Sunday, October 23, 2011

The End of Muzik FM

It has been reported that today’s Mingguan Malaysia [23.11.2011] in its supplement “Pancaindera” carried the news entitled “Radio Muzik Akhirnya berkubur” [Radio Music to close down]. On another page the same supplement also featured three former announcers defending the existence of the network under the titled “Pertahan Muzik FM” [Defending Music FM].

I am not surprised at the reactions of the three former announcers and many former RTM’s radio staff who are quite sentimental about their Alma matter. I don’t think they are familiar with the historical fact of the existence of the nearly four decades old network operating beside the other radio networks of RTM. It may be an old network with popular support but RTM cannot afford to have parallel networks working on the same format competing for almost the same audience.

RTM has been operating various networks nationwide as well as on regional and local basis. Lately Muzik FM has been the leader in audience rating among the RTM networks surpassing the ever popular and the mainstay of the national broadcaster radio network “Kelasik Nasional”. The irony of it is that the two networks have been competing for the same audience with almost the same format of programming. The redundancy is quite obvious. If I am the owner of the station, I definitely will have to sacrifice the lesser of the “influential” network in order to maintain the position of my mainstay.

Having said that I feel RTM must have something else in mind to replace the network to be closed down. As a follower of radio broadcasting I find RTM has failed in its effort to disseminate news and information to the populace as part of its objective. I have a feeling the next step would be to have a special network carrying news and information only, the like of BBC, ABC, and VOA etc.

I would like to dwell on the metamorphosis of radio broadcasting over RTM. Initially there were four networks working side by side conforming to the racial divide of the country, Malay, English, Chinese and Tamil. Being the national language the Malay broadcast was expanded in its daily duration till it went round the clock. Then there was the need to have the regional and local broadcasts. As broadcasting technology improves there was a need to introduce “Stereo”. This was the time when Radio Music came into existence purely for music lovers. Initially its broadcast was concentrating on good and fine music. It was banded on the hourly basis carrying the western classic, evergreen, local music and various others. As the years went by this original format was forgotten. When the commercial radios came the format was totally abandon and the present format was introduced.

Interestingly at the same time the commercial radios went on the air the national broadcaster felt the pinch of its listeners being taken away by its “rival”. There was a harried need of changing its format to meet the “challenge” but it didn’t work as the “rivals” were more youthful and raunchy in their presentation.

It was at this time that there was a change of guard at the ministerial level in the ministry of information. As usual new personality would introduce new idea and concept. It was Tan Sri Zainuddin Mydin [better known as ZAM] who revamped the Malay broadcast, the national network known as Rangkaian Nasional at one time. Originally a classical Malay network was introduced known as RIMA but there was lack of transmitter to carry its broadcast nationwide. For the patriotic it was a welcome event. In order to go nationwide the network was incorporated into the Rangkaian Nasional to be known as “Klasik National”. Changes were made to its format and presentation. Many of the popular programmes such as Drama, Rural and Development and others were dropped, leaving the network with presentation of songs and music, especially the yesteryears. This did not merit popularity among the young. Hence, the dropped in its popularity ratings.

Looking at the role of the both Kelasik Nasioanl and Muzik FM the redundancy was clear. So it’s not a surprise should the power that be in Angkasapuri decided to forego the existence of Muzik FM.

It is time that a new network be introduced to carry the news and information similar to that of BBC. I am not surprised if this new network will incorporate the Bernama Radio 24 which has the element of such radio. After all Radio 24 need the transmitters to go nationwide.

We can say goodbye to Muzik FM.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Spirit of Independent

It was in June that I last did my posting here. I am surprise that even the make up of the blog page has changed. I have to get used to that change.

Merdeka (Independent) Day of the country was celebrated together with the the Hari Raya celebrating the end of Ramadan (fasting month) and for the first time the country celebrated Malaysia Day with a nation-wide holiday on 16 September.
In honour of Merdeka, I decide to reproduce excerpt of an essay by my late boss Encik Zain Mahmood who was an accompalished writer in his own right, more so in the field of screnplay. I have been archiving this particular essay that I picked from his son's blog, Sabri Zain.

Apa salah mereka?

[Petikan dari cerpen Zaman Merdeka yang ditulis oleh Arwah ayah saya, Allahyarham Zain Mahmood]

"Mengapa saya patut menentang mereka? Mereka bina jalanraya untuk kita ... mereka bina bangunan tinggi untuk kita .. mereka bina bandar ...kita diberi cukup makan .. cukup minum ... mereka lindung kita dari orang asing ... mengapa saya patut menentang mereka? Saya sepatutnnya setia dan berterimakasih kepada mereka!
Tapi sebab kita ini terlalu bergantung di bawah ketiak merekalah sampai kita dah jadi begini. Tak ubah macam burung di dalam sangkar, leka dengan kesenangan. Makan diberi tiap hari. Minum diberi. Tiba-tiba bila masa tiba nak terbang, sayap kita kaku.
Bukan saya kata mereka itu salah. Apa yang mereka lakukan sekarang tidak salah ... kerana itu memang kerja mereka. Macam cerita ular dengan katak. Sebelum ditelan ular, dia tanya 'Ular, mengapa kamu makan saya?' Jawab ular 'Memang kamu makanan kami'.
Yang salahnya adalah kita ... kerana kita yang bodoh dan leka selama ini dan telah membenarkan keadaan kita jadi sebegini. Dan hanya rakyat saja yang mesti membetulkan kesilapan kita sendiri dan menentang tipu muslihat penjajah Orang Putih. Tapi kita tidak boleh menggunakan tipu muslihat. Kita tidak boleh menggunakan api untuk menentang api. Tapi kita boleh menggunankan api semangat keadilan dan kemerdekaan yang membara dalam kita, dan api itu akan membakar hangus penjajahan dan penindasan."

