Singapore, Hong Kong, S. Korea and Taipei?

When became PM in 2009, Najib announced his proposals to transform the economy with his Economic Transformation Program (ETP) by injection of tens of billion ringgits promised largely by government related companies. His predecessor Tun Mahathir also injected billions but the economy scarcely moved and the FDIs did not come in.

But money is not the primary mover of the economy. More importantly it is manpower.

Since 1970, the NEP has been a negative factor to drive the economy. With the NEP the GDP of Malaysia began to fall far behind those of Singapore, Hong Kong, S. Korea and Taiwan. Even now, the NEP has been a major factor in chasing away hundreds of thousands of our skilled manpower overseas, and this has affected the economy. While the four tigers leaped ahead to high income economies, while Malaysia stagnated.

Even today, the NEP continues to disappoint the young men and women who continue to emigrate overseas to seek better opportunities. Statistics show a million of young Malaysians are now overseas, with half of them in Singapore. Largely because of their skills, the Singapore economy has rocketed upwards, and its per capita income is now the highest in Asia.

Because of the NEP, our youths are not properly educated. Science and Maths are the foundation stones to train our youths in schools and universities to be engineers, scientists and research workers to propel our society into the IT era. Proficiency in English is the key to Science and Maths. And yet the ministry is not keen to keep PPSMI policy to teach our students to be conversant with English.

It is the basic thing to do, to use English to teach science and maths in schools and universities, so that the country can be an IT economy, which translates to a high income economy.

The World Bank has produced a paper criticising the NEP as the cause for the deterioration of academic standards of Malaysian universities. It is a sad thing to report that world renowned ranking organisations have not ranked our universities as world class like National University of Singapore and Hong Kong University. As a matter of fact, not one university in Malaysia is ranked as world class.

So much for PM Najib boast that our country will be 1 Malaysia.
Unquote

Sunday, October 30, 2011

S'pore's Success: An Observer's Take

Penned by David Mason, a former partner of Price Waterhouse and is now running his own consultancy in business communications in the United Kingdom.

His article first appeared in the Business Times on 25 Oct, Tuesday and also in the Straits Time on 27 Oct, Thursday.

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I've been coming to Singapore for the last 48 years, which makes me feel ancient. Mind you, the first visit in 1963 was merely a one-day stopover on a ship back to the United Kingdom.

We berthed at what is now the container terminal and I bought my first transistor radio at what is now Raffles Place, from a small shop which was near Change Alley. We could not afford Robinsons on other side of the park.

Immediately, I can hear young Singaporeans saying: "Huh?"

Singapore has changed dramatically. I came to live here in 1979 and stayed until 1997. Since then, I have worked here on and off every year and have had the opportunity to see the place change and grow.

Modern Singapore is a success story. From a swampy island, beset with mosquitoes, whose only claim to success was its geographical location and its huge harbour, it has become one of the world's leading cities.

You all know the statistics, because you are brought upon on them. Shipping, oil refining, transport hub, banking centre, high-tech R&D, regional centre in every way. Singapore is a success.

Yet this is fragile.

The world is truly global economically and Singapore exists only because of economics. The current outlook for the global economy is scary, to say the least, so Singapore must take stock.

You have had the same governing party since Independence and, if I have learnt one thing from them, it is that the nation requires stability. Without it, you are lost. I'll avoid the arguments about democracy because I'd like you to let me in next time I come to Changi.

But the message is very clear- do not throw away what your forefathers fought so hard to establish.

The modern Singapore shocks - in the nicest sense. Our first home was in Upper Thomson, with kampungs on three sides. The night soil tanker visited every morning and woke me up, to get to work in a non-aircon bus.

Being an ang moh (Caucasian) and not used to the weather, I used to leave wet marks under my shoes by the time we got to Ocean Building. Now you have the most modern of buildings, an advanced transport system (okay, it gets crowded, but the aircon works) and fairly full employment.

You are also known as a place of enjoyment for the well-heeled, and some of the now live here. You have casinos, Formula One racing, the best zoo in the world, arguably the world's best food and an amazing number of foreigners.

Which is where this starts to get serious.

Singapore started and sustained itself through the incredible efforts of its people. The Government was tough and restrictive, but for a good reason - to establish and prosper as a nation.

Discipline was key to this and I know - I had my hair cut in 1979, but I didn't really mind. I had the privilege of working with several of the "Old Guard" and admired their ethic. Singapore prospered and built so much of its current infrastructure because of it.

The Housing Board estates are the best public housing in the world. Don't believe it? Try another country.

Jurong has just one unbelievable for its size. The CBD has to be close to the best in the world for businesses.

But there is a problem. Years ago, if a taxi driver even mentioned political dissent, we would both look around to see who was listening.

Today, I hear dissent from many Singaporeans. The last General Election is testatment to a growing sense of unease among the population. The haves and the have-nots are getting further apart and the discipline is fading.

There is much dissent about the apparent unchecked immigration from Asian sources, despite the agreed need for it on macro-economic grounds.

What worries me as a sympathetic observer is not the development and the immigration - I can only applaud it. It is the lack of knowledge and sensitivity of the younger generation of Singaporeans.

Singapore was fought for and won as a globally important nation by the mid 1980s. Its younger management have been born since then and display two general problems. the first is that "it has always been like this, so it will continue" - an awful sense of birthright and complacency. The second is a lack of understanding of how the country was born in the first place.

Asians have a tradition of respect for their elders. Singaporeans are in danger of losing it. If you do so, you put your nation at risk.
Unquote

Monday, October 24, 2011

Four Nations, Four Lessons

This is taken from Malaysia politician, YB Lim Kit Siang's blog post, http://blog.limkitsiang.com/2011/10/23/four-nations-four-lessons/ by this gentleman, Gregory Mankiw.

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By N. GREGORY MANKIW
The New York Times
October 22, 2011

AS the economy languishes, politicians and pundits are debating what to do next. When we look around the world, it’s hard to find positive role models. But as we search for answers, it is useful to keep in mind those fates that we would like to avoid.

The recent economic histories of four nations are noteworthy: France, Greece, Japan and Zimbabwe. Each illustrates a kind of policy mistake that could, if we are not careful, presage the future of the United States economy. Think of them as the four horsemen of the economic apocalypse.

Let’s start with Zimbabwe. If there were an award for the world’s worst economic policy, it might well have won it several times over the past decade. In particular, in 2008 and 2009, it experienced truly spectacular hyperinflation. Prices rose so fast that the central bank eventually printed 100 trillion-dollar notes for people to carry. The nation has since abandoned using its own currency, but you can still buy one of those notes as a novelty item for about $5 (American, that is).

Some may find it hard to imagine that the United States would ever go down this route. But reckless money creation is apparently a concern of Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, who is seeking the Republican nomination for president. He suggested in August that it would be “almost treasonous” if Ben S. Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, were to print too much money before the election. Mr. Perry is not alone in his concerns. Many on the right fear that the Fed’s recent policies aimed at fighting high unemployment will mainly serve to ignite excessive inflation.

Mr. Bernanke, however, is less worried about the United States turning into Zimbabwe than he is about it turning into Japan.

Those old enough to remember the 1980s will recall that Japan used to be an up-and-coming economic superpower. Many people then worried (too much, in my view) that Japan’s rapid growth was a threat to prosperity in the United States, in much the same way that many people worry today (too much, in my view) about rapid growth in China.

