Sunday, June 13, 2004

Is Streamyx (ADSL - Broadband in Malaysia) reliable?

A couple of weeks ago, during a lightning strike near my house in KL, it burnt the modem for Streamyx (ADSL) in my house. And I could not get it replaced on time because it was a weekend and on top of that I was told that it would take 3 days before Telekom Malaysia can provide me with a replacement Streamyx modem. So all in all it took me about 5 days before the modem could be connected and put back into service. And during that time I had to rely on normal modem, which is comparatively very slow, at 50 bps at the most. Streamyx claims that they can do 516 bps but in actual fact they do less than that, about 300 bps (or something). Of course I know that I might have been cheated but like everything else in this country I do not know who to complain to. Even if I know the authority concerned will find a lot of excuse not to entertain me. Sue them in court? Too difficult in this country, so you just bear with it and grin. Or is it that I am scared to look like a fool if I complain? I do not know really.

Now again these couple of days in Kuantan I am again facing problems in trying to use the Streamyx services. I can connect to the services but it does not seem to response when I want to check my e-mail. A few days ago there was no problem but since Thursday I am having problems. Today its Sunday and I am still having problems. Again I do not know who to complain to. So I just live and bear with it and grin. Anyway its a weekend and Telekom does not open its Shop.

In place of the Streamyx services, I just use my normal modem to connect to my e-mail server. Not very successful though, I think there is also a problem with my e-mail server. I use services now as they have facilities to check virus in the incoming mails. And I am still using Jaring as one of my e-mail server but I am reducing that usage drastically as I find that my Jaring account is full of virus and the incoming e-mails are mostly 'dirty' in that sense of the word. And also there are too many spam mails. I want to cut off that Jaring services as soon as I find another e-mail service which is more reliable. I may use the account or I may even use the account when I feel hat I am ready to cut off Jaring. Its a pity though as I have been using Jaring since the start of my e-mail days.

Back to Streamyx, I do not know what to say now. May try to talk to Telekom Malaysia about the services and I have a nasty feeling that I will not get a satisfactory answer. Anyway one never knows until one tries.

Earlier I have written an article on Streamyx, that was quite a way back. Its a good piece I think, and it covered a lot of ground, especially then Streamyx was just being introduced. Now the number of subscribers to the Streamyx services have increased drastically, and most of my friends are now subscribers, though I must admit that many of my cyber friends are still not subscribers, a bit expensive they say. I subscribe because I feel that its value for money and I do have the frustration of the modem being cut off so often and I need not have to dial for internet services when I want to get connected. On top of that the Streamyx services charges a fixed sum every month whether you use it or not, so might as well use it. The normal modem charge by the minutes you use it. All in all I think I benefit by using the Streamyx services.

Below is my original article on Streamyx published earlier.

Not really familiar with this. I am not even very familiar with the Internet, even though I have been using it since about 6 years ago (if I remember correctly). I then used Netscape. I had Jaring account. Later when I had account I also used MS Internet Explorer. For my e-mail I have been using Eudora, which I find very convenient. I have used Opera but not others, not even Outlook.

I used a dial up network using modem - winsock they called it, I think.

When I was working, we were using LAN (or was it WAN?). So all connections were very fast.

The about a year ago I heard about ISDN. And I use ISDN for my office in Kuantan, its cheaper than normal phones as I need 3 lines.

Recently I heard about broadband, streamyx they say. In the chat groups they say its 'fast'. I got curious. I thought then it was expensive so I did not bother to follow on the lead. But soon they lowered the price and in additions added offers on free modem. So I applied in KL, not my initiative really, it was my son who is very interested in IT. Then we got connected to streamyx recently. Yes, it was good. Fast.

Looking at he streamyx packages, as supplied by Telekom Malaysia, they have these packages, Basic, Enterprise, Corporate. Basic at 384 kbps and 512 kbps. Enterprise at 1 Mbps, 1.5 Mbps, 2.0 Mbps, and this is identical for Corporate. I got the Basic 512 kbps, but in reality in KL I receive at only about 250 kbps and in Kuantan at about 380 kbps. Good enough, unlike the crawling of modem at about 2.0 to 3.0 kbps when downloading (or is it 20 and 30, no cannot be - that is fast), if I am not mistaken..

I got streamyx in Kuantan quite quickly after I applied, in about 2 weeks I think. And the services that Telekom gave was good they sent Contractors to install my streamyx modem and another who sold and install the network card. And the second Contractor also reconfigured my PC to receive streamyx successfully.

But Telekom is quite out dated with its PR. When I started, I had some problem with my receiving of streamyx signals. I called Telekom in Kuantan to explain my problem. The guy in charge of steamyx at their LCC almost threw me the 'book'. He said Contractor does this and Contractor does that and so on and so forth - and Telekom just sit back and mind the system. So whatever problem that you have please call the appointed Contractor. And in the end he added, "If you have more problem with streamyx, feel free to call me again at 09-5171711.". And I do not know what to make of that, either he was being friendly or just that had recapped on his PR job. In the end I called the Contractor, who pleasantly configured my system. And I am awaiting for the bill from the Contractor. As for Telekom, I do not call them again.

In earlier discussions in one group whose members I know personally, they discussed the pros and cons of being connected to streamyx. I have not recorded those comments though. But I append below some of the comments received recently. Quite interesting, a mixture of local and overseas comments.

Comment 1.

Subject: Re: [xlln] Streamyx Update

Probably late with replies to this thread, but anyway, it took some time for my kampong here to get ADSL (this is the same as streamX). BT over here used a process where people registered their interest and as soon as it comes to a certain number, they will install he equipment at the nearest exchange. Here in Marlborough, they wanted at least 400 registrations, but reduced it to 300 after being put under pressure from the local community. BTW, 20 of the registrations were mine :-). I only got mine at the beginning of this year.

Some towns have set up pressure groups and got away with only 200 odd registrations...

It seems the issue is cost, BT has to bear the cost of the equipment which they said would only break even with about 500 subscribers. So if you live near an exchange where there is a high number of subscribers, you would have a high chance. The other issue is even if you are connected to such an exchange, if you live more that 10km away, the signals will deteriorate too much that they may not offer you the service.

The service I subscribe to is for 512kb, but I constantly get 576kb (eat your heart out Karl).

They do tell you about other services such as satellite, but way too expensive for a home user.

Like IO, I have set up a network for all the computers in the house, both hardwired and wireless (just in case you want to do it in the loo).

My two pennies worth...


Comment 2.

At 23:39 07/01/2004 +0800, you wrote:

Streamyx is singing along here, no problem. Only one
person on this list had his streamyx disconnected due
to unsatisfactory service, but I on my part cannot live
without it. In my house I have a LAN as well as WLAN
and 2 computers are on 24 hours a day.

But it really depends on your location, the nearer the
exchange the better. Me I am 5.5 km from exchange and
it is still good.

Comment 3.

To: ''
> Subject: RE: [xlln] Streamyx Update
> Lucky you, IO.,.. I still can't have streamyx, 'cause Telekom still cannot
> provide the service to my area...,,and we want to be a developed nation by
> 2020????? ...not if Telekoms is still in charge of communication. I am not
> very happy with Telekoms service.
> 1. Five years after applying for a phone line in Janda Baik, I still don't
> have service....and Janda Baik is 30 kms from KL.
> 2. No Streamyx in Bukit Antarabangsa,..........,, 5kms from KL tower.
> 3. My dial up modem line is only good for 28 kbits per sec instead of the
> promised 50+ kbits per sec. as promised due to poor quality cables.
> Everywhere I go worldwide, in the developed world, my laptop will dialup
> 56kbits, here in KL I'll be lucky if the same laptop will connect at
> 30kbits.
> So, if we wanna be a fully developed country, Telekoms must wake up and
> provide QUALITY service, otherwise Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Hong Kong
> will get all the juicy FDI and we will still be singing Malaysia Boreh at
> every oportuned occation.
> Wake up Telekoms...learn from Ananda ala Maxis ..
> Regards Karl
> ==============

(Guys, I did not ask your permission, so if you all were to read this article plase forgive me) - Lias

Great contrasts. Maybe soon Bukit Antarabangsa KL will get their streamyx services.

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Saturday, June 12, 2004

Blogs and babbles

I have been writting my blogs for over six months now. I really wonder how I have lasted that long putting ideas for other people to read (if anyone reads at all). But I am happy that most of my ideas have come out of my head and transferred to other medium. And I can retrieve and read them as well, without having to keep so much physical space. Its a wonder of the modern world. And I have remodeled my templates many times as well.

