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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Riding to raise runds for prostate cancer

Dear all,

Globally more men are affected by prostate cancer than women are by breast cancer. Each year, one in nine men develop prostate cancer, and close to 500,000 men will die from the disease.

 On Sunday the 28th of September, I am going to press my cravat, polish my brogues and motor along in the 2014 Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride to help find a cure for prostate cancer.  Why? Because over 1,300 men a day die of prostate cancer worldwide. And that’s just not cricket. Your donation will help The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride reach its goal of $US1 million to fund research into a cure for a disease that claims far too many gentlemen each and every year.
So be a sport and sponsor my ride — thank you ever so much!

For those intending to donate for the cause, please visit this link.

If I am able to raise funds through my participation, that would be more meaningful. I have set a modest target of US$100 (RM317). If I can achieve that target, it will be great. Otherwise, I'd be happy riding for a good cause.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Mirror, mirror on the Facebook wall ...

Haresh Says, as published in Malay Mail today.

LET’S go back to at least 25 years ago when the Internet was still in its infancy.
The term “social media” was unheard of then. The only thing social was when one attended a relative’s birthday party or hung out with friends at a nearby coffeeshop.
Conversations revolved around investors who cursed a political party’s supposed economic vehicle to boost the income of a particular race but failed to produce returns and had instead turned into a farce.
Parents complained about the merit system, claiming their children were unable to secure places in local universities despite scoring straight As.
Friends made fun of how politicians talked as jokes about leaders and their bizarre antics would leave many in stitches. It was a sure way to keep the night alive.
But such talk was either within the four walls of a living room or a coffeeshop.
Today, such social engagement is done through a different medium. It’s called social media.
The thoughts, whether spontaneous or well-articulated, reflect the views of the people. They are views, opinions and sometimes we see suggestions of what people feel and believe – whether about the latest music video or a ridiculous regulation by the authorities.
Social media has elevated to a whole new level where conversations are now closely monitored. Some call it education, others view it as a threat.
There are those who demand the need of having ethics online; through the introduction of educational programmes on how one should construct a tweet or Facebook post so as to not irk another party.
Ethics is a must — online or offline. While our levels of liberalism and radicalism varies, a line must be drawn.
The words “please” and “thank you” and the need to resist being “kurang ajar” applies both online and on the street. We must strive for maturity.
But beyond how which we engage one another, the fact remains that conversations about how the country is being managed to the manner in which politicians behave remain the same over the decades.
Politicians, who claim to be representing the voice of the people, need to fully understand and appreciate what is being said by the average Malaysian. And social media is  now seen as one of the very many indicators to determine the sentiments of the people.
It should, however, be stressed the views aired online may not reflect that of the majority. But such thoughts should be taken into consideration instead of rubbishing it off  by employing nameless keyboard warriors to justify one’s decision or existence. Do not be defensive for it will be destructive.
Leaders must be brave enough to be questioned and accept criticism. People used to talk behind their backs, today they say it out loud.
Everyone wants to have a say but if laws are broken, then they should be dealt with.
But enforcement should not curtail the freedom to voice out. People must be given the room to speak within civilised boundaries. 
People should be encouraged to share their knowledge and experiences, to engage in healthy discussions, learn to respect differing views and how thoughts are interpreted differently.

Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin had, during the 38th Malaysian Indian Muslim Congress general assembly over the weekend, said: “Today, people are more knowledgeable so do not try to hoodwink them as every citizen in Malaysia is well-informed. Information today is easily available.”
“We’re not kings, we’re the servants of the community so meet them and find out their problems.”
Thus, leaders should get off their high and mighty chair and not think of social media as an enemy but a mirror.
Some mirrors are bad but some are so good that it would reveal every single flaw. 
Instead of changing or breaking the mirror, work on the flaws and that would change our representatives into better people and go on to win the admiration of many.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

When everyone else has a national jersey but the athletes

Haresh Says, as published in Mailsport today.

