Tag Archives: news

The Clouds are Gathering


I had wanted to have a cheery post for you today but the dark clouds  over the world have been creeping into my little corner of life.  Truly, there seems no end to the troubles this year.

Bloodshed, cruelty and conflict in Gaza, Ukraine, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Kenya, Somalia and Pakistan.  Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

And what is it with all the plane disasters.   MH370 remains missing and then we had the shock of the loss of MH17 over eastern  Ukraine.  Then, there was the TransAsia ATR 72 crash in Taiwan; the Air Algerie AH 5017 crash in the Sahara and finally a young teenager and his father perish when their plane ditches into the sea on the last leg of their round the world  flight as they raised money for schools in Pakistan.

When we watch all these news on TV or on the internet, we cannot not be affected by the sense of tragedy and suffering.  Generally  though, it is happening to people we don’t know and in a place distant from most of us. Still, there is a degree of separation between us and the event.

However, in the last week, that degree of separation was greatly reduced.

It turns out that the daughter-in-law and grandchild of someone I know perished on flight MH 17.  Another friend’s family was on a different flight but was due to have flown over that same airspace at that time except that it turned back to the terminal after experiencing some technical problems while they were on the runway waiting to take off.  Yet another friend  had been working in the Netherlands and had tried to book a seat on the ill-fated  flight to return to Kuala Lumpur.  He eventually flew the next day on the flight with the same call number.

And then, there was the news from Afghanistan.  Two Finnish aid workers with a Christian charity were killed by gunmen in Herat, Western Afghanistan.  Just last month, we played host to a friend visiting from abroad.  He stayed a few days at our home.  He knew both these women.  They had both served and lived in Afghanistan for a few years.  The organisation has been there since 1966 working to providing eye treatment, mental health treatment, and helping communities.

And so, in this way, some of these recent tragedies became a little more real to me.  My response is to pray for God’s mercy for us all.

There is a Graham Kendrik song that always reminds me the need for such a prayer.  Here are just some of the words of the song;

O Lord, over the nations now
Where is the dove of peace?
Her wings are broken
O Lord, while precious children starve
The tools of war increase, Their bread is stolen

O Lord, dark powers are poised to flood
Our streets with hate and fear
We must awaken!
O Lord, let love reclaim the lives
That sin would sweep away
And let your kingdom come

Have mercy Lord, Forgive us Lord, Restore us Lord, Revive your church again

Let justice flow like rivers and righteousness like a never failing stream.

MH 17


Malaysia is in shock and is grieving.  We are reeling from the blows that have pummeled us this year.  The Prime Minister correctly reflected our thoughts when he said, “This is a tragic day, in what has already been a tragic year, for Malaysia.”

The news are filled with images of the wrecked plane and the details  or speculation of what happened.   There is no need for more of that in this blog.

Instead, I would just like to remember those whose lives were lost in this tragedy.  My prayer is for the loved ones and families that they may find solace and comfort in their time of grief and for Malaysia, that as a nation we will weather this storm united in our grief and in our love and support to those in pain.

Here is the face  of one of those 298, to remind us that these were all loved by parents, siblings, children and friends.  Stewardess Angeline Premila, 30, was the youngest of the flight crew aboard the plane.

Photo from  A Fly Guy's Cabin Crew Lounge
Photo from A Fly Guy’s Cabin Crew Lounge

May God bless them all.

(photo from A Fly Guy’s Cabin Crew Lounge)

Top 10 Reasons for a Sinking Feeling


Last week, two very large sinkholes opened up along a very busy stretch of road in the centre of Kuala Lumpur.   Construction work for a road tunnel had accidentally caused a burst water pipe and the escaping water led to the formation of the sinkholes.

Sinkhole-in-Malaysia-near-Jalan-Pudu-KL-photoshop-memes-Malaysia-20140703-05-620x315

Sadly, there’s been a lot of that sinking feeling here in Malaysia this year as we seem to be reeling from tragedy; political, racial and religious extremism; and many cases of “foot in mouth disease” by our leaders.  In fact,  if possible, we seem to be having a lot of “shooting oneself in the foot that also happens to be in the mouth” disease.