Its a tedious job though and the blog being a public document the article must not be insulting, politically correct and usage of words not to include sexual intonations. Those are made more difficult as in different parts of the world different conditions/belief prevailed. And I must not be anti anybody especially not to touch on religion, race and as I mentioned above, politic. Otherwise I will be receiving tons of bricks. I am warned that one has to be careful not to insult ones employer or even ex-employers as there are very many ex-employees of your ex-employers who are very loyal to your ex-employers. As some one put it the other day, they have self-appointed themselves as the guardian of the "religion", if you know what I mean.

I go to the Chemist often, as I am under treatment, and in some countries they called Chemist as Apotek, in some South East Asian countries and in some part of Europe. I have my discount card, a 10% discount on all purchases for a Senior Citizen like I am. I used to ask, "Do you give discount to an old man?". But now I need not ask anymore, most of them are now familiar with me. Of course sometimes some sweet young thing behind the counter tries to goad me to buy Viagra or Cialis or Levitra with a warning, "Bring along your Doctors subscription and we will sell one of 'them' to you" I just smile (avoiding giggles). And sometimes she adding, "You are not that old, are you?" But really, how many of us would admit that we are old? That sweet young thing, (she looked sweet to me), she was probably above 30ish, sweet to an old man of above 55. .

Talking about discount, there are places that give discount to those what they termed as Senior Citizens and in some cases to Pensioners as well. But I am not a Pensioner, I retired with no pension. I got my gratuity though, quite a tidy sum. But money in hand is like grasping water, they just slip between the fingers. Before you know it, you only have with you wet hands, nothing much to speak of. But whether they use Senior Citizens or Pensioners, they are just polite terms for 'old men' really. In all cases proofs are needed, as men tend to pretend that they are old when they want a discount or young when they want to attract that sweet young thing. In my younger days they called these sweet young things/females as 'birds'. I remember the words in this song, "There is one thing that I loike, its a bird up on my boike, a bird up on my boike is what I loike". Those were the days. Some friends of mine told me off for reminiscence about the old days, but to me those were the best days, how can you beat that when there were birds you could catch, and tame and then let them go. Now back to discount, I understand that the Malayan Railways give good discount to Pensioners. I am not a Pensioner, so I suppose I do not get that discount. And MASS also give a good discount to those above 55 years in age, but one must book at least 1 week in advance, buy the ticket then and there and if one cannot travel on the day of the booking then one will not get a refund. That sucks.

What is it of age that we are so concerned about. When I was a small boy, I wanted to grow up fast. I could not wait to be circumcised. And circumcision is a ceremony, the put you in cold water for hours to make you go numb (at that spot), put you to sit on a banana stem and then cut your 'end' with a sharpknife (I am not sure then if the knife was disinfected or not or heated to kill all the germs). After that you are to lie on your back with a suspended tent above you wee thing as the wound is still raw, the wound being medicated with safron plus somethingwhich made your wound very painful. It took about 2 weeks before you are reasonably healed. But come to think of it, the two weeks torture and all the pain is worth the world when you use your wee thing later on in life.

After the circumcision I grew and grew, in age but not in size, physically I mean. And the adolescence period were the worst period, you got pain in your groin and in your breast. I suppose girls get worse pain than that. Then things began to grow, size increased and hair sprouting. Well to cut the story short, we learned a few tricks from the older boys on how to seek pleasure as you were growing up. They were innocent enough pleasures, and with the help of "Weekender" magazine which were sold quite freely in those days. Was it the middle page or page 3 that had the best photo, I cannot remember. But that was all, most of us did not go further than that. We did not go to Kampong Pisang. But the rugger team went to Bangkok to play rugby and they had more scrums that we could ever imagine. And the stories they brought back, unbelievable.

Now that I have retired, I find that time moves so fast. When I was working, even to wait for 5 o'clock to clock out was ages. What more to wait for the weekends. But now I sense that Fridays seems to arrive every other day. And I cannot stop it arriving, time flies as they say. It really flies.
They say that age is just a number. But I always get that from young people, old people are always reserved from making such remarks. I do not know why. But I know that when you are young you wish you are older so that you can earn more money but when you are old you wish that you are younger, for reasons only known to old men (and women). So Tongkat Ali (and Kacip Fatima) sells very well in the market places which are visited by old men (and women)., Why? They want to feel young, not that they are any younger. And if you visit one of these corners where many old men gather, what do the vendors sell? Medicine and devices that tries to make them feel young. And honestly, what they sell in these places sometimes embarrasses you if you have your young grandchildren walking with you. And the pictures they show, they are so explicit. And the Govt. is very tolerant with these people knowing that they are quite 'useless' now. They are 'harmless'.

And of course when you get to a certain age you die (if you do not die earlier) or you become babies again. But these 'old' babies are more difficult to look after, for one they are big and for another they are stubborn. Remember in the 60s there was this TV show called "Steptoe and Son" Just like the father, Steptoe Sr, in the show, old men tends to behave that, stubborn. Now imagine if they are older. But when they get helpless, then it is more difficult, and I suppose many are left to waste and die. We never really know. They say that a mother can look after 7 or 8 children but a son or a daughter cannot even look after a father or a mother. That is the truth.

Whatever the future is, I always have the philosophy that you must grow old gracefully. Keep active, be participative and get involved. Though I hate to use as an example but M whom I really hate as a leader kept himself active, live 'clean' (as far as I know) and has not yet become a 'baby' even when he is past 76. He is now retired. So is LKY, who is also supposed to be retired. But of course we can use a better example like Ungku Aziz You can see Ungku Aziz's photo in my blog

I will continue writing my blogs. And to keep myself busy and sane and to write on diversed subjects I have created other blogs as well.

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Friday, June 11, 2004

If only I .......................................

Every Friday Subuh Prayer, most Imam in the mosque leading the prayer will recite the Koraanic verse, Surah Sajda. In verse 12, it is translated as, "If only thou couldst see, When the guilty ones, Will bend low their heads, Before their Lord (saying:), "Our Lord! We have seen, And we have heard: Now then send us back (To the world): we will Work righteousness: for we Do indeed (now) believe." - Koraan translated by Abdullah Yusuf Ali 1996.

And years ago I went to see Mount Kinabalu, my family and I stayed at a hotel in Kundangsang. From the hotel windows we could see looming right across the mighty and large Mount Kinabalu.

And recent I saw a photo of Venus flying across the flaming Sun, Venus then was between the Sun and the Earth. Venus was just a big black dot across the surface of the Sun.

When I deliberate over these, I can feel how small I am. I am not even a speck of dust in Allah's expanding universe. Then only do I keep saying, "If only...................." There are many times that I can say "If only I........................................" to myself. There is tinge of regret. And that regret translate into the time of my life. I have a very big regret.

One great regret in my life is in not being able to read, understand and interpret the Koraan well. Thus I am not able to lead or be an Imam in a Muslim prayer. I regret that very much but there is nothing very that I can do now. I have taken my life in a different direction, though I am trying to go that Islamic way but it is like going up a mountain task.

I first realised the importance of the Islamic religion when I saw my grandparents praying together, but my grandfather died early so I had no chance to interact with him in that direction. In fact he was the Koraan teacher to one of his nephews and a grandnephew and they used to live with us. When my grandfather died I had no proper guidance until a stranger came into our lives. He was a migrant from another kampong and he could recite the Koraan well. He taught me how to do the Muslim prayer but I never learnt the Koraan from him. Instead my brother and I learnt how to read the Koraan from an uncle.

And when I entered the Malay school at an early age there was no proper religious or Koraan teacher until I was about to leave the Malay school a few years later, there came a local lad from the neighbouring kampong who was recruited by the Government as the Koraan teacher to teach Koraan and Islamic religion at our Malay school. His classes were in the afternoon, so we had to return to school in the afternoon just to attend the Koraan and the religious classes.

And soon I left the Malay school to further my schooling else where. I did not see that Ustaz (the Koraan and the Islamic religion teacher as they are normally called) for a long long time until I was serving in Kuantan in late 70s; and I lost touch with him again until early 2002 when once again I met him in Kuantan. He is already retired When I am in Kuantan now I regularly go to his religious classes at the nearby mosque.

At the town school where I attended after being out of the Malay school, we had a proper Islamic religious teacher, who taught us the Koraan and the various Islamic subjects such as Fiqh. Tauhid, Tassauf. There were regular Islamic lessons and Koraan reading lessons and we were also taught Tajuid or how to read the Koraan properly. But even then I did not take very serious views of those religious teachings as I was in my teens then and religion was too far from my mind. Except of course I observed that a lot of boys from Johore, Kelantan and Trengganu were very well versed with the Islamic religion. They sometimes led the prayers. They could also read or recite verses from the Koraan well. For me I could not really bother.

