Friday, January 18, 2019

FMC, the continuing story.

Sat 19 Jan 2019.

The FMC college gates in PD closed 57 long years ago. But the young boys, now old and many less than robust, remain in numbers, and the memories linger. Friends who got together to collect jottings of the years gone by surely are not penning the epilogue of Old Puteras of old ? For the journey continues. We were merely holding up the torch  for those coming after us.

Being the one premier education experiment for the nascent nation, FMC and its subsequent successor RMC didn't fail in producing champions in all fields as was expected of it. The heavy mixture of British staff that inevitably gave way to a fully Malaysian one did not lessen the sowing of the national spirit beating in the hearts of the boys. We were proudly multi-racial, and a few have even left our shores following destiny, but the spirit of comradeship and the bond of nationalism have never lessen with time. Something was right in the approach to the education system  then. Or maybe it was us, the raw material. It's sad to see that the educational experimentation that continues to this day has not produced a stronger, more cohesive youth to take over the management of our beloved but often unnecessarily divided nation.

From champions in all kinds of sports at national and international levels, to prominence in medicine in all fields, all disciplines of engineering, the teaching and  managing in universities, the practice of law, both on the bench, before it, as well as teaching it,  company management, the Civil Service and, of course, the Armed Forces and the Police, our OP's contribute a sizeable number of the personalities. And that number is not lacking in politics, either, though with varying shades of colours and degrees of success. The Cabinet has a very young OP, the Speaker of Parliament is a not-so-young OP, the Secretary-General of the rejected UMNO is an OP, many of the counsels for the different and opposing litigants in the flux of investigations by the authorities are OP's - even one of the prominent counsels now finding himself the subject of legal scrutiny of his own is an OP, plus that 1MDB guy. And the President of the Former Legislative Members Association of Malaysia, of course, has to be an OP.

To tarry a bit on the subject of politics, maybe OP's don't make perfect  MP's and State Assemblymen, and by that I mean the quiet and obedient ones. I've seen enough examples, and that includes yours truly, where when it comes to the question of principles, perhaps the OP's upbringing puts him in a bind. Politics requires flexibilty. Principles are not so flexible. I know principles also kept my Terengganu "socialist" OP friend from entering the gory fray of party politicking. Maybe that's why his head is still full of black hair.

There's also "office politics". But it's still politics, and OP's, in my mind, also don't always do well here. I had my problems with one of my bosses, and I can assure you that it was about principles. We had a large number of  Chief Secretaries to the different Ministries, and some Chief Secretaries to the Government from among OPA's. But there are also cases where OPA's assigned to State bodies don't last long because they cannot align their styles with the MB's style. 

In my less-than-starry career, I'd move to Melaka, to KL a few times, to Seremban, also a few times, to Port Kelang, to PJ, and finally Seremban again, and met many OP's at work or play.  When "The Weld" first opened, I bumped into Gnanalingam, who was with MTC, Kuantan. When I was in Port Kelang decades later, I bumped into him again. This time he'd move to West Port, although he didn't tell me then that he owns it. I believe another OP helped. In Felda there were several of us. Attending various conferences locally and abroad over the years, lo and behold, OP's were there. Why, one OP even managed to marry into my large extended family, he all the way from Kedah to Kuala Pilah! Then of course there is my golf. All these had kept my OP's memories fresh.

We've been through 14 GE's. That's not too much, and 60 years are not long in politics. Bigger political changes have taken place around us - Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, even India. Singapore is the exception in this respect. We saw a drastic change on 9 May 2018, but that's only the first change in 6 decades. What is drastic is the cause of it. One man largely contributed to a refutation of a proven brand, not because of what he did (in the eyes of the public - his numerous cases are  still  pending in court) but the quantum of his act. What sort of education did he go through? A bit of military training in his schooling would have done him a world of good. 