Thursday, June 2, 2011

In Remembrance

When the European League Football Final was played at Wembley last week in which Manchester United was soundly beaten by the formidable Spanish Club Barcelona 1-3, it brought back memory of the same events 26 years back at Heysel Stadium, Brussels. That event was more remembered for the tragedy that happened before the start of the match than the match itself or the result. This is the excerpt from the Liverpool FC website on the anniversary of the tragic event:

On the 26th anniversary of the Heysel Stadium tragedy, Liverpool Football Club remembers the 39 football supporters who lost their lives in the disaster.
Liverpool FC placed a wreath at the Heysel Memorial Plaque this afternoon as a mark of respect.
The Club unveiled the permanent tribute to the 39 last year at a moving ceremony attended by officials and former players of both Liverpool and Juventus.

I remember the event vividly as it happened in the wee hours in Malaysia where we were carrying the Final live over RTM 1. I was with the RTM crew in Studio 2 of Angkasapuri overseeing the live telecast as the Head of the newly created Sports Division. The Producer was Mathew George and our anchorman was Rahim Razali. We were readying ourselves to enjoy the match when the English commentators on the other end sounded distress and unhappy at the scene at a portion of the stadium. Then they stopped commenting but the visual was uninterrupted.

The crew at the control panel of Studio 2 was focussing on me to come up with a decision to interrupt the visual with a “filler” of our own in case of such “emergency”. George made a remark “Boss I am waiting for your decision”. I told George let the visual be on our telecast and to instruct Rahim to make careful remark on the sensitive scene of the clash between the two rival factions. Rahim did make a comment and ask the viewers to judge the events unfolding in front of us.

Meanwhile the crew were restless. It was normal for the show to be interrupted with emergency programme until situation became normal. I calmed them down by ensuring that thing will be back to normal and the match will be played. Whatever questions rose from that decision will be my responsibility. True enough the match was on much later. We have to work extra time that night.

We discovered later RTM was the only station in the world that carried the tragedy live. I knew I would have to answer to the authority upstairs on the “sensitive” scenes akin to “13 May Tragedy” which was still fresh in our memory then. It was none other than the Minister of Information himself, the late Tan Sri Mohamad Rahmat who commanded me to his office to hear my explanation.

I told him I was moved by the recent article in the paper rebuking the Malays and Malaysian being uncivilised and living on trees. The decision to show the tragedy was to prove to the world that even the European were still uncivilised and going after each other throats while watching a simple game of football. At least our football fans were good enough to enjoy local football with friendly banters.

The Minister was happy with my reasoning and said he was watching the whole event too and was of the same opinion. I felt relief.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Bintang HMI

I was not much into music. Last night for no reason I decided to watch what the entertainment fare on TV1 was after the 8.00 p.m. main news. I was pleasantly surprised to see the current primadona of the national singing scene Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza Taruddin in the special “Bersama Siti Nurhaliza”. RTM have decided to replace the long running Saturday night entertainment fare of “Hiburan Minggu Ini” (HMI) with the “Bersama...” series.

I am no great follower of CT as she is popularly recognised by her numerous fans neither do I know her personally but she is one of those personality who affected decisions I made in my career at RTM. I was elated by her announcement that it was at that Auditorium where she was presently performing that her career as a singer was launched when she was declared the winner of the singing contest “Bintang HMI 1995”.

She was the second winner of the short span series. The first winner in 1994 was Nora, another well known singer following her success in the contest. There was another contest after I retired from service in 1996 won by the popular Sarawak girl.

How I got involved with this series went back to the time when I was sent to Kuching to be RTM’s Director for the Sarawak Region. It was a laid back life there and I was working at a leisurely pace as my main attention was on the radio broadcasts of numerous local ethnic dialects. We were just a feeder service for television in Kuala Lumpur. As a person used hectic work regime at headquarters in KL, ideas start mushrooming in my mind on improving the broadcasts.

We had close rapport with the state government under Pihin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud. He was supportive of our children programme which gave birth to the popular contest “Bintang Kecil”. Pihin Sri is well known for being a great fan of the legendary P.Ramlee. When I made a curtsey call on reporting duty in Kuching he was toying with the idea of introducing a talent singing contest over TV entitled “Bintang P.Ramlee” which was introduced over the local radio. After listening to my explanation on the intricacies of running the contest nation-wide on TV he readily agreed the state government would bear part of the cost. So began the “Bintanng P.Ramlee” venture every two years.

The then Minister of Information Tan Sri Mohamad Rahmat was present at the first contest in 1993 held at the newly Stadium Perpaduan Kuching carried live by TV1. The busiest person running the show in Kuching was the present Director General Dato Norhyati Ismail who was then heading the TV component of RTM in Sarawak.

Tan Sri Mohamad was lamenting to me the dearth of talent spotting programme on the musical scene over RTM. I could not respond to him positively as that was KL’s responsibility. I was happy he was heaps of praised for the “Bintang P.Ramlee” and our cooperation with the state government.

When I came back to KL and made the Director of Television again I heard the same lamenting from the Minister. The strange thing was that I was never invited by my boss to attend the “Post Cabinet” meeting every Wednesday afternoon and could not give direct respond to the Minister. I knew he wanted us to give TV3 a run for their money in this department as it was running a successful singing contest programme based on popular artists’ performance on the chart.

On the quite I suggested to the then Head of Entertainment TV Barbara Edmond to run a small contest within the ever popular Saturday night HMI. Initially she was hesitant as it involved extra responsibility to get the mechanism working. We met the entertainment producers who took turn producing HMI. They were willing to take up the challenge by adding additional change to the already winning formula which was getting too predictable. It did not affect the budget too greatly. So we launch the project quitely without informing the power upstairs.