Worse still when I was sent to UK for further studies. By normal Islamic standard I was a sinner when I was in UK. I did everything that was forbidden and I suppose I enjoyed it. Not that I am proud of what I have done when I think about it now but in those days in that environment it was the most natural thing to do. My flatmate was from Kelantan and he was very religious, I suppose he must have prayed 5 times a day everyday, but he also had his own failings and must have committed some grave sins. I cannot say much about it, he led his life and I mine.

Coming back from UK to KL was no better. I was not really conscious of religion then as it was then a very free society in Malaysia. But soon things changed, people were more conscious of religion and youth were joining the Al-Arqam group in hordes. Girls began to cover up and men began to wear green and put on turbans. It was a time of change. I never join such groups but I had a taste of being involved with them, at religious ceremonies and at their houses; after all many of them were my friends and work colleague. And one of my half-sisters and her husband joined the Al-Arqam group and became very serious in that group. In fact their children were strangers to me when they were in that group.

As I got older, I then realised how important the Islamic religion was to me. When I was serving in Kuantan in late 70s, I was involved in the office Islamic activities, and being the Manager then I had to be involved deeply. I found that the staff were more friendly and very approachable when I became more involved in religion with them, even the non-Muslims. On being transferred out to Alor Setar I found that the people over there were more religious than in Kuantan and I was the most ignorant among the learned, they were the not so learned but I was further down the line in that unlearned class. I still did not get myself involved in any serious Islamic religious activities as such even though I found that when I first arrived in Alor Setar I could not even read the Koraan properly. But then the people in Alor Setar were very nice to me even though I was a religious ignorant by their standard.

And when I returned to KL I realised then I needed to seriously look into my Islamic religious needs. I went to the nearby mosque more often and I tried to read the Koraan more seriously. I remember some of the rules of reading the Koraan taught to me by my uncles and the various Ustaz before and I attempted to read according to the rules I learned. It was one of the hardest efforts in my life. I did not know how to get a teacher to teach me. Probably I was too ashamed to admit that my Koraan reading was nothing to be proud of.

My getting a job in Bintulu really opened my eyes to the Islamic religion. There the community was small and among my friends were people who were learned in the Islamic religion. Bintulu is not really a place to learn the Islamic religion as over there there were more Christians than Muslims. But the people I was surrounded by and the daily activities exposed me to the Islamic religion and that influenced me greatly. I found that my learning process was accelerated by the presence of Indonesian Islamic teachers who regularly give us talks on the Islamic religion at the place I worked and also at the local mosque. In fact there were religious VIP invited from West Malaysia every so often to give religious talks and that gave me more realisation and understandings of the Islamic religion and I moved closer towards it.

And then my wife and I went on a pilgrimage to Mecca. Here I saw the religion as it should be. And my mind was more clearer and I knew that I have found what I was looking for. We brought our children to Mecca for an Umrah the next year. In Mecca on my first visit, it was the first time in my life that I could read the Koraan in a peaceful surroundings. I learned the meaning of the verses earlier when I first arrived in Bintulu, and in Mecca I still cannot appreciate the meaning but I could feel the essence.

On coming back to KL in early 90s, I found myself living in an area where there are many mosques and suraus. It was a real pleasure to hear the people at these places reading the Koraan early in the morning and in the afternoon and early at night before the Maghrib prayer. And hearing the religious talks at various mosques, especially at the surau near my house. In fact there are now religious teachers coming regularly to teach the Islamic religion and one of the sessions we are taught properly the meaning of the verses in the Koraan. And I have managed to attend most of these talks. I also realise now that I am still at the bottom of the barrel as far as understanding of the Islamic religion and the Koraan and the Hadiths. But I now understand better than was years ago. Still I find that I cannot overcome my handicap, I cannot recite the verses from the Koraan well, neither can remember the short verses used mainly in prayers. What more of the long verses. Consequently I am still handicapped even at leading a short prayer. I tried but I am ashamed to admit that I am not competent.

Its a regret without end.

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The never ending Malaysian taxi saga.............

I am revisiting the article which I wrote earlier, because
1. Now I have to use taxis to go to some places for work.
2. At KLIA they are fighting hard to get rid of tout for private taxis at the airport.

To go to visits some of my customers in KL I have to use taxis. The traffic is too congested in KL for me to drive around the City to visit my customers, especially in areas where I need to visit them monthly. So what I did originally was I made arrangement with certain taxi drivers to come and pick me up at my house. I found this unreliable as they do not normally come on the exact time when you want them. So I have stopped that arrangement. Now I go over to the nearest LRT station near where I live and pick a taxi from there. This is where the fun starts. When I say that I want to hire a taxi for about ½ a day, many look at me as if I am stupid. "What for?" they ask. "To go to work" I say. Many turn me down on the excuse that they may need to pick up their children from school or their wives from the market. Very unprofessional of them I thought. Anyway some will agree, provided I pay them extra. I have no alternative but to agree, on the condition that they use their taxi meter and I will pay them on top of that as my work entails them to wait for me at the customers premises while I do my work. On the agreement then we go..

There are a few facts I found about taxis in KL. Some are self owned, probably they are ex-Servicemen so they are given the licence to drive and own a taxi. Some may drive their parents taxis, they themselves have the taxi driving licence. Most I find out hire the taxi over a period and they normally go on shift, each day finishing their shift at 3.0 pm, when either another driver takes over or the vehicle owner may want to drive their own taxis. And these taxi drivers, when they hire a taxi vehicle, pay for the petrol or gas, whatever fuel they use, pay for the taxi breakdown maintenance, if occurs during their shift, and pay a daily rental. RM 40.00 per day I get the answer mostly from them. Some pay as high as RM 42.00 to RM 45.00 per day. And there are also taxis (mostly I think) owned by Companies. Its an easy business but made complicated. by the inability of individual to easily getting licence for a taxi, inability for individual to buy a taxi unless he is sure of getting a licence and of course the inability of a taxi owner making sure that he can make a living by just driving a taxi. I once had a ride on a taxi driven a pensioner (I wonder though how he got the taxi licence) and he says he only work whenever he feels like it, once he has enough from the day's taking he just goes home and sleep. Cant blame him, he was an old man. Then I went once into a taxi which was self owned. He was happy that he need not change shift at 3.00 pm, and so I hired him almost the whole day, and I got more job done. And once I went into a taxi which was hired two brothers and they change shift. But the taxi driver said that the shift was flexible as they were brothers. Without prejudice, many of the people who turn me down for the ½ day hire are Malays, though I must confess that other Malays who own taxis are easy to hire as they say that it is their livelihood. They have already taken care of the children school going and the wife shopping programme. I though that these guys must be real professional. And I have this Indian fellow, very friendly and very talkative and very easy going who drove me a couple of times.

Taxi drivers are cross section of the population. They almost live in their own world. Some are in it for the need of money, some as a normal job like going to office but of course they need the money as well. Some just to keep busy and at the same time earning money. Some are educated enough to understand world and current affairs, some refuse to talk about the current affairs (too political they say) and some are very knowledgeable on local and foreign film stars and singers and very up to date in those areas. But the uneducated ones, who have been willing to take me, I found them very professional but unfortunately cannot really read or write. I know about this when I ask for receipt when I pay the fare for the trip. They will give me a blank receipt and would ask me to write. Most of them are of the old generation, Chinese especially as they can write Chinese but not Malay or English. But of most taxis have printed receipt, printed off their fare machine, so in most cases I get the receipt properly printed. But when I have to top the fare up due to the waiting time at my place of work, some do not know how to operate the machine to top up above the fare stated. On a number of occasions I have to teach them, its not that difficult as the machine is very easy to operate. Do these taxi drivers cheat me?. They don't fortunately, they are honest folks, at least those I have hired, but the bargaining at the beginning can be quite trying.