Now they are changing the method of selection for boarding schools again, weighing in favour of the "B 40" group. Which is honourable. But I hope quality is not spared, as OP's interviews stressed then (and now?). School (our college) is the place to nurture the nation. Old smokers just can't kick the habit. 

I don't know how many more reunions we can attend. Time is ponderous but unrelenting. But we have our families and our memories.We can only hold on to these two for dear life. One sustains our worldly needs. The other sustains our spiritual needs.
They say we should look to the future. But shouldn't we learn from the past? My FMC days have long gone. But one or two lessons picked, and one or two friendships made, sometimes bring a smile to my old lips, and for a moment lights up my old heart. That RMC remains means others are also building up their experiences. No, my FMC story is a continuing story, not an epitaph.


Wednesday, January 16, 2019

A bit of golf.

Wed 16 Jan 2019.

I owe my golf  to two OP's.

In 1978 I was serving Felda as the "Area Controller" for NS, and the late  OP Ismail Mansor was the State Secretary. The SS's  and the MB's offices were then in the old pre-War Colonial building that was later turned into the state library. Felda had its own building close by. Ismail personally phoned me one morning. Nowadays it's always the PA or something.

       "Zam, come to my office now" he ordered.

He handed to me the Seremban International Golf Club membership application form. By virtue of being the SS, he was SIGC's V.P.

       "Sign" he ordered, again.

       "You pay the entrance fee (RM 500, at that time. It's 6,000               now) in 2 instalments." Another order.

That's how I became SIGC Member Z 18. I was 34 and knew less than nothing about golf. Tiger Woods was 2 at that time, but he was already showing-off on  tv his precocious golfing talents. So I was a non-playing, non-handicap member for 8 years, paying the club's dues of RM 20 every month, without ever stepping into the club's premises.

Hank, another OP, was my housemate during my first year at the university (there was only one solitary unversity in the country at that time). In 1986, some 18 years after our graduation, Hank suggested we took our handicap tests. He was a member of KGNS. So we practiced together at his club's driving range, because I was back in Felda HQ in KL by then. Hank took his test in KGNS, I took mine in SIGC. That's how I got handicap 24 at 43. But unlike Hank, I've not stop playing since. 

When I was in Felda, I was one of the few who played then. In fact I played so much that it was 36 holes on weekends, and many leaves taken for golf. So much so, the Chairman ruled, verbally, not to take leave for golfing. So I didn't. I mean, I played, this time without taking leave, as instructed. Fortunately I was never caught.

When I was with MISC, we had Japanese clients who would perhaps give us 5 minutes when we visited them in their offices to talk business. But when we agreed to play golf together (and you know the Japanese are golf-crazy) they would be more than happy to spend 5 hours talking busines and playing golf.

There's something about golf that caught my fancy. Maybe because I was "a mature beginner". Maybe because of Tiger. I'd been following his amateur career from 1990's including his US Amateur Championships that were shown on local tv. 

Along the way, I've held membership cards of other golf clubs, but none I cherish more than the one that says "OPA Golf Section membership no. Z 036 member since 28 / 06 / 89". Now I hear the tragic news that this course, located next to the Mines, next to  the old Sg. Besi RMC campus, is going to be closed. I plead that the powers that be spare this site. It's a real "commando" course and nothing much of an even level ground is lost to any other building designs here. Let's keep this bit of green patch for nostalgia.

Over the years I've played with other OP's, by design or accident. Shah, Nor Shaari, Md. Nor, Shukdarshan, Khairuddin, the late Yahya, and of course Hank, to name some. By design, when there were arranged games; by accident, when we bumped into each other, usually at KGNS or RSGC. There are a few OP's in Seremban, too. But sadly, one by one they're hanging up their clubs. And Hank is one of them.

Being self-taught, I'd wanted to acquire the skills in this, to me,  wonderful game. Over time I'd come to realise the philosophy, the mental part of golf that can be learned. It's one game where your main opponent is yourself. It's one game where the learning never stops. In fact a new perspective to many facets of the game would appear again and again, as you play it, as you watch others play it, as you read about it, even as you reflect on your very varied daily rounds.

