Father Sez

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Archive for April, 2009

We should get our umbrellas ready before it rains

Monday, April 13th, 2009


Source:  Google

We have a saying in our country. Sediakan payung sebelum hujan.”  It basically means that we should get our umbrellas ready before it rains.  

We are an equatorial country with rain almost throughout the year. Torrential downpours are quite common. However it seldom rains without any warning. The clouds turn a little dark, then darker, and then it rains. Despite these warnings, we can often see people stuck without umbrellas. 

Of course, our forefathers did not come up with the saying with only rain and umbrellas in mind. The saying was more to teach us to prepare ahead. Like savings for retirement, studies before exams, practice before games, being adequately insured etc. 

I have to admit that I could have done with a lot more practice in following this wise saying. There are a lot of issues where earlier preparation would have helped me a lot. 

However, one thing my family is well prepared for is rain.  We have umbrellas in the front of our house and in our cars. The umbrellas are kept in the front passenger seat, slotted in between the gear controls and the seat.  I

t can be quite a tough job trying to get the umbrella opened whilst trying to get out of the car when it is parked besides other cars in open car parks. We can’t open the door too wide, as the door may dent the door of the car beside us. Additionally the rain often just pours, so we have to open the door a little, slot out the umbrella, open the umbrella and then wriggle ourselves out. Getting a little wet would be a given. The advantage is that we don’t get soaked. 

Keeping an umbrella handy in the car became second nature only after getting soaked a number of times earlier in life.  

Unfortunately for other situations in life, not to have sediakan payung sebelum hujan has far deeper and more permanent results. 

Links – the National Flower of Malaysia edition

Saturday, April 11th, 2009


Our national flower. Bright red and so pretty. 

Our national flower is the hibiscus, called Bunga Raya or Grand Flower. The five-petaled Bunga Raya (Hibiscus Rosa-Sinensis) has been Malaysia’s national flower since 1960. Symbolically, the five petals of the bunga raya represent the “Five Principles of Nationhood” – Malaysia’s national philosophy in strengthening national unity and tolerance while the red colour represents courage.

The flower can be found throughout the country and parts of the Bunga raya’s shrub have medicinal and cosmetic uses.

I can only remember seeing the bright red flowers when I was young. Now with the advance of bud grafting etc., there are varieties in a myriad of colours. 

See here for some fascinating shots of the varieties of Bunga Raya that abound in our country.   

FMF outlined the steps he took to challenge the assessment on his home’s taxes. I must admire his methodical approach. Though he did not get all he wanted, the fact that this act is even possible will astonish any Malaysian. Here, the local Authorities give us a take it or leave it choice.  

CFLiew has signed up to become an organ donor. As he says, our bodies rot and become just a bundle of bones after a few months, so why not give away our organs to someone and do a world of good. This is a difficult decision to make for many people and I congratulate Liew for his noble and selfless act. 

WiseBread wrote about the launch of the Tata Nano, the world’s cheapest car. I am sure the car will do well in India and in most other places. My most uncomfortable driving on the road experiences were in India and I hope the stripping of the safety features does not result in more accidents. 

Chris gives his reasons why he prefers bookstores and cafes over his office. I agree with him completely. I love having meetings in coffee shops. It’s so informal and incidentally, we can’t sit there forever. There are also less interruptions.

Looks like Starbucks might be a reincarnation of something that has existed since a 100 years ago. Look at what the Malaysian Life has dug up.

KC Lau, one of Malaysia’s most known, if not THE best known PF blogger has just released an eBook, eMoney Tips April 2009 edition. This eBook is a group effort coordinated by KC. I contributed an article to this maiden edition. KC is planning to make this a monthly affair. I plan to be a regular contributor.  

Congratulations again, KC! 

One review of the book has already been posted. 

I found this visual guide to the fall of General Motors fascinating. We, a country of 27 million people, have 4 companies that produce so called national cars. Buyers of these cars get preferential tax breaks and duties on other cars are jacked up to make them expensive. Now that even GM, nay even Toyota and Honda are feeling the pinch, I wonder how long would our so called national car companies be around. I think the management of these companies should have a look at this visual guide.  

That’s it for this week, folks. Have a great, happy and productive weekend.

National Service Camps for Malaysian youngsters – my family’s experience

Friday, April 10th, 2009


This is a picture I took from Az’s website from her collection of her PLKN photos. (Hope you don’t mind…Az.) I was not really into photos when my daughter attended the camp.

 The uniforms give them a sense of solidarity and purpose.