The concerns about Japanese hegemony came to a quick end after bubbles in the real estate and stock markets burst in the early 1990s. Since then, Japan has struggled to regain its footing. Critics of the Bank of Japan say it has been too focused on quelling phantom inflationary threats and insufficiently concerned about restoring robust economic growth.

One of those critics was Mr. Bernanke, before he became Fed chairman. Watching Japanese timidity and failures has surely made him more willing to experiment with unconventional forms of monetary policy in the aftermath of our own financial crisis.

The economists in the Obama administration are also well aware of the Japanese experience. That is one reason they are pushing for more stimulus spending to prop up the aggregate demand for goods and services.

Yet this fiscal policy comes with its own risks. The more we rely on deficit spending to keep the economy afloat, the more we risk the kind of sovereign debt crisis we have witnessed in Greece over the past year. The Standard & Poor’s downgrade of United States debt over the summer is a portent of what could lie ahead. In the long run, we have to pay our debts — or face dire consequences.

To be sure, the bond market doesn’t seem particularly worried about the solvency of the federal government. It is still willing to lend to the United States at low rates of interest. But the same thing was true of Greece four years ago. Once the bond market starts changing its mind, the verdict can be swift, and can lead to a vicious circle of rising interest rates, increasing debt service and budget deficits, and falling confidence.

Bond markets are now giving the United States the benefit of the doubt, partly because other nations look even riskier, and partly in the belief that we will, in time, get our fiscal house in order. The big political question is how.

The nation faces a fundamental decision about priorities. To maintain current levels of taxation, we will need to substantially reduce spending on the social safety net, including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and the new health care program sometimes called Obamacare. Alternatively, we can preserve the current social safety net and raise taxes substantially to pay for it. Or we may choose a combination of spending cuts and tax increases. This brings us to the last of our cautionary tales: France.

Here are two facts about the French economy. First, gross domestic product per capita in France is 29 percent less than it is in the United States, in large part because the French work many fewer hours over their lifetimes than Americans do. Second, the French are taxed more than Americans. In 2009, taxes were 24 percent of G.D.P. in the United States but 42 percent in France.

Economists debate whether higher taxation in France and other European nations is the cause of the reduced work effort and incomes there. Perhaps it is something else entirely — a certain joie de vivre that escapes the nose-to-the-grindstone American culture.

We may soon be running a natural experiment to find out. If American policy makers don’t rein in entitlement spending over the next several decades, they will have little choice but to raise taxes close to European levels. We can then see whether the next generation of Americans spends less time at work earning a living and more time sipping espresso in outdoor cafes.

N. Gregory Mankiw is a professor of economics at Harvard. He is advising Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, in the campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.
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Sunday, October 23, 2011

OCBC Cycle Malaysia 2011, 16 Oct 2011



This was my second cycling event this year, experienced my first with OCBC in Singapore earlier this year and following suit, its Malaysia edition. I enjoyed the Singapore edition and was certainly keen to partake in the Malaysia one which was a first by OCBC. I managed to convince my running mate, Chua to join me though Chua is not as avid as me when it comes to cycling.

The event was scheduled on 16 Oct, Sunday. We planned to be in KL one day prior; to check out the venue and to collect our kits, among others. I had booked DoubleTree by Hilton, the official hotel of the event but to our dismay, it was 'official in name' as not much of publicity could be found at the hotel premises, save for a lone pull-out banner displayed at one corner of the lift lobby. It is a nice and comfy hotel, no doubt.

I picked up Chua at his place in Bukit Panjang before 7am on Saturday as we had to cross the Woodlands causeway before 8am if we wanted to avoid the heavy jam later. We managed to place our two roadies with two front wheels taken out inside the car. After crossing the Woodlands causeway, we headed to Taman Sentosa to patronise the famous Ah Koon 'Bak Kut Tei' stall but we were too early, it was still not opened yet. We settled for a quickie one at a coffeeshop nearby.

Chua is familiar with the place, directed me to the shortest route leading to the highway and soon we were on the way to KL. Enroute and at Chua's recommendation, we stopped over at Tangkak to have mee hoon beef soup at a popular stall. No wrong, the beef soup is simply fantastic. Knowing the rouge traffic cops on the highway especially on the weekends, I kept to the 110km/hr speed limit throughout unless overtaking. We reached KL around 12 noon but took us a while looking for our hotel which is along Tun Razak and Ampang Road. Traffic in KL was smooth sailing being a Saturday, phew!

After we did our check-in, we were off to Avenue K to pick up our kits. We planned to take a short LRT ride from our hotel to Avenue K, just one stop away according to the map shown. A nice Caucasian man advised us to walk pointing to the right direction as it is definitely faster than taking LRT. Thanks to him, he was right, indeed. I even joked to Chua who is a Malaysian but have to rely on an 'ang moh' to show us the right way.

Admittedly,I was expecting throngs of people from participants to visitors at the mall but I was somewhat disappointed to see not so much of a fanfare there. There were few booths selling related cycling wares & apparels, it took a glance to see all. Prior to that, I had received an email from the event organisers that some 1,000 French-made cycling shorts and jerseys will be sold but almost everything was not available. I cannot pick up a ladies cycling pants for Dora as there was no L size left, of any brands. However, I only managed to pick up an OCBC Malaysia edition cycling pants for RM90 for myself.

After picking up our kits, Chua and I went separate way. He was meeting his brother & sister and later his old friends for dinner while I headed to Chooi Nee's work place to pass her some of her things.

It always happens to me before and again, I suffered insomnia. I fought very hard to go to sleep despite retiring to bed early. I was kept awake, sleeping intermittently. We woke up by 4.45am and by 5am, we were already down at the concierge to pick up our bikes. We met a couple from Singapore and they later joined us cycling to the start venue at Dataran Merdeka which is about 5km away.

Soon, we met more cyclists along Ampang Road and we then formed a convoy. I was in front and a car just sped past. It made a abrupt stop some 100 metres in front and then, turned a full 180 degree circle. I can smell the burnt of tyres. It then turned back and sped off, damn...bunch of drunken fellas and if they had escaped this time, they won't be lucky next time and may God bless them.

We arrived at Dataran Merdeka before 5.30am, some one hour to the flag-off at 6.30am. It was still pitched dark and Chua and I just hang around. A short while later, we could hear the MC trying to make his announcement but most of time, I couldn't hear what he said. The sound system was too soft and also the MC was just too boring. Bikes of different made and brands, mostly roadies, some foldies and some mountain bikes were streaming in.

We were at the start line, somewhere in the mid section and by 6.30am, we were not flagged off yet. It was only around 6.45am when the first horn sounded. We moved out batch by batch and by the time we were flagged off, it was around 7am by my reckoning (I didn't really check the time and I didn't have my watch with me either). Chua was just behind me, he was quiet throughout and when we sped off, we simply could not stick together. I later learnt he was very nervous on seeing so many cyclists. We had to watch out for other cyclists and be safe. Anyway, we had chosen a waiting spot after we have finished the race.

After the first turn, we headed to Kenny Heights and this is the toughest route I soon learnt. It is quite a steep slope which we had to ascend for quite a distance. I know I am not good when it comes to steep slope. Speed was reduced to lesser than 20km, dropping to 12km (at last 2 laps) but on the downhill, I can hit beyond 50km. Already on the first lap, I saw a casualty who was sitting by the side of the road and head bloodied.

