The Malaysian Concord (Part 2) – The National Language

IN part one (The Malaysian concord (Part 1) – the sanctity of Islam), I wrote about HRH The Sultan of Selangor’s displeasure of the challenge by a certain group against the sanctity of Islam, the National Language, the special rights of the Bumiputera, as well as the function and position of the Malay Rulers that are enshrined in the Federal Constitution.

I read the comments on the issue at the online page of a mainstream newspaper.  What I saw was blatant ignorance on the part of the readers. This ignorance, if gone unchecked, will be dangerous to the future of this nation.

Many commentators mentioned that the Reid Commission had recommended for certain special privileges to be reviewed after 15 years, but was never done.  

I need to put this record straight. In many of my writings, I mentioned that those party to the agreement of the independence of Malaya were the British government, the Malay Rulers, and the Alliance party as the government of the day.

Lord William Reid was tasked to form an independent commission to draft the new constitution for a post-independence Malaya.  

The idea to have an independent, non-Malayan constitutional commission came from Tunku Abdul Rahman himself.

The Malay Rulers were for a commission that consist of local politicians, lawyers and other professionals, just as India and Burma (later Myanmar) had. Ghana, Pakistan and Ceylon (later Sri Lanka) opted for a mix of local and foreign constitutional experts.

Tunku felt that it was important to have a non-Malayan independent commission to draft the Malayan post-independence Constitution as it would be able to avoid local prejudices and perform its task with complete impartiality (PH/A/008/4, MCA Files, Memorandum by Tunku Abdul Rahman, 1 March 1955).

This he intimated to Sir Donald Charles MacGillivray, the last British High Commissioner in Malaya, and told the latter before leaving for the January 1956 Independence Conference in London that the commission should consist of legal experts with sufficient knowledge of constitutional developments in the Commonwealth (CO1030/132(3) MacGillivray to A.M. MacKintosh, Head of the Southeast Asia Department of the Colonial Office, 5 January 1956).

So again, I would like to reiterate that the function of the Reid Commission was only to draft the Constitution with input from all those party to the independence agreement, and make recommendations to those parties.  

The Commission itself was never a party to the discussion, let alone of the agreement.

Going back to the issue of the national language, it was in the Alliance’s manifesto for the 1955 federal elections to have a national language to foster a common nationhood, with plans to upgrade the Malay language as the national language.  

As safeguarding the interests and rights of the Malay and Chinese communities being the key features of its manifesto, protection for the languages of the other communities as well as their growth and development was also guaranteed.

The earlier version of the Alliance’s memorandum to the Reid Commission did state a 15-year time frame for the special position of the Malays and Malay as the national language.  

However, in view of the radicals in both Umno and MCA at the time where the former questioned the principle of jus soli while the latter questioned the need for Malay special rights and a national language, an inter-communal constitutional bargain was made and was conveyed to the Reid Commission orally that the time-frame be omitted (PH/A/008/4, Memorandum by Tunku Abdul Rahman, 1 March 1955).

This was the version that was accepted not just by those within the Alliance, but also by the Malay Rulers as well as the British government.

Five years later, this same subject was brought forth to all who would be affected by the formation of the Federation of Malaysia.

The Malaysia Solidarity Consultative Committee chaired by North Borneo’s Donald Stephens in its memorandum stated the it accepted the view that the Federation of Malaysia should have a national language and placed no objection to the adoption of the National Language of the Federation of Malaya, Singapore and Brunei which is also the lingua franca of the region (Malaysia Solidarity Consultative Committee Memorandum, 3 February 1962: pp. 122).

Even the Cobbold Commission, a Commission of Enquiry set up to gauge the support of the people of North Borneo and Sarawak for the creation of the Federation of Malaysia noted in its report that its Chairman (Lord Cameron Fromanteel Cobbold) felt in view that Malay is the closest to a lingua franca in Borneo than any other language, no derogation from the Federal provision was necessary (Report of the Commission of Enquiry, North Borneo and Sarawak, 21 June 1962: pp. 54).

The Inter-Governmental Committee (a committee that consists of the Federation of Malaya, and Great Britain – looking after the interests of its colonies of North Borneo and Sarawak)  reported that Malay should be the language of the Federation of Malaysia, but Article 152 of the proposed Federal Constitution (based on the Federal Constitution of Malaya) be modified in its application to the Borneo states so as to secure that the English language may be used in an official capacity for a period of ten years after Malaysia Day (Malaysia Report of the Inter-Governmental Committee, 1962: pp. 26).

A national language is an important tool for creating “national” consciousness.  

