Sunday, July 23, 2006


(Adam: Malaysia Boleh? Boleh, boleh, boleh. Jom! Kita makan dulu.)

While in conversation with a friend the other day I had an epiphany. Of sorts. For years we have been so proud of a slogan we borrowed from a chocolate milk drink.

Malaysia Boleh!

Using it to tell ourselves what a wonderful nation we are. We can do anything. Malaysia Boleh means Malaysia Can Do It.

Can Malaysia do it? Malaysia Boleh? Of course. We CAN do anything. The relevant question we should have asked ourselves before shouting that slogan is whether or not we WANT to. Sadly, the answer is NO!

Rightly, we should shout to the world and more importantly to ourselves WE WILL DO IT! But no.

Malaysia Boleh. Malaysia Can Do It. We have shouted it from our rooftops. From the world stage. We have taken it to the top of the world and across the oceans of the planet. It didn’t matter if getting to the top of the world is a feat that is achieved almost every month of the year by almost anyone who cared to try including paraplegics. It didn’t matter that we tax payers had to spend millions of Ringgit to salvage the Malaysia Boleh effort to literally drag someone’s boat half way round the world just so we can say we did it. We also drag out the slogan whenever a Malaysian, it doesn’t matter if he or she has not lived in the country nor could care less about Malaysia, makes some headlines anywhere in the world.

For years I’ve wondered why we are so happy to shout “Malaysia Boleh” at every opportunity. I still don’t understand. We’re still in the shit hole. We have been voted the 3rd rudest country in the world. Our universities are at the bottom of the poll list. We are no longer better than Ghana in a lot of things. See? They made it to the World Cup while our football is still the stuff jokes are made of.

Why? Why? Why?

Why? Malaysia Boleh merely means Malaysia CAN do it. Sure we can do it. We can do anything that we put our minds to. If we work hard. If we persevere. If we are passionate about wanting to achieve great things. If we are all those things then surely Malaysia WILL do it.

But we’re quite happy to remain just above the shitty level in achievements and to wallow in our mediocrity. Thank you very much.

Malaysia Boleh!

Post script. Somebody just told me that there is no word for “WILL” and “WANT” in our National Language. True ah?

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Relek ah Brudder.

(Adam: Eh relek la brudder. What's your problem?)

We Malaysians are such a relaxed people. Nothing ever seems to faze us. Much. The word emergency does not seem to exist in our vocabulary or it is a word that conjures up a totally different reaction from any other people in the world. Emergency ah? Wait ah. Minum dulu ya?

Saturday 21 July, 2006. Bukit Antarabangsa. City of Ampang in the recently declared developed state of Selangor.

Around 2 o’clock in the afternoon Bukit Antarabangsa was assailed by hurricane force winds. A fairly common occurrence in the area. As expected this caused a fair amount of tree damage. Along Jalan Wangsa 1 leading up the hill to the housing area are decades old pine trees which are rotted and probably termite infested. With winds of that force I expected some of the trees to lose branches and maybe even be totally felled. At 3.15 p.m. I drove along Jalan Wangsa 1 and sure enough there I saw debris strewn along the whole stretch of road. Big branches broken off. And smaller twigs blown off by the winds littered the road right down to Jalan Ulu Klang. About 1 km below. Halfway down one of the trees had lost a huge branch which lay across the road one end on one side of the road and the other precariously hanging from a fork in the tree trunk on the other side. Traffic had to navigate across the opposing lane and under this heavy branch. Dangerous situation, no? A passing car could be badly damaged. An unsuspecting motorcyclist could be killed if the tree fell on him. An emergency situation surely.

I called 911. A lady answered. I told her the about the situation. She listened patiently, asked for my name which she insisted on pronouncing as “At trick”, and then said that she was going to connect me to the Ampang Fire Department. Less than 30 seconds later a man answered identifying himself as Balai Bomba Ampang. I explained the whole situation again. His tone of voice when he reacted to my story told me that he was a little less than interested. He then asked for my phone number and my name which when I told him he insisted on pronouncing as “At Trick”. I shall never again think of my given name as common.

Bomba: Okay la. I will call and inform the Ampang Jaya Municipal Council.

Me: Call the MPAJ? But this is an emergency. The tree could fall and kill somebody.

Bomba: Ya? Oh you mean the tree is hanging across the road ah?

Me: Yes.

Bomba: Okay la we call MPAJ and see how.

Me: But this is an emergency and you are an emergency service, right?

Bomba: Ya la. But we call first. If MPAJ knows about it then we don’t have to come out la. But if they are not there then we will come out.