HERE’S a country that builds skyscrapers, has some of the finest facilities in the world and home to some of best fashion designers.
But there are flaws. And one of them is the inability to equip our national athletes with proper attire.
There have been numerous occasions in the past where our national athletes have been spotted dressed shabbily. Prior the World Championship in Guangzhou, China last year, the national shuttlers left for Hong Kong for a training stint. Led by world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei, they were all dressed like they were about to catch a movie.
The manner in which they were in irked Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin who took the BA of Malaysia to task for its failure to ensure the players had donned the right outfit.
Even the newly designed national Malaysian Heroes tracksuit by Melinda Looi failed to reach the Commonwealth Games athletes in time last month as they were forced to step into the competition arena without their attire.
This was highlighted by Mailsport on July 30 and confirmed by chef-de-mission Datuk Ong Poh Eng.
“Surprisingly, the officials have their tracksuits. We were also instructed not to post anything regarding it on Facebook or Twitter,” an athlete, who requested anonymity, was qouted as saying.
Then we have the on-going Youth Olympics in Nanjing, China. Nadi Arena, had on Sunday, reported that national gymnast Jeremiah Loo did not receive his official attire and was forced to wear his training jersey which did not have the Jalur Gemilang on it!
Loo had been based in China since 2012.
Sportswriter Association of Malaysia president Ahmad Khawari Isa, had tweeted about the matter on Sunday night.
He said: “Siapa nak kena ‘pancung’ nie? MSN? OCM? Alasan gimnas train kat China sejak 2012 n tak sempat balik ukur baju, tak masuk akal la. Adoi!” (Whose head would be on the chopping block? National Sports Council (NSC)? Olympic Council of Malaysia? The excuse that the gymnast has been training in China since 2012 and that he could not come back in time to get a fitting does not make sense).
Khawari, had in a subsequent tweet, pointed out the number of times officials traveled between 2012 and 2014. 
It is indeed baffling those responsible to perform such a simple task had failed miserably. And they are supposed to chart Malaysian sports?
One also wonders how much of tax payers’ money has been spent by officials, especially those from agencies under the Youth and Sports Ministry, on traveling and accommodation.
It would be interesting if Khairy, in the name of transparency and accountability, reveal the amount spent by these officials since 2007.
Those feeling the heat will brush this off, calling it “petty”. They would then typically go on to whine about the bad press. Boo hoo.
If only they would focus their energy on solving such woes.
Perhaps our national athletes would have to “drop down” and “give 20 push-ups” before they can get a jersey.
Oh well...

Thursday, August 14, 2014

MACC ‘slighted’ over lack of action; Kedah exco in the dark over probe on state sec

As published in Malay Mail today.
PETALING JAYA — The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) yesterday maintained that a top civil servant had broken the Kedah Public Officers (Conduct and Discipline) Regulations 2007.
It said it will request a written explanation as to why he was let off the hook.
Following Malay Mail’s front page expose headlined “Probed by MACC, made state secretary”, the MACC confirmed that a letter and report were sent to the Kedah state secretary on May 13 last year pertaining to an investigation on Datuk Wira Mohd Puat Mohd Ali.
Investigations by the commission revealed that Mohd Puat, who was then the state financial officer, had awarded three roadworks contracts worth RM980,000 each to three companies without referring them to the state secretary or during the state council meetings.
MACC also deemed Mohd Puat’s actions to be a “conflict of interest” as one of the contractors used another firm to carry out renovations to his brother-in-law’s house, which he later moved into.
“MACC had then suggested that disciplinary action be taken against him as the state financial officer when the investigations took place,” it said in a statement.
“Based on our records, MACC received feedback from the state secretary’s office on June 2, 2013, stating the matter should be referred to the state Public Services Department.”
Despite the investigations, Mohd Puat was named the new state secretary, replacing Datuk Wira Rasli Basir, on June 5, 2013.
MACC went on to confirm its deputy public prosecutor had declared that disciplinary action be taken under the 2007 Regulations.
“However, if true as reported that Mohd Puat was let off the hook, MACC is slighted and will request for a written explanation from the appropriate authority as to why he was let free,” it said.
The statement, which was signed off by director of investigation Datuk Mohd Jamidan Abdullah, ended by saying MACC did not have the authority to instruct or influence if the concerned authority decided to let him go.
Efforts to obtain a statement from the Public Services Department in Putrajaya since Monday proved futile.
State Public Services Department secretary Ahmad Termizi Abdul Rani said he was unaware of the report, adding he only assumed duties from Sharhida Nazuha on Sunday, as reported yesterday. Sharhida declined to comment when contacted.
Mohd Puat, when contacted on Tuesday, claimed he was investigated by the state Public Services Department and was cleared of any wrongdoing. He said there was a concerted move to get rid of him and that his services would be not extended when he retired on November 4.


ALOR STAR — Two Kedah executive council members said they were not aware that its state secretary was investigated for irregularities by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).
Health committee chairman Datuk Dr Leong Yong Keong said the matter was never discussed during any meeting.
“I never knew anything about this. It was also not mentioned in the audit report ... I do not know why,” he said.
“I would have known about it if the matter was raised during our meetings.”
Tourism, religion and Thai affairs committee chairman Datuk Mohd Rawi Abd Hamid said the Malay Mail report came as a shock to him.
“He is my close friend. I am shocked after reading the news as Mohd Puat is a hard working civil servant who always strives to improve himself in his work,” he said.
“In fact, he has just returned from a short course in Harvard.”
Mohd Rawi said since Mohd Puat, who is a cousin of former Kedah menteri besar, the late Datuk Seri Azizan Abdul Razak, claimed the state Public Services Department had cleared him of any irregularities, MACC should clear him of any criminal elements.
Kedah DAP secretary Teoh Boon Kok, however, called on the state government to launch a full-scale investigation.
“The state secretary investigated by MACC on irregularities in awarding contracts worth about RM3 million is difficult for us to swallow,” he said.
Teoh called on Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir to look into the matter as it involved a civil servant in the state government.
Mohd Puat, when met outside the state legislative assembly building at Wisma Darulaman yesterday, avoided further queries.
“You are (talking) nonsense,” he said before walking off.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Anwar made "rookie mistake"

As published in Malay Mail today

 Palace officials are unimpressed with Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim after he had written a letter seeking a meeting between his wife Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and the Sultan of Selangor, Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah.