In 32 years of playing the game, I'd learned that a round of golf would reveal a person's character. And an earnest attitude about improving in it points to the building of character. In the search for learning, I'd collected 111 books and bought countless magazines. The oldest book was first printed in 1901. To apply the theories and ideas mooted by the writings, I'd collected 121 clubs, with putters alone numbering 12. I'd brought my handicap down from 24 at age 43, to 6 at age 63, or 18 strokes in 20 years. That's less than 1 per year, but  it's entirely self-taught. And right now at 74, my handicap card says "11". That's not too bad, I dare say.

Looking at the sport as a national game, it's one where size doesn't matter, and as I play and observe, where prodigous length off the tee is not the deciding factor. It's the ideal sport for our dimunitive sportsmen to excel in, including internationally. Just look at the Thais, the South Koreans, the Japanese, the Taiwanese, the Bangladeshis and the Filipinos. 40% of all shots are in putting, using the shortest club of all.

Looking at the sport as life-long past-time, well, I'm available as an example, if I may say so myself. I took it up late. I taught myself. And I'm healthy enough to play 9 holes 5 days a week, and with a small wager to sweeten the walk, still managed for the last 15 years to make an average of RM 386 per month. Not Tiger-ish, but I'm not a pro. And it pays for lost balls.


Sunday, December 30, 2018

Goodbye 2018.

Monday 31 Dec 2018.

Golf handicap 12.

That's in my "2018 Golf Notes". I'd jotted down "play to 12" as a resolution for 2018. Well, believe it or not, my MGA National Handicap System handicap card for December 2017 says "USGA Handicap Index 13.1; Course/Slope Rating 72.5/ 134; blue: 16; white: 15", while the same card for December 2018 says blue:11; white: 11". I made it. Not bad for 74. That's the age, not the rating.

On top of accompanying Dekna to the Courts in Ipoh and Muar several times, and to Penang once,  accompanying realtives for weddings they chose to hold as far away from home as possible, and 3 overseas family trips, with 13 hours of total flight time, and equal hours of waiting time, I'd accumulated  some mileage for 2018. I guess family matters matter.

Then there was the Great GE 14 on 9th. May, that saw an over-confident, over-bloated and over-everything-else BN thrashed after 61 years being in power. There was the unnecessary, wasteful bye-election in PD, NS, and soon,  the necessary but equally wasteful bye-election in Rantau, also in NS.

I attended BERSATU's NS Convention in PD 9th. December, and the first day of its National AGM in Putrajaya held 29-30 of the same month.

In both venues I saw the youthful composition of the crowd. That's promising.

There was palpable enthusiasm in both places. That's also promising.

No money changed hands for "expenses" in PD and Putrajaya. I was there.   This I've seen in PWTC every year, and I was there, too. Is that promising ?

There were lots of talk, of course. These were party politics, anyway.  But, as they say, talk is cheap.  People talk of  "the Malay Tsunami" in GE 14. They spoke of the UMNO rot and the current desertions of  its elected representatives, although Mahathir astutely downplayed the effect of this party-hopping. Because BERSATU stands to gain the most, and PKR and DAP are already making suitable  noises. They spoke in PD and Putrajaya of doing this and that, and not doing this and that. Would everyone who needs to act, do so ? Walk the talk, as it were. Syed Saddek said the right thing in Putrajaya - if BERSATU stops doing what it did before GE 14, it would lose GE 15.

Then there were the exFMC/RMC gatherings, in Mindef and Sg. Besi. Some old friends of half-a-century ago met. And I met Hafizi in Ipoh after 50 years. The years have taken their toll, family lives keep us all apart, but the fond memories linger.