Hindi is the national language of India, as Mandarin, Thai and Bahasa Indonesia are respectively in the China, Thailand and Indonesia.  

It is difficult to understand why, after 61 years, are we still having this argument about what the national language should be.

What kind of national identity are we to have when we cannot even communicate with each other in one common language?

(This article was first published in The Mole)

The Malaysian Concord (Part 1) – The Sanctity of Islam

Islam is the religion of the Federation of Malaysia as enshrined in its Constitution after being agreed upon by all those party to her establishment (Photo credit: Azirull Amin Aripin/Getty Images)

HRH Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah is known to be a private person and rarely voices out.  The only times that he would voice out is when matters pertaining to the Constitution is touched upon, and yesterday was one of those times.

He said that the act of a certain group questioning the sanctity of Islam, the special rights of the Bumiputeras, the national language, and the function and position of the Malay Rulers enshrined in the Federal Constitution need to be immediately addressed and curbed.

I have come across such people, and unfortunately, many are young Malays.  They do not seem to understand that the social contract made between the various races of Malaya prior to 31stAugust, 1957 and Malaysia prior to 9thJuly 1963 are now part of the Federal Constitution.

Nor do they know the parties who signed both agreements for the independence of Malaya, and the formation of Malaysia, and understand why those agreements were made.  I put a partial blame on the education system where we were taught that we were all colonised by Britain when that is not true, except during the Malayan Union period.

Although Islam had been preached in the Malay Archipelago, Indo-China and China as early as the seventh century, it is largely held that Islam arrived in the Malay peninsula in the 12thcentury.  Syariah laws such as the Batu Bersurat of Terengganu, Hukum Kanun Melaka, Undang-Undang 99 Perak became the laws of the land.

In 1908, Richard James Wilkinson, a British colonial administrator who, with the backing of Sultan Idris I, was responsible for the establishment of the Malay College in Kuala Kangsar, and who was also a scholar of Malay and history, wrote on the status of Islamic law in the Malay states:

There can no doubt that Moslem law would have ended up becoming the law of Malaya had not British law stepped in to check it.” (William R. Roff, Patterns of Islamization in Malaysia, 1890s-1990s: Exemplars, Institutions and Vectors, Journal of Islamic Studies Vol. 9, Is. 2 (1998), 210-228, at 211).

This was reinforced by two British judges in the landmark case of Ramah binti Ta’at v Laton binti Malim Sutan 6 FMSLR (1927).

It is due to these facts that the sanctity of Islam was retained in the Federation of Malaya Agreement of 1948, and was introduced into the Federation of Malaya Constitution of 1957.

The English law was only introduced to Pulau Pinang as it was the original British colony.  It was on 25thMarch, 1807 that a Charter of Justice was granted by the Crown establishing a Court of Judicature in Pulau Pinang, with jurisdiction and powers of the Superior Courts in England. This was then introduced to Melaka and Singapore when they became part of the Straits Settlements under British rule.

Only with the arrival of the British residents in the Malay states in the last quarter of the 19thcentury was the English law introduced there in the form of Orders, Regulations and Ordnances, save for the laws and regulations affecting the Malay customs and the administration of Islam.  These laws provided for the administration of justice, the law of contract, sale of goods, bills of exchange, company law, criminal law and procedure, the law of evidence, land law, labour law, and the regulation of many matters of public interest.

The Civil Law Enactment, 1937 (No.3 of 1937, FMS) introduced the whole body of the common law of England and of equity of minor modifications.  It provided always that the common law and rules of equity are “subject to such qualifications as local circumstances render necessary”.  Local laws and custom were made applicable.

Islam was made the religion of the Federation of Malaya.  Although Lord Reid felt it was unnecessary to have such a provision as the Sultans would be the Head of Islam in their states, it was added to the draft of the Federal Constitution at the suggestion of Justice Hakim Halim bin Abdul Hamid of Pakistan, who was a member of the Reid Commission, because he said the suggestion by the Alliance party that represented the people of Malaya to have that proviso added was inoccuous.

Sir Donald Charles MacGillivray personally felt that such a provision would be advantageous because the Yang DiPertuan Agong could at the same time become the head of the faith in the Settlements of Penang and Malacca (CO 1030/524 (10), MacGillivray to Secretary of State, 25 February 1957; See also CO 1030/524 (18), MacGillivray to Secretary of State, 21 March 1957).

This accord was reached between those who were party to the discussion – the Malay Rulers, the British who administered the Rulers’ sovereign states on their behalf, and the multiracial government chosen by the people in 1955 to represent them.