As for the tout at the KLIA, yes I have encountered quite a few. Once upon a time they were able to meet the passengers as they came out of the arrival "tunnel" where they start asking. Now the 'tunnel' have been fenced up untill it reaches almost to the counter where you can buy the ticket from the official KLIA taxis. Even then I can see the tout 'fly by' at the counter muttering something, mostly not in Malay as many understand the language. They may mutter something in Chinese, and some Chinese will take the bait. I am sure some Malays or Indians or others may do so as well but in my trips to date I have not seen any. I have seen some Chinese (for whatever reason, probably the understand what have been muttered by the 'fly by') taking the bait. These tout are either from the illegal (in the real sense) taxis or from legal taxis but not allowed by the authority to pick up passengers at KLIA. And they probably get commission from the 'illegal' taxis (some these taxis are legal in the normal sense of the word but they are not allowed to take passengers from KLIA but they came to KLIA with passengers from the City or the surrounding areas). I have been told that these town taxis may charge less than the KLIA taxis but there are cases where they fleece the passengers, especially those not familiar with Malaysia.. The KLIA taxis sell coupons which are prepaid at the coupon purchase counter but the town taxis do not use such coupons, they probably get he passengers to bargain and for the foreign passengers they may cheat them by not using their taxi meters or by going about around and around or they cheat on the taxi meter readings. Such happenings have been known. There are also cases where some taxi drivers (real or bogus) rob their passengers, and in some cases even rape the women passenger. Those may be the reason why the Malaysian Government is so concerned, other than of course keeping a standard of good taxi service at the country's premier airport. I agree that the Airport taxi service must be protected, to maintain the good name of the country.

However in the past we have had some problem with our taxi drivers. My write up below was done about 6 months ago,. Some may still be applicable.


YW: The Petekma president is entitled to his opinion about the minister
being "biadap"... but what is his opinion about some of the taxi drivers who
terrorise others on the roads? Those who go down one way roads the wrong
way... shoot through red lights... brake suddenly without warning to pick up
passengers... not to mention "heroes" like the one I saw recently crossing
the double lines in the middle of Jalan Maarof in Bangsar, and speeding
downhill without a care for the horning and flashing headlights of the
on-coming motorists going uphill [in their proper lanes]...

Cabbies demand apology from Minister
Hasnita Shaari JAN 17, 2004 SAT

KUALA LUMPUR: Entrepreneur Development Minister Datuk Mohamed Nazri Aziz has
been taken to task by Taxi/Limousine and Rental Car Association (Petekma)
president Yusoff Lahir.

"Menteri itu biadap (The Minister was rude)," said Yusoff when describing a
recent statement by Nazri.

"If he cannot be responsible for the cabbies' well-being, he should step
down as a Minister," said Yusoff, who was riled by Nazri's statement in a
Bahasa daily recently.

On Jan 9, Nazri was quoted in the daily as accusing cabbies, who did not use
the meter, as robbers (perompak).

"That was an unfair statement made by a Minister who is supposed to be
taking care of the cabbies' welfare," said Yusoff.

"He is robbing the cabbies of their income when he said that the public,
especially foreign tourists, are sceptical and afraid to take taxis because
they believe what the Minister said." Yusoff demanded that Nazri retract the
statement and apologise to taxi drivers.

"Does he know what is causing cabbies to stop using meters?" he asked.

Yusoff cited four main reasons.

"One, because of the high number of new permits approved by the Ministry
through the Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board (CVLB)." He said the number
of permits approved in the Klang Valley, Johor Baru and Penang was huge.

"How does one expect cabbies to get a decent income when there are too many
cabs around?" he asked.

Yusoff also pointed out that the taxi fares have not been increased for six
years now.

"Petrol prices were raised several times over these years but the fare is
still at the same rate." He said the government should consider raising the
rate as cabbies were struggling to make ends meet.

"How much can they get a day if they not only have to pay for petrol, but
also the taxi companies (rent)?" Yusoff said cabbies who got permits from
companies or consortiums have to rent the cabs for RM40 daily. Cabbies, he
claimed, have to pay the rent even when they are not working.

Yusoff, who had clashed with Nazri several times, claimed that the Ministry
and CVLB, in a way, were "encouraging" cabbies to shortchange the public.

"Taxis already have meters but yet, the authorities introduced the coupon
system that causes passengers to pay double or triple the taxi fare if they
take cabs that use meters."

Yusoff said the coupon system is being implemented at the KL Sentral, Kuala
Lumpur City Centre (KLCC), KL Tower and Bukit Bintang. Giving an example,
Yusoff said the fare from KL Tower to Bukit Bintang is about RM3.

"But using the coupon system, passengers have to pay RM7 for that short
distance. Where is the logic? He said companies who handle the coupon system
at these four places were awarded the contract by the CVLB.

"This is daylight robbery, but why didn't the Minister think it was so?"
Yusoff said the authorities have been "encouraging" cabbies to cheat by
introducing such an illogical system when all taxis have installed meters.

"Most even have receipt machines installed to satisfy customers." Yusof said
Nazri, by making the irresponsible statement had "marred the image of
cabbies as a whole."

"Take those words back or we, cabbies would regard him as being rude," he

Reading the above, I find it very interesting. The Malaysian blaming culture has surfaced at its best location. There is always two side of the story if we care to look a situation like the above. But Malaysian blaming culture per say will see to it that everyone blames everyone else. Only the first person is right, the second, third, fourth, fifth and the umpteenth person is always wrong. Anyway I do not want to dwell into that, I just wish to delve into taxi per say in Malaysia. I am not familiar with taxis in other countries, but I have ridden on quite a no. of Malaysian taxis. Admittedly I have ridden on very few occasions taxis in London, Tokyo, Peking, Seoul, and some part of Europe but they are not as interesting to relate such stories as compared to taxis in Malaysia.

Do I praise taxis in Malaysia. Generally I don't, until lately. I hold a view that taxis in Malaysia has got this attitude that "I am the tuan" and "you passengers rely on me. Without me you all suffer". Do I support that Minister? In a way I do, but before I commit myself to that, a global perspective has to be considered.

Let me go back into my earlier encounters with Malaysia (Malaya then) taxis. When I was a young boy, going to school in town away from home, I sometimes had to take a taxi ride for my long journey if I missed my normal passenger bus. These taxis used to be dirty, dilapidated, windows always open to nature (in those days there was no air-conditioned taxis), the driver always very rough, swore a lot and looked at women as if they have not seen a women in all their lives. They probably were married, with one or two wives and many children. I remember then I had to carry my own language to put those in the taxi boot, the taxi driver pretended not to see me doing it, they talking (shouting more likely) to their friends. And I thought then my luggage were quite heavy. In those days they were mostly Sikh, Indian or Chinese taxi drivers. I am not being racially prejudiced here, and but later on in life when more Malays got taxi permits, they are no better and at times they can be worse.

Anyway, the taxis then were supposed to be for a long journey, for short journeys they used to have trishaws, ( sometimes I wish that there are trishaws now like in Melaka) so they filled the taxi to capacity. I being quite small then had been squeezed among sweaty labourer looking men, who almost occupied the whole the taxi seat to themselves. Malaysian men in those days were rather oppressive lot. We reached our destination always safely though on some occasion I feared greatly for my safety seeing how the taxi driver drove the taxi. When I arrived at the destination, these taxi drivers always seemed to be in a hurry to get rid of you as they wish to fill up their taxi as fast as possible to make the return journey. There were more shouting and arguing. Can't blame them really, the more trip they make the more money they make to feed their children and wife (wives most likely for Malays and mistresses for others).

I got used to this rough habits of Malaysian taxi drivers. I was away from the country for a while. But in London I found that the taxi drivers were friendly (more of condescending than friendly I suppose) but they always seemed to be hungry for tips, as if with the taxi fare alone they could not make ends meet.. And being a young foreigner I did not know how much tip to give, I always used to compare 'our' money with 'their' money. I found that I always seemed to give so little tip that the taxi driver in London always seemed very unhappy. But being Mat Salleh they always seemed to hide their true feelings to us 'foreigners. "They are bloody foreigners trying to live in white man's country" they thought I thought then. But in those days they could have easily said that but today if ever they say that they can be brought to the Race Relation Board and face Court action. Anyway I never crossed these guys so I would not have known what they said or could do to me.

Then back in Malaysia, time have progressed but the taxi drivers were no better than when I left. In fact I think as we progressed they became more rude. I avoided them. I was then able to afford a car so I need not take a ride on a taxi. Then again I have to go to England. Now I found that many taxis were then driven by Pakistanis or Indians who did not seemed to be happy to see us 'foreigners' with the same skin colour as theirs . There were also a couple of Sikh drivers. But in London I still saw mostly Mat Salleh taxi drivers. Expolating the events, I suppose in London now there are many more Pakistani, Indian and Sikh taxi drivers than Mat Salleh.. And with their money had then changed into 10s and I was more confused on what to give as tips.. I managed somehow without getting into any embarrassed situation.

