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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Bittersweet night for Fatehah

As published in Malay Mail today.

 The roar of the crowd lifted her spirit as it was a bittersweet night for Fatehah Mustapha, Malaysia's flag bearer at the opening ceremony of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

The national cyclist told Malay Mail that it was an emotional march as the team paid tribute to the 298 lives lost in the Flight MH17 tragedy.
Fatehah walked with the Jalur Gemilang flying at half-mast while six other national athletes and two officials donned Malaysia Airlines (MAS) cabin crew uniform — a plan engineered by Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin to honour the victims of the airlines' second aviation disaster after the disappearance of Flight MH370 on March 8.
“It was sad as I was thinking of MH17 (while marching),” said 25-year-old Fatehah.
“At the same time, I am honoured to have led the national contingent. Walking in front of the contingent has motivated me to do well in my event.”
Fatehah was chosen as the flag bearer to replace national shuttler Datuk Lee Chong Wei who pulled out from the Games following a thigh injury.
She paid credit to her fellow athletes who had no hesitation in wearing the MAS uniforms.
Khairy had told Malay Mail on Thursday that he wanted a fitting tribute to the victims of the MH17 crash by getting several of the athletes and officials to wear the MAS uniforms over and above the black armband.
He also revealed the team lowered the flag by using scissors and tape when they were handed the flag outside the stadium just before the march-in.
“I am really proud to be Malaysian and I am proud to have been part of the team last night (opening ceremony),” Fatehah said.
She said beyond the well-executed tribute that won the hearts of many, the lives lost in the aviation tragedy was saddening. 
“Everyone feels the pain."
HD says: All the best Fatehah!

Friday, July 25, 2014

When they used scissors and tape to fly flag at half mast

As published in Malay Mail today.

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PETALING JAYA – It was a parade that won the admiration of many.
Not only was the Jalur Gemilang flown at half-mast but six athletes and two officials donned Malaysia Airlines (MAS) cabin crew uniforms as they marched in front of a roaring crowd, winning the hearts of those in the stadium and the millions watching from their homes.
As national cyclist Fatehah Mustapa, the flagbearer, led the national contingent at the opening ceremony of the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games in Celtic Park yesterday, Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaludin could only smile.
He was, after all, the man who engineered the need for the Malaysian team to pay tribute to the 298 lives lost in the Flight MH17 tragedy.
“It was the night we found out about the plane. By the time we learnt it was shot down, I knew we had to do something in Glasgow,” revealed Khairy.
“I thought about black armbands, which we also used, and felt it wasn’t enough. So I thought why not MAS crew uniform.”
The initial plan was to get every athlete and official participating in the parade to wear the cabin crew uniform instead of the recently designed national jersey.
“But I thought it was not practical and may lose its touch. So I asked for the front row of athletes to wear them.
“Fatehah was supposed to wear it (the MAS uniform) too but we had limited sizes.”
Six athletes -- Ju Pha Som Net (cycling), Surizan Awang Noh and Fatin Syafiqah Mohd Sukri (womens hockey), Nur Fidrah Noh and Fairoz Abd Jabal (lawn bowls) and Farizal Ismail (rugby) -- and two officials, rugby team manager Mohamad Fahmy Abdul Jalil and National Sports Council media officer Fahmi Omar wore the uniforms in honour of the victims.
The idea, however, did not go down too well with the secretariat as another airliner Emirates is the official partner of the Games and the official airline of the Queen’s baton relay.
“They (secretariat) were iffy about it but I told our chef-de-mission Datuk Ong Poh Eng to just do it. The secretariat didn’t allow Fatehah to carry the flag at half-mast but the team brought scissors and tape and when they were handed the flag just outside the stadium before the march-in, they lowered it.”
“So a bit of work went on behind the scenes to get it all done but it came off well.”
Khairy said he appreciated MAS chairman Tan Sri Md Nor Yusof’s support as he approved and lent the uniforms to the contingent and sent them to Glasgow.
And the effort paid off handsomely as the emotional pictures went viral online and is splashed on the front page of Malay Mail today – a fitting tribute by our national heroes to all those who perished in the unfortunate incident on July17.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Government servant? Chill, have a root beer

Haresh Says, as published in Malay Mail today.