There is even a separation of jurisdiction when it comes to the position of Islam in the Federal Constitution.

The Syariah Law comes under the purview of the respective Rulers, and the Attorney-General of Malaysia, under Article 145(3) does not have the jurisdiction over proceedings before a Syariah court, a native court of a court-martial.

This separation of jurisdiction is also present as provided by Article 121(1A) where both the High Court of Malaya and High Court of Sabah and Sarawak do not have any jurisdiction over Syariah matters.  Therefore, any claim that the Syariah law infringes on the rights of the non-Muslims is fallacious.

The Malaysia Solidarity Consultative Committee chaired by North Borneo’s (later Sabah) Donald Stephens (later Tun Fuad Stephens) stated in its memorandum dated 3rdSeptember 1962 that the acceptance of Islam as the religion of the to-be-formed Federation of Malaysia would not endanger religious freedom within Malaysia nor will it make the country less secular (Malaysia Solidarity Consultative Committee Memorandum on Malaysia, 3 Sep 1962, p.p 120).

And that is how Islam became the religion of Malaysia.

(This article was first published by The Mole)

Defence – Isu Seragam Komunis

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Timbalan Menteri Pertahanan memakai corporate bush jacket Kementerian Pertahanan semasa membuat lawatan. Beliau memakai bush jacket yang sama dalam gambar yang dikatakan pakaian seragam komunis

Heboh disebarkan di dalam media sosial sebuah gambar yang menampakkan Timbalan Menteri Pertahanan memeriksa kawalan kuarter Tentera Darat di mana beliau dikatakan memakan pakaian seragam Parti Komunis Malaya.  Saya terpanggil untuk menulis kerana saya perlu bersikap adil kerana menjadi prinsip saya agar hal ehwal pertahanan tidak dipolitikkan.

Bush Jacket Korporat – Satu Langkah Yang Wajar

Saya tak tahu sejak bila budaya Menteri memakai pakaian seragam tentera ini dimulakan.  Seingat saya, Dr Mahathir semasa menjadi Perdana Menteri Ke-4 hanya memakai pakaian seragam tentera darat semasa beliau dianugerahkan beret kehormat Grup Gerak Khas pada tahun 2001.  Selain itu tidak pernah saya lihat beliau mengenakan pakaian tentera.

Begitu juga dengan Najib Razak semasa melawat para pegawai dan anggota tentera kita di Bosnia semasa beliau menjadi Menteri Pertahanan. Beliau tidak mengenakan pakaian tentera penuh, hanya memakai sebuah jaket celoreng untuk mengatasi cuaca sejuk di sana.

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Najib Razak melawat MALBATT di Bosnia semasa beliau menjadi Menteri Pertahanan

Bapa beliau yang menjadi Menteri Pertahanan sebanyak dua kali, juga tidak pernah memakai pakaian seragam tentera semasa melawat barisan hadapan.

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Dato’ Abdul Razak bin Hussein, yang ketika itu Menteri Pertahanan, melawat pangkalan Tentera Udara DiRaja Malaysia di Sungai Besi pada tahun 1963

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Tun Abdul Razak bin Hussein semasa menjadi Perdana Menteri, melawat No.3 Skuadron di Pangkalan Udara Butterworth pada 31 Disember 1974 memakai Bush Jacket berlengan panjang

Begitu juga dengan Perdana Menteri Ke-3, Tun Hussein Onn.  Beliau tidak pernah mengenakan pakaian seragam tentera semasa melawat unit-unit tentera.

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Dato’ Hussein Onn, Perdana Menteri Ke-3, memeriksa kawalan kuarter Tentera Darat memakai Bush Jacket berlengan pendek – foto ehsan Jabatan Penerangan

Pemakaian pakaian seragam tentera oleh individu-individu yang tidak berkenaan, yang tidak pernah menjalani sebarang latihan untuk berkhidmat untuk Angkatan Tentera Malaysia, selain di atas sebab khusus dan istimewa seperti semasa pengurniaan beret atau sayap kehormat, adalah dianggap mencemar pakaian seragam tersebut.  Ini disebabkan mereka yang tidak pernah dilatih tidak mengetahui pahit jerih serta nilai pakaian seragam serta lencana dan sayap tersebut.

Kadangkala sebagai seorang Veteran ATM, saya rasa terkilan dan sedih apabila mereka-mereka yang tidak pernah lalui sebarang bentuk latihan ketenteraan dan diberikan tauliah kehormat, bersikap lebih tentera daripada warga ATM, dan meletakkan pakaian kepala mereka seperti topi ataupun beret yang mempunyai lencana kor, di atas tanah atau di lain-lain tempat tanpa menghormati makna lencana tersebut.