The palace rejected the request, further denting Pakatan Rakyat’s plans of replacing Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim with Dr Wan Azizah as the Mentri Besar.

“It is as though someone ill-advised him (Anwar) on the purpose. We seriously cannot believe he made that mistake. Protokol pun tak faham (He doesn’t even understand protocol),” the source close to the palace said.

“With regards to the letter, it’s as though Anwar doesn’t want to meet Tuanku but must show he is trying to do so. But he knows he can’t be meeting Tuanku by making such a rookie mistake.”

The Selangor palace received the letter on Sunday.

Sultan Sharafuddin’s private secretary, Datuk Mohamad Munir Bani, said in a press statement yesterday the sultan had declined to meet Anwar because he had already been briefed of the developments in PKR by Khalid.

He said the sultan regarded Khalid’s sacking as a PKR internal matter which did not affect his position as a member of the state assembly and as Mentri Besar.

Khalid met Sultan Sharafuddin on Monday to explain that despite being sacked by PKR, he still maintained the confidence of the majority of the state legislative assembly members.

“His Royal Highness was satisfied with my explanation and consented to me continuing to hold the post of Selangor Mentri Besar until further developments take place,” he said.

Probed by MACC, made state secretary; state sec says MACC report had 'loopholes'

As published in Malay Mail today.

PETALING JAYA, Aug 13 — The spotlight is on Kedah State Secretary Datuk Wira Mohd Puat Mohd Ali following a report by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) on irregularities in awarding contracts for three roadworks worth almost RM3 million.

Mohd Puat was state financial officer when he awarded the projects without following procedures, said the report.

MACC deemed Mohd Puat’s actions as “a conflict of interest” as one of the contractors used another firm to carry out renovations to his brother-in-law’s house which he later moved into.

MACC investigations revealed Mohd Puat had on October 18, 2011 awarded contracts for three road works to three companies, worth RM980,000 each, without referring  them to the state secretary or during the state council meetings.

MACC forwarded its findings to then state secretary Datuk Wira Rasli Basir on May 13, 2013, and advised that disciplinary action be taken against Mohd Puat under the Kedah Public Officers (Conduct and Discipline) Regulations 2007.

Instead, Mohd Puat replaced Rasli as the state secretary on June 5, 2013.

The report also stated the renovations to Puat’s brother-in-law’s home began in January 2011 and ended in November the same year.

The report said: “Mohd Puat was confirmed to have moved into the house in December 2011,” the report stated.

“Mohd Puat was aware of the person behind the renovation work and later awarded him a road maintenance contract worth RM980,000.

“He appointed him directly without declaring or informing the state secretary or the state council meeting.”

The report said apart from conflict of interest, the situation gave rise to accusations of abuse of power and mismanagement.

MACC was of the opinion Mohd Puat had broken regulations 4(2)(centre)(i) of the Kedah Public Officers (Conduct and Discipline) Regulations 2007.

The rules forbid an officer from acting in any manner that allows reasonable suspicion that he allowed his private interest to contradict with his work in civil service and to disrupt his effectiveness as a civil servant, the report stated.

MACC yesterday declined to comment on the status of the case.

Sources within, however, said there was no follow-through with the case.

According to the 1997 Guidelines in Managing Disciplinary Cases as referred by the Anti-Corruption Commission (now known as MACC), point 7 states: “Cases by ACA that take more than six months are deemed as long. The head of department must inform ACA and the Public Service Department the current status of the case and why the case is taking a long time to solve.”

Mohd Puat: MACC report had loopholes

Claiming there was a concerted move to get rid of him, Kedah State Secretary Datuk Wira Mohd Puat Mohd Ali insisted he has been cleared of any wrongdoing by the state Public Services Department (PSD).

He was responding to a Malaysia Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) letter and report sent to the Kedah state secretary on May 13, 2013 about irregularities in awarding three road maintenance projects worth RM980,000 each to three different companies in 2011.

Mohd Puat was the state financial officer then and was appointed state secretary more than three weeks later on June 5.

“I don’t understand why this is being brought up again. The state PSD investigated and found the facts (MACC’s investigations) had loopholes. There was no wrongdoing ... no prima facie case,” he said.

“I am retiring on November 4. There is this group with ill intentions, they do not want my contract to be extended upon my retirement. I suppose they are trying to tarnish my name again,” he said.

Mohd Puat refused to speak about the renovation work to his brother-in-law’s house by a company owned by the same person who ran another company that was awarded one of the road works contracts.

“This is fitnah (lies) ... this is a set-up,” he said.

Mohd Puat, who is a cousin of former Kedah Mentri Besar, the late Datuk Seri Azizan Abdul Razak, warned he would report the matter to the “higher authorities” and lodge a police report. Azizan was Mentri Besar when PAS took over the state in 2008.

“I hope you don’t write this. If you do, I will have to sue you,” he said.

“Just leave me alone. Let me retire in good faith and in good mind.

“I shouldn’t have answered your call,” he said before ending the conversation.