This is in no way trying to poke fun or ridicule our civil service.
However, it does not help that several black sheep within government agencies and ministries tend to be bosses, even at times trying to outdo their ministers.
As a journalist I have come across interesting civil servants, some of whom have been extremely professional in their dealings.
But I met a sports journalist last week who said a particular civil servant “owned Malaysian sports”.
“He is even more powerful than Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin,” the reporter said sarcastically.
I could only smile.
There also those who are known to abuse their positions.
Bukit Aman Commercial Crime Investigation Department deputy director (intelligence and operations) Datuk Abdul Jalil Hassan said police are looking for a key member of a syndicate involved in fake work permits, believed to be an Immigration Department officer. 
This jogs my memory of an incident that happened slightly over a decade ago in Shah Alam. I was involved in an accident and while dealing with the other motorist, a woman appeared out of nowhere demanding that I pay the other driver.
I asked: “And you are?”
Her instant reply: “I am a government servant!”
Oh please!
The word SERVANT is there for a reason, to serve the people. I hope such unwarranted attitude will not demoralise professional officials within the service.
To those who lord around despite signing off “saya yang menurut perintah”; chill and have a root beer!

A&W root beers are the best

Those who grew up watching Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines, Thundercats, Voltron, He-Man and The Care Bears would remember enjoying a chilled glass of root beer at A&W.
The fast food chain was a hit for those who grew up in the 70s and 80s as the fast-food outlet at Jalan Sultan in Petaling Jaya (picture above) was iconic.
Opened in 1965, the restaurant was featured in several local movies including 1970 hit Gelora, starring the late Tan Sri P. Ramlee and Sarimah.
Memories came racing back following news that the building will make way for the development of two office towers valued at RM263 million next year. Such emotions are shared through the Facebook page ‘Save Iconic A&W’ set up recently.
It is no secret that A&W, despite boasting its ever popular root beer and coney dogs, have struggled to keep up with their rivals but franchise owner KUB Malaysia was recently quoted revealing the fast-food chain made a net profit of RM1.89 million last year.
It was also reported the outlet will be shut down temporarily and that the new restaurant will be housed within the new office blocks, complete with drive-through services.
It remains to be seen if the developers will retain the simplicity yet warm atmosphere A&W lovers have enjoyed over the years. 
But one thing is for sure, the number of times A&W has been mentioned in this column and all over the media, and the overwhelming support it has received has placed the company in the limelight, promising higher returns at the end of this year.

Memories last forever

The central processing unit (CPU) of my ever reliable desktop finally gave way. I was devastated as it has been a reliable tool over the past eight years, faster and more dependable than some of the fancy touch screen computers I have used in recent times.
A trip to my regular computer shop was met with a smile. Melvin, who often attends to my computing needs, told me I had to let go with the mentality that things tend to last forever.
“Bro, if a computer can last for more than five years these days, considered as bonus leh,” he said.
“The quality is not there. Even if you buy a more expensive machine, it will perhaps give you an additional year or maybe two, if you’re lucky. That’s technology, the faster it processes, the faster it will kong (dies).”
I believe the same can be said about every other item built today.
The only thing that lasts forever are memories — of playing Hitman: Blood Money on my then spanking brand new desktop and browsing the internet using IE (Internet Explorer).
The same would be said about eating at the iconic A&W restaurant in Petaling Jaya, as many celebrated their birthdays there and interactors and prefects from nearby schools planned their annual International Understand Day and gatherings there.
Even memories of interacting with peculiar government servants will linger.
And for those who have lost someone — either on the streets of Gaza, the downing of Flight MH17 or the missing Flight MH370 — the good memories they shared with their loved will be stored in their hearts and minds forever.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

As MH17 pain lingers, in sports we seek solace

Haresh Says, as published in Mailsport today.

