Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Tenacity of the Red Ants

Went to a large family gathering the other day. Almost all of mum's siblings' children were present, and cooped in an apartment unit somewhere in Wangsa Baiduri. I used the word cooped, as that is what I think living in a high rise is all about. Once one gets back from wherever and closes the door, one is cooped in that luxurious pigeon's home. Can't help it but that's the way I feel about high rise living. To me, a home should be a house where one can step out and mingle with the neighbours or just staring silly at the sky above. Off course, with the feet firmly on the ground.

But living in a landed property, does have its drawback. For one, there's the garden that needs tending to. Have to admit though, I am not into gardening but mum is. While she has green fingers, mine is butter. Oops!

However, I do help around. My part is, I'm happy to say, to water the plants day in and out. While at it, I am also to hose the floor of the car porch, to water away dust and minute particles. This morning was no different. Except, I took extra notice of the red ants that ply the same route daily, even after I hose them.

Ants are wonder creatures actually. Whether red or black (are there any other colours?), they have survived the cruelest of extermination methods - whether man-made or natural - throughout the millennia of time. Like all other creatures of God, we muslims should not harm them unless they endanger us (like this morning when one tiny red bit my toe). In fact, instead of spraying them with Shelltox or what not, we should just water them away. Spraying, asphyxiates while the latter provides them with a chance for survival. I believe there's a hadith about watering ants away, but cannot exactly recall it now.

Anyway, looking at the ants will to survive, I wonder if human - given the same environment - can? Perhaps we can. This goes especially to people who survive on day to day basis; like the traders I mentioned in my previous posting, they've been plying their trade day in and out for years not to get rich mind you, but just to survive the extra day that Allah s.w.t. has given them. But now, many of them lament the coming day when the stalls they've built with their bare hand will be demolished and the cramped stalls of the 'longhouse' unit they'll be forced to move into. Will their business survive the new environment with the same survival spirit they have now?

There is something I would like to draw your attention to: when names were submitted for balloting of the stalls, the traders were informed that the corner lot stalls have been taken up by the local government. To the traders, the corner lot would be akin to a small wadi in the huge expanse of a desert - a mini goldmine for the trickle of business that would flow in, in time. As such, many of them suspect a foul play here - one where an official of the local government is in cahoots with certain officials of a political party - to reserve the corner lots for themselves or their cronies. It makes me feel sick to the stomach! If I could, I would like to belch on their faces.

There is a trader, however, who will not be moving into the 'longhouse'. He is a member of an oppostion political party and for that reason alone, he is being penalised and now blacklisted. With 9 shoolgoing chilren to feed, he and his wife promised to stand defiant to the authorities and will continue with his business there. How he will stand up against the authorities, only Allah alone knows. But if we Malaysians allow such corruption and injustice at the lowest level to permeate the society again and again without even an utterence of opposition, then truly, we too are corrupted and cruel.

A single ant may be small and weak. But during adversity they might in numbers. Even then when in might, they bow to Allah. Can the same be said for Malaysians?

Monday, January 22, 2007

Kudos, MPPJ!

I have long wished that local government would be more lenient and lend a more supportive hand towards the roadside traders who sell their wares in sometimes, a very unsavoury condition. Fruits, cooked food, delicacies and drinks, which some may be a gastronomic treat, are most of the times unpalatable due to the surrounding area. The duty then should fall on the local grovernments to educate the traders on matters regarding hygiene and not leave them to be penalised by summons from not only the local government themselves, but various other authorities involved! But, that is another story.

In early January 2007, I had a pleasant surprise when contractors laid foundations to some small constructions. The thing which I longed for seem to finally come true - units of 1, 2 and 3 stalls were being constructed to cater to the needs of the roadside traders. To me it is indeed a delight to note that these traders - whom many are unable to pay for shoplot rentals which average RM4,000 in Kota Damansara - would be able to ply their trade without constant harassment by the various authorities. Consumers too would benefit as I understand the traders would now have to maintain their stalls to a certain standard of hygiene, and with it the education or food handling courses they have to attend. Kudos, MPPJ! However, all is not what I thought it would be.