Here in no particular order is the TOP 10 Recent Reasons for  Malaysians to have a Sinking Feeling.

  1. MH 370 – the missing Malaysian Airlines plane had the world’s attention on Malaysia for much of the beginning of the year and it is considered  one of the greatest  aviation mysteries.  Where is the plane and what happened?  Apart from the tragedy of lives lost, Malaysian officials came across as arrogant, insensitive, incompetent and contradictory.  The handling of the matter and the treatment of the relatives of the victims has been terrible.
  2. Grabbing kids – in the last year, Islamic authorities have been involved in cases in which children, brides and even bodies have been snatched.   In a number of cases,  Muslim converts who had lost child custody cases in court went on to abduct their children from their Hindu mothers and despite the court ruling have been able to keep the children up to now.
  3. Grabbing brides – A Hindu wedding was raided by religious authorities and the bride was taken away in front of the groom and the 400 guests.  Although born and raised as a Hindu, the authorities consider her a Muslim because her father, who had abandoned the family in 1990,  had become a convert.
  4. Grabbing bodies-  Last month, a family was grieving and holding a traditional Chinese funeral for their loved one.  About twenty minutes into the ceremony, religious authorities interrupted the proceedings and took away the body claiming that the deceased had converted to Islam some 17 years earlier.  As you can imagine, this came as a terrible surprise to all her family members.
  5. Groping bodies – A Malaysian diplomat and military officer, Muhammad Rizalman Ismail, claimed diplomatic immunity when charged in New Zealand for burglary and sexual assault with intent to commit rape.  He had followed a 21 year old woman to her home from her bus stop, broken in, undressed and tried to assault her.  She fought back and with the help of neighbors alerted by her screams, forced him to flee.  Once again, the manner in which the authorities have handled the matter has been disgraceful.  They flew him back to Malaysia and denied that they were protecting him until certain communications with the New Zealand government were leaked to the press.  They also said that he would not be extradited but would be tried in Malaysia.  Then, under pressure, they agreed to return him to New Zealand to face the charges.  But now, the authorities claim that he is unwell and medically unfit for travel.  Although, so far the only thing that has been said about his medical condition is that he “was not looking good”, withdrawn and depressed.
  6. “Break bone Fever” – The mosquito borne viral disease, dengue fever, is characterised by severe joint pains (hence “break bone”) and in severe cases, internal hemorrhaging.  The number of cases and deaths have increased by about 250% from the previous year with about 40,000 cases and at least 80 deaths this year till now.  I personally, know of 5 people who have been ill and a friend has attended two funerals.  So apart, from dust from extensive construction going on in Kuala Lumpur and the suffocating haze from forest fires, I now am also unable to open my windwows for fear of the mosquitoes coming in.
  7. Dry taps –  This year also saw the largest urban area in the country, with 2.5 million people, facing water rationing for over three months.  Dry taps in a country with some of the highest rainfall in the world. Something is wrong with this picture.
  8. The K9 problem” –  The chairman of the commission on public transport had said in an interview that there would be no problem for guide dogs assisting the blind to be allowed on public transport.  Apparently, he was wrong.  The Deputy Minister for Transport said that city by-laws insist that dogs should be under the control of a capable owner (thereby implying that the blind are not capable) and went on to say that dogs would only be an inconvenience to the blind.  Religious authorities than chipped in to say that guide dogs were inappropriate for a Muslim majority country as dogs are considered unclean in the religion.  This seems like a strange statement considering that no such issue has been raised about the use of police dogs or security dogs.
  9. “Hell’s Kitchen” – This last couple of weeks has seen the authorities declare war on soup kitchens and the homeless.  Apparently, they are the great evil that is damaging our society.  The
    Women, Family and Community Development Minister

    Women, Family and Community Development Minister had implied that people are choosing to be homeless because they can get free food.  She also said that tourists are also taking advantage of the soup kitchens and therefore not spending tourist dollar on meals.  The Minister of the Federal Territories then proved that he was a man of action by banning all soup kitchens within 2 km of the city centre.    He suggested that the homeless were lazy and giving “his” city a bad image.  He also implied that building shelters for the homeless would make them complacent.  He also said that if they were hungry, they could always travel out of the city centre to soup kitchens further out.    Some soup kitchens plan to defy the ban and will face stiff fines for their defiance.