In Malaysia I encountered more airport taxi drivers than at any other locations, the few times I met them originally and later more frequent as I had to go overseas often. Taxi drivers at Malaysian airport is a special breed of people. They are hungry for passengers but at the same time most undisciplined and probably very greedy. So the Govt. decided to have the coupon system where they cannot cheat passengers anymore. At first, as usual, there was a lot of resistance but when really enforced by the Govt. for them to use the coupon system they complied. But still there are the greedy ones. I remember once I got a taxi at the Subang Airport and when I told them I was going to a place probably just a few hundred yards from their assigned invisible taxi 'border' the driver said, "En, you have to pay an extra RM......." I said "Why"?'. He said, "We have now crossed the border of the fare that you paid" I felt embarrassed and angry ( I was very tired then as I had just arrived by plane from an overseas trip) and at the same time very disturbed. How was I to know that I had to pay more than what was charged in the coupon? I had bought my taxi coupon at the airport, and had already paid the amount asked for, when I told the clerk who sold the coupon to me where I was going. I could not possibly counter check with the taxi driver who was awaiting in the Q outside. I did pay up to this 'greedy' taxi driver. I took down his taxi no. and made a written complain to higher Authority. Later on when I went to get a taxi again from the Airport, I was specifically ask where I was going and I had to pay the correct fare, though this time a bit more than I paid earlier.

That was a bad taste in my mouth. Now nearer my home, they had this Taxi Stand in the small new town just outside the boundary of KL. Originally they were very friendly and obliging lot. But some how there must be an internal strife in the association of taxi drivers who used that Stand. They refused to take short distance passengers. When you call them to book a taxi to go to a place which is a considerably very short distance, but far enough for you not to walk, they always said that they were busy. So I spied on them, I used to sit near the taxi stand to listen to their conversation. As I suspected, even if the taxi stand is full of taxis they still tell the phoning passenger that there was no taxi available. I wonder what kind of people these taxi drivers were? Looking at them they seemed to be a very nice bunch of people, oldish, pleasant smiles and talks of very innocent subjects such as politic and economy, and some wearing white skull cap showing that they were quite religious. Some I think were ex-Servicemen. After that I avid calling them anymore. But at out of desperation I called them when I wanted to go to the Airport. But on many occasions they failed to arrive on time so I stopped booking a taxi with them altogether even when I wanted to go to the Airport. I would rather call a Radio Cab, as from experience they are reliable. They may not be very friendly, they speak their mind to you even if you do not ask for their opinion. So in most occasions to please them I just say "mmm" to them whenever they expressed their opinion.

But later they were asked by the Govt. not to give too much opinion, so they became more silent. In this situation I find that their silent is disconcerted. And I dare not ask question to them, for all I know they could be from the SB and I may be saying something against the Govt.

In those days these taxi driver dressed in whatever way they pleased but nowadays they are more decently dressed, and their car quite well cleaned, showing their taxi licence and their ID as the taxi driver. I think situations have improved. But still there are black sheep in the community. There even be found 'false' taxi drivers - these are not the real taxi drivers but people driving taxis with the intention of harming the passengers, robbing them or even molesting the women passengers. There are taxi drivers cheating those not familiar with KL especially foreigners, taxi drivers who takes you a long way to reach your destination using their taxi meters, taxi drivers who refused to use their taxi meters (Penang had a tough time in trying to get taxis to use their taxi meters).

One thing which I found when I used to take a taxi, there always seemed to be short of taxis in town/city, but if you go on the outskirts of the town/city you may see many of them resting. I know why, they do that to avoid the city/town jam. But they are not being fair to the public. When you complain to the Authority that there is not enough taxis, the Authority will always give you the fact, there are enough numbers of taxis. And when you talk to taxi drivers, they always tell you that there are too many taxis on the road, so depriving them of decent income, the cake has to be shared with too many taxi drivers.

What sort of cars are used for these taxis. Originally there were many Mercedes cars, especially with diesel engines, and later there were a lot of Opel cars. Much later they imported old big cars from Japan, still mostly diesel engined, and these were mostly used at the old Subang Airport. But when Malaysia had its national car, these taxis are dominated by Saga, Wira, Waja and Perdana. The fuel? Mostly diesel then but later they turned to LPG. Unfortunately there are not many LPG (and now Natural Gas NG) stations in the country. These are only found in the Klang Valley.

To be fair to our Malaysia taxi drivers, time has changed. Many of our taxi drivers are now young and active and they are people who want to make a decent living. Old habit die hard. Some are still rude, some still very opinionated, some are of the silent kind and some old man who occasional come on the road to earn a few RM extra to supplement their meager pension. But old habit like smoking in the taxi (when there is no passenger), of speeding unnecessarily, of knowing the world more than the passengers (boring the passengers with their politic or hard life story) are still there.

Back to the above news with the Minister, I would say that in some cases these taxi drivers are right, they know best what is on the ground and the Minister for all one knows have not been riding on a taxi for a long time now.

But without taxi drivers life can be most uncomfortable even though nowadays we have the LRT, the monorail, the other trains plying in towns and cities and between big towns and to the new KLIA. And the service of the taxis in the KLIA have now greatly improved from those we used to get at the old Airport in Subang.

Our Malaysian taxis and their drivers sure has some character, and in our way of life today we cannot be like those taxi drivers in Tokyo where they even have white seat covers for their taxis and you can even pay your fare with credit card.

All in all, Malaysian taxi drivers do not ask for trips.

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Monday, June 07, 2004

Has the Malays slack in their faith in Islam?

The goings on these couple of months and the Court trial going on fornication and rape by the Malay Muslims seems very worrying. Even death has occurred at the scene of a fornication. And the rape of underage children by some Muslim adults had also occurred, the children being entrusted to be cared for at his house. And also someone made a video tape of his sexual act on a couple of girlfriends, the tapes are meant for sale to the public. And I cannot imagine a Malay Muslim girl living together with an unmarried(?) non-Muslim man, and that has occurred. These are splashed in the local press. All these involve lack of moral values of Malay men and women. It may be just a few example but it can also be the tip of the iceberg. Had Muslim laws been implemented, the punishment of all these crimes can be quite severe. I mean some of these are clear confession in Court so they can easily be charged under the Muslim laws if Malaysia is really a Muslim country. But Malaysia is not a Muslim country, maybe a big percentage of its citizens confess to be Muslim but how many are really Muslim according to the Koraan and the Sunnah? That is a big unanswered question.

And of course we have not taken into consideration the supposed to be Muslim people gambling, drinking alcoholic drink (never mind those involved with the manufacture, the packaging, the distributing and the server of these alcoholic drinks; all are haram in the Muslim religious sense - and of course the person who give those licences and those who sign those licences) and those eating non-halal food, there is even some doubts that many food served in Malaysia are non-halal but no research is properly done. I am pretty certain that if research is properly done we can find many of the food served as 'halal' has doubt on their halal status (this is just my guess, but I stand corrected).

And the number of Muslim men and women not praying the 5 times a day as required, the paying of Zakat and all that. There are probably the majority of these Muslims. But of course you see them fasting during the month of Ramadhan, and making many trips to Mecca either for the Haj or the Umrah. The very basic however have been left far undone. And I suppose the most simple thing as big ablution (hadas after sex) may not be done by those having sex (I cannot prove this). Imagine if you die while having sex not with you legally Muslim way marriage spouse. What a sin, and I cannot imagine the amount of sin that you carry with you to the next world. Only Allah knows and only Allah can do something about them. Its too late to repent by then anyway, so you are at he mercy of Allah. And many knows that as well. It should not happen that way if you read and understand the Koraan and Sunnah properly. Sometimes I fell very sad when I see Muslims who do not even bother to pray the 5 times required prayer per day, I see most mosques are empty on such occasions, and I these Muslims in hotels, shopping complexes and I can imagine how many of them are home as well just watching TV or even a few probably walking about in town looking for prey for the purpose of fornication. Its a world full of sin, in a Muslim sense. I cannot talk of other religions as I do not know enough about them to write anything about.

And now I am hearing a new term. Islam Hadhari (I am told that it should be pronounced as Hadha-ri, I am not conversant in Arabic so I cannot say how it should really be pronounced). I am told that this new concept of Islam is on how to rule a country. But I have seen see any book on the subject, perhaps I have not found them yet. I have seen a book called "Fiqh Daulah" by Yusof Al-Qardawi which describes on how a Muslim country should be ruled. Again I am not a politician so I am not able to say which is which. But I know that the book "Fiqh Daulah" is very clear on the concept and it even describes the methods of such rules by taking verses from the Koraan and quoting the Sunnah.

And I also worry about the situation that not many Ulama are available to preach in mosques and suraus. Only chosen Ulama are allowed to preach. And there are not many chosen Ulama are available. They say why not watch TV for there are many Ulama preaching on TV. I for one do not watch TV and what more watching these Ulama on TV is not like hearing them direct where I can meet them so that I can interact and ask questions and get direct answers from them on the spot. And at one time some higher ups in the Govt. commented that why is it that the Malays like to take Islamic Study at the U. Because of that people were discouraged from taking Islamic Study which has resulted in a dearse of people who can competently teach the Muslim religion and who also can lead the Muslim prayers. This is especially serious in the rural areas and even in the town areas where there may not be an appointed Imam, say in small suraus.