The boys and girls in the Hiburan TV started fanning the whole country with the cooperation of their Hiburan counterpart all over the nation searching for talents. They started the Bintang HMI on a modest basis having six contestants in each episode on preliminary basis. Then it went to the Quarter-Finals and the press were on it speculating the winners. The bosses upstairs started paying attention following the excellent press report.
                                                        (compliment Jack Nadarajah)

The Bintang HMI got more intense when we decided to run the Semi-Finals as a whole programme on the HMI slot. We decided to run the Final live after getting support all round especially the Orchestra RTM who were willing to accompany the singers. We also got the best musical experts of the country to be the judges.

By this time I decided to be just in the background and let other people do the talking. What was important to me it was mission accomplished – the Minister was pleased with the professionalism of the staff of the Hiburan Department without being “directed”.

The first year experienced gave us a good guideline on running the next show and CT was the winner getting the limelight to be a Superstar and an excellent “ambassador” of Malaysian singing. She is a great defender of Malay dresses. I have not seen her out of it ever since I set eyes on her.  She deserves to be a winner.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Privatising RTM

This is another posting in Malay:

Swasta RTM

Kebelakangan ini terdengar semula kisah menswastakan RTM atau pon memperbadankannya; kisah yang telah wujud sejak hampir 30 tahun lampau. Dimasa lampau sekumpulan staf RTM dikerah membuat kajian dan mengemukakan cadangan “comprehensive” yang memakan masa berbulan-bulan lama sehingga ada yang tidak memberi tumpuan kepada tugas asas. Satu ketika pula satu syarikat perunding diupah beratus ribu ringgit untuk membuat kajian “feasibality”. Namun akhirnya RTM terus beroperasi seperti biasa sebagai Jabatan Kerajaan hingga hari ini.

Saya yang tidak pernah terlibat dengan kajian yang dinyatakan itu sudah  tentu tidak dapat memberi sebarang butiran. Saya sekadar dapat menangkap apa yang disebut-sebut oleh rakan-rakan sekerja dalam perbincangan kerana dokumen2 mengenainya tidak pernah sampai ketangan saya sebagai salah seorang pegawai kanan Jabatan ketika itu. “Input” dari saya yang mengetuai salah satu sektor Jabatan juga tidak pernah diminta; saya anggap sektor berkenaan tidak penting dalam usaha pengswastaan. Mengapa sedemikian tidak pernah saya persoalkan, kerana menjadi resam bangsa kita mempersoalkan sesuatu bermakna “kurang ajar” kepada bos “who is always right”.

Bila saya ditanya bolehkah RTM diswasta atau diperbadan? Saya masih memberi jawapan separuh positif – boleh dan tidak boleh. Berdasarkan keadaan, RTM memang sukar hendak diswastakan secara menyeluruh. Operasi RTM terbahagi kepada dua komponen besar – Radio dan Televisyen.

Radio nampaknya sukar hendak diswastakan kerana ia beroperasi diserata negeri negara ini dengan bilangan staf yang begitu ramai. Hampir semua pengkalan radio dinegeri-negeri tidak mampu membawa pulangan yang menguntungkan dari segi komersil atau iklan dan tajaan. Di ibu negara serta di Sabah dan Sarawak ia beroperasi dalam beberapa bahasa dan loghat untuk memenuhi matlamat menyampaikan maklumat seluas mungkin kepada masyarakat menyebabkan operasinya tidak ekonomi bagi satu syarikat swasta.

Di ibu negara Radio mungkin mampu mengimbangkan bajet pendapatan dan perbelanjaan. Namun perlu diingat tujuan swasta ia memperolehi untung untuk dilabur bagi mengembangkan asset. Hampir semua ajensi iklan dan syarikat terkemuka dan multinasional termasuk yang mampu mengeluar perbelanjaan untuk mempromosi atau menyerantakan jenama masing2 beribu pejabat di Kuala Lumpur.

Sekiranya Radio diswastakan ia misti bersedia menemui persaingan hebat dari radio-radio swasta yang sedia wujud dan sudah mencipta nama dikalangan pengiklan dan pendengar. Kemampuan Radio RTM meninggalkan reputasinya sebagai suara kerajaan sudah tentu menjadi satu persoalan.

Mengenai TV, rasanya ia boleh diswastakan kerana kompleksiti Radio tidak wujud di TV. TV hanya beroperasi di ibu negara berserta kompleks kecil di Kota Kinabalu dan Kuching sahaja. Lagipon dengan tersedianya kemajuan teknoloji yang sentiasa berkembang beberapa komponen TV seperti penggunaan filem dalam tugas harian sudah tidak wujud lagi membikinkan operasi, sekaligus staf, mengecut. Dengan wujudnya digital dan komputer segala operasinya mengecut sama. Hanya perbelanjaan bajet mungkin meningkat demi memperolehi asset-asset tersebut.

Infrastrukur komersil pengiklanan sudah sedia wujud di TV, hanya memerlukan tindakan lebih agresif dari staf sahaja.

Satu masa dahulu diwujudkan “Akaun Amanah Tajaan” untuk TV yang membuktikan ia mampu memperolehi pendapatan yang cukup lumayan. Saya masih ingat pada tahun 80an Jawatankuasa 3 orang mengendalikan “Akaun” itu di anggotai Dicky Lee, Setiausaha Bahagian Kewangan Kementerian Penerangan selaku Pengerusi serta Hanan Alang Endut (kini Dato’) Ketua Bahagian Pengiklanan dan saya Amran A Hamid, Ketua Siaran Sukan RTM.