  10. The sky is falling! The ground is sinking!   – the latest round of construction activity all around Kuala Lumpur for the Mass Rapid Transport or MRT train line has been causing all manners of problems but of greatest concern is the safety of the public.  Large concrete and metal beams have now fallen on passing cars on at least two occasions.  The cars were wrecked but miraculously, the occupants although requiring hospitalisation, escaped with their lives.

Two-hurt-by-falling-metal-beam-(1)

And of course, there was the big sinkholes that I mentioned at the beginning of this post.

So how do Malaysians deal with all this gloom? ……..with a sense of humor.  LGS proudly presents for your viewing pleasure a few examples of Malaysian netizen’s take on the sinkholes and WHAT REALLY HAPPENED?

The "why the chicken crossed the road with the Hippo" theory
The “why the chicken crossed the road with the Hippo” theory

 

The "Pandamonium" Theory
The “Pandamonium” Theory

 

Surely it was Godzilla!
Surely it was Godzilla!

More??? That’s Bad For You


pleasesir

Just a few days ago in Kuala Lumpur, a man had grabbed a two year old child, Siti Sofea Emelda, and ran off.  Her decapitated body was found in a nearby river later.

Sofea and her mother were vagrants living in the streets.  They are part of the large number of homeless in Malaysia’s capitol city and Sofea’s death is a reminder of how unsafe living in the streets can be.

Sofea’s mother has been coming to a soup kitchen run by volunteers for about a year but usually not to get something for herself but to get some help with milk and diapers for Sofea.  Now there is more grief poured out on her difficult life.   The soup kitchen and the volunteers there are one of the few to have offered any comfort and care to her and to Sofea in her short life.

Yet,  a few days before this tragedy, the Minister for Women, Family and Community Development accused soup kitchens and NGOs of being a major contributor to the problem of the homeless by enabling homelessness through their ‘indiscriminate’ feeding programs.

 

Really?  I never knew.  I help out at one of those soup kitchens that feed the aged, the drug addicts, the blind and the abandoned.  I never knew that I was really the reason that they ‘chose’ to be  homeless.

But now, I am enlightened.  I understand.  Suddenly it is all clear for me.  I also now realise that;

  1. Dentists are ‘enabling’ us to have more cavities.
  2. Rich people, by having money,  are ‘encouraging’ more young people to become robbers.
  3. and politicians are the ‘contributing factor’ to more people feeling nauseated.

I am so proud of our politicians…….NOT!!!!!!!

It’s Hazy and It’s Crazy


Both the city skyline of Kuala Lumpur and the search for the missing plane seem blurred by haze.  (phto from The Star)
Both the city skyline of Kuala Lumpur and the search for the missing plane seem blurred by haze. (phto from The Star)

Nat King Cole had a song called “Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer”.   Do you remember?  Well, these days Malaysia is certainly experiencing the Hazy and the Crazy and some might even say the Lazy and all not in a good way.

The search for missing flight MH370 with 239 souls on board, now entering the 9th day, has been gripping the nation’s attention and that of most of the world too.   It has been a grueling 9 days for the families awaiting word about their loved ones on board as well as for all the investigators and searchers involved.

However, the whole thing has also evolved into a crazy circus; from the way the Malaysian authorities have managed the press conferences and briefings for the relatives with the frequent dearth of  actual information or worse peppered with contradictory statements, denials and false leads, to the ever expanding search area which grew from the relatively small area of sea between Malaysia and Vietnam where the plane disappeared from the ATC radar to the now  wide swath of both land and sea ranging from the borders of Kazakhstan in Central Asia to the Indian Ocean near Australia.  The search area now encompasses an unbelievable 10 % of the world surface and includes the world’s highest mountain ranges to some of the deepest stretches of oceans.  Up to now 25 nations have become involved in the search.