And many Ulama had died or killed. Thus their numbers has been reduced drastically. This happens all over the world. Once upon a time when the British ruled India they burned a lot of the Koraan because someone in the British Parliament said that the Koraan is the source of the strength in Islam. But what the British did no realise then was that there are thousands of Muslim who knows the Koraan and who can recite the Koraan by heart. So the Koraan got rewritten, checked and confirmed the correctness of its verses and once again Islam flourished. Another strength they tried to overcome was the Friday prayer and the prayer in masses for all the 5 daily prayers. They have not been successful to date and will never be successful.

And now Islam is branded as a fanatical religion. In Islam there is no such thing as fanaticism or moderate or liberal. Islam is Islam and the Koraan and the Sunnah are the guides. If you do not follow these then you are not a Muslim. Muslim must have immovable belief in Allah (very deep in their heart) knows the religious theories, practical and philosophy, and these must be taken together and you cannot just take one and discard the others. If you discard any of them then you are not following Islam as a religion; you may call yourself a Muslim it will Allah call you a Muslim? You will not know about it until you reach the next world and by then it will be too late.

What is the future for the Islam? Plenty. In Malaysia alone, people are getting more conscious of the Muslim religion, of course this relates to the Muslims (of others I do not know). Some may try hard to stop the growth of Islam, but its like King Knute who tried to stop the tide. Going to Mecca for example is a common activity for Muslims in Malaysia, for the Haj as well as for the Umrah. In fact all if not most of the agents doing this 'going to Mecca' business find themselves even not being able to get seats on aeroplanes for their customers, some even resort to extra trips such as to Cairo or Jordan or even Dubai routes just to get their customers to Mecca. And many young Muslims are learning Arabic to give them better understanding of the Koraan, as the true Koraan is always written in Arabic. Learning Arabic also enhance them to understand the Hadith so that they may practice the religion more closely to what Islam was all about 14 centuries ago. And there are the Tahfiz Schools being built everywhere, Tahfiz Schools are Schools where Muslim youths learn the Koraan more extensively and they produce graduates who can recite all the verses in the Koraan. These Schools will produce the future Muslim teachers and missionary to spread the teachings as given by Allah to Prophet Muhammad PBUH..

I have now expressed my opinion, and some time back I wrote an article on faith which I want to re-visit and use as a continuation of this article.

My little Oxford dictionary defines faith as "trust; religious belief; creed; loyalty, trustworthiness".

On the religious side, and I do not know how other religions define faith, I noted the following for Islam.
Narrated Abu Huraira: One day while the Prophet was sitting in the company of some people, (The angel) Gabriel came and asked, "What is faith?" Allah's Apostle replied, 'Faith is to believe in Allah, His angels, (the) meeting with Him, His Apostles, and to believe in Resurrection." Then he further asked, "What is Islam?" Allah's Apostle replied, "To worship Allah Alone and none else, to offer prayers perfectly, to pay the compulsory charity (Zakat), and to observe fasts during the month of Ramadan." Then he further asked, "What is Ihsan (perfection)?" Allah's Apostle replied, "To worship Allah as if you see Him, and if you cannot achieve this state of devotion then you must consider that He is looking at you." Then he further asked, "When will the Hour be established?" Allah's Apostle replied, "The answerer has no better knowledge than the questioner. But I will inform you about its portents. -1. When a slave (lady) gives birth to her master. -2. When the shepherds of black camels start boasting and competing with others in the construction of higher buildings. And the Hour is one of five things which nobody knows except Allah. The Prophet then recited: "Verily, with Allah (Alone) is the knowledge of the Hour--." (31. 34) Then that man (Gabriel) left and the Prophet asked his companions to call him back, but they could not see him. Then the Prophet said, "That was Gabriel who came to teach the people their religion." SAHIH BUKHARI Hadith 1.47 Narrated Anas: Allah's Apostle said, "From among the portents of the Hour are (the following): -1. Religious knowledge will be taken away (by the death of Religious learned men). -2. (Religious) ignorance will prevail. -3. Drinking of Alcoholic drinks (will be very common). -4. There will be prevalence of open illegal sexual intercourse. SAHIH BUKHARI HADITH 1.80

So Islam has defined faith quite clearly from the hadith above. And faith has no scientific explanation, as far as I know, just a belief in the unknown, in the unseen and the hereafter. A sort of fait acompli, if that is the right term to be used. Maybe not but to my little mind, its close enough.

In everyday terms faith is trust, but at a higher level. Trust in yourself, trust that you will wake up every morning, trust that the sun will rise tomorrow and the moon will be full on the 15th day of the lunar month. Trust that your child will come back from/after school when he/she finishes the school day, trust that your husband/wife is faithful to you (here faith is used because what a wife/husband does behind your back you would not know). A faith in things that you have no real knowledge of (and maybe no control of).

And faith goes higher than just trust in the terms used, but it goes at a different level at a tangent, like loyalty. You have faith in your country so you are very loyal to it. The opposite is true, if you have no faith in the country then you become disloyal. Maybe not to the country itself, but to the systems in the country if you find that the systems in the country do not meet your belief system. Or even if you find that the people ruling the country using a system that you have no faith in, you make yourself disloyal, to the system and to the people creating and managing the system. You are not an expert in the system so you rely on how you see the system being created and managed, those are the unseen and not within your mean to understand fully. Do many of us understand how a Parliamentary procedures work, how the legal system works, how the Administration system works, but we have faith in them because we have seen (or we think that we have seen) how they each works. We may not experience it but we know that its there. We trust the people operating the systems even though we do not understand the systems fully. We have faith in the people operating the system. But once the systems proves that they do not (or seen to be not working) then we loose faith, not only on the people operating the systems but on the systems themselves.

Religion is something else, it is of higher level than to have see how the systems works, its a belief and the belief system is a higher ranking system (to my mind) than the faith as we know it on the normal daily system that we are using. In Islam its a definite belief system, belief in Allah is the first one, and so on and on. Now you do not see Allah, so how do you have faith?. Then this is where the higher level belief system comes on. I shall not deliberate on this belief system in this write up.

For faith to be continuous, there must be consistency and may be trustworthiness. Would you have faith if you have no trust? Let us come nearer home. Would you trust your wife/husband if you have no faith in her/him? So trust on your part and trustworthiness on her/his part is very important in a faith system. Can you imagine if you do not trust your wife/husand, and you have no faith in her/him. Can you stick by her/his side all day long. If your wife/husband works for someone, I think it will be before long that the wife/husband get sacked. So faith is related to trust, but I am not sure which comes first, like the egg and the chicken situation. Someone says to me that chicken come first because the chicken has to be mated before they produce the egg. Can I trust that argument? If I trust that argument should I have faith in that argument. Difficult isn't it, some one may argue that the egg must come first as the egg may be not from chicken but from other animals and there is a mutant process in the egg which results in the birth of a chicken. Such argument can go on and on until the cows come home, nobody wins as each will try to defend his/her stand.

Defending one's stand? Now again come the religious faith. In Islam, it is considered correct to defend one's stand as long as these stands are based on certain known rules, not just what is in your mind, or from what you have heard other people say. Or even from your own experience as experience may vary from person to person. I might say that the moon looks blue to me because I heard a song called "Blue Moon", but you may say its bright because you heard a song called "Tearing Bulan" (translated as Bright Moon). In Islam we are always advised to go to the knowledgeable and if these knowledgeable (knowledgeable in Islamic religion that is - ulamak) cannot resolve the problem, then the last reference will be the Hadiths and the Koraan. Of course there are many interpretations of the Hadiths and the Koraan, so many people say. That is why all Muslims are expected to study and understand the Hadiths and the Koraan. Have I gone too deep into the Muslim religion now?

Now back to faith. Each religions in this world has its own faith system. No religion is the same, and some people claim that all religion are the same. If they are all the same, then there should only be one religion. But the system is that many religions exist because each has its own belief system depending on their birth 'accident' and the way they are brought up. I will go deep into this as other people may have other opinions, and I have mine. But the faith system goes beyond religion to some people. Or are what I call beyond is still a religion? For example, is Feng Shui (wind & water) a religion?