Langkah awal mewujudkan “Akaun” itu ialah untuk mendapat kelonggaran syarat meningkatkan mutu siaran dan liputan sukan TV RTM. Kebetulan setiap kali liputan acara sukan yang penting ketika itu terpaksa melalui proses panjang hingga ke Perbendaharaan, menyebabkan ada kalanya tergendala siaran dan liputan. Dengan adanya “Akaun” itu Perkhidmatan Sukan mendapat kelonggaran mengurangkan proses itu kerana yang dipentingkan pada masa itu ialah jumlah pendapatan yang menguntungkan dipenghujung siaran. Secara kebetulan pula syarikat dan jenama terkemuka khususnya rokok menumpukan iklan mereka khusus ke jurusan sukan. Di akhir tahun pertama perolehan “AAT” melalui rancangan sukan sahaja berjumlah berjuta ringgit setelah ditolak kos perbelanjaan. Elok juga diingatkan ini tidak melibat bajet emolumen (gaji) staf.

Keadaan ini membuka mata ramai. Kemudian dilibatkan pula penerbitan Drama “in-house” yang terpaksa mengeluarkan kos boleh dikatakan tinggi demi penerbitan yang berkualiti dan prestij. Disini kami menghadapi masaalah kerana kebanyak pengiklan dan agensi tidak begitu minat terhadap drama tempatan, khususnya drama Melayu terbitan RTM. Akhirnya kami berjaya memujuk Pengurus Besar jenama Dunhill untuk terlibat dalam pengiklanan Drama berkenaan. Sejak itu sambutan iklan kepada drama tempatan kian meningkat kerana rancangan itu mempunyai pengikut yang meluas di seluruh negara.

Kemudian Kejuruteraan meminta supaya ia terlibat dengan “AAT” kerana resesi semasa itu menyukarkan mereka memperolehi peralatan yang canggih untuk liputan. Kemasukan Kejuruteraan tidak mendatangkan perolehan menjadikan garis penghujung AAT setiap tahun kurang berkembang. Namun baki Akaun itu tetap selesa mencecah angka beratus juta ringgit.

Apabila saya menjadi Pengarah Kawasan Sarawak di Kuching saya tidak berapa aktif dalam perjalanan harian AAT, hanya datang ke KL sekali-sekala untuk memperakui Kenyataan Akaunnya. Tidak lama selepas itu saya mendapat tahu “AAT” ditutup, segala baki akaunnya di pulangkan kepada perbendaharaan.

Dari sinilah saya berani menyatakan TV RTM mampu di swastakan.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Avoiding scam on the internet

So many gullible one had become victim of scam in so many ways. Here I just want to concentrate on the possibility of being victim via the internet.

My experience leads me to believe the exposure of our personal details or profile could be one of the sources. So far I have not been approached via this blog but on Facebook (FB) I have received numerous proposals with the intention of being partner in big business, friendship that could end in matrimony, and the girls from another country claiming to be daughters of Malaysian who passed away leaving them with their mothers wishing to be back to their father’s homeland.

I find the business proposals mind boggling. When somebody mentioned in term of investing millions of American dollars and British sterling, my initial reaction was why they don’t just dump their riches into some safe deposits, trust funds and the numerous money markets. Why should they want to share their good fortune which they claimed to have come from sheer hard work with someone staying so far away whom they don’t even know and trust.

Then there are the soldiers who found caches of American money on the battle front in countries where the American and allies have invaded. They want to get the money out and wanted my help. How are they going to do it over their side when the banking systems are topsy-turvy there. Being a curious person I just checked the FB address which I could not trust.

To me the intention of being on social network of FB was to be in touch with friends, relatives and acquaintances that we may not be in touch for a long time. Getting new friends is a bonus. I don’t mind friendship with sincere intention from overseas.

To be “friends” on FB all we need do is just to make a “request” to the intended person who has an FB account or likewise. This I consider genuine.

When it comes from the people mentioned above they don’t make any “request” to be friend neither do they accept to “add” me as a “friend”. All of them just write on FB “messages” detailing their sad past, intention and proposal. They request for my e-mail address and telephone number. The funny thing is that they don’t have any “friends” on their profile. My preference would be people who have many friends.

Initially I was quite taken up by the sob stories but when there was an influx of the same; my instinct just told me these were not right. I stopped responding through the FB “message”.

I put up on my wall and status on this as well as consulted friends, all of them advised me just to ignore. It seems later they will be asking for bank account details and other things. This could lead to untoward happening.

We have read this scam in the media where the “victim” lost a substantial amount and not much could be done to pacify.

Rather than be a victim, let us nip the scam in the bud.

Monday, May 2, 2011

SmartTAG is not smart

I have been using “SmartTAG” and “Touch ‘n Go” (TnG) since the day they were introduced more than a decade ago. I can vouch they are not that smart after all.

Yes they do splendid job moving users with ease at the busy toll plaza most of the time beating those who pay cash – that’s all both could do.

When first introduced it was quite a hassle purchasing them. Ahead in the market was the card “TnG” to be followed later by the gadget named “SmartTAG”. We had to filled lengthy personal details on a form detailing identity card number, address, telephone number among other things. Identity card (MyKad) has to be shown at the counter when submitting the form together with specific amount of payment.

It was a popular new gadget in the market and customers did not mind the submission. I thought it was really smart indeed. Was I disappointed to discover later that the purpose of the two gadgets was just to let me through the toll plazas without having to stop to pay cash and nothing else. Of course nowadays they have extended its usage like a credit or cash card and fare payment for the integrated public transport system.

It just happened once I misplaced my card and requested a replacement. I was told the company producing the card could not do it. I was wondering why took the trouble to take all the personal details to be placed in the computer system when they cannot disabled the missing or stolen card. The only solution, I have to go through the whole process again just to get a new “TnG” card.

This happen again years later when my car was broken into and the only thing missing was the “SmartTAG”.

I thought it was stupid to tell the girls at the counters the weakness of the system as so many had done. I voice my complain and argue with the counter girls to convey to the higher ups the weakness, if need be I am willing to write a report. After all there is nothing to worry as they are in possession of my complete personal details.