Pada tahun 2015, DYMM Sultan Johor pernah menegur sikap ramai pemimpin tentera dan pegawai kehormat yang memakai pelbagai lencana dan sayap kehormat ma­sing-masing sepanjang masa kerana berdasarkan tata cara pemakaian, ia perlu dipakai semasa majlis yang berkenaan sahaja.

Jika betul-betul ingin memakai lencana sayap sepanjang masa, saya syorkan buatlah terjunan dahulu. Sekurang-kurangnya sayap yang tersemat di dada itu benar-benar mempunyai nilainya dan bukannya hanya sebagai hiasan yang memenuhi uniform,” titah baginda yang pernah mendapat latihan ketenteraan di Pusat Latihan Tentera Darat (PULADA), di Fort Benning dan Fort Bragg di Amerika Syarikat, dan menjalani kursus jurutrbang helikopter di TUDM Kluang.

Oleh itu, saya amat menyokong pemakaian pakaian korporat oleh Menteri dan Timbalan Menteri Pertahanan semasa membuat lawatan ke unit-unit Angkatan Tentera Malaysia.

Pakaian Seragam Komunis?

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Gambar yang ditularkan yang mendakwa Timbalan Menteri Pertahanan memakai seragam Parti Komunis Malaya semasa memeriksa kawalan kuarter

Apakah pilihan pakaian yang ada untuk warga Kementerian Pertahanan yang bukan pegawai atau anggota tentera semasa berada di luar kawasan KEMENTAH?  Pakaian kemeja korporat mungkin kurang sesuai berbanding bush jacket sekiranya lawatan tersebut melibatkan mesyuarat dengan pucuk pimpinan ATM berkenaan hal-ehwal operasi.  Sekiranya ianya melibatkan perbarisan penuh bersama panji-panji maka lounge suit atau baju istiadat Ahli Parlimen lebih sesuai terutamanya dengan kehadiran Raja-Raja.

Tetapi, kenapa pakaian Bush Jacket korporat Kementerian Pertahanan itu mirip pakaian seragam Parti Komunis Malaya? Itu pertanyaan yang diajukan oleh mereka-mereka yang tidak pernah melihat pakaian seragam PKM.

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Pakaian seragam Ketumbukan Ke-10 Parti Komunis Malaya

Pakaian seragam Parti Komunis Malaya adalah berwarna hijau gelap.  Ianya hampir serupa dengan pakaian seragam tempur Tentera Darat ketika itu yang menggunakan warna ‘paddy green‘.  Hanya pada penghujung tahun 1970an barulah Angkatan Tentera Malaysia menggantikan pakaian tempur ‘paddy green‘ dengan pakaian tempur celoreng.

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Bush Jacket yang dipakai oleh Timbalan Menteri Pertahanan adalah berwarna khaki dan bukannya hijau tua seperti seragam PKM.  Khaki adalah warna yang lebih sesuai digunakan untuk tugas-tugas di tengah panas berbanding di dalam hutan kerana elemen penyamaran yang lemah.

Elak Menjadi Lebih Tentera Daripada Tentera

Angkatan Tentera Malaysia adalah sebuah organisasi professional yang berpegang teguh kepada disiplin dan tradisi.  Walaupun tidak dinafikan Menteri Pertahanan sebelum ini banyak membantu dari segi kebajikan warga Angkatan Tentera Malaysia, dan warga ATM memang berterima kasih di atas usaha-usaha tersebut, namun ada beberapa perkara yang tidak disenangi oleh mereka.  Pemakaian pakaian seragam yang berleluasa oleh Menteri ketika itu terutamanya beret maroon kehormat dan sayap penerjunan kehormat di hampir kesemua majlis pernah menjadi sebutan warga ATM.

Penganugerahan tauliah kehormat dengan agak mudah kepada para pegawai beliau ketika itu juga menimbulkan rasa tidak puas hati di kalangan para pegawai dan anggota kerana mereka rasakan nilai pangkat yang dipakai itu terhakis.  Yang memakai itu mungkin hanya mempunyai kesetiaan politik, tetapi kesetiaan kami bukanlah kepada elemen politik.  Kami setia hanya kepada Raja dan Negara.

Begitu juga dengan pengenalan budaya ‘fist bump‘ serta laungan “Perkasa Perwira” yang berlainan dengan laungan semangat tradisi iaitu “Gempur Wira” yang menjadi sebahagian daripada istiadat ATM itu sendiri.