We had to do five laps (each lap was about 10.5km) for a total of 52km in all. We cycled into the heart of KL. The first two laps were generally alright where traffic was kept at bay. I was doing about 30km on average, had to slow down at each turn and from time to time, watch out for charging cyclists from behind. Chua was nowhere in sight, he was either in front or behind. On the third lap, some cars and motorcylists were allowed in. It was a tight space and we really had to cycle with great care, knowing too well the notorious traffic in KL.

On my fourth lap, I had to stop for traffic to pass. Some impatient cyclists shouted at the traffic policemen to allow us through but to no avail, we had to wait for a good few minutes. Again, on my fifth and last lap which I had accelerated faster than the last four laps, we were stopped at the traffic junction. This time, longer than expected. In the last two stops, I reckon more than 5 minutes were wasted.

While I was heading to the finishing line, about 30 metres away and just in front of me, I saw one cyclist who just fell without anyone crashing on him and it was face down on him. Boy, it must be a bad fall for him. I cannot stop as more cyclists were zooming home on the final stretch, just shouted so that the medics could hear me.

After dismounting from the bike, I headed to the exit as directed by the organising personnel. A finishing medal was placed on me (actually, I cheekyly asked the lady to hang on me instead of passing to me). Another surprise awaits...more medals were left on two tables were left unattended and some were seen helping themselves to more medals. If there were not medals to be given out, this is likely the cause.

A short while later, Chua emerged. He was just some 20 or 30 seconds behind me, great effort by him. We later chanced upon the same couple and together, we cycled back to our hotel. The whole organisation was not perfectly executed, probably it was the first time for OCBC organisers. I can understand and accept some lapses but the biggest letdown is to allow cars and motorcyclists in and this is where cyclist safety is compromised. If the venue in the heart of KL is not ideal for such event, it is better to change to another place where traffic is manageable or not have it at all - this is my take.

On the same day, we checked out and drove back. Again, while enroute, we detoured to Tangkak for our beef mee hoon soup and I think this is the highlight of our trip, not the cycling. For the experience, yes but to cycle next year, a likely no.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Stemming the Malaysian exodus

Taken from the blog of Malaysian veteran politician, YB Lim Kit Siang, an article written by a Douglas Tan from The Malaysian Insider.

Many Singaporeans, especially the Gen Y are grumbling about living in Singapore, the high cost, lack of freedom, among others but alot more Malaysians are eager to seek lives outside, read on.

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— Douglas Tan
The Malaysian Insider
Oct 12, 2011

OCT 12 — Recently, YB Teresa Kok asked me, “Why are Malaysians so keen to leave this country? Life overseas is not necessarily easier!” I agree that life overseas is not necessarily so. In fact, my cousins living in Hong Kong, Singapore and London tell me regularly that they miss the food and that everything is much cheaper at home (except cars). They complain about the weather, high cost of living and their long working hours. Despite this, when the possibility of coming back home is raised, they give me a smile and a shake of their head.

Is living in Malaysia really so bad? What is it that other countries have that we don’t? YB Lim Kit Siang posted on his blog in December 2009 that more than 630 Malaysians migrate overseas everyday, and that number is increasing year on year.

This is a worrying statistic and the brain drain issue is one that the current government acknowledges is a problem. However, the best they can come up with to make Malaysians come back are tax breaks, and tax-free vehicles. From day one, it has become apparent these ‘perks’ would simply not work.

This government has a habit of tackling problems by providing quick fixes. The 2012 Budget should really be called the ‘quick-fix’ budget as RM232 billion is mindlessly spent, with unrealistic economic growth forecasts to back it up.

Yes, 60 per cent of households would receive a RM500 relief and we thank the government for it. What then? RM500 does not combat rising costs, or inflation. How far can RM500 bring us nowadays? Not very far. In no time at all, that RM500 has become a distant memory and we are back to square one.

The Kedai 1 Malaysia initiative was put in place by the government to sell cheap products subsidised by the government, and more are to be opened across the nation. Shop owners are now screaming in displeasure as they cannot possibly compete. If the government is intent on handing out subsidies, subsidise the shops which are already operating! Another poorly planned quick fix that provides no long-term solution.

Where is the long-term economic plan? Where is the investment in our children’s future? Fixing school buildings is an excellent initiative, but the real problem lies in the fabric of the education system.

Our children are taught to be robots, to regurgitate material and not to question their teachers. Many scoff at the lowering of standards in the ongoing PMR exams, and an Additional Mathematics SPM paper was allegedly leaked to tuition centres. Is all this in the name of grades, just to make the Education Ministry look good? How can this system prepare our children to be competent, effective members of society? The biggest losers in all of this are our nation’s children.

A friend over dinner told me earnestly that he was preparing to leave the country for the sake of his children. As disheartening as it was to hear, he proceeded to tell me why.

His vision for his children was for them to grow up in a society in which they would not be discriminated against. Although racism is also prevalent in other countries, in Malaysia, racism is institutionalised and sanctioned by the Barisan Nasional government.

Furthermore, corruption is rampant throughout all levels of government. The payment of corruption money in cases of obtaining building or business licenses is so prevalent, that many businesses have included such a payment in their expense budgets. How can this continue be the case?

These issues are all correlated, and opportunities continue to be stifled. Talented people leave because Malaysia appears to have no appreciation for their abilities. Nepotism and favouritism are practised on the basis of the “Lu tolong gua, Gua tolong lu” principle rather than getting the best person for the job.

Our English standards have been lowered in order to record more exam passes, but quality is sacrificed as a result. If even masters degree holders from local universities are unable to speak proper English, how can we then become a globally competitive nation?

After this Budget, more and more people are convinced that this BN government cares only about staying in power and not for the long-term development of the nation. The exodus of talented individuals will continue unless necessary reforms are put in place.

On a recent trip to the United States, on our stopover in Hong Kong, a fellow passenger remarked that they could finally talk about issues of Malaysia as they dared not voice out their displeasures at home. Recalling so many holding up their fingers to their lips to shush their friends from bringing up national issues, it is obvious that many feel we are living under oppression.

Finally, one of my old schoolmates residing in Australia told me that he wanted to come home to take care of his parents. “But the biggest thing stopping me from coming home now is the government”. A change in government may not automatically bring Malaysians home, but what it would do is provide hope for the future of our nation, and hope for our future generations.

Change is needed, and change has to happen now.
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Sunday, October 09, 2011

Trip To Pelepah Falls, Kota Tinggih





It was my first outing organised by YMCA but for sure, won't be my last with them after this enjoyable trip. We've found good new company, especially the senior citizens among us.

The trip was scheduled on 8 Oct, Saturday and the 6 of us, Dora, CK, Kiat Sing, Kany, Yan Ping and me had arranged to meet at Woodlands station by 0645 hrs to take a Johor bound TIBS bus over to Singapore Woodlands check-point where we were supposed to link up with the rest. Unfortunately, we later learnt from Kiat Sing that Kany and Yan Ping had taken ill thus had to give this trip a miss. We arrived at Singapore check-point before 0700 hrs, early for us as the meet up was scheduled at 0730 hrs. While waiting, we witnessed an accident. A Malaysia registered combi was making a reverse which rammed into another Malaysia registered combi. Not a major accident, the rear of one dented the front of the other. Quickly, Dora took down the number plates of the two combis (cannot remember the number now) and asked whether anyone of us wanted to buy 4-D. All 4 of us placed S$10 each to try our luck (but later in the evening on our way back home, there was no news from Dora's father who bought on our behalf did not call and we knew our bet had gone up into smoke...haiz!).