Of course at this time similar grouses began to surface in the media. At first there were denials from the company. Then they were silence as I assumed they realised the weakness of the system enabling the usage of both gadgets when they got stolen.

At first when users wanted to “top up” the card they have to produce their identity cards “for verification”. I thought that was silly as it serve no purpose due to what I have mentioned. So I informed the counter I am not producing my IC no matter what until they can guarantee that my stolen card could be block. I got my way of topping-up without producing my IC.

Nowadays I noticed they don’t demand for the IC to be produced when topping up. However one still has to fill the lengthy form to apply for a new one. The same procedures apply for the purchase of a “SmartTAG” but I got away with filling the form recently by telling the counter I could not see. I asked her to fill up details on MyKad which I handed to her and I by-pass so many other customers who were struggling with the form.

It just goes to proof that the SmartTAG and its partner “TnG” are not that smart after all.

I wish the tag and the card is much smarter like enabling the usage of stolen or lost card at the topping up stage at the counter, should it be difficult to do it at the toll plaza passage. This is greatly beneficial in crime preventing. It will assist the police and other authorities to catch or prevent the culprit from making a trade in stealing or breaking cars. I personally feel in this economic turn down it will ease my budget greatly.

I hope someone smart at the Touch ’n Go Sdn Bhd will take notice and action.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Just a bad day

We have been to this store at Jalan Sungai Buloh for years and never expected the bad experience. We found the place under renovation and were forced to park the car on the road side rather than at the regular place in its compound.

We went inside the store for about 10 minutes. When we came to the car we found to our dismay the glass window of the front passenger was shattered. We were devastated. The glove compartment as well as the middle compartment beside the driver’s seat was open. On checking, nothing was amiss except the disappearance of the newly purchased Smart Tag together with RM90.00 worth of Touch n Go.

Also not in sight was my favourite black canvass bag which I carried everywhere, placed behind the driver’s seat. It was stubborn of me not to heed friends’ advice not to place such bag within sight in the car. It is tempting for the thief to break-in thinking there must be a laptop or some valuables in it. Now I have learned an expensive lesson.

I was advised to make a police report. I knew it was an exercise in futility as the police could not do anything to offset my loss or solved my problem. There are so many such cases throughout the city. So making a police report is just a waste of time.

I called my regular workshop and they told me getting a new glass for the window was no problem. So off I drove to USJ 6 to get the replacement. It was a 15 minutes job for the new glass to be fixed by the expert. The damage was RM150.00 for regular customer.

My parting words to all my friends: never tempt a thief by exposing a bag or container of any sort in your car. Place them in your luggage boot or where it’s not visible.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Evil in Credit Cards

I have been holding three credit cards for a long time, since my working days.

At one time there exists a rule that credit card will not be issued to a person above 60 years old but today no matter at what age any one can hold a credit card and the card companies are making concerted effort to recruit even pensioners beside the young ones new to the job market.

Beside the convenient there are the inconveniences related to its usage which are periodically highlighted in the media. There seem to be increased in the number of bankruptcies among credit card holders. The growing number is frightening as they involved the younger generation who just started work. The authorities, the banks and the credit card companies could only issue reminders and advices but they fall on deaf ears.

I have been facing that predicament at one time because I was “living beyond my mean” by misusing the credit card facilities. Temptation was the cause of the problems. I was spending more than what I could pay. The problem started when the credit card allow the “minimum payment” scheme. The minimum payment could blow our credit balance out of proportion. The only saving grace could perhaps be the “spending limit” allowed.

At the end I found that through the two credit cards that gave me such facilities I was paying the so called “bank charges” of RM500 every time the “statement of account” comes around. That is a big chunk of money compared to my pension. I was in that situation for over two years before I realised that I have been feeding the bank that hold my credit card account more than RM6K annually. That’s a ridiculously large amount to give away callously for nothing.

I brought my predicament to a well to do friend who agreed to facilitate me a no interest loan and pay when available scheme. I am thankful to him for solving my problem – now I don’t owe the bank and I am free from its interest. It’s prudent spending for me now – I live within my budget and make sure my expenditure doesn’t exceed my income.

 The banks and credit card companies are very good at convincing that their schemes and plans are beneficial to the customers. Customers are offered cash loan at no interest initially for a few months to pay off their credit card from another card for customers that has multiple cards from the same bank. It’s just like “digging a hole to cover another”.

The other scheme is the one that the bank sent a blank cheque to an amount that almost cover up the credit limit. This would certainly guarantee the customer will find it difficult to pay off the total amount owed within a short period compounding his financial woes.

The other irritating experienced I had been when the bank “misplaced” my payment cheque which incurred additional bank interest and surcharge due to “non-payment”. After some hassle things were put right.

The worst experienced I had was when  I tried my best to reduced my credit card balanced with some extra amount that I felt I could afford. Somehow the bank didn’t credit my cheque payment to the account and I was left with an extra balance in my bank account causing me to miscalculate my spending. It was painful when the case was referred to the authority at Bank Negara with accusation that I have issued a few “bounced” cheques. I think my bank was well aware of my spending and issuing of cheques habit and record. It was settled amicably.

These are some of the pitfalls I have experienced and want to make aware to all friends out there. It’s better to spare sometime on your account rather than regretting it later.

If you can do away away with credit card, please do so.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Unscrupulous Taxi Driver

This must be common occurrences at busy public places like airport, railway stations and bus terminals, giving Malaysia and its tourist industry a bad name.

It just happened at the main entrance of KL Sentral at 6.40 am this morning (Thursday 21 April 2011) when I was fetching my wife from a long train journey. I was about to drive off when a taxi cut into my path and park in front of my car on the outer lane, disembarking a foreign looking passenger, I assume a tourist or someone who came to town for a business deal.