Kita faham usaha kerajaan ketika itu untuk memperkasakan ATM, tetapi cukuplah sekiranya ‘Perkasa Perwira‘ itu hanya sebagai hashtag di media sosial dan bukannya laungan semangat.  Begitu juga ‘fist bump‘ yang sememangnya bukan budaya mana-mana angkatan tentera walaupun separa-formal.  Mungkin tujuannya ketika itu adalah untuk menunjukkan kepada orang awam bahawa warga ATM ini sebenarnya cool.  Kami sememangnya cool, namun sebagai sebuah organisasi yang professional dan bertanggung jawab untuk mempertahankan kedaulatan negara, kami tidak boleh dilihat sebagai cool apatah lagi hip seperti hipster.

Oleh itu, langkah memakai Bush Jacket korporat oleh Menteri dan Timbalan Menteri Pertahanan sekarang adalah satu langkah yang betul kerana mereka adalah sebagai facilitator membantu warga ATM untuk mencapai sasaran doktrin mereka.  Benar, kerjasama baik di antara Kementerian Pertahanan dengan Angkatan Tentera Malaysia itu penting, namun tidak perlulah sehingga menjadi cool dan hip.  Dapatkan apa yang terbaik yang diidamkan oleh warga ATM sebagai end-user adalah lebih bermakna bagi mereka.

Perkasakanlah Angkatan Tentera Malaysia tanpa menjadi lebih tentera dari mereka.

 

Lion Air Flight JT610: An Over-Reliance On Intrumentation?

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The Lion AIr Boeing 737-MAX 8 (PK-LQP) that crashed in the Java Sea on 29 Oct 2018

LION Air Flight JT610 went down in the Java Sea 13 minutes after departing from Jakarta. It is very highly unlikely that any of the 189 souls on board had survived.

This tragedy mark’s the 14th incident in Lion Air’s 18 years of operation, an unimpressive air safety record with an average of one incident in every 16 months.

The aircraft that went down was a spanking new Boeing 737-8MAX delivered to the airline last August.

The aircraft first flew on the July 30 2018 and was powered by two CFM International LEAP-1B engines.

However, it suffered from a faulty airspeed indicator during a flight on the night before the fateful flight.

The airline’s engineers claim that the fault had been corrected before the aircraft was allowed to fly. But 12 minutes into the flight the cockpit crew requested to return to base without describing the nature of the emergency it was facing. They never made it back.

While it is still too early to tell for JT610, blocked pitot-static port have contributed to many airliners going down; the previous crash being the Saratov Airlines Antonov An-148 Flight 6W703 on February 11 2018, killing 71 people. It also contributed to the crash of Air France Flight AF477 in the Atlantic Ocean on June 1 2009.

When a static port is blocked, the on-board instruments will give false readings. False readings caused pilots in flights AF447, 6W703, and Birgenair Flight 301 and Aeroperu Flight 603 to react erroneously.

In the case of Flight 603, problem started just two minutes after take-off. There was confusion between the pilots.

Within six minutes, the pilot said: “We don’t have controls. Not even the basics.” The altimeter showed that they were still on the ground, while the three was no airspeed indication.

The above all happened in new generation aircrafts where computers and automation were incorporated to lessen the burden of its flight crew thus increasing the crews’ reliance on automated flight systems.

The FAA has directed airlines to include a blocked pitot tube scenario in simulator trainings to familiarise pilots with the condition.

But how much training is given to pilots? The bare minimum as required by regulations?

Out of the 14 incidents involving Lion Air’s fleet, only four can be attributed to technical errors. The other 10 were due to pilot errors, with wrong flap settings for take-offs and landings, and runway excursions being the top most incidents.

Lion Air, as did most other Indonesian airlines, was once slapped with a ban from the US and European Union’s airspace due to safety concerns. The last Indonesian airlines on the list only had their removal from the list in June of this year.

Indonesia is in the Aviation Safety Network’s list of top 10 countries with the most fatal air accidents – at number nine with 98 fatal accidents that resulted in the deaths of 2,035 people.

How much emphasis is given to the flight crew coordination and conflict management training?

In an incident involving Adam Air Flight 574, the flight crew became too preoccupied with troubleshooting the Inertial Reference System (IRS) that no one was actually flying the aircraft.

When either one of them inadvertently disengaged the autopilot that caused the aircraft to go into a steep bank, both pilots had become spatially disoriented. To add salt to injury, Adam Air’s pilot training syllabus did not cover the failure of the IRS, and neither did any of the pilot receive any training in aircraft upset recovery, including overcoming of spatial disorientation.