The whole year I'd tried to catch up on my reading. That's an "F". But in doing so, I'd tried to reorganize my collection of books. I started with my golf library, but that's all I've done so far. I found out that I have 111 books under this topic. Maybe that's why I got the handicap 11 - it's 10%.

Well, no earth shattering records were made by me this year. No mountains were moved, nor the helpless of the world saved. But I kept the family together, and we're healthy and still wise. No wealth here. But it's ok.


Monday, December 24, 2018

MPV goes North.

Monday 24 Dec 2018.

We finally reached home close to midnight last night, all the way from Padang Besar, Perlis, on Saturday, and after the wedding reception in Jitra, Kedah, Sunday.  The first 1,000 km on the MPV was supposed to take a week, and get first service in Seremban. Instead it was notched in one day, and got that service in Penang. And the new upholstery got tested by the 3 monkeys in less time! But it passed muster, and my old S Class steering somehow felt heavy in comparison.

Dekna had a court appearance in Penang Friday, and her colleague's belated wedding in Jitra, Sunday. That's how the MPV came in the picture, and Padang Besar got included. Haniff drove, so I just enjoyed the ride. 

The last time I drove up to Padang Besar was 20 years ago, when Adik was in UiTM Arau. I used to go to Chuping 1982-85, when my job covered the sugar plantation there. It's under rubber now. And Aman Shah, the ex GM of the factory, is retired in Arau. The place, like other towns I've recently revisited after decades, has changed.

We spent the first night in Penang, and the other two in Alor Star. I always look forward to the breakfast spread when staying in hotels. Penang, as expected, was ok. I got up early, but was beaten to it by a couple of guys. Alor Star wasn't as good, and was also beaten to it by some early risers.

The road up to Padang Besar and back to Seremban was jammed, as expected, these being the school holidays now. Penang was jammed. Alor Star was jammed. Padang Besar was jammed. And all the R & R's were so jammed, cars couldn't enter and were parked along the highway. People are complaining of the price of petrol and the cost of living, but they don't seem to show it. Padang Besar stalls charged rm 5 for a young coconut, on "normal" days only rm 3, I'm told. But there was no shortage of customers, all weighed down with bulging plastic bags of purchases. And the last night in Alor Star, I went to a nearby shopping mall at 9 p.m. and there was a crowd in all the outlets, and they were buying, not simply window shopping.

Dekna's Kedah colleagues told her to try the "Laksa ikan seqok". I thought it's a variety of fish. Actually it's laksa with one whole fish on top. This Kedah dialect ! We tried it, together with satay. Excellent ! Maybe being hungry helped. I love the piece of fat on the beef satay. Later we also tried the kweitiau kerang; also good. In both places, we somehow managed to grab the last available table.

The Jitra wedding was in an air-conned hall. The setting was nice. We were early, so the food que was still ok. But because we also left early, Dekna learned later that we missed the "coffee table". She met many friends from Putrajaya, and missed a few who came later.

Dekna has still to get behind the wheel of her brand new MPV. Her recent eye-operation has kept her from it. She could try it in a few days time. Then maybe we can go South.


Monday, December 17, 2018

Persona to Kia.

Tues 18 Dec 2018.

Yesterday was one long day. Of waiting. Waiting at the KL Courts. Waiting at Puspakom Setapak. Waiting at JPJ Setapak. Waiting at Kia, Federal Highway. 

The day started at 6 a.m. It ended at 10 p.m. That's 16 hours. That's two-third of the day.

It seemed a real waste of time, even if the job at hand was necessary, not trivial.

Dekna had to be at court to fix a hearing date. We arrived at 7.30. The canteen was just opening, the Registrar windows still shut. When her turn came, it was 10.15. That's three-and-a quarter hours of waiting, and business was completed in 5 whole minutes. In this digital age, the Courts, like the Law it espouses, seems stone-age.

Then off to Puspakom. Documents had to be readied. The vehicle had to be readied. The queue was ready. But the lady processing the queue wasn't. After that the vehicle must follow the next queue. This time the men were ready. But the queue was a snail-crawl.

