Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Kirkby Alumni Reunion: what it means for me

My daughter Nadiah viewing the Kirkby Exhibiton at INTAN Bukit Kiara

Uncle Jef's (Jaafar Saidin) oil painting of the MTTC campus was on exhibition

Many old photos of Kirkby days. This collage has one photo with Apak in it taken on the morning of Hari Raya in 1956

The Kirkby College Alumni Grand Reunion was held over two days from 28 – 29 November 2008. It kicked off with the Kirkby Educational Exhibition at INTAN, followed by a Convention on Teachers Education officiated by the Minister for Education. The finale was the Kirkby Grand Reunion Dinner at PICC, Putrajaya graced by Her Royal Highness Raja Permaisuri Perak, Tuanku Bainun.

It was a momentous occasion for Kirkbyites. Half a century after returning home from Kirkby, and after contributing with their youthful zest and energy to the development of our young nation, the government has finally given them due recognition and their rightful standing in the education community which they fully deserve. We are, after all, talking about a pioneering group of educators, a group of people with immense impact and a lasting legacy on the development of education in Malaysia.

For me, it was an emotional experience.

This reunion came a month too late for Apak, my father. Apak had passed away exactly one month earlier. If only… if only Apak was still around, he would have savoured this moment too. That, I am very sure of.

Even if, for whatever reason, he had not been able to be at the functions himself, I would be there on his behalf. And the event would be duly reported to him - complete with photos and memorabilia attached. This is because Apak had known about this reunion. You see, he had received a personal invitation from the organizers. Alas, it was not to be.

I have told myself a long time ago that, when Apak passes on, I should take up the responsibility of continuing his friendship. So, here I am now, a full-fledge Associate Member of Persatuan Alumni Maktab Kirkby Malaysia.

I took my family to see the Kirkby exhibition at INTAN yesterday. Although it was just a small one, I'm sure it was enough to bring back the good old memories of Kirkby for all the Kirkbyites. If Apak was there, he too would have been able to relate to the many photos, maps, paintings and documents on exhibition.

For me, it gave me a sense of fulfillment just to be there. I felt so lucky to be able to experience a piece of something which my father had actually experienced for himself more than fifty years ago. I had always known that Kirkby was something special to Apak. Yesterday, at the exhibition, I came that little bit closer to understanding why it was so special.

The Mem Besar, Syafiq and Anas gawked at the exhibits. Even my youngest daughter, Nadiah, got excited when she managed to point out to me a group photo of her Atok.

Amongst the many items on display, I could certainly recognize two oil paintings of the MTTC campus. They were the paintings by one of Apak’s closest friends from his Kirkby days, Jaafar Saidin. I had seen the paintings many times before at Uncle Jef’s home in Alor Setar, and later in Kulim. Apparently, he had given the paintings away to the organizers of the exhibition as a token of his contribution to make the event a success.

Later in the night, I attended the Kirkby Grand Reunion Dinner at PICC, in Putrajaya.

Again, I felt blessed and lucky to be there.

For I was now amongst the Kirkbyites in full force. They came dressed in their best, donning jackets proudly displaying their Kirkby MTTC crest. The camaraderie, the respect for each other, and the dignified presence that they projected over-awed me.

Throughout the event, I couldn’t help thinking that these are the very people whom my father – my own Apak, had rubbed shoulders with. These are the people with whom my father must have studied, worked, and played with.

It must have been an honour for him. It was for me... just to be in their presence.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Creating world class cities: a prerequisite

Sydney: a world class city. But where is Malaysia's world class city?

A large proportion of the Malaysian population now resides within urban areas. As Malaysian cities grow bigger, issues relating to urban management become more complex and a host of new problems also start to set in. Traffic congestion, ineffective public transport, environmental degradation, and waste management are just some of the problems that the local authorities in Malaysia have to grapple with.

The local authorities are often made accountable for these matters that receive a great deal of public interest. Yet, the challenge has always been the overlapping roles of various government agencies, as well as, the lack of empowerment and limitation of authority vested upon them.

In more developed countries, local authorities are given more authority over matters that could be delivered more effectively at the local level by the local government themselves. It makes sense. After all, the local authorities being the “third-tier of government”, should have a clearer and fairer understanding of issues and problems within their areas of jurisdiction.

In the UK, Japan, and Australia for example, public transportation are within the jurisdiction of the local authorities to control and manage. Thus, services are able to be tailor-made to meet local needs more effectively.

In contrast, local authorities in Malaysia have no say what so ever in planning for public transportation. Instead they are controlled and decided elsewhere by some Federal ministry or agencies in Putarajaya or Kuala Lumpur. Why, even the routing of buses within their areas are decided for them by Federal agencies! And we are not even talking about approvals for rail-based transport like LRT or monorail yet here.

Ironically, whilst people all over the world are talking about “decentralization of power” and “empowerment of local governments” here we are bucking the trend. Because if recent developments are to be any indication, the Federal Government and its ministries are intent on usurping more powers from our local governments. Even traditional functions of local authorities like picking up of rubbish are being controlled from KL!

Hard to believe yes. But that’s Malaysia for you.

If this trend continues then we can just dream on about creating global and world class cities. Major, successful cities world over are given the trust and mandate to deal with local issues. In that way, they are able to discharge their duties effectively and meet the aspirations of the local population which they directly serve and are accountable to.

What we need in Malaysia right now is nothing short of a paradigm shift and a change in mindset. The management and organization of local authorities need to be enhanced. For that, the Federal Government and its battery of Ministries and agencies have just got to let go some of their functions. And local authorities have got to be given the necessary resources – jurisdiction, manpower and financial.

Only then can we talk about creating world class cities.

Monday, November 17, 2008

PC kaput

It's been very quite on this blog latety, yes. My PC has gone kaput. It just refuses to be switched on!

Steps have been taken to revive it. In the meantime this blog shall continue to hibernate. After all, it is winter (well almost)...

I'll be back soon, once the PC is OK.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Barack Obama: the time for change is here?

Barack Hussein Obama has done it. After two, long years of campaigning he has triumphed to be the 44th President of the United States
What in the world hit this first term senator in the first place to make him fancy his chances as the Democratic Party candidate beats me. After all he was up against Democrat heavyweight Hillary Clinton - and her hubby Bill, too, if I may add!

But against all odds, Hillary the undisputed favourite, was pushed aside.

And the campaign against McCain was no walk in the park either. Everything was thrown at him to derail his march to the White House.

But his sincerity and seemingly willingness to sit down and listen to all parties - "rogue nation" Iran included - has endeared him to many foreigners, and Americans alike, it seems.

After the promises of change, expectation will be running high that a new era of a fairer America shall emerge. We wait and see. Only time will tell.