Many people (not necessarily the Chinese) believe in this Yin & Yang thing and as they say if one believes in it half the battle is won as so many things can be achieved if the person believes in it. Naturally most of it is based on Taoism. Now can anyone tell me what is Taoism. Is it a religion, or is it just a belief system or is it something else?. But many people has faith in Feng Shui, or else books on Feng Shui will not sell like hot cakes. And the funny thing is that even Muslim practices Fen Shui. I know of some of my former bosses consult Feng Shui experts even before they buy a house or the direction to face their desk in the office. Is that why they are 'bosses'? Now I call this 'syirik', that is believing in powers other than the power of Allah, that is you have no faith in Allah to guide you in your lives in this world. I may be wrong n my argument, to some people, but looking back how Islam defines faith, one of which is defined as belief in Allah, then I am confident that my argument is right if you are a true faithful Muslim.

So faith is a very complex subject to deal in. I am dealing with is here, because I believe that I need some place where I can let off steam. Years ago when thing did not go right for me, I lost faith in the life I lead in this world, and I believed then that no one can put my life right until I do it myself. But I knew that I could not do it alone, there is must be a guiding force or else I would not know which direction to take. There are so many cross roads in our lives and so many junctions with so many traps at the end of the road from that junction. In fact you cannot even see the tip of your nose so how can you possibly see what is ahead of your life. You cannot even tell what will happen tomorrow. So I come into this system, whatever one may call it and I hold on to that system faithfully well into today, but tomorrow? As I said, I do not even know what will happen tomorrow. But with faith (or whatever one wishes to call it) I know that events will go right, even if wrong to my shallow thinking it is right to the power far above my shallow thinking.

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Sunday, June 06, 2004

Are you a Datuk or a Dato'? Or even a Datok!

Last Saturday, 05/06/2004, Malaysia celebrated the Agong's Birthday (The official Birthday of the Supreme Ruler, who is elected among all the Malaysian Sultans every 5 years). I am not sure whether the present Agong's Birthday falls on that Saturday or not but that is the official celebration day for the Agong Birthday. And we Malaysian have the day off for the celebration. Nothing much really but just a token of respect (for what?). Somehow I feel cheated. That Birthday has always been celebrated in June. I think it used to be Jun 02 but because the Government wants it to be celebrated at a weekend, they shifted it to the first weekend in June (I think). So now every first weekend of June and on a Saturday Malaysia celebrate the Agong's Birthday. Its and illusion, but anyway the Agong is also an illusion. Its just a mirage really, its there but in actual fact when you try to feel it its not there. In a sense you do not feel the power the position holder holds except probably as a tool to open Parliament when Parliament first sits /meet each year (I stand corrected) and to be the Diplomatic Head when any other State Head from outside Malaysia visits the country or when the Government decides that any of the State Head of the another country is to be visited. A sort of figurehead really.

What I want to present here is not about the Agong per say, but about how these Birthdays produce Datuk (for the Federal and the States without Sultans and Dato' for any State with a Sultan). How this came about I am not sure but there is a URL in the Internet that tells you exactly what these Datuk or Dato' gets from these Heads. And there are so many Datuk or Dato' in Malaysia today that before long everyone in Malaysia is a Datuk or a Dato'. In fact everyone is; when you have grandchildren the grandchildren call the grandpa Datuk ( I am not sure how this Datuk is spelt but I am using Datuk here because it has a similar sound to the royal award). And also the Chinese has so many Datuk as well, I do not know what they are but I think they are their God (or is it Ghost? I am not sure). And there is a place in Malaysia called Bagan Datok, a small town on the coast of the State of Perak (I suppose this Datok is not an award by he Sultan). I remember that in that town there is a restaurant that serves the best crab dish that I have ever tasted, it was finger licking That was years ago. I wonder if the restaurant is still there.

Talking about the award of Datuk-ship (or Dato'-ship), almost every one in Malaysia is scrambling for that title. In fact one big gangster in the country has got the title of Dato' and he was charged in Court recently for being the 'head' of gambling, killing, robbery and prostitution over the whole country. How about that? I wonder how the awards was given to him. Is there no committee to vet the giving of such award? Did he purchase the award, or did he bribed into getting the award or did he threatened someone who has the power to recommend for the award that if he does not get the award that someone would get into trouble?. To add insult to injury, this 'gangster' person is also a Justice of Peace (JP). Again how did he get that award?

A couple of weeks ago the small State of Perlis in northern Malaysia celebrated the Raja of Perlis Birthday (the present Raja of Perlis is the present Agong of Malaysia, and that is just by coincident). But what is funny to me is that the State is so small, it was only a sub-district of Kubang Pasu when northern Malaya was under the Siamese Government rule ( Kubang Pasu is a District in the State of Kedah where Dr M had his Parliamentary seat for over 25 years) but at that Birthday many were awarded Dato'-ship. What a situation. I wonder if the Dato'-ship awarded by such a small State as Perlis is equal in all the Dato'-ship awarded by other bigger States in Malaysia. Malaysia is one of the countries in the world that give so many title to its citizen that almost every citizen in Malaysia has got a title. This is where I thought about my original write up which was in blog. The blog has now been canceled and I am revisiting the write up..

Perhaps one of the readers of this essay is a Dato' or a Datuk.

While traveling in the LRT going towards KLCC one day, sitting there I wondered how many Tun, Tan Sri, Datuk, Dato', Datin, Dr., Ir., Hj etc etc on the train then. Of course I did not expect any Tun or Tan Sri on the train but I was pretty sure that there was a Hj, and Ir on the train. Datuk and Dato' maybe, but Datin, no there will not be any. Tun and Tan Sri, far from it.

There are so many personal titles in Malaysia, it can be quite boring to name them and confusing to identify them. You really do not know who is what nowadays, and who holds what title. And to make it worse for yourself, you have to address them correctly. The YB shall not be called YAB, or Yang Bhg, Yang Ariff must be addressed correctly Your best friend may be a Dato ' or a Datuk something like that but you would not know unless he/she tells you or you read the newspapers. I do not read the newspapers so I do not know who are the Datuk/Dato' and the Datin and the Tun and the Tan Sris. And every year with the many Head of States/Sultans in Malaysia, there are so many awards given that to follow them properly and precisely will be a voluminous task. Datin? That is peculiar. If the husband is a Dato'/Datuk then the wife is a Datin. But is the wife is Dato'/Datuk what do you call the husband. But again what do you call the Dato'/Datuk second wife or if his wife had died earlier, is the new wife a Datin?. Very confusing. Why Dato' and Datuk? And in the old days they spelt it as Datok. And lately it has been reported that you can even buy your Dato'/Datuk title. Now that is something, so if you pay the correct amount to the Sultan/Head of State concerned then you can negotiate for a Dato'/Datuk title.

There are so many Dato'/Datuk on the street today that you can almost throw a stone in the air in any street, and the probability is that it will land on a Dato's/Datuk's head. But what Dato'/Datuk? So they invented Dato Seri, Dato Paduka etc etc only God knows what. Its a strange worlds in Malaysia with all these invented titles. And mind you, they are official titles recognised by the Government protocols.

What use are all these titles? Many. You can be invited to be a member of the Board of a Co., you can get the proper treatment from say airline reservations (Malaysian Airlines only probably), car rental, hotel reservation. etc etc, in Malaysia. You benefit in a way. But beware, when come to the Sultans birthday, I am told that you may be invited to the Birthday ceremony but with the consequence that you have to contribute towards the birthday expenses. So I suppose a Sultan can create so many Dato' that he can have all his birthday expenses paid for. In reality I do not know about this arrangement, its all hearsay. I am not a Dato' so I do not know whether what I hear is the truth. But can the Dato' title be withdrawn. Yes, cases have been known in Selangor and in Johore. A friend, who has now passed away, had his title withdrawn by Johore.

Tun and Tan Sri, those are special. Those are Federal titles and they are only awarded by the Agong. Can anyone buy the title? Not that I have heard of. What use are these titles? Plenty. Up and above the Dato'/Datuk title. You can get lots and lots done with them. You are the friends of the elite of the country, even foreign diplomat have that respect for you, if they know that you hold that titles.

Now lets see what other small titles are. There are Hajis. These are not title really, the holder just would like to be known that way. The title indicated that the person have been to Mecca, to perform the Haji Pilgrimage. To the poor it mean a lot to go on this Pilgrimage, but to the rich its just a drop of water in the ocean of their wealth. So the poor are very particular about this, if you do not call them 'Haji' they get very insulted. So be aware. To those who have been to Mecca to perform the Haj, try not to call them by their names (first name if in Malaysia). They may not even respond to you. It happened to me in Pahang sometime back. This guy I have known for a long time, one day I called on him and used his name. He said, "You mean Hj, and so.". I was taken aback but to please him I call him 'Hj so and so'. Sometimes I forget, so I call him by his name and later adding Hj. so and so. But to the rich the title don't have any real meaning to them,. In a way no meaning but in away yes, they want to portray that they are good Muslims so they would like to be called 'Hj'. So if this rich guy has got so many other titles (rich guys in Malaysia normally have other titles) he may be called Tan Sri Dato' and so.