Me: (Resigned) Okay la. Terima kasih.

Come out? We’re talking about taking a leisurely stroll are we? But that’s the way Bolehland works. No problem, beb.

This incident reminded me sadly of what happened when my father died in a private hospital in Ipoh. My father was terminally ill in the Intensive Care Unit of this private hospital well-known among Ipoh folks for being very expensive. (I should have known then that in Bolehland high prices do not buy you high quality services.)
When I saw that my father was having great difficulty breathing I went to the ICU nurse’s station and asked if there was anything that she could do to make him feel more comfortable. She never looked up from the file she was working on and casually asked if I wanted her to call his personal doctor? When I offered that she should have a look at him and decide professionally if he needed the doctor’s assistance her reply shocked me into a stunned silence.

“We only call for the hospital doctor when it is an emergency.”

“What???!!! My father could be dying. If that is not an emergency what do you term an emergency?”

“When the patient stops breathing”, was her nonchalant reply.

Of course less than 10 minutes later my father’s breathing stopped. Then all hell broke loose. Pandemonium. Bells and sirens actually went off in the ICU! At a volume loud enough to have caused several more fatalities in that Intensive Care Unit of that very expensive private hospital in Ipoh.

My father died that night as a result of our radically different interpretation of an emergency.

At the apartment where we live the fire and smoke alarms have gone off on numerous occasions. Each time my family and I are the only ones who have left our unit, walked down the emergency stairs to the ground to await resolution of whatever caused the alarms to go off. Others stayed home. Watching football on TV, having their dinner or simply shrugging their shoulders.

Emergency? Jangan risau (worry) beb. Kita call dulu (we call first) then we come out.

Saturday, July 08, 2006


(Adam in SUMO mode.)

My sincere apologies for not updating the blog for so long. I have been busy working on Afdlin Shauki's new film, SUMOLAH!

Please go and visit the SUMOLAH! blogsite.

You can take part in a contest to win cell phones OR a walk-on role in the movie with Afdlin Shauki, Gurmit Singh a.k.a. Phua Chu Kang and Thailand's Inthira Charoenpura (of Nang Nak fame) OR a free trip with the cast when they film in Fukuoka, Japan.

Or you can just go visit and see photos of the shoot, the locations, the stars. Or just kay-poh with what's happening on SUMOLAH!


Sunday, July 02, 2006

The Malaysian Disease

(Adam: "Ya what?")

I hosted an event at the Kuala Lumpur Hilton hotel in Sentral. As part of the deal I was accorded the use of a day-use room at this spanking new, 5 (or some claim 6) star rated luxury hotel. It's a HILTON! Those of you who have been there before will know that just to get up to the driveway requires your submission to a security check. Okay la so the check is done by a couple of tired-looking, bored boys in police uniform and equipped with a mirror on a stick. Oh yes, there is the mandatory flashlight as well. Of course, everything about the hotel is top quality. The uniforms are crisp. The finish on everything is expensive. The rooms are luxuriously furnished.

From big screen plasma TV...
to silky smooth sheets and fluffy pillows. Okay la, so I'd messed up the bed a bit before I took the photo.
The bathroom is excellent. Separate bath and shower stall and toilet. Top of the range toiletries. Thick, soft towels. Bathrobes in batik cotton.
Personal office space...
Personal mini bar and refreshment centre...

But..........obviously, someone forgot about the minor details of maintenance. This was the condition of the electric iron plug. For a Hilton hotel this is surely unforgiveable...

Also as part of the deal my manager and I were each entitled to a RM50++ meal voucher. As I mentioned earlier, most of everything in this Hilton hotel was top quality. Visuals of Mat Salleh Hilton managers drilling and grilling the staff about quality crossed my mind. Then we were handed our meal vouchers...

They were slightly larger than postage stamps. They looked like they were hurriedly printed from the sales secretary's computer and cut with a pair of blunt scissors from...TA DA!!!...the infamous A4 sized paper!

So what's the point of this rant?

Is doing business in Malaysia or just being a Malaysian similiar to being infected by a deadly disease? Does our infamous apathetic attitudes infect everything and every person who comes in contact with us?

To add to this theory of infectious Malaysian-isms, I recently visited a sales office in the ultra efficient Singapore. But because the business was Malaysian...

Me: "Good morning may I..."
Them: "Ya what?"
Me: "I wish to find out if I may change (details deliberatedly left out)"
Them: "Cannot..."

...and so it went on. It made me feel right at home.

Think about it.