National Service or Program Latihan Khidmat Negara was started in 2003 with the objectives :- 

-         Of instilling and strengthening the spirit of patriotism,

-         Promoting racial integration and unity,

-         Instilling positive attitudes by the absorption of good moral values,

-         Nurturing the spirit of volunteerism,

-         Creating a generation of young who are active, clever and self confident. 

Quite noble aims, I am sure you will all agree. Since the program is over a period of only 3 months, I suppose they’ll just be able to lay some foundations. Still it’s much better than nothing. 

The children are selected via some computer program from a database of children born in a particular year. They are then allocated training camps where they have report on a particular date. Those who have been allocated camps far away, are directed to meet at a pick up point for transport. 

(This NS cannot really be compared to a draft, where the youngsters are treated as recruits for the armed forces. The Singapore Government, for example, has a program where all 18 year olds get conscripted for a 2 year program with the Singapore Police, Civil Defence or Armed Forces.)

My eldest girl was just about 17 when the NS was announced. My wife told me that she was so looking forward to being selected for the course. (I was working in India at that time.) Unfortunately for her the computers did not pick her name. 

Azah, my second girl was totally against the National Service. When the announcements were made, she was all about hoping not to be selected. As Murphy’s Law would have it, her name came up. Azah was so nervous and even tried to get her mother to try to get her name off the list. Well, this did not happen. 

Finally the day to report drew close. The whole family drove down to the camp area to scout out the place. Incidentally that was about the first time my family had ever been to Kuala Pilah, Negeri Sembilan, about 30 kilometres from where we lived. (I never would have guessed that this would be where we would end up buying a piece of land for our rubber smallholding.)

On the day the kids were supposed to report, I drove Azah (and a friend of hers) to the camp. It was like a carnival, anxious parents giving last minute instructions and advice, the camp administrators running hither and thither etc. Azah was very nervous and I must admit, so was I. Finally, I like the other parents had to leave our (little) children there and get back home.


This was the mental picture I had of my daughter as I left her at the camp. Yes, I realise the photo is about 18 years old, but then I am a parent!. Maybe that should explain everything…..hehe 

We brought her back twice during the program for the Chinese New Year and the Christmas / New Year holidays. By then she had adapted to the environment and was enjoying herself quite a bit. 

The experience for her was good. All the nervousness was gone and she came back a more confident and responsible young lady. She also made some good friends with whom she still keeps in touch. 

For our family, this first experience with PLKN was excellent. We have another 3 young children who are waiting in the wings. Our son should be in the database pool in 2011/12. This time, our family will be hoping that he gets chosen.  

Hopefully by then, a well tried and tested personal finance module would also be in place for the trainees.  

Read about the personal PLKN experiences of other young Malaysians here. 

- CandyGurl  

- John Diew  

- DJRay 

- Az (she has some great shots of her experiences.) 

Taking hostages, sometimes it is a commercial negotiation tactic. I should know!

Monday, April 6th, 2009


I found this picture in Google from a story about Karnataka Housing Board officials being gheraoed for being late in water supply connections.  Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of the gherao that I went through. I suppose the taking of pictures was very far in my mind.

Taking the boss hostage? In France it is a labour tactic, says the New York Times. Apparently this had happened during some labour related disputes in the French operations of Caterpillar, 3M and Sony.

Taking the head honcho or the senior executives hostage is not rare. Coming to think of it, the workers cannot wait for all the legal and “corporate big talk”. The most effective avenue they have is the “holding the senior officers hostage” tactic. This gets them publicity, applies tremendous pressure on the senior officers and their bosses, and most often results in concessions being given by the other party.  

Holding someone against his or her will is, of course, illegal. Still the Authorities seldom inflict the punishment that comes with hostage taking on the offending parties. Countries like India, many of the African countries, Indonesia and even in some cases, Malaysia have had examples of these.  

In India, trade disputes such as non payment of debts are often settled by these measures. The creditor and his supporting cast (usually other creditors and their staff) just walk into the office of the debtor and sit there, refusing to leave until their debts are settled. You can imagine the   pressure applied on the debtor to find the funds to settle these creditors.  

In India, the term used to describe this kind of tactic is gherao.  

I went through a gherao in Orissa, India sometime in 2004.  

We were building a highway project there and there were some payment disputes with some of our subcontractors. I strongly suspect there was also an element of complicity by some of our local staff.  

Anyway it all started harmlessly enough. 5 guys turned up in our quarters seemingly claiming to want to discuss their payments with me. (This was on a Thursday evening.) They refused to go home and wanted some settlement to be arrived at there and then. They insisted on staying the night. As they were people I was well acquainted with, I agreed.  

The next morning more people joined in. Even people who were not our subcontractors. Basically it turned into a crowd, but I must say that they were generally well behaved and there was no chanting or beating of the war drums, so to speak. I mean, these were largely people with whom we had worked for well over a year!