Opposite a row of shophouses, there's a construction of what seem to be a single story longhouse. On a close inspection, this building, when completed, would house some 20 units of stalls meant for food traders. On a single glance, one might not think much of it and even welcome the idea of relocating those food traders there. Mind you, these food traders are those selling tomyam, mee goreng, nasi ayam and what not; a rather different breed of traders than mentioned above who sells kueh and fruits.

As I look at the upcoming units, I wonder if the traders think what I am thinking, that they're being shortchanged by the local authorities? Am I going overboard with my simple assesment? Well, you decide:

1. The 'longhouse' as I'll refer to them from now, will house some 20 units of stalls with each measuring some 10ft wide with a depth of 20ft. Its size alone will not be able to cater to not only the need of hygienic food preparation, but also that each stall will now have lesser customers as the size if the stall would mean a sitting capacity of only 2 tables of four per stall!

2. With such a cramped environment, I have no doubt at all that hotilities will arise as each stall fights for space and most certainly, customers.

3. The limited sitting capacity would also mean lesser income. This in turn means a more aggressive trading, one that would very well mean a higher selling price with a smaller portion. In other words, consumers will have to pay more!

If the 3 simple reasons above are not factors enough, then consider this: each trader will have to buy the stalls at a price of RM56,000 per unit, down from the initial cost of RM80,000 (how very kind of MMPJ, my foot!).

In all, I think the local government here is not trying to assist those traders at all. In fact, in the long run, they are killing them! With a dwindling income that fill follow the relocation, I cannot see how they'll be able to repay their loan. And if they cannot repay their loan, would not the financial institution/s involved take legal action against them? Do you now blame the traders for taking money from ahlongs?

Kudos, MPPJ? I think not.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Of Spooks, Surface and Yahoo! On the Blink!

Never thought it would happen. But happened it did and almost the entire e-community in Malaysia and some parts of South East Asia are ‘suffering’ from an earthquake tragedy that shook Taiwan some one week ago. The telephony cable to or from Taiwan became disconnected and quite a number of Malaysians seem to have laid siege to Jaring and TMnet due to the exasperatingly slow or no connection to Yahoo! That’s right! Yahoo! is not on the blink, but the two mentioned telecommunications giants’ gateways are! Somehow in the entire furor, not one – except for a lady who wrote to the Star’s readers’ column – noticed that the tragedy affecting the Taiwanese is worse than the deadly slow lines we’re experiencing. It is a tragedy…of the human mind.

It just so happened that the cakapaje bloke too was affected. Had it not been for that by chance tabloid bought that day, I too would not know what actually happened. Pardon me, but I do not buy newspapers on a daily basis, except for a Malay tabloid meant for my mother’s reading pleasure. And I don’t listen to the news – the 8pm especially. Day in and out they spew nothing but almighty praises to the government; that, which is known as propaganda.

It does seem to the media, that what the government doles out are the truth and nothing but the whole truth. Even when an entire village - one right under the nose of the people of KL and Selangor, and has been in existent for nearly 3 decades – was bulldozed by officers of a local government as well as the police force, the media played the story down and, I believe, branded them as ‘reluctant squatters’! The fact that they were to be relocated not to the low cost housing promised to them, but to an obscure and perhaps over-built, cramped housing some 30kms away was not reported at all. Neither was the brutality involved in the operation which saw one resident admitted to the intensive care unit of a hospital reported too! Hello! Are they not Malaysians to be treated in such a vile manner? Even if they’re not, they’re humans! Or, are we living in an Iraqi syndrome where ‘to heck with the people, it’s the US interest that’s more important!’ where here it’s the developer’s interest a greater concern. My regret was that when the entire episode happened, I was unable to go online and assist the people by spreading the news and make more Malaysians aware of the real situation in their country. My role as a moderator was greatly curtailed this past one month or so.

Alhamdulillah, I am back online. The deadly slow lines we’re experiencing now will soon return to the slow speed of data transfer we were accustomed to previous to the tragedy. In the meantime, I will be able to watch 2 of my eagerly waited TV shows – Spooks, and Surface.