The organiser, Sze Haw finally turned up with the rest and we took SBS bus 160 to cross over to the Johor side where our coach was waiting for us. I was pleasantly surprised they had arranged a luxurious super vip 26-seater coach for us - I was actually expecting a combi. We waited a little longer for another person, a Czek who missed his bus and was trying to find his way to the immigration. When he turned up, he sat across the aisle from me and then made a brief introduction of himself. Peter is a professor from NUS, been to Singapore just 5 days ago. One final count there were 22 of us including the organisers from YMCA.

We had our breakfast in Ulu Tiram and after that, we made one more final stop to shop for the much sought after 'kampong adidas' shoes since it was going to be a wet wet trail throughout. With our arrival, the shop was kept busy by us. After trying some, I bought a pair at RM6.50, really worth the money. More than 10 pairs were bought from our group.

We finally arrived at Kota Tinggih Waterfall and it was just before 1100 hrs. The guide, Azhahari and his 3 younger assistants were already waiting for us. After a brief introduction, we were ready to make our way to the fall. We slowly made our way, the 4 of us, Dora, CK and Kiat Sing stick close to each other. We had to trek on water and the 'kampong adidas' was a god-send to me. The weather looked fine, we couldn't have asked for more. It was easy walking as the initial part was mostly flat. Gracie, another organiser from YMCA told us there are altogether 7 waterfalls along the way and it should take 2 hours to reach, barring any unforseeable.

When we reached our first rest point and then someone pointed to a leech that landed on the foot of our veteran guide, Azahari who does not look panicky at all. Dora could have freaked out at the mere sight of a leech but she was surprising quiet, perhaps she was trying to conceal her fear for leeches from the others. A nice elderly gentleman in our group, Muthu came over and volunteered to solve this 'leechy' saga (without being asked in the first place). He asked our guide whether he had any leech repellant of sorts to take the leech out to which our guide said he had none. He (Muthu) then said saliva should the problem as there is alkaline in the saliva which will 'loosen' the grip of the leech or something to that effect. As he was about to 'gamely' spit his saliva on the guide's foot, he politely asked, "May I...?". With an amused look on his face, the guide stopped him in time and then, using his fingers, just yanked out the leech in our presence. He even gave put the leech in his mouth claiming leeches can be a delicacy in the wilderness. We had a good laugh (I still can't stop laughing the good gesture of Muthu and his leech wisdom in the midst of typing this, my apology Muthu my friend).

That joke aside, Muthu is really a gentleman throughout the trek. He was always looking out for people whenever there was a break in between, signalling us to the right direction. There were these two ladies, Irene and Agnes and Muthu was always there to help them out. Irene by the way is 60 year-old and ever so sporty and best of all she does not look 60 at all. And Muthu, he is 66 years old and he is a retired teacher. Little wonder why he is always so helpful. These are senior citizens and they are still enjoying the outdoor events as much as we do. How can I say I am old at 49 when both Muthu and Irene are still going strong, going into their 60.

Though it was not a long trek but some parts can be quite treacherous. As we were trekking along the waterfall, walking alone can be one challenging chore too. The rocks are slippery and any wrong step may land hard on the bum. Kiat Sing had a hard knock on the head as she missed seeing a big rock above her. I even heard the sound from the back - that was really a hard knock, ouch! I also had a hard knock on the left side of my lower back while hastily making my way down. I thought with the rope I was gripping on should hold steady for me but I was wrong. We had to be careful while inching our walk through. There are few steep slopes along the way and we have to muscle our way up using ropes. Kiat Sing was determined to make it all the way up but knowing her already, she is afraid of height. I then volunteered to carry her backpack so that she can conserve more energy for the climb. For that, she bought me ice cream later

What's the reward for us? The water gushing down from the fall is simply magnificent, a sight behold. I swam to the waterfall and sat under the gushing water from above to have a good massage on my head and my back. Kiat Sing joined in later but CK and Dora decided to keep dry. Soon, more joined us. I have always love waterfall, going under the gushing water and get beaten up or simply soak in the cool water. When the weather darkened and rain starting to drop, we knew we had to leave the place fast. Getting down the same way we did on the way up was more challenging. Everyone waited for each other before moving on, the guide and his assistants were simply superb. I had a good conversation with Muthu on the way down, a real jovial guy to be with. I know I am bad - I made fun of his hair (he is bald just like me) saying the water gushing on his head may well have pulled out whatever little he has now but he was a good sport indeed. For posterity, we took picture with our botak heads joined like Siamese twins during our firefly ride.

We found good company especially with Rose, Agnes & Irene (the 3 friends who came together) and Muthu during dinner. We chatted as if there is no tomorrow and joked like good old friends. During the firefly boat tour, we, the senior citizen group were the noisest and we had to be reminded again and again to remain quiet so as not to 'scare off the flyflies'. The Gen Y group seated at another table was mostly reserved. It was certainly one of the better outings I had and new friends are made. Thanks all for the wonderful time and I look forward to more with YMCA.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

An Internship Experience: Sara Lau

With permission from Malaysia opposition MP, YB Tony Pua, this article by Sara Lau was taken from his blog.

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Sara Lau is a lawyer who has recently graduated from Reading and will be completing her bar in London. She interned with me in August and below are her thoughts.

“You are young, talented, hardworking and determined – where do you want to go after you graduate?”

I have always thought myself optimistic about my country. When people asked me whether I wanted to stay or leave after my studies, I always answered that I wanted to be a lawyer in Malaysia – to work for my community and my country. When my peers told me that their parents told them to run, I was judgmental of them. To me, they were quitters. Maybe Malaysia was not in a good economic place at the moment, but I was so sure in my heart that this will come to pass. On closer inspection, I realised it was not just because of the returns and low wages in Malaysia that was making them run...

I called myself an optimist, but maybe I was just ignorant. Like so many of us, maybe I wanted to close my eyes to the bigotry and pretend that everything was as it should be. But there came a point when I could not answer my friends’ retort on why there was a withholding and vandalism of bibles; why the Government was so pressed against a campaign calling for free and fair elections; why Valentine’s Day cannot be a joyous ocassion back home! I was cornered when they asked – Why should we put up with this partiality? They were hurt. They were discontented and they were just tired of fighting back. I called myself an optimist, but maybe I was just in denial.

I was jaded by the time I came back because suddenly I didn't know the answer. I knew of all these political instabilities, racial insecurities, economic urgencies.... Yet the government remained idle at the height of needing to prove itself. I never called myself a Party supporter because what was logic in my mind was that it did not matter what the government did, and why it did. What mattered was that the people were well taken care of, not taken advantage of, had its civil liberties and were happy. But second chances prove futile when the Government kept letting me down. I remember asking my friend Jian Wei, why didn't they take a stand and do something? He jolted me when he said... "Don't you see? They have already taken their stand."

And then, I needed to find the alternative. Were there people as perplexed as I was? Most want to save themselves before they can't, but this land is mine to inherit! I needed to find people who were geared up as I, who could remind me why I wanted to fight when I am giving up. I needed to find out if I was alone, wanting to return and work because I was needed, because I know I still counted as a number at the very least. I still wanted to be that number for Malaysia.

We hear of our counterparts and peers, tired, wearied, disheartened saying that hope is lost. That while they were young and had alternatives, had to find a place to build themselves, their homes, their families away from injustice, unfairness and discrimination. This was logical - why return to a lover who doesn't love you back? But Malaysia wasn't just a lover, this wasn't just a two person relationship - it was a cause bigger than myself and while I have one life to give, I wanted to make it count. So, likewise disheartened, but contrariwise eager, I wanted to see if the Opposition proved any better than the Government.