Normally I would get irritated and honked but I was at my most patience with due respect to our foreign guest. The next scene I saw was the passenger and driver in jovial mood standing behind the taxi exchanging greetings and settling payment. While the passenger was standing, the driver moved into his taxi and drove off. The poor guy was flailing his hands and at the same time banging the boot of the taxi gesturing. I could only assume he was trying to extract his luggage from the boot but the taxi just bolted off.

I wanted to give chase but the guy’s hand luggage was on my path. I could only honked gesturing to him to get the bag off my way but it was too late. The taxi was nowhere in sight.

As it happened so fast I was unable to see the taxi number plate, its light was not on. The surrounding place was poorly lighted and it was quite dark at that time.

On reaching home, when we related the incident to a staff of the Hilton next to where it happened we were told that they were common occurrences. Even guests at the hotels at Sentral were not spared by these rogue taxi drivers. Some guests with family would go shopping at the many prominent complexes in the city, come back by taxi and got similar treatment. There was nothing much the staff could do except to advice their guests to take the LRT which could inconvenient them.

The rampant occurrence of such incident is giving a bad name to Malaysia and the tourist industry of the country. I suggest the various authorities look seriously into the matter. 

To start with the place should be better lighted and sophisticated surveillance cameras in the form of close circuit television (CCTV) be installed. If that had been done then more should be added pointing to vantage points.

I don’t like this to happen to my friends or guests. I guess the poor guy this morning must be having a nightmare and very poor impression Malaysia right now.

So someone of authority on such related issue out there kindly take action.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Ismail Long - as I know him

Ismail Long passed away in his sleep on a Friday morning two years ago in 2009 at Dato’ Keramat, Kuala Lumpur. He was buried at the AU cemetery after Friday prayer. His death was a shock to many who knew him personally. Although not in good health he has been jovial all the time.

At the time of his passing he was staying with his spouse in the village of Karak Jaya along the old main trunk road between KL and Kuantan. He came to KL to accompany his wife who was due for a medical check-up at the hospital that day.

It was a sad personal loss for me. I have heard of his name when I joined Radio Malaysia in 1963. He has been with the Malay Service in Melaka long before I became a staff at Federal House, KL. Prior to that he was an office hand in Penang. I met him on several occasion on official duty in Penang when he was posted there as a BA3. By that time he was a well known announcer there.

When I was transferred to Penang as the Malay Programme Organiser in 1966, Ismail and Nor Hashimah Ismail were the only staff I had in the service. Our job at that time was to feed local reports and recording to the headquarters at Federal House as well as participating in inter-stations programme. Life was quite easy going then.

When we started the Regional Broadcasts of 3 hours daily following the aftermath of Hartal, 13 May and the Big Flood which drown the national broadcast at Federal House in KL for 3 days, life became more hectic. Penang was instructed to take the lead to make sure the national broadcast was not interrupted. We pass the test with flying colour. It was Ismail who played a major role in its success. He was very good at selecting songs to keep the listeners following the broadcast. He was never short of ideas for interviews and keeping the public inform.

Ismail was willing to try his hand at everything, including live report and running commentary, including sports especially football matches.

He is well known for being jovial and enjoying life to the fullest. We had understanding on that. Whatever he did he must make sure there is no casualty as far as our transmission was concern. I am proud to say we keep our clean slate with flying colour until I got to return to KL in 1972. 

When I arrived in Penang Ismail and family was renting a house in Tanjung Tokong. Later he moved to the government quarters at Lorong Selamat, all along the bus route.

Later he was transferred on promotion to the Perak Station in Ipoh. I visited him there and his wife prepared the best oxtail I have ever tasted. Not long after that he was stationed in Kuala Terengganu. I didn’t follow his activities there but being a dedicated broadcaster he came out top among the pack.

In the 80s he came to Angkasapuri.  We met again in the same division when I became the Head of the newly created Sport Department. He was place in the Radio Section as one of the Supervisor. I knew it was in safe hand.

He retired as Programme Assistant in early 90s after I left the Sports Department. That was quite an achievement from a general staff to rise to such a high post.

After retirement he settled down in Kampong Seronok, Bayan Lepas, Penang, playing active leading roles in social work there especially in promoting local cultures that attracted the local and foreign tourists visiting the place. Being a man who thirsts for peace and quietness, Ismail finally decided to lead a quite life in the remote area of Karak Jaya in central Pahang with his second wife.

He would travel once in a while to KL to meet old friends and relatives. I happened to keep in touch with him via phone which he never forgot to inform me the latest number wherever he was. I made an effort to visit him at his place in Karak Jaya on many occasions when I passed there on my journey. It was convenient when the new highway KL-Kuantan was not around.

I purposely avoid mentioning the happy and hilarious moment and occasions we shared together with friends whether at work or leisure. Perhaps on another occasion.

Semoga rohnya dicucuri rahmat dan ditempatkan dikalangan mokmin yang soleh.


Following is the Malay version of this article that was posted in the SUARA PVRTM Newsletter:

Ismail Long Dalam Kenangan

Ismail Long yang dikenali sebagai Che Mey dikalangan yang rapat dengannya menghembus nafas yang terakhir pada pagi satu Jumaat 2009 di Dato’ Keramat Kuala Lumpur. Jenazahnya dikebumikan selapas solat Jumaat di tanah perkuburan AU. Pemergiannya sungguh mengejutkan mereka yang mengenalinya. Sungguhpon kesihatannya terganggu Ismail terus menunjukkan semangat periang yang tidak mengenal penat lelah.

Semasa peninggalannya dia menetap di Kampong Karak Jaya, Pahang bersama isteri mudanya yang berasal dari situ. Karak Jaya terletak di tepi jalanraya Persekutuan lama antara Kuala Lumpur dan Kuantan. Dia datang ke KL menemani isterinya untuk pemeriksaan doktor yang dijadual pada hari itu.