Then there is also the craziness of the bomoh (or Malay shaman) and his followers carrying out rituals at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport which involved coconuts, a magical bamboo binoculars and a  mystical flying carpet for the stated purpose of removing the influences of evil spirits which were hiding the plane and hampering search efforts.

Searching using magical bamboo binocularrs
Searching using magical bamboo binoculars

bomohklia
Searching using the mystical flying carpet

His self proclaimed title is Raja Bomoh Sedunia Nujum VIP which translates to “The Very Important Person, Clairvoyant King of all the world’s Shamans”.    It is reported that he claimed at the end of his first session a few days ago that the spirit realm had told him that “the plane was still in the air or that it had crashed in the sea”.  Despite what Dogbert would call the “Gross Prophet Margin”, he might still be wrong if it turns out the plane has landed somewhere in Central Asia.

Still more criticism has been aimed at the perceived slow (lazy?) pace of the investigations led by the Malaysian authorities.  For example, many query why investigators did not go to the homes of the pilots sooner especially to examine a flight simulator at one of the pilot’s home until just two days ago.

The only distraction to all of this for Malaysians is the ongoing drought and water shortages affecting 2.5 million Malaysians as well as our food crop and palm oil crop.  Water rationing has been going on for about three weeks now.  The dry weather has also caused bush and forest fires with extremely bad air pollution and haze as a result.  Yesterday I woke up in the early hours of the morning smelling smoke and thinking there was a fire but then realising that the haze was particularly bad.

And so, pity Malaysia as we seem stricken by a trifecta of ills – lazy, hazy and crazy days are here.

Hoping


Malaysia has been taking the centre stage in world news but not in a way that we would want.  Not this.

Malaysian Airlines flight MH 370 enroute from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing has been missing with 239 souls on board since last Saturday. It is now the fourth day since its disappearance but as yet no real clue as to its fate.

At the moment, we can only hope against all hope that they remain safe ….and pray…….and keep the light burning for them.

Wet – Yeah, Right!


The Lone Grey Squirrel’s secret hideout is located in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  I know I’ve kind of just given away the secret location but hey, it’s still not as if you will find the hideout on Google Map.

Now what you should know about Kuala Lumpur and Malaysia is that it is an equatorial country with a vast equatorial rainforest.  According to all geography text books, encyclopedias and even Wikipedia, this means that the place is hot and wet.  Equatorial = hot and rainforest = wet.

Well it looks like all those books and websites are defunct.

We are supposed to get about 2360 mm of wet, refreshing rain every year with February being one of the dryer months still getting  145 mm.   Most of the time in February, we can expect it to rain on 53% of the days.

So why is it that this year there has been almost no rain at all?  Many places in Malaysia have not had rain for at least 20 days and a few areas have not had rainfall for a month.  In Kuala Lumpur, we finally got a small splattering of rain these last two days.; not a lot but just enough to make the accumulated dust on my car turn into caked mud!

So now in Kuala Lumpur and the state of Selangor, we are faced with water rationing as our water reserves drop to critical levels.  I once attended an experts’ meeting on water resources about 10 years ago in which the issue of future water shortages and climate change was raised.  Despite the scientific paper presented by one of the speakers on the topic, it was clear that many of the government officials did not take it seriously.  When I spoke to some of them, they merely felt that whatever challenges would arise in the future, they would be able to use technology or engineering to resolve it.  “Just build more dams.” they said.

Well, now we are facing water rationing in what should be a water rich country.   Taps are running dry, crops are failing and the air is thick with haze from the record 7,000 forest and bush fires last month.  Currently, some 2.5 million Malaysians will receive water for two days followed by two days without water.  Some really unfortunate households only get two pails of water delivered to them each day by water tankers.  This is expected to go on for at least till the end of March when it is hoped that some rain will come.

But there really is no guarantee that the rain will come.  The authorities tried to do cloud seeding but the most we got was that little bit that was absorbed by the dust on my car.