My stint with DAP was only a month long. The reason I came into it was because I thought it was not enough to know alternative policies. I wanted to see if their actions corresponded with the news. I wanted to be a judge in my own right and to find out if the Opposition was a risk worth taking. I have always been one to play safe, but these were desperate times to me.

One mistake I had made coming into it was my expectation: unwittingly I had thought my internship would be likened to a classroom where information I wanted came almost automatically. I was wrong. Tony was not the kind to spoon feed - when I wanted information on something, he only provided it if I had done my homework. He wasn't the kind who sat you down, event after event, asking you "Did you understand?", "Do you know what's happening?", "What conclusions can we draw from this?" like a teacher would; instead he allowed you in on the face of conflict there and then, expected you to draw your own inferences and naturally allowed you to draw personal stands and opinions. Looking back, I realise that when I was frustrated about not satisfying my deep hunger for knowledge, I had gotten it all wrong. This stint was about instigating mature observations, not manipulating naivete. And in that sense, he gave me what I asked for in the beginning - a platform to ponder.

Only a 4 week internship, my tasks were varied. Needless to say the high points of the internship revolved around press conferences because it was exciting and in the face of current political happenings, but also because it satisfied a curiosity. Coming from these events to reading mainstream media and then comparing it to online media revealed me to disparities, and unwittingly, the truth (or lies) of Government action. Perhaps the most memorable press conference was at Jalan Sultan where the Opposition pledged support to protecting the area from the MRT land grab fiasco. As a layperson exposed to interactions between politician and politician, public and politician, I saw how the once untouchable arena of politics became unbelievably humanised before my eyes.

Another event that had been incredibly eye-opening was the various voter registration campaigns held almost every week and weekend. Together with Ee May, who is Tony's new assistant, I went to as many drives as I could to volunteer my service. Again, being revealed to the process of voter registration and some conflicts that are embedded in it (such as people being registered as other voters, citizens being denied voting rights because of a lack of religion, disparities in the system regarding voters' information) showed me that there were fundamental flaws within the system that needed to be addressed. More frustrating was also the fact that many young people did not bother to get registered as voters at all, even with our team cajoling and persuading them to! However, seeing Ee May who was relentless in her quest to recruit new voters, I realised that I was not alone: that there were many Malaysians, young and old, fighting for a better Malaysia while they could and before they tired.

This was again proven to me in the focal point of my internship - organising the DAP Selangor English Speaking Fundraising Dinner. The dinner saw an 1000 strong audience, but behind the scenes, I knew that there had been a long waiting list of Malaysians who were very keen to support the dinner and to donate as much funds as they could afford. As I personally managed the bookings, I had multiple conversations with multiple people of all backgrounds, echoing the same sentiments: that they all wanted a better Malaysia. That they had not given up. That they were willing to run the race. That they all loved their home and want to be counted in the numbers. But most importantly – they all spoke with a sense of belonging for Malaysia. As a young Malaysian, jaded by unimpressive returns in her home country, this was enough to remind me, my country was worth my investment, my time, my effort.

I do not know what I had expected to gain from this DAP internship, but what I got was incredibly personal. It was not about politicking or support. It was about self-discovery about my Malaysian identity, about what I can do for my country and about how this will always, always be where my heart belongs. Everyone is looking for a better Malaysia in their lifetime, but now I know it is equally important to run the relay race and pass the baton until that better Malaysia comes to pass.
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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Yellow Ribbon Prison Run



It was my first participation but this Yellow Ribbon Prison run event was the third consecutive year on 18 Sep, Sunday. As I missed the registration last year, I therefore registered early for the 10km competitive run - These offenders should be given second chance in lives.

On last Friday, I had a long evening run with Chua, Dora and CK. Chua and I covered some 18km, slowly building up for the year end Stanchart Marathon. Yesterday (Saturday), one day before the prison run, I decided to skip long cycling and gym activities so that I can get ready, physically & mentally for the run this morning. Though it is a 10km event (my usual practice run is more than 10km each time), I can't help feeling the adrenalin rush inside me.

As expected, I was fighting hard to go to sleep which was quite frustrating. I kept waking up, having intermittent sleep until the alarm sounded off at 5.30am. Before 6am, I was already out of my house. I didn't drive as the starting and finishing were not in the same location. We were to flag off near Changi Village, along Loyang Avenue and ended up at Changi Prison. I planned to take a train to Singapore Expo and then hopped on to the shuttle bus arranged by the organisers. When I arrived at Aljunied station around 6am, it was still early and the first train was scheduled to leave at 6.30am only. I then decided to take bus service no.2 which was to take me all the way to Changi Village instead but it was a long 1-hr ride. I was still early as the flag-off was scheduled at 7.45am.

I was early, arrived at the start line at about 7am. Slowly, I made my way up to the start line. The two comperes, Mark Richmond and Maggie from Gold 90.5FM were ranting away on the mike, keeping us entertained. The vip party arrived around 7.30am, led by Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports, MG Chan Chun Sing. At exactly 7.45am, the horn was sounded and off we went. Mark Richmond reported on the air that some 9,000 runners had registered in this run.

I positioned myself not too far back but avoided the front row for obvious reason. The sun had just risen and I can feel the morning heat at that hour already, sigh! I simply hate the morning heat but do I have a choice? I kept to my usual pace, knowing I needed 5km to warm up my engine. I was hoping to come under 50 mins (my last registered 10km was in 2008 Stanchart where I clocked 53.34 mins), better still, under 45 mins a bold target for myself.

Running along the main road of Loyang Avenue and after 2km, we turned into Loyang Way, the site which houses the Selarang barrack. We ran past old historical building, Changi Chapel & Museum and Johore Battery, among others. The morning heat slowly built up and it made breathing heavier and heavier. The route is quite challenging, very undulating in most part but it was a scenic sight I must admit - alot of greenery along the way.

I had wanted to accelerate my pace after 5km mark but my legs felt heavy. It must be the lactic acid from last Friday long run. I then decided to keep to normal pace. In my typical fashion, I downed a cup of isotonic drink and then poured a cup of plain water over my head at every water station. Turning into the prison premises at 8km, I opened my pace a little knowing the end is near. It was a long 2km inside the confine of the high prison wall. I gave high-5 to some student supporters when passing them, an acknowledgement to thank them for their vociferous cheering.

When I saw the time flashing 52 mins plus from about 100 metres, I didn't muster all my energy to zoom home like I used to do. I just kept to usual pace and the clock was flashing 53 mins 15 seconds or something when I ran past the finishing line. By my reckoning, I should have clocked a net time of 53 mins and under. Well, I didn't meet my personal target of 50 mins & under but I am not disappointed either. This run was for the prison cause, that is key.

Walking out of the prison to catch a bus back, I saw Carolyn from our last Mount Kinabalu expedition who called out to me. She was participating in the 6km fun run and she was on her final leg to the finish, we acknowledged each other and then, parted way.

It was a well organised event, I like the goodie bag and the medal. Thanks to the organiser for a superb event and barring any unforseeable, I should be back next year.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Gunung Belumut Climb



Our meet-up group led by Kwan and SP organised a climb to Gunung Belumut in Kluang on 28 August, Sunday for some 23 of us with one dropping out at last minute. As it was an early morning departure at 7am at Woodlands MRT, we (Anna, CK and I) had arranged to spend a night at Dora's place in Woodlands to save all the hassle of rushing from our home. Also, we were expected to stay up late to watch the 'LIVE' telecast of the PE result on Saturday evening till dawn.