The maintenance regime is something that needs a serious look into.  In the four incidents involving the technical aspects of Lion Air’s aircrafts, one was when a thrust reverser was not working and caused the deaths of 25 people, one aircraft’s braking system was not at optimum level, one landed without the nose gear down, while the other had fuel pouring out of its tanks due to non-functioning safety valve and overflow detector.

In the case of Flight JT610, the pitot-static port of the aircraft did not function properly during the Jakarta-Denpasar-Jakarta flight the previous night. A technical logbook of the doomed aircraft detailed an “unreliable” airspeed reading on the flight, giving different altitude readings to the pilot and co-pilot – a symptom of blocked pitot-static ports.

Lion Air’s engineering department said that the issue was resolved before the aircraft was allowed to fly the next day. But was it?

The flight reminds me of what happened to Indonesia Air Asia’s Flight QZ8501 in December 2014.  Both flights faced technical snags the previous night. Both aircraft were given a clean bill of health by their engineers to fly the next morning. Both aircraft were not brought down by weather.

QZ8501 was brought down, in part, by a cracked solder joint on an electronic card that caused the rudder travel limiter to malfunction.  The joint had been repaired several times before instead of being replaced. An action by both pilots, which was not recommended by the aircraft’s manual, was the final nail in the flight’s coffin.

We still don’t know for sure what actually caused Flight JT610 to suddenly drop from the sky into the sea.

Aeroperu Flight 603 flew with blocked pitot-static tubes, that caused faulty data to be transmitted not just to the pilots, but also to the Air Traffic Controller, causing maximum confusion between them.

Spatial disorientation also hit the pilots; they had no idea how high were they flying while the TC told them they were at 10,000 feet, when they were not. In the end, one of the wings struck water and the aircraft crashed into the sea.

The day after the JT610 crash, another flight taking the same route to the same destination showed its altitude upon leaving the shoreline of West Jakarta to be at 16,800 feet at a speed of 370 knots.

JT610’s system transmitted its altitude when passing the same area to be at only 5,100 feet at 318 knots. Its data showed that it was flying at 5,200 feet at 334 knots when the flight crew informed the ATC that it was returning to base.

That they were flying only at 11,600 feet lower than the next day flight in the same area could be an indication of something going wrong.  Previous flights all flew higher than 10,000 feet except for the ones that took a right hand turn after departure.

That no emergency was declared when a request to make a turn back was made seemed odd.

Had the pilots declared an emergency then, the ATC would have immediately given the aircraft landing priority and an assigned runway.  There was no such request.

Those are the issues that are floating around right now, which can only be answered by the retrieval and processing of both the Cockpit Voice Recorder and Flight Data Recorder.  Until then, your guess is as good as mine.

(This article was first published on The Mole)

E-Hailing versus Taxi Drivers: An Endless Contention

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Mahathir reacts to the outburst by taxi drivers in Langkawi – courtesy of Sinar Harian

So, 10 Langkawi taxi drivers hurled abuses at the Prime Minister before walking out of the hall recently where they were to have a dialogue with the latter.

They were utterly dismayed at the government’s decision to allow E-hailing services, namely Grab, to continue its existence and complement the taxi services.

Their anger is understandable.  In March of last year, taxi drivers and owners staged a protest against the previous administration outside the Parliament building, for allowing Grab to operate, and were joined by the likes of Mahfuz Omar, Rafizi Ramli, while in 2015 Datin Seri Wan Azizah Ismail joined them at Padang Merbok.

Although the Prime Minister has denied ever wanting to abolish Grab and other E-Hailing services, the taxi drivers and owners feel as if the government has reneged on its promises to protect their interests.

Prior to the walk out last Sunday, there have been two rallies opposing Grab services organised by taxi drivers; one at Padang Merbok in July, and the latest was five days ago outside the Ministry of Finance.

Back in the 1960s and 1970s, you would either have to go to a taxi stand, or call up a taxi stand to have a taxi sent to your location, or wait for one to pass by.  With the advent of radio taxi services in the 1980s, getting a taxi was similar but quicker as the taxi could be roaming near your neighbourhood.

Not much has changed since, but with mobile phones, if you know the taxi driver personally, you could call him or her to come pick you up.

E-Hailing is not much different.  You have a car owner, registered with Grab for example, who would choose on the software whether he or she would like to pick up a passenger who has hailed for a ride using his or her mobile device.

A destination is given and the car owner drives the passenger to the given destination. The fare is fixed; so unlike with taxi drivers, you do not get the last-minute discussion for extra payments.

You can either opt for a credit/debit card payment, or pay by cash.