We called the Malaysian Embassy in Delhi, and the person I spoke to informed the Indian Foreign Ministry.  And that night all hell broke loose. A police riot squad was despatched to our house and we were asked if we were feeling threatened in any way. By then about 15 of my staff had joined me, including two fellow Malaysians. A local TV crew turned up and basically we were portrayed not much different from being the scum of the earth. 

The Superintendent of Police for the District was also there and he explained to me that he was sorry about this, but there was little he could do. But the little was quite a lot. He made sure the guys did not cross an imaginary line he drew on the other side of the road facing our house. I was allowed to freely move about but not to leave the District without informing him. I thought that was pretty fair. 

By now my Head Office was aware of this gherao and arrangements had been made to send the required funds over. We finalised the accounts of each and every contractor, though I must admit that we were a little naughty in finalising the accounts of the chief instigators last. 

All the while, including at night, they took turns to watch the house, perhaps to make sure that we did not slip away in the middle of the night. That thought never crossed my mind. For one, the town we were in, was about a four hour drive from the state capital and the road was also not a good one. To face such a crowd along the road would be far worse that what we were going through. 

On Saturday, one of the chief instigators called one of my staff, the Project Manager who was an Indian, though not from Orissa. I think he must have been quite pissed at having been made to wait his turn whilst others were being paid. Some very harsh words were spoken including an alleged threat to my PM’s life. 

I asked everyone to stop work and we went to see the SP to lodge a report, and the reaction was firm and immediate. The SP’s logic was simple. We were taking steps to make payment and people were being paid. We were also working late into the night and this fact had been reported back to him by his patrolling officers. The SP gave the rest of the crowd a sharp tongue lashing (the guy who made the threat by then had taken off and I have never seen him since), and told them all to go home and not to come back unless they were called by us.

He also told them that if we made another report, he would not care if it was false, but would just lock each and everyone of them up. 

That was the instant the gherao ended. 

Looking back, it was one of the most harrowing times of my life. I had to show leadership in this time of crisis and I think I persevered. Later I was told by some of my local staff that if I had just bowed to the “head of the instigators” all these would have just blown away.  

Still I am very grateful to the Malaysian Embassy in Delhi, the Indian Foreign Service and the Superintendent of Police in Berhampur, Orissa. I count myself really lucky that this incident did not happen at some of the other Indian states where even the Police might not have been able to be of much help. 

I feel for those expatriates who come from developed countries and get posted to 3rd world nations where trade disputes are not always settled via the courts. It would have been terrifying and most probably result in a complete overhaul of life’s priorities in the minds of those affected.  

Still, I never thought something like this could happen in France!

Links – The nation’s leader for 2049 identified - edition

Saturday, April 4th, 2009

A friend sent me this picture early this week. I think this young man who is clearly standing up for something he believes in, should make a great leader someday.  I suspect, in fact, predict that we shall hear more about this currently unidentified young man.    


And other interesting reads: 

The CFO wrote about the marriage penalty. This refers to an apparent unfair income tax provision that taxes married couples more than 2 single people. But then which part of the income tax is fair? 

Make Love Not Debt seems to have gone off on a slight tangent from the blog’s tagline. The disparity in incomes earned between the husband and wife seems to have become a small nagging issue. Maybe it’s time to make some more love.  

Frugal Dad wrote about the business of renting vehicle rims. What will people think off next? Is subprime rims going to be the next big financial mess? Or are there other rentals, like refrigerators, 42” LCD TVs etc. lurking out there?  

It seems that there is a pi day. I have been using this strange number a bit lately whilst going through areas and circumferences of circles with my son. Steve seems to have managed to remember it to 10 decimals. For me it has been 3.14 all my life, I think I’ll leave it at that. 

I loved this Green Panda’s debut into the world of video filming. She and her husband can now list the movie industry as another field for them to get into. Have a look and enjoy! I did. 

RocketC, who, I think, started off as a personal finance blogger, and has openly confessed his love for politics, wrote a thundering piece on the financial crisis. So many of the issues he has mentioned are so eerily similar to our situation, thousands of miles away. I think the public all over the world are getting so much better informed. Soon we shall flex their muscles and make sure the politicians and their appointees do what they are supposed to do….that is “to serve”. 

Patrick at Cash Money Life celebrates his 2nd anniversary. He is offering some books to his readers through a random lucky draw. By the time I got to know of this special occasion, he had closed his article for comments. So I am offering him my heartiest congratulations and the very best for the future through this mention.   

That’s it for this week, folks.

Have a great, happy and productive weekend.  

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