Everyone turned up on time as Kwan kept reminding all that he was prepared to wait till 7.15am for the last person only. I had fish fillet at Macs for breakfast, so too for Anna, CK and Dora who ordered their own share. When we arrived at the Woodlands immigration, Anna felt faint. She said something in her breakfast could have caused her that. At the Johor immigration, we waited for quite a while for her while she rushed to the toilet. Dora kept her company throughout while we waited in the combi. Finally she turned up, looking quite pale and we asked whether she wanted to drop out if she really can't. She decided she will follow the group and then make the decision, whether or not to scale the summit upon our arrival.

It took more than 2 hours to reach Kluang town and the narrow path leading to the ranger office. Gunung Belumut, standing at 1,010 metres (3,314 ft) should not be that tough for any average climber and should take 5 to 6 hours to reach the summit and another 3 to 4 hours to get down.

The place looked so deserted. There was no other vehicle except ours and not a single soul in sight. Even the ranger office remained closed. We were told that we need to engage a mountain guide and not a single guide was around either. This is very peculiar on a Sunday where, typically local crowd should be expected.
We realised it was the tail end of fasting month thus no Muslims will do the climb and also, it happened to be the last day of the Chinese ghost month and obviously, no local Chinese except for us hailing from Singapore. We practically own the whole mountain and have to trek without a mountain guide.

After briefing by Kwan and SP (both have scaled Gunung Belumut on few occasions), we moved off at about 10am. We were told we have to turn back by 3pm if we cannot reach the summit. SP took the lead while Kwan will be the last man. I was staying in the middle, keeping Anna company just in case. She felt better thus decided to join the climb.

It was quite a fairly easy climb from the start but it gets steeper and steeper on the way up. It looks daunting looking up as it seems to have no ending to it. Some paths are misleading and it can lead to nowhere if not careful. As we did not have a mountain guide, we have to look for markers or evidence such as litters left behind by others to assure us that we were not lost. I did not drink much though I bought a small bottle of mineral water and one 1.5 litre of 100plus. I learnt to sip on the mineral water but I saw some who almost finished their water.

Anna, despite her earlier condition did not show any sign of fatigue while CK and Dora kept together. I was either in front or behind them. Before reaching the summit of Gunung Belumut, we have to pass by a 'false summit'. It was another half an hour or less of walking, we finally reached the summit. All of us made it to the summit well before 3pm - hooray. We took turn climbing up the huge boulder, named the 'Crown Rock' for picture taking.

At 3pm, we had to get down. I decided to go down on own and at own pace, knowing Anna and rest should not have problem getting down. I was moving down very fast, almost like running down the slope and grabbing the tree or branch for stability. I was way way ahead of the rest of the group. We were the only mountaineers in this mountain and I was the only one in front...quite eerie, actually! While looking for path at some point, I heard a roar from a distance. I paused for a while and the first thing that sprung to mind, "was it a tiger?". I decided I better not take any chance, picked up a piece of wood for self defence. I knew if attacked, that piece of wood could not do much help either. But it gave me some comfort, at least. I kept looking back in case a lurking tiger charged from behind. I was moving quite fast but stayed very alert.

Finally, I reached the base at 4.40pm. The two drivers were waiting for us. I recounted what happened to the drivers and one told me that there is a tiger in the mountain. I washed up myself and waited for the rest. The second group arrived at 5.30pm followed by the rest. Anna sufferred cramps on the way down and she was helped by Kwan and Richard. They arrived at 6.30pm. Everyone was safe. We reached home late in the evening.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Singapore Presidential Election 2011 - Indulging You with a Piece of My Private Mind



This article is written by a friend of mine and I am pleased to post it on my blog.

Quote
As the Presidential Election Campaign of Singapore is underway, I would like to share my knowledge on what someone needs to know as they prepare to go to cast their vote.

First and foremost, one must recognise that this is not a run to elect a set of policies that a certain political party professes or practices as against the other. The President should be non-parisan, we are not voting for People’s Action Party (PAP), which is the ruling party, or the “Oppositions”. So please get this right before you proceed and please get over the 2011 GE fever because PAP has won the majority vote and shall be the ruling party for the next 5 years. If you are unhappy about their policies and their performance in the next five years, you will get your chance to vote again in five years’ time. If you think that you want a greater representation to come from PAP, you have your chance too in five years’ time.

If you have finally got over party issue-related sentiments and entanglements deep inside you, we shall proceed to the next important thing which is to understand the system that we have and the role of the President in our system. Unlike the American system, Singapore follows the British system of the Constitution.

The Constitution is made up of the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary. Ideally, each of these is meant to be separate and independent for the system to function with sufficient checks and balances based on the idea of separation of powers. One can think of how it was once important to separate the church from the state so as to prevent absolute power from corrupting. In practice, the Legislature and the Executive branch is often fused resulting in the fact that ideal form of separation of power is hardly to be found. The Legislature of Singapore is made up of the President and the Parliament, they are the ones who pass bills; and the Executive of Singapore is made up of the President and the Cabinet, who carry out the policies formulated. And obviously the two is hardly mutually exclusive.

Let us now turn our attention to the Executive branch of the Constitution, or the Government of Singapore, which is made up of the President and the Cabinet which is headed by the Prime Minister. Within the Executive, the President is to act as a check and balance of the Cabinet. However, his ability to exercise his power is often limited by the constituted law. So in reality, the real decision-making power of our Government lies in the hand of the Prime Minister. The role of the President does not however ceased to be important as the need to provide checks and balances is still necessary and relevant, no matter how minimal his authority is.

The Cabinet consisting of fourteen different Ministries works and deliver the policies formulated. It is headed by the Prime Minister, who is none other than Mr. Lee Hsien Long. He has just given his speech on the National Day, addressing policy issues of great concerns to the Singaporean, such as Immigration, Health Care and Housing Cost. All Singaporean looks towards the future with great anticipation of the materialization of these initiatives. To ease your concerns and anxieties about not having any infrastructure to represent your interest, do note that the Government of Singapore has never ceased to work with the fourteen Ministries each working according to the debates in the Parliament. The Parliament now has, with the watershed election of 2011, six Members of Parliament (MP) from the Opposition Party out of the eighty-seven Members of Parliament, excluding the three Non-constituency MPs who do not have full rights in the Parliament.

Having gathered some information of how our Constitution works, we need to acknowledge that the role of the President is primarily that of checks and balances. In 1973, the Presidential Council was changed to Presidential Council for Minority Rights, highlighting the need to safeguards the interests of racial, linguistic and religious minority. And we have in the evidence of past Presidents seen that a delicate balance was created by the choice of a President belonging to a minority group. In this 2011 Presidential Election, such choice is absent as all four contesting candidates belong to the Chinese race. As Singapore has evolved way beyond our racial tensions of the past and the effectiveness of our educational policies such as English as the first language is highly successful, we are quite comfortable to say that our electorate is matured enough to recognize that minorities’ interests are effectively represented. I would say a campaign based on a vision to create racial harmony is superficial and patronizing as real dividing factions exist now perhaps between the locally born and the migrating foreign talents that have increased significantly with policies passed and executed.