But E-Hailing is more attractive to the passengers.  Besides having the fare fixed, you don’t need to conduct a cash transaction, they can pick you up from anywhere and drop you off at your choice of destination at any time of the day or night.

With E-Hailing, more and more partygoers would be willing to not drive at night, thus increasing the size of the cake in contention.

It is late at night when the dissatisfaction with taxi drivers is at its peak.

Try hailing a taxi in the middle of the night: if your destination does not conform to their desired location, they could refuse you or reject you.

More often than not, they would prefer not to use the meter and throw you a figure. That figure could be more if they suddenly tell you that they will ‘balik kosong’, meaning that it would be difficult for them to get a passenger in your area after dropping you off.

It is not easy to find an equilibrium where both services can co-exist without losing much to each other.

While it may be true that E-Hailing also takes a slice from the same cake, I doubt that any taxi driver has gone unemployed since the introduction of E-Hailing services.

Swedish-German economist at Oxford Martin School conducted a study in 2013 in cities in the US of the impact Uber has had on the income of taxi drivers.

He found that though it is true that the income of taxi drivers had been affected, the drop was in the region of 10 percent, while E-Hailing services had resulted in a 50-percent rise in the number of self-employed drivers.

Frey expressed that traditional jobs have not been displaced.

In the case of Langkawi, it is difficult to get a taxi, especially if you venture out to the less touristy places.

The Langkawi Craft Complex for example, is almost half an hour away from the taxi stand in Kuah, and 25 minutes away from the one at the Langkawi International Airport.

I doubt if anyone would get a taxi if they waited by the road side.

Perhaps the answer to the plight of the taxi drivers is to subscribe to an E-Hailing service of their own, much like the radio taxi service.

Pay a certain amount as annual fee to a management company, they can download the application, and charge by the meter, and the payment goes into an account, just like Grab or Uber.

Like their counterparts in Singapore, they should be able to accept credit and debit card payments, and passengers get to rate them as well.  I am sure that such an application could be produced.

That way, they have a level playing field with the other E-Hailing services drivers, and maintain the quality of their service.

With two-thirds of the world’s population due to live in cities by 2050, the cake will keep on growing for both taxis and E-Hailing services drivers.  A combination of private providers and public mass rapid systems will be the imminent scenario.

My only wish for now is for foldable bicycle owners to be allowed to bring their bicycle on board our trains during peak hours.

That would increase the ridership of the trains, while both E-Hailing and improved taxi systems complement the process by moving workers from office to meeting venues and back.

(This article was first published on The Mole)

11th Malaysia Plan Mid-Term Review

atok

Yesterday, the Parliament’s website published the 11th Malaysia Plan mid-term review paper which was unveiled by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad which, among others, officially confirmed that the national debt as at end of 2017 stood at RM686.8 billion, and not RM1 trillion as announced by Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng.

That drew flak from the masses who felt that they were duped into voting out the previous Barisan Nasional government and lied to by the current government.  As a result, the document has been taken down.  This says a lot about transparency of the current government.

A quick check at the Economic Planning Unit’s website shows that a copy of the document is still downloadable by clicking on this LINK.

Anyway, if that is taken down too, you can click on the following link to download the pdf document.

Kajian Separuh Penggal RMK11

Food – Salve Of The Soul

Nasi Ambeng
Nasi Ambeng is a favourite amongst the Javanese community in Malaysia

MY wife is a Johorean – well, half-Johorean.  Her mother is from Kuching, Sarawak. So, when it comes to what is good as food, I trust her judgment.

Why am I writing about food this time? I see a lot of unhappy news lately and I think food is what makes us all happy.

I was brought up eating Johor-style cooking; with the cabbage, or bean curd and beansprouts in masak lemak putih, asam pedas, soto and lontong with kuah lodeh (lontong actually refers to the compressed rice, and not the whole dish).

I was picky when it came to food but going to the Malay College broadened my culinary horizon – Kuala Kangsar gave me Mi Bandung at Restoran Zabdi, Laksa Perak by our Makcik Canteen, Masak Lemak Kuning, Gulai Otak Lembu by the riverside, and not to mention the ulat-filled sayur bayam and stir-fried long beans from the dining hall.

My wife and I were once upon a time both married to spouses from Kedah. My love for curry is because of Kedah’s Gulai Kawah Daging cooked using either the Serbuk Kari Chap ‘O’ or Serbuk Kari Chap Tarbus. The owner of Serbuk Kari Chap ‘O’ drove a car bearing the registration number KAR 10.