JULY 17, 2014 – Melbourne International Airport

IT was supposed to be another trip back to Kuala Lumpur for Melbourne-based Azizulhasni Awang. Yet, flying home last Thursday proved to be an emotional journey after the national cyclist and his teammates learnt about the Malaysian Airlines (MAS) aircraft that was shot down by pro-Russian insurgents in eastern Ukraine.
 “We were at the MAS lounge when the news broke out. The whole team, including other passengers, were all standing and we were all glued in front of the television,” said Azizulhasni.
 “We were shocked!”
 A sombre mood quickly enveloped as the cycling team sympathised with the next-of-kin of all 298 on board Flight MH17.
“We feel sad for those on the plane and to the family members. We truly hope they will be able to stay strong,” added Azizulhasni who remains Malaysia’s best bet of nailing a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

JULY 17, 2014 – Kuala Lumpur International Airport

 Baljit Singh was eager to redeem his pride as an ankle injury ruled him out of World Cup in The Hague, Holland last month. 
Having earned a spot in the national hockey team for the Commonwealth Games, Baljit was all pumped up to showcase his artistry on the turf.
But the Ampang-lad left Kuala Lumpur devastated as his friend’s father was among the passengers on board the plane.
“We were at KLIA when we heard the news. I quickly called my family members just before we boarded the plane and my wife insisted that I called her the minute we landed in Scotland. Everyone was felling jittery,” Baljit said.
“I feel for my friend Amarpal Singh as his father Karamjit Singh was on the plane. We just cannot predict death.”

JULY 22, 2014

Azizulhasni and Baljit are among the national athletes who will be aiming for pride and glory at the Commonwealth Games which starts tomorrow.
Yet, celebrations to what is dubbed as the second largest multi-sporting event after the Olympics will be subdued as the world weeps for those who perished in the disaster.
While the pain of those who lost their loved ones is felt by many, the sporting world has, as always, provided solace as it pays tribute to all on board the airplane.
Representatives from the participating nations paid their respects to Malaysia’s chef de mission Datuk Ong Poh Eng with a minute’s silence at the daily meeting last Friday.
As 28 Australians were on board the ill-fated plane, the Australian contingent held a minute’s silence to remember the victims during its official reception yesterday. Teams have also promised to fly their flags at half-mast at the Athletes’ Village.
Beyond Glasgow, footballers in Holland donned black armbands in remembrance of the 193 Dutch nationals who lost their lives.
On its website last Friday, the Royal Netherlands FA (KNVB) stated: “KNVB have called on all football clubs to fly the national flag at half-mast this (last) weekend. We also ask that team members wear black armbands and that one minute’s silence be observed before each match; all of this as a mark of respect and sympathy by the Dutch football community for relatives and friends of those who lost their lives in the air disaster over Ukraine on Thursday.”
Fans of English football club Sunderland pushed aside their rivalry with the Magpies after its supporters used crowd-funding site GoFundMe to raise money for two Newcastle fans who were on MH17.
The message on their site read: “We may be Sunderland fans, who traditionally have deep rivalry with Newcastle, but there are things far more important than any football games. The incredibly sad news that has emerged this week about two Newcastle fans who have passed has left us all shocked and deeply saddened. Donating here will help pay for a floral tribute to those fans and to unity between the two clubs. Any extra money will be donated to a charity that has yet to be decided. 
Thank you for your time, effort and donations.
RIP to John Alder and Liam Sweeney, who were both far too young.”
Alder, who had only missed one Newcastle game in more than 30 years, and Sweeney were on their way to Kuala Lumpur as they were to catch a flight to New Zealand to watch their club play friendlies against Sydney FC and Wellington Phoenix next week.
The monstrous act of downing a plane has scarred those who lost their loved ones, giving up hope on mankind.
Yet, the support by athletes and fans gives humanity hope.
In typical fashion, Azizulhasni and Baljit ended their conversation on the same note, that their participation in the Commonwealth Games is a tribute to all those who lost their lives. They promised to give their best and assured success would be dedicated to the 298 men, women and children perished in the disaster.
To the national contingent in Glasgow, all the best and hopefully we will better the 12 gold-medal haul achieved in New Delhi four years ago.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

MH17: We must not forgive or forget

As published in Malay Mail (newspaper) today.