So, in choosing our President, geared towards the aim of effective checks and balances, what should we take note of? While we do not have a system of the American where the President is the head of the Executive, balanced by the Congress that is the Legislature, together with the Judiciary in the form of the Supreme Court; neither do we have a Multi-Party Parliament or even the Two-Parties- System like in Japan. We need to understand that Singapore has a history of a One-Party Dominant system since 1965 which is still true until now. Checks and balances have been minimal and even with our watershed election of 2011, the six MP of the opposition can easily be voted out on policies matters that seek to represent alternative concerns. Thus the need to decipher who among the four contesting candidates could provide these checks and balances against this domineering trend is at hand.

All four candidates have worked for the Executive branch of our Government in one way or another, of which three has strong association with the ruling party of Singapore since 1965, the PAP. Some has worked for decades representing the party, and among them Dr Tony Tan has been the Deputy Prime Minister from 1995 to 2005 for ten years. He was the right hand man of the head of the cabinet then. This is not a contest to see who among the four candidates is more capable as it is evident that all four men qualify with flying colours which is why they qualify for the contest and we should not doubt the council that qualify them. It is no doubt that they are all intelligent individuals who love Singapore too. With regards to personal mistakes and corporate errors, these are just colours to spice up the gossip column of the campaign. And do not be distracted by false concerns that are already addressed by the cabinet such as economic growth and fear of recession. We have our new Deputy Prime Minister, also our Minister of Finance and Minister of Manpower, Tharman Shanmugaratnam in place in our Government to take care of that. Be reminded that in March 2011, Tharman was selected Chairman of the International Monetary and Financial Committee (IMFC), the policy steering committee of the IMF, making him the first Asian elected for this post in history. So do not buy a marketing strategy created upon your fear that is sufficiently addressed by another creditable governmental agent in place. As for Tan Kin Lian who professed to work for the people, do not dismiss the fact that our Union, which he worked for, has never been totally independent of our Government, made up by a One-Party Dominant system. And having recently departed from the agency, one should question if the decision-making mechanism acquired and socialised during his 20 over years of such vocation would leave him sufficiently independent to check upon the system that has moulded him. And all the same goes for the other two high profile ex-PAP members. Can the umbilical cord from the party be realistically severed?

Once again, let me reiterate that all four candidates are capable, intelligent and patriotic. Regardless of where your political interest lies, we need to acknowledge that we have in place a One-Party Dominant system. The question here is not whether this party is what you identify with? One can identify with the party and its policy makers and embrace the results of the government, but that does not eliminate the need for one to realise that checks and balances is absolutely necessary in our system. Even if your allegiance lies with the party, checks and balances are essential to prevent the system from degeneration. If you love Singapore and would want Singapore Government to be a better one, exercise your thoughts logically, putting aside your personal preference for the candidates you have in mind, filter the promises given and test it with facts rather that emotions. And cast your vote wisely. For too long, Singaporean has lived a life attesting to their fear that is close to a myth. The myth has been busted this 2011GE. We are moving towards a matured Government and I’m proud of the electoral, which now understand what the system needs despite having our ruling party that has delivered great results since it has first began. It is my personal wish too to see that it continues to deliver great results in the face of rising challenges of this post-modern international economy and political arena, but notwithstanding the need to serve our people with diligence, being true to their needs, in the form of sufficient checking mechanisms which is absolutely essential. This is not a TV Idol Reality Show. Remember to put aside your emotion. Exercise therefore, a rational vote.

This is a precious piece of my private mind that I’m indulging you because I love Singapore, truly.

Quek Kiat Sing (Political Science Honors Graduate, NUS)
Unquote

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Doctored 709 photo — who’s responsible?



This article was taken from this source, http://blog.limkitsiang.com/2011/07/18/doctored-709-photo-whos-responsible/

All top journalists as well as management personnel in New Sunday Times and Berita Minggu responsible for the photographic falsification of a PAS Unit Amal volunteer as a violent 709 protestor armed with knife when he was holding a Malaysian flag and not throwing rocks at police should step out and own up.

It is a violation of all the basic tenets of journalism of truth, fair play and responsibility for New Straits Times through the New Sunday Times and Berita Minggua to commit such a blatant and flagrant breach of journalistic ethics – a base and lowly act of irresponsibility not only to the profession of journalism but also a great disservice to the plural Malaysian nation-building.

The Malay daily Berita Minggu had on July 10 front-paged the picture of a heavily-built man in a white T-shirt with a black cloth wrapped around his face.

The man, shrouded in smoke, was depicted hurling an object with his left hand while in his right was what appeared to be a knife handle.

The caption read: “Seorang perusuh membawa pisau dalam perhimpunan haram” (A rioter brings a knife to illegal rally) and another subheadline read: “Perusuh guna senjata, batu, lawan polis” (Rioters use weapons, rocks to fight police).

The same image was also featured on New Sunday Times’ front page with the title: “Peaceful?”.

The person concerned, Abdul Razak Endut, has surfaced to rebut and expose what must be one of the most irresponsible and despicable case of journalistic chicanery in the history of Malaysian journalism.

A PAS Unit Amal volunteer, Abdul Razak denied he had a knife and that he was in fact holding a Malaysian flag and he was not throwing rocks at police.

Abdul Razak said: “When the FRU fired tear gas, I saw the wind blowing towards the demonstrators… I picked up the canister and tossed it to a grass field with the hope that the demonstrators would be safe.”

Abdul Razak explained that earlier, he had joined others in forming a human shield to prevent police advances on demonstrators.

“However, that did not happen. Instead, the Federal Reserve Unit (FRU) brought in water cannons and fired on us. What should I do to stop the FRU truck? I asked for a (Malaysian) flag from a fellow demonstrator, he gave it to me and I held it against the FRU’s water cannon barrage.

“I had hoped… these people behind are Malaysians, your people, why are you doing this?” he said in an emotional voice in a PAS ceramah over the weekend.

What has the Home Minister, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein got to say for this blatant and flagrant violation of journalistic ethics to serve the political agenda of UMNO and Barisan Nasional?

Last Tuesday, the Home Ministry hauled up top editors of three Chinese newspapers as the Barisan Nasional Government was irked by their coverage of the 709 rally as allegedly favourable to the Bersih 2.0 organisers.

The Chinese newspapers covered the 709 factually, truthfully and responsibly unlike New Sunday Times, Berita Minggu and Mingguan Malaysia which either doctored photographs or reports or carried tendentious and biased one-sided account of the 709 rally.

It was been reported that the Home Ministry is following up with “show cause” letters to the three Chinese newspapers.

Has the Home Ministry “hauled up” New Sunday Times and Berita Minggu for their “doctored” false photograph on the front page of “a violent protestor” at the 709 rally? Has the Home Ministry hauled up Utusan Malaysia for its daily staple of lies and falsehoods to poison and undermine inter-racial and inter-religious harmony in Malaysia? Will show-cause letters follow suit?

Are all printed news media required to publish doctored photographs and print biased reports turning them as “lies-paper” rather than newspapers under Najib’s 1Malaysia’s Transformation Programme?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Ride for Rations 2011 - Malacca to Singapore



This 'Ride for Rations 2011' was organised by the Sunlove volunteer organisation in Marsiling which supports the needy families, a fund raising project. There were some 60 cyclists in this event, and among our kakis, we had Kevin, Chua, Corinna, Hooi Yen, Clarence and me. We were to cycle from Malacca via Batu Pahat to Singapore over 2 days covering some 230 km.

We were scheduled to leave by 26-seater express coach to Malacca on 8 July, Friday first. I took half day leave, went home at noon to take my bike and then cycled to Lavendar where the two coaches were on standby for us. Chua had to cycle from his home in Bukit Panjang and Kevin did likewise, from his home in Holland area.