I think they are now resorting to more traditional ways.  The bomoh.  The Malay version of a witch doctor, the bomoh is believed to be able to cast spells and influence the weather.  Bomohs are often used to help teams win soccer games but judging from Malaysia’s FIFA world soccer ranking of 150 (out of 207), doesn’t give me a whole lot of confidence in their abilities!

Traditional "Match-Fixing" by Bomoh
Traditional “Match-Fixing” by Bomoh

So my friends, beware of climate change and human arrogance.  A very parched and smelly un-showered squirrel signing off.  Have to go store water instead of nuts.

Return of the Squirrel


Dear Readers,

I can’t believe that it has been 5 months since I last posted.  I am sorry for my long absence.  I have missed interacting with all of you but there was a unique and powerful convergence of writer’s block, lethargy, moving house and outside activities that transported me out of blogland for the last few months.

I just visited Molly and she wrote; “Looks like my cheering section’s down to a few die hards, those who can deal with the randomness, and the frequent total absence of a blogger on these pages”.  Well, Molly, I think my situation is even more dire.  I have been missing in action and probably given up for dead.

But stealing from Mark Twain; “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”

Not dead but the life of a vampire squirrel sucks!  And as a Vampire Squirrel, I am definitely not a morning person!
Not dead but the life of a vampire squirrel sucks! And as a Vampire Squirrel, I am definitely not a morning person!

Stealing from General MacArthur as he addressed the people of the Philippines from the landing beaches at the start of the liberation of the islands from the Japanese forces during World War II;  “I have returned.”

I Have Returned
I Have Returned

Astute readers will have realized that this post has some original content consisting of a few poorly strung together sentences but largely consists of a couple of stolen quotes (3! if we count the quote I stole from Molly) and a couple of pictures stolen off the internet.  In my defense,  I was always trained to believe the following maxim; “To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism; to steal from many is research.”  Even that maxim was stolen from somewhere.  So as you can see I did a lot of research for this post!  You’re welcome.

But I guess what I am trying to say is that “I’m back!”  And I will try to get you caught up with all the exciting things that have been happening in my life (please try not to yawn so loudly, it’s just rude) through a series of posts in the next few days entitled, “Now You Know What I Did Last Summer” (Hmmm….another stolen idea.  Have I no shame?  …. I guess not).

TTFN – Ta ta for now!  Now I wonder where I stole  er..researched that from…….

P.S.  Even as I mention MacArthur and the Philippines, may I invite us all to continue to pray and send aid for those affected by the tragic calamity of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines and elsewhere.  If you wish to donate to the relief efforts, please check out this post which gives information on how to do that.

Blood Has Been Spilt


In the post “The Landlord Wants Us Out“,  I reported on the invasion and occupation of a small village in eastern part of the Malaysian state of Sabah by a group of armed men pressing a land claim from the 19th century on behalf of the Sultanate of Sulu.

Sadly, as feared, the three week old confrontation has turned tragic and fatal.  As of Monday the 4th of March, 8 policemen and 19 insurgents had died in exchange of fire.  Then yesterday, the Malaysian police and security forces launched an attack on the group supported by jet planes on bombing strafes and artillery shells.  There were thankfully no more casualties on the Malaysian side but more insurgents have probably been killed.  However there is concern that many of the insurgents managed to escape the attack and the security cordon and are hiding in the surrounding area masquerading as local villagers.  Security forces are carrying out door- to – door searches and “mopping up” operations to try to contain any remaining threat.

Our national anthem has a line in it that translates as “this is the land that I would dare to shed my blood for…..” and for those 8 policemen, they have made that ultimate sacrifice and their blood has been spilt so that others may continue to live in safety and peace.  There are no words that can bring comfort to their loved ones and families but nevertheless the country honors them for their sacrifices.  It just seems that all the death and sorrow was so unnecessary.   The price of this insanely, mad adventure of those armed intruders have been paid – a heavy price in blood and tears for both sides.

The Landlord Wants Us Out


Wow. It’s been another two weeks since I last posted. Yeah, I know that with such irregular postings, I will soon have no one dropping by this blog. But I do have a good excuse! Even better than the dog ate all my draft post excuse I was going to use earlier. No, this squirrel has been to busy defending his country to be writing mere posts or the excuse that I call ….. “Invasion or Eviction” (cue dramatic music chords for effect – da da da dum).