Comment by Wong Sai Wan

I AM angry and I am sure that I am not alone.
I want justice and, again, I am sure I am not alone.
We cannot allow MH17 to be forgotten or swept away in lieu of political and economic needs.
Those responsible — no matter who directly or indirectly — for the murder of the 298 people on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 from Amsterdam on that fateful Thursday must be brought to justice.
The special Parliament meeting on Wednesday to debate and condemn the downing of MH17 must not be about just speeches.
Malaysians expect —  no, demand —  more than just empty talk.
Our leaders must react with the anger that all of us feel.
I suggest Parliament orders the attorney-general to initiate a criminal investigation into this matter and to bring the perpetrators to justice here in Malaysia, if not at the International Court of Justice.
AG Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patil must be firm in getting the murderers prosecuted.
They must be put on public trial for mass murder and be put to death not only in retribution, but also as a deterrent to anyone else even thinking about it.
The Americans have their September 11 tragedy. MH17 is ours.
We have all read about those killed.
Many of them experts in various fields that could make the world a better place.
These murderers have robbed all of us of fathers, mothers, siblings and friends. 
The United Nations must be forced to seek out the shooters, planners and ultimately the leaders responsible for this most dastardly of murders.
Malaysia is seeking a seat on the UN Security Council at the end of this year and we must now  make MH17 part of our campaign for that seat.
If the UN fails to move, Malaysia must act even if we have to do so on our own.
Shooting down a civilian airline without provocation is an act of war by any definition.
We must act swiftly to bring to justice, especially for the sake of the 298 people killed and for our nation, while we grieve for MH370.
Many of us are still reeling from that tragedy and the nation as a whole is struggling to come to terms with it.
Five months later we are no closer to the truth than that fateful Saturday of March 8.
Yet, MH17 is different.
We know who is responsible and all that remains is for the world to hunt these war criminals down.
Malaysia must start by recording in the strongest possible terms its anger by pointing its finger at Ukraine and Russia.
These two countries, which we consider as friends, must open their doors to our investigators to bring the murderers to justice.
Many people, including myself, do not believe the Russians do not know who pulled the trigger or who ordered the act.
If Russia wants to remain a global powerhouse, it must ensure the prosecution must take place and the murderers punished.
Political and economic alliances must not be a consideration when dealing with this.
Almost 100 years ago, the US entered into World War I after the ocean liner RMS Lusitania was torpedoed by a German submarine in 1915.
The attack killed 128 Americans on board, among the 1,198 other people who died in the sinking. I am sure that if MH17 was an American or British aircraft, there will be international hell to pay.
It’s our job to make sure this precedence also applies in this case and not allow even one person to escape prosecution.
There may be a civil war in the area the plane was shot down but downing a civilian aircraft is unforgiveable.
The perpetrators must be brought to justice and I, on behalf of all Malysians, offer them our courts to do so.

• Wong Sai Wan is Editor-in-Chief of Malay Mail

Friday, July 18, 2014

Harimau Muda B to compete in Hassanal Bolkiah tournament in August

The Harimau Muda B (national Under-21 football team) will participate in the Hassanal Bolkiah Tournament in Brunei next month.
  • August 11: Malaysia v Vietnam (8.15pm)
  • August 13: Malaysia v Cambodia (8.15pm)
  • August 16: Singapore v Malaysia (8.15pm)
  • August 18: Brunei v Malaysia (8.15pm)
  • August 20: Semi finals
  • August 23: Final