Pemergiannya adalah satu kehilangan besar kepada saya yang mendengar nama dan mengenali suaranya sejak mula menyertai Radio Malaysia pada tahun 1963. Dia telah menjadi staf di Melaka jauh sebelum saya melaporkan diri di Rumah Persektuan KL. Sebelum itu Ismail pernah berkhidmat di Pulau Pinang sebagai kakitangan pejabat pentadbiran Radio. Saya sering menemui dan berhubung dengan nya semasa menjalankan tugas resmi di Pulau Pinang ketika dia menjawat jawatan Pembantu Siaran Gred 3 (BA3). Masa itu dia sudah menjadi juruhebah dikenali ramai.

Bila saya ditukar ke Pulau Pinang untuk mengetuai siaran sebagai Pengelola Rancangan Melayu (MPO) Kawasan Utara, hanya Ismail Long dan Norhashimah Ismail sahaja yang berkhidmat disana untuk mengendalikan siaran Melayu. Tugas utama kami pada masa itu ialah menyumbang laporan dan rakaman tempatan meliputi empat negeri terdiri dari Pulau Pinang, Perak, Kedah dan Perlis kepada ibu pejabat di Rumah Persekutuan KL, selain dari menyertai rancangan antara setesen yang sangat popular ketika itu. Keadaan kerja pada masa itu boleh dikata ringan dan relaks.

Bila bermulanya Siaran Daerah atau Tempatan selama 3 jam sehari berikutan peristiwa “Hartal”, “13 Mei” dan “banjir besar di Kuala Lumpur” budaya kerja kami bertambah dan sungguh berbeza dari apa yang kami tempuhi selama ini. Banjir besar telah melumpuhkan siaran Radio kebangsaan dari Rumah Persekutuan selama 3 hari. Pulau Pinang yang mempunyai beberapa pemancar gelombang pendek yang boleh didengar diseluruh negara, telah diarah untuk mengambil alih siaran kebangsaan bagi memastikan ianya tidak terputus. Kami lulus ujian itu dengan cemerlang. Ismail Long memainkan peranan penting dalam kejayaan itu. Dia sungguh bijak memilih lagu-lagu yang memukau pendengar kepada siaran. Dia juga cekap membuat temuramah dan tidak kurang dengan idea untuk memberi maklumat terkini untuk pendegar yang ingin tahu apa yang berlaku.

Saya dapati Ismail adalah seorang yang berani mencuba segala bidang lapangan penyiaran, termasuk membuat laporan langsung dan ulasan-selari apa jua peristiwa dan acara, termasuk sukan khususnya bolasepak yang digemarinya.

Ismail adalah seorang yang periang dan kehadirannya sentiasa membikin sesiapa bersamanya tidak kering gusi. Jarang sekali saya lihat dia muram atau bersedih, apatah lagi “naik angin”. Prinsip hidup adalah kegembiraan. Berdasarkan itu kami berdua mempunyai falsafah yang sama: apa juga yang berlaku dia wajib memastikan siaran dan rancangan tiada tergendala. Saya amat megah falsafah itu berjaya kami pertahankan sehingga saya meninggal Pulau Pinang untuk kembali ke ibu pejabat di KL pada tahun 1972.

Bila saya sampai Pulau Piunang untuk melaporkan diri tahun 1966 Ismail dan keluarganya menyewa rumah di Tanjong Tokong. Kemudian dia menginap di rumah pegawai kerajaan di Lorong Selamat, Pulau Pinang. Kedua-duanya berhampiran laluan perkhidmatan bas yang efisen di P.Pinang masa itu.

Kemudian dia ditukar kestesen negeri Perak di Ipoh kerana naik pangkat. Saya melawatnya disana dan isterinya menyediakan sup ekor lembu yang paling enak pernah saya rasa. Kemudian dia ditukar ke Kuala Trengganu. Saya tidak berjumpa dia disana kerana saya sendiri berhadapan dengan peningkatan beban kerja. Saya tidak mengikuti kemajuan kerjanya disana, namun sebagai penyiar yang penuh dedikasi dia sentiasa bersaing berada didepan untuk meningkat imej jabatan. Saya mendengar khabar dia bertemu isteri mudanya di sana.

Pada tahun 80an dia berpindah ke Angkasapuri KL. Kami berjumpa semula dalam bahagian yang sama bila saya dilantik Ketua Bahagian Sukan yang baru ditubuh. Beliau ditempatkan disayap Radio dimana Ismail mengetuai sebahagian dari siarannya. Saya tidak perlu bimbang kerana mengetahui ianya dalam penyeliaan yang baik.

Ismail pencen pada jawatan Pegawai Penolong Rancangan (PA) diawal tahun 90an lama selepas saya meninggal Bahagian Sukan. Itu adalah satu kejayaan besar bagi seorang staf yang memulakan kerjanya dari jawatan yang paling rendah dalam hiraki perkhidmatan kerajaan kepada jawatan gred tinggi.

Selepas berasara, Ismail kembali menetap di Kampong Seronok. Dia memain peranan aktif dalam aktibiti sosial membikin kampong itu menjadi destinasi seni dan budaya bagi pelancung yang berkunjung ke Pulau Pinang.

Setelah beberapa tahun kesibukan dunia mula menggugat dia untuk mencarai kedamaian dan ketenangan. Mungkin itulah sebabnya dia mengambil keputusan menetap di tempat terpencil Kampong Karak Jaya yang terletak di tengah Negeri Pahang bersama isteri mudanya.