Yes, faithful readers, my country has been invaded. About three weeks ago, some 100 – 200 (depending on which news source you read) terrorists, patriots, rightful heirs (depending on which news source you read) showed up on the beautiful sandy beaches of Sabah (a Malaysian state on the rainforest island of Borneo). Well, anyway they were heavily armed tourists at the very least. They entered a small village near the coast and made themselves at home. Apparently, most of the villagers fled but a few stayed behind. Those that stayed behind were either innocent by-standers, hostages, sympathizers or accomplices (depending on which news source you read).

To understand what is going on, one has to go back a few centuries to learn the roots of the matter. In the 17th and 18th century, there were two regional powers that vied for control of Borneo and the islands of what is today, southern Philippines. These were the Sultanates of Brunei and Sulu. They were big players in the geopolitical scene of that time and European colonial powers like England, Portugal and Netherlands as well as the Asian Superpower, China, all established diplomatic relations with these two kingdoms.

In 1658, the Sultan of Brunei ceded over part of Sabah to the Sultan of Sulu as appreciation for his help in putting down an armed rebellion. So it would seem that part of Sabah was now legally part of the Sultanate of Sulu except that there were some local tribes who never really accepted that they belonged to Brunei and hence they were not for the Sultan of Brunei to give away but that’s another story. Now in the 19th century, both kingdoms were under a lot of pressure – Brunei faced internal unrest and pressure from “friendly” British powers who were willing to help the Sultan out for a price and Sulu who were at war with imperialistic Spanish forces.

Brunei again ceded parts of Sabah, this time to the British North Borneo Company in exchange for military and administrative assistance. The British then effectively took control of Sabah. The British then signed an agreement with the Sultan of Sulu for their part of Sabah on the 22nd of January 1878. Now however, there is a legal dispute as to what was actually agreed to. The British version is that the Sultan of Sulu agreed to “grant and cede” the land in exchange for an annual payment which in recent years amounted to about RM5,000 or USD 1,630. The descendents of the Sultan of Sulu say that the agreement was to “lease” or rent the land for that amount.

However, just six months later, on the 22nd of July 1878, the Sultan of Sulu was forced to sign an agreement with Spain in which he relinquished all his territories in what is now the Philippines to the Spanish Empire. Some like the British looked upon that as the effective end of the Sultanate of Sulu as an entity. Nevertheless, the payment of the annual fee for Sabah territories continued to the heirs of the Sultan – even until recently, the Malaysian Government made such payments. Later on, when the British gave independence to Malaysia, Sabah would become part of the new country with no one really giving any thought to the SUltanate of Sulu.

But despite not actually having any territory or real political power, there is still a lot of respect and support amongst the Sulu people for the heirs of the Sultan. To make the story even more convoluted, there are at least two serious contenders for the title of Sultan of Sulu and a few other claimants too. The current “Sultans” of Sulu have continued to claim that they hold the rights of the old Sultanate. In the past, they have given “Datukships” -honorary titles to Malaysians which are similar to being conferred a knighthood. In Malaysia, there are certain privileges to having a “Datukship” and it garners that person a fair bit of respect from the community. However, such titles are supposed to be given only by recognised Malaysian Sultans and as such the Sulu Datukships are not recognised by the government but this does not stop many Malaysians from seeking the title from the “Sultans” of Sulu.

Well, anyway, back to what is happening now. A group of 100 to 200 (depending on which news source you read) Sulu patriots led by the brother of one of the Sultans” of Solo have returned to their “lands” to evict the Malaysian “squatters”.

There is a certain sense of romantic adventurism to the whole thing if it wasn’t for the reality of the guns and explosives and the potential for a tragic end. So far, the Malaysian authorities are trying to play the whole incident down and are carrying out negotiations while wearing them down as their food supplies begin to run out. It’s now been about three weeks. Let’s pray for a peaceful end to all this. But isn’t life stranger than fiction sometimes?Map of the Royal Sultanate of Sulu-715179