After that, off to JPJ just next door.  Again the digital age has left them stranded. The report at Puspakom had to be repeated physically because although the inspection done was by the same people for the same vehicle, the intended departments were separate, requiring a separate report, for the same vehicle, done on the same day, by a different department related to each other. So Puspakom and JPJ  took care of the rest of the 4.30 government closing time. That's 10.5 hours total thus far.

Off we rushed (this was rush hour now) to Kia on the Federal Highway. Their closing time was 6.  Our appointed time 5.30.  We made it. Whew!

Then the final documentations, the explanations, the demonstrations and the little trials. Now we were ready to leave. And the clock said 7.30. Then fuel tanks and stomachs to be filled, and the eternal road jams to be endured. And it was finally 10 p.m. Whew! again.

Dekna bought her first car, a Persona, in Kuantan in 2011. The car is Malaysian, of course. It served its purpose, is still in good condition, and was sold to Bang Piei for 17,000. That's less than one-third of the original price.

This Kia Grand Carnival 8-seater is  c.b.u. and Korean, and is 3 times the price of the Persona. For the next 9 years she'll have to make her monthly instalments, until age 43. Seems a long way from Korea to KL, a long time until 2027. I'll be 83. There'll be at least one new PM. There'll be at least 2 more General Elections. Would I see an L.A. in my house, and her contemporary in  Parliament house ? We'll wait and see.

In the mean time, let's enjoy the ride.


Sunday, December 16, 2018

FMC Port Dickson reunion.

Sunday 16 Dec 2018.

This was the reunion planned a couple of months ago now finally happening Sunday 16th December 2018, exactly 65 years after Foundation Day 17 December 1953. The PD intakes 1952 -1961 organized themselves for this "FMC Port Dickson Budak Boys Get-together". It was a success.

"Budak Boys" seems like a misnomer of sorts if you take the joint translation, but through use all these years it now conveys the homely connotation rolling on the tongue, nostalgic and fond. The gathering today was pleasant, warm and enjoyable. This get-together  of 70's plus only refreshened memories of lost youth and the years that rolled by, but not sensed with sadness, rather  with sweet rememberance of friendships born and lives lived.

I had sought Hank's company, coming here. I wasn't sure of the directions, as this was the first time I would be coming to this new RMC campus, since they moved from the old Sg. Besi one that we moved to from PD in 1961. The agreed rendesvous time was 8 a.m. at Tesco Seremban 2. Then we'd feel our way through the old college route through Sg. Besi town, we thought, because Hank wasn't sure of the way himself.

In the end, it was simple. We took the old way, through Sg. Besi town, to the mosque, and got directions from the guardhouse, and arrived at the Wisma Perwira in good time. It's an impressive campus. The whole area has been planned well, and the question about "why change ?"  was placated with the results seen. Only the news I got later, that the golf course is no more, was the bad news.

We thought we'd be among the earliest to arrive, but people were already there ahead of us.

The usual stuff took place - the registeration, the contributions, the food & drinks, the photographs, even a tree-planting event, and the speeches in the hall with the current Putras applauding loudly on cue. Nawawi made an impressive speech that related the good old with the better new. He had no notes, but he touched on all the right things. It was a pity that we couldn't mingle with current Budak Boys long. The next time we should introduce individually the outstanding among us, as an encouragement to the current students.

I had a great time reuniting with my 1961 intake. Aji was there, surprisingly looking youthful, with black hair and all. All the rest of us were grey ! I met Musa "Brunei" for the first time in 56 long years. He's a retired colonel now. He was so happy he invited me for breakfast the next morning, but I had to decline. There was Shah, Md Nor, Nor Shaari, Zaki Mahmud, Husin Senik, Nawi, Rahman Daud, Megat, Wan Wahid, Jalaludin, Arthur Samuel, Hamid Arshat, Mui Yoke Loong, Liew Yeow Keong, Md. Sham, Li Heng Tiong and so many others. But many that I can remember didn't make it, too. I think there were about 150 present. I said to Farid, before leaving, we should make this Foundation day an annual affair.