The coaches were scheduled to leave at 3pm. We were there at about 2.30pm. We had to take out the front wheel of our bike, then loaded it to the back. Some wrapped their 'championship' bikes with wrappers to prevent being scratched but I didn't. Kevin's bike is the easiest, a folder which he just placed in the cargo compartment underneath. Kevin, Corrina and I were assigned coach A and Chua was assigned coach B, together with Clarence.

Our coach had 17 of us with our bikes loaded onboard, there were still some vacant seats left. It was a comfortable ride, I must say. On the coach, we met two gregarious brothers, Tomas and Pete and we had good conversation with them throughout the journey.

We arrived to Malacca in the evening, slight delay along the way due to roadblock setup by police, apparently looking out for 'Bersih' supporters heading to KL for the weekend rally. But it was breeze passing through the roadblock, no police was onsight to conduct any formal check though roadblock was set up that caused part of traffic to a snarl on the highway...funny lor.

Our accommodation was at Emperor Hotel and immediately after our arrival, we re-assembled our bikes and placed in a reserved function room. Kevin and I bunked together whereas Chua had to share with someone we don't know. Corinna and Hooi Yen shared a room and big Clarence shared with someone. On the same evening, we (Corinna, Hooi Yen, Kevin, Chua, Clarence and I) roamed the street for local food and ended up taking a good mix of each at different places. Fried oyster, KL hokkien mee and some local stuff in one back alley but the food was superb. We then walked to Jonker Street which has a pasar malam; ate Penang laksa and downed with gula-melaka favoured chendol. Feeling contented, we finally walked back to the hotel to prepare for a long day tomorrow.

After breakfast, everyone was all ready before 8.30am. Checked-out, placed our bags in one support car and we were ready to hit the road. A short briefing was made by Manjit Singh, the organiser and we were finally flagged off at about 8.30am.

We cycled through the town centre to the direction of Batu Pahat, our next destination. It was a nice morning and we moved in one single file. I was with my group but slowly lost sight of them. I was cycling at an average speed of 25km/hr and about an hour of cycling, I slowed down for my kakis to catch up. Still, couldn't see them but the two brothers, Tomas and Pete caught up with me. I then decided to draft them. Both of them are experienced riders. At our first water point, I finally caught up with Chua and Clarence. We were already in Muar, Chua's hometown and we decided to make a surprise call at his mother's place. We first visited his cousin's place, said a quick hello and left. Just a short distance ahead, we dropped by his mother's place but she was not in. His third brother and family were in. It was again, another quick 'hi and bye' as we needed to catch up with the rest who were ahead of us. At about 60km mark in midday, it was our lunch stop. We had by then covered some 60km, another 40km to Batu Pahat.

After lunch, I decided to draft the two brothers to gauge my cycling level. Chua who was in his mountain bike was expected to be slower but I must salute him for trying to catch up with the road bikes and he was not too far behind, though. There was no water supply after lunch and it was getting hotter and hotter. I was with Pete and Tomas and suddenly, we heard a loud burst. It was Pete's bike and his second consecutive time (such bad luck for him). We spent a close one hour trying to fix up his tyre. And finally, we were off again.

By 3pm, we arrived at Batu Pahat town. We gathered at a bike shop, for Pete to change a new tyre and to wait for the rest to marry up with us. One by one, they arrived. Hooi Yen, Corinna, Clarence, Chua and finally Kevin. We then cycled a short distance to our hotel, Crystal Inn. The road condition from Malacca to Batu Pahat is excellent and most of the journey, we cycled on the motorcycle lane. It is mostly flat except for crossing of some bridges.

A dinner was arranged by the organisers for all of us but we still wanted very badly to take the local food first. After a short rest, we gathered at 5.30pm. The six of us then walked a good 20 mins to a hawker centre led by Chua, despite already covered more 100km of cycling. Another good feast for us, again we ordered a good mix of each. Wan tan mee, pork leg fried mee hoon, otak-otak and few more local delicacies, we just gobbled down the food. We walked back another 20 mins to the hotel and still had the dinner hosted by the organisers. It was carbo-loading, no doubt.

The following morning was to start very early for all of us, at 7.30am to be exact as we had to cover some 130 km all the way to Marsiling, our final destination. We had breakfast at 5.45am and by 7.30am we were already hitting the road. We were forewarned that the road condition will not be as good as Malacca to Batu Pahat. Indeed, it was undulating and was really testing our leg muscle. I had to vigorously engage my gear. I stayed close to Tomas and Pete, drafting them throughout. Clarence did join briefly and at some stage, he was leading us but eventually, he just faded away. Corinna and Hooi Yen were drafting with a group of female cyclists and they surged ahead of us when we stopped for tea tarik. The ladies decided not to stop for tea tarek, haiz. Chua was left mostly on own but not too far behind. Only Kevin was way way behind the rest of us. The terrain was tougher than first day, because the distance covered was longer and it was undulating. At 90km, we stopped for lunch. We were already in Kulai. We were among the fastest ones to have arrived and the organisers then decided to group us together. We were planning 2 or 3 groups to move in group, for safety measures as there was no police esort assigned for us. We had to move on own and in a single file. Chua, despite his slower mountain bike decided to join the first group. All 17 of us had to move out first led by iron-man Mano and the sweeper role was given to another seasoned cyclist, Andrew.

It was heavy traffic from Kulai all the way to Johor Bahru. We had to stop many times for the those at the back to catch up. A single file was maintained but it was not easy, we had to stay alert due to the heavy traffic along the way. I was just behind Corinna and twice, I almost bumped into her when she suddenly jammed brake. It was a domino effect when a person in front braked abruptly, it just followed through. We just had to be careful, can't afford a fall on the busy road.

By my reckoning, it took us more than an hour moving from Kulai to the immigration. So far, so good for all of us. We made a finally check before pushing all the way to the immigration. It was smooth and traffic heading to Singapore was not heavy, surprising and it was around 3 pm. The Berish rally in KL did turn away many Singaporeans visiting JB, fortunately for us.

After we cleared the Johor immigration and all of us made sure everyone had cleared before moving. We were going up the slope in one single line on the motorcylce lane. Corrina who was just in front of me suddenly fell from her bike. It was a hard landing for her. Clarence who was in front of her cycled back while I move ahead. She sat on the ground for a good few seconds, the impact was too painful for her. She could stand up on own but complained some pain in her neck. We had to cycle a short distance to the Singapore immigration and then another 1km or so to Blk 3 in Marsiling Road. She told us that she was distracted by Clarence's bum, that bum of his became the butt of joke later when we gathered.

At about 2.10pm, we finally arrived at Blk 3 in Marsiling Road but Sunlove home is still not opened yet. We were well ahead of our schedule. Finally, we had the time to attend to Corinna's wound. The wounds on her shoulder, arm and leg were superficial but it was the neck that hurt most, she couldn't turn her neck. Other than that, she looked alright. Her friend, Vivian drove over to pick her up while we waited for the rest of the cyclists to arrive. To my surprise, she was given 5 days MC, can you imagine that?

I had arranged for my brother to bring his lorry to bring us back at 5.30pm and we didn't stay back for dinner organised by the organisers, simply too tired for us. We just wanted to head home. It was a good outing, challenging and for a good charitable cause. I went home feeling truly satisfied that I have achieved another feat, a ride from Malacca to Singapore over 130km. Hip, hip, hip, hooray (3x)!