Sering juga dia berkunjung ke Kuala Lumpur untuk menemui saudara-masa dan kawan-kawan lama. Kami sentiasa berhubung kerana Ismail tidak lupa meninggalkan nombor taliponnya dimana saja dia berada. Saya sentiasa berusaha melawatnya di Karak Jaya bila ada peluang, jika saya melalui tempatnya dalam perjalan ke Kuantan atau Pantai Timur. Ia lebih mudah lagi sebelum wujudnya Lebuhraya Karak – Kuantan yang baru.

Saya sengaja tidak menyebut disini zaman gembira yang sukar dilupa yang kami alami bersama kawan-kawan lain – mungkin di ruang yang lain.

Semoga rohnya dicucuri rahmat dan ditempatkan dikalangan mokmin yang soleh.



Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Century at Mandi Wap

Herbal Sauna

Yesterday, Tuesday 12 April 2011, marked the 100th time I went to “Mandi Wap Herbal” with my good friend, former classmate Zainal Abidin Imam of Kuala Kubu Bahru.

We started going to the Herbal Sauna at Tanjung Karang about a year back when Zainal was diagnosed with minor stroke and lost his ability to speak. He suffers speech impedance.

 Other than the IJN he is a frequent visitor of the Kuala Kubu Bahru Hospital, the Selayang Hospital and at time the KL Hospital. He also began to look for alternative medicine to get into normal shape. His younger brother took him to this place in Tanjung Karang simply named “Mandi Wap Herbal” (Herbal Sauna). It is a simple place sharing roof with a defunct motor workshop, along the main coastal road to the right side as we approached Tanjung Karang town from KL. The official address is: Lot 88, Batu 7, 45500 Tanjung Karang.

Zainal suggested that I tagged along and we have been around together for nearly a year. I went along for the company. I came to like the 75 km journey between my place and the Sauna where we spent endless hours chatting.

 I was on medication for prostate and diabetes. The medicine was affecting my stability and I began to stop my normal routine of walking to sweat. I could feel my physical appearance bloating. I find the Sauna beneficial in getting rid of the toxic through the heavy sweating.

Most of the driving was done by Zainal, being his favourite pastime. Initially he drove from KKB to my place spending the night at his son or in-law’s place. Later when his jalopy was giving problem due to old age we decided to go in my car. Later on Zainal found it less tiresome driving from KKB by taking the KTM Komuter that has increased its frequency. Normally he will embark and disembark at Sungai Buloh station. I will pick him up and travelled via the busy old road. If he decided to head straight to Subang Jaya we would go via the Guthrie Corridor Expressway (GCE) and saved some minutes. Otherwise we would take the long stretch via Puncak Alam with nice sceneries of the new housing areas but the traffic lights there were a bother for smooth travelling.

Our normal pit stop would be at Kuala Selangor where we would have Banana Leaf Lunch of either Indian rice or “tosay” at the Mahaa India Curry House. We are always welcome with open arm by the owner, a friendly lady whom we dubbed “Amma” and his able assistant. Normally the lunch for two with fish, chicken, vegetables and 2 drinks thrown in would be around RM12.00.

In the early days we would be at the Mandi Wap Herbal almost daily making sure we meet the operator Mr Jabar who would be around between 5 and 6 pm. Due to poor eye sights we avoid going there at night. Nowadays we prefer the afternoon shift arriving there between 1 and 2 pm and leaving before 4 pm, to avoid the rush hour.

For the inquisitive, Mandi Wap Herbal is simply Sauna with Herbs. Jabar operate one moderate size room with sitting terrace and normal chairs that can accommodate about 25 people easily. Steam laced with herbs would be pump in from the stove in the next room where a huge pot is heated by normal household gas. Temperature would be control from there by his assistant Ms Ani who seems to be around the place almost all the time.

Patrons are advised not to overdo being in the Sauna Room for more than an hour at a stretch. Most of us would stay not more than 30 minutes for the first stretch and would take a break in the resting place next door to cool down for a few minutes. Drinking of water or beverages is permitted. Then we would take in another session of 15 or 20 minutes, repeating once or twice again before quitting.

It takes a few minutes to get the sweat out of the body. The men are advised to wear shorts and everyone should bring a small towel to wipe off the profusion of sweat. A plastic is handy to place the wet towel, shorts, singlet or t-shirts at the end.

As for the fees, the place charge 25 sen for entrance. Should anyone leave the place and re-enter then he has to put in another 25 sen. Out of curiosity I asked Mr Jabar what he does with the collections. He said he normally gave it to charitable organisation around town. For the Mandi Wap the charge is RM 15.00 per person per session. I did a rough calculation, I think it’s just enough to sustain the operations, taking into account the cost of the gas that come in  tanks, rental of premises, electricity and water charges, helpers and assistants salaries, maintenance and unseen costs. Mr Jabar must have set this place up as social responsibility rather than making a profit.

After a year of frequenting the place, I notice there have been improvements in cleanliness and upgrading of facilities. Previously the changing and rest room has to be shared by the men and ladies causing disgruntled. Now the men got a brand new one at the back of the place on the outside which is more spacious and the toilet is sitting type unlike the old one.

Most of the patrons look forward to meet the jovial Mr Jabar. When he is around he offers what he called the “repair job”, some sort of “accue pressure” where he would look for the pressure points in one’s body using a little wood. I think the Chinese called it “fixing the Chi point”. Well, it worked on many patrons who seem satisfied after the treatment. This treatment comes together with the Mandi Wap Herbal as one’s wish. Zainal and I forego this treatment lately as we leave the place well before Mr. Jabar arrived.

Our verdict on the Mandi Wap – Zainal is pleased to see his health improving. His speech is getting better. The only thing that didn’t go away is the three blockages that he is having. The IJN was willing to allow him to continue with his medication rather than going for the surgery. As for me I find that I feel lighter and more agile. The lethargic part has departed sometime back. I think the sweating was responsible for that.