Going home, Hank and I decided to try the alternative route through Jalan Belimbing. In fact this is an easier way. We come out to Belakong, and reach the road to Lekas, the route straight forward and the road clear. Maybe because it's Sunday. 

We were back to Tesco before 3. We stopped for a cuppa before breaking up. Hank paid, as also the toll. But it was my car, so that about broke it even.


Sunday, December 9, 2018


Monday 10 Dec 2018.

At the renamed The Grand Beach Hotel, Port Dickson, yesterday Sunday 9th December, 2018, BERSATU N.S. had its 1st. post-GE convention. I attended on the late invitation of Jefri, the pro-tem divisional head of  Seremban. About 500 attended. It was a youthful gathering, and I felt old, but not out of place.

The wily Rais Yatim, the present pro-tem head of BERSATU N.S., contrived this timely gathering. Mukhriz declared it open, and the PH MBNS also came, of course.

Timely, because it's been 7 months since the PH historic win at the GE14 polls. The UMNO-PAS led ICERD rally in KL yesterday is a reminder that 5 years are not too many years before GE 15 and another day of reckoning, and barking dogs at PH's doors are not resting for one moment.

And the rakyats are watching.

No amount of cheering in the hall, and there was plenty enough, would save PH the next time around. The rakyat must stay convinced that PH is on the right track. The work is cut out for BERSATU. Their share in PH must be bolstered. Their support among the rakyat must therefore be bolstered.

That the Dataran Merdeka rally on Saturday gathered less than the touted million ( the Police estimate was 55,000 of only young Malay men, women and children from as far as Johor and Kelantan; reporters said it was double that ) and was dampened by rain isn't the point.  The fact remains, people can be instigated to show public support for a cause, even if they are vague about its real intent, and unaware of the real situation.  That interview Mukhriz related of the lady from Terengganu who said "of course I must come and support this anti-ICERD" and then couldn't explain what's ICERD, is revealing. UMNO-PAS have been in the business too long not to grab at a good chance to attack the new PH government, for whatever cause, true or false. The PH government had already announced its decision of not ratifying ICERD. So the rally was to get something already gotten. And Mukhriz also mentioned some slogans for "support Najib" and even "support Rosmah".

Rais, Mukhriz, and later Eddin spoke well enough. Combined, they touched on the reason why BERSATU was born, how it convinced the voters that  UMNO had forsaken the Malays, exposed what Najib & co had done, and joined-up with the 3 parties and led the voters in droves to oust the 61-year old BN out of office.

The 8 speakers from the divisions, plus the clever unscheduled squeezing by Ruslan Kassim ( he's been doing it from UMNO, PKR and Perkasa days) combined also covered the topics of the Manifesto (KP), agricultural products (Jelebu), NEP (PD), Malay rights (Rembau), unity (Rasah), the Constitution (Tampin), BERSATU (Seremban), and education (Jempol). The Srikandi and Armada wings also spoke of empowering women, and the socio-economic problems facing the country. These are pertinent topics that require action, although more effective speakers should  convey the messages.

Now after 7 months, the PH Manifesto is not measuring up to the GE boast.  Cabinet members are performing below par. And PKR and BERSATU divisional affairs are facing the same party problems that plagued UMNO in the last 10 years. 

I'd come prepared with my own notes, in case there was a chance to speak. I'd jotted down about BERSATU being a Malay / Bumiputra party that must take matters up where UMNO failed; about personal agenda replacing national agenda; about integrity and corruption; about abuse of power; about billion-dollar scandals; about courage and political will; about party elections, and about taking action here and now. But only 3 speakers spoke, simply because Rais declared 2 p.m. as closing time. I'll have other opportunities, I hope.