I love the Nasi Lemak Kuning which is now more famously represented by Nasi Lemak Royale with the Daging Masak Hitam (it’s Nasi Kandar by the way, and tastes nothing like the Nasi Lemak).

For laksa I would drive to Kuala Kedah for the famous Laksa Teluk Kechai.  Not forgetting the Peknga Nyioq Gulai Ikan Termenung (Coconut Pancake dunked in Indian Mackerel Curry) and Pulut Sambal.

Try having lunch at Restoran Sri Pumpung, my all-time favourite lunch spot.  Top that with an ice-cold glass of Nira Nipah (Nipa palm sap) and your day is made.

Despite all the good food, my wife and I agree on one thing – Hari Raya in Kedah for us non-Kedahan was an omen for both our marriages.

Hari Raya for me means lemang, nasi impit, rendang, dodol, lempuk durianaccompanied by barrels of ice-cold soda. For my wife her Hari Raya food means Nasi Bariyani Gam, Laksa Johor, Mi Rebus, Lontong with Kuah Lodeh, assorted cakes, and endless flow of lamnet (soda water – a Malay contraction of the word lemonade – which is used to describe soda).

In Kedah back in the 1980s and 1990s, Hari Raya was ketupat palas (either plain, or with beans, or with corn) served with serunding (meat floss – not to be confused with the Indonesian serunding which is spicy fried coconut flakes), and squash (cordial drink, if you must).  And no matter which house you visit, they would serve you ketupat palas with serunding. And maybe cookies and mini-popiah or mini-karipap filled with serunding.

Only some houses would serve you something different – bihun goreng or the neither-here-nor-there Mi Kuah.

I cannot make out what the Mi Kuah is all about. Yellow noodles in pale-colour spicy but salty gravy.  And while the kids all ventured out to collect duit raya, the adults would flock in front of the television set watching either some Hari Raya concert or a Hindustani movie.

I always ended up with a bad bout of constipation. Little wonder our marriages to Kedahans did not last.

So, Hari Raya for us now depends on whose in-laws’ house we are at: hers or mine.  If it is at her in-laws’ place, then we’d be feasting on Nasi Impit, Lemang, assortment of Rendang, Laksa, Mi Rebus, Satay, Nasi Minyak; and if it is at my in-laws’ place it’s Lontong with Kuah Lodeh, Laksa Sarawak, Mi Kolok, Bubur Pedas Sarawak, Laksa Johor, Soto, Nasi Lemak with Spicy Beancurd Soup, Nasi Bariyani Gam, Mi Bandung.

Do you know it’s blasphemous to eat your Laksa Johor with fork and spoon? Laksa Johor is supposed to be eaten with the hand, just so you know!

If you drive into the kampungs to visit during Hari Raya, you would be served with Nasi Ambeng, Burasak, whatever meat in Masak Ungkep style.  Not forgetting the Tiwol with Sambal Bawang, Rempeyek, Kerepek, Kuih Ros, Kuih Deram.

And it is in these kampungs in Johor that I get my dose of excellent Mi Bandung, Nasi Goreng Daging, Mi Rebus Johor, Pepes Ayam (similar to Otak-Otak but is made of chicken instead of fish), ABC Degan (Javanese for coconut).

If you visit the houses of the aristocrats down in Johor Bahru, you’d get to sample the rarely-made Harissa which is a concoction of either tenderised beef or lamb meat cooked with oats for three hours, and is served with sambal and honey.  Not many Johoreans have tasted the Harissa.

Before the Kedahans slam me, remember that I said (apart from Hari Raya) Kedah food is excellent too.  In the early 1990s I would frequent the Nats (morning markets or called Pasar Tani elsewhere) and the Pasar Malam – Tuesdays in Kepala Batas, Wednesdays in Changlun, Thursdays in Tanah Merah, Fridays in Napoh and Sundays in Pekan Jitra. The locals call it PJ.  Coincidentally, PJ is right next to KL– Kubang Lembu.

It was at the Pasar Malam that I would get my supply of fresh meat and Ikan Kembung, and my favourite Kuey Teow Kerang.

A whole plate of Ikan Kembung cost RM2 a plateful. The eyes and skin were shining, gills pink.

Imagine the bitterness I felt when I was transferred to Kuala Lumpur and the Ikan Kembung had to be weighed before it was sold, red sunken eyes, darkened gills, slimy with strong fishy odour.  And costs a lot more than in Kedah, too!

So, no matter where you are, food soothes the soul.

And in times like this, if you feel down, just Google what you want to eat, Waze for the place, and make your day.

I promise you, you will end your day feeling much better.

(This article was first published by The Mole)