What of the Dr. title?. One has to be very careful here, one has to distinguish between Doctor of Medicine or a PhD holder. Anyone can make a mistake here. And if he lives in kampong, people may wake him up in the middle of the night to seek treatment when anyone is ill. If you are Doctor in Medicine it is OK, but if you a PhD holder then it will quite embarrassing, except of course you can offer to drive the sick person to the nearest Clinic that may be opened 24 hours a day, or to the nearest hospital. But Dr is a useful title. If you are Doctor of Medicine you have a good public image and you gain a lot of respect, you can work in a Government hospital or open a private practice or work as a locum or work in private hospitals or even work outside the realm of medicine, say in safety or even health and environment. And if you are a PhD holder, you can be appointed as a Professor in a U or be invited into some high level committee in the Govt. And also with that title as you grow old you can still earn a living by writing books..

Ir is a strange title, invented and used by Malaysian Engineers. These people are registered Professional Engineers, who are recognised by the Govt. What can they do?. Just sign technical drawings on their specialty for submission to the approving authorities. Not much use really. Unlike those Engineers in other countries who do not have titles before their names and these people are really the elite of technical fraternity of that country. But again many would like to seek that title just to sign technical drawings and earn a meager living.

The above are the major titles that I can think of at the spur of this moment. Other small titles are such as ranks. 'General' are life title for military people, so are Colonel or Major. But they are always careful here, they always add the word '(Rtd)' which stands for retired. I have not heard officially recognised of Lt. Rtd or Capt. Rtd, or ASP Rtd or Commissioner Rtd. Probably there are such titles. On a smaller scale there are the Bekas Penghulu (ex-Penghulu), Bekas Tok Empat or Bekas Sidang. They held those posts once in their life and now have retired. Its nothing more than to remind society of whom they are and if you want to locate them in their kampong you can easily ask people in that kampong where to find them.

Unlike awarded title or rank title there are other titles attached to ones name. To name a few, Syed (or Sayed), Sharifah, Sheikh, Nik, Wan, Raja, Tengku, Ungku, Cikku, Awang, Dayang, not necessarily in the order of importance. I cannot rank them in the order of importance, each area has its own order. In Pahang for example, Syed is just below Tengku, and in Kedah I am told its the same. These are not surnames as such, maybe family names but in reality, I suppose, its a traditional name to indicate their family origin or their usefulness to society (mind you not a trade but usefulness; where as I understand it that surnames are trade names - I stand corrected here). To the best of my knowledge Syed and Sharifah are of Arabic origin (from anywhere in the Arabian Peninsular), Nik are from Kelantan, I am told that they originated from China, became Muslims after being adopted by the Sultan of Kelantan, And Wan, I do not know where they come from but I am told that they were worriers. Tengku of course are of the declared royal family, the same for Raja but in different form and in different State. Ungku I only see names from Johore and Trengganu. Cikku, I only meet them in Trengganu. Awang and Dayang are names in the Borneo region. Anyway these are only of the Malay stock, which are in existence today. Maybe in the past they have some other titles which may have died way over time.

Titles are important. They give an idea as to where one stands in a society. To some its a real nuisance but to others its a mean to keeping up their dignity. But to some its a escapism. Some say, "I am so and so,. so I am entitled to that and this". Some may say, "These people are not to my status and standard so I shall not bother to be there", say at a function, wedding or a gathering. And some snooty ones may say ":This person is below me, so why bother to call on him/her. Let him/her call me". There are so may approaches are made when there is titles consciousness in society. Its a sort of indication of strata in society. Its not a cast system as such but close enough.

Is having titles good or bad? I have no thought in that area. I suppose it depends on where you are,. If you are in the upper crust, then you feel happy. But if you are in the lower crust then you suffer and just learn to like it (attitude of most Malaysian in my opinion). Most I suppose would like to be in the middle crust and remain there where you get the best of both world.

Try reading a book called "Tess of the D'Urbervilles" by Thomas Hardy to see what happens when you do not know where you really are but forced to play a role of being in a different crust in society.,

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The Passing of An Era.

I am putting the whole report in my blog as I see the event as a passing if an era. I used to watch many of his films, used to collect many of his film star photoes, but lost interest when I got older. Then he began his political career and I was early in my career so I was more like minding my own business than his. But I admired his achievement, and in the end he reaching the office of the President of the USA. Many have achieved and held that office but he did it 'his way', and for a long time to come I suppose very few will do it 'his way'. It was sad though he had to suffer the way he did after leaving the office. My condolence to his family.

From Melbourne Age / Sydney Morning Herald

Ronald Reagan dead at 93
June 6, 2004

Ronald Reagan, 40th president of the United States, died today aged 93
after a long struggle with Alzheimer's disease.

He died at his home in California, according to a family friend, who
initially disclosed the death on condition of anonymity. The friend
said the family had turned to making funeral arrangements. A formal
statement from the family was expected later.

White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan said President George W Bush had
been notified of Reagan's death in Paris by White House chief of staff
Andy Card.

Card learned of the death from Fred Ryan, Reagan's former California
chief of staff, Buchan said.

The White House was told Reagan's health had taken a turn for the
worse in the last few days.

Five years after leaving office, the nation's 40th president told the
world in November 1994 that he had been diagnosed with the early
stages of Alzheimer's, an incurable illness that destroys brain cells.
He said he had begun "the journey that will lead me into the sunset of
my life".

Reagan's body was expected to be taken to his presidential library
and museum in Simi Valley, California, and then flown to Washington to
lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda. His funeral was expected to be at
the National Cathedral, an event likely to draw world leaders. The
body was to be returned to California for a sunset burial at his

Reagan lived longer than any US president, spending his last decade in
the shrouded seclusion wrought by his disease, tended by his wife,
Nancy, whom he called Mommy, and the select few closest to him. Now,
Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, George H W Bush and Bill Clinton are the
surviving ex-presidents.

Although fiercely protective of Reagan's privacy, the former first
lady let people know his mental condition had deteriorated terribly.
Last month, she said: "Ronnie's long journey has finally taken him to
a distant place where I can no longer reach him."

Reagan's oldest daughter, Maureen, from his first marriage, died in
August 2001 at age 60 from cancer. Three other children survive:
Michael from his first marriage and Patti Davis and Ron from his

Over two terms, from 1981 to 1989, Reagan reshaped the Republican
Party in his conservative image, fixed his eye on the demise of the
Soviet Union and Eastern European communism and tripled the national
debt to $US3 trillion ($A4.37 trillion) in his single-minded
competition with the other superpower.

Taking office at age 69, Reagan had already had a career outside
Washington, one that spanned work as a radio sports announcer, an
actor, a television performer, a spokesman for the General Electric Co
and a two-term governor of California.

At the time of his retirement, his very name suggested a populist
brand of conservative politics that still inspires the Republican

He declared at the outset: "Government is not the solution, it's the
problem", although reducing that government proved harder to do in
reality than in his rhetoric.

Even so, he challenged the status quo on welfare and other programs
that had put government on a growth spurt ever since Franklin D
Roosevelt's New Deal strengthened the federal presence in the lives of
average Americans.

In foreign affairs, he built the arsenals of war while seeking and
achieving arms control agreements with the Soviet Union.

In his second term, Reagan was dogged by revelations that he
authorised secret arms sales to Iran while seeking Iranian aid to gain
release of American hostages held in Lebanon. Some of the money was
used to aid rebels fighting the leftist government of Nicaragua.

Despite the ensuing investigations, he left office in 1989 with the
highest popularity rating of any retiring president in the history of
modern-day public opinion polls.

That reflected, in part, his uncommon ability as a communicator and
his way of connecting with ordinary Americans, even as his policies
infuriated the left and as his simple verities made him the butt of
jokes. "Morning again in America" became his re-election campaign
mantra in 1984, but typified his appeal to patriotrism through both

At 69, Reagan was the oldest man ever elected president when he was
chosen on November 4, 1980, by an unexpectedly large margin over
incumbent Democrat Jimmy Carter.

Near-tragedy struck on his 70th day as president. On March 30, 1981,
Reagan was leaving a Washington hotel after addressing labour leaders
when a young drifter, John Hinckley, fired six shots at him. A bullet
lodged an inch from Reagan's heart, but he recovered.

Four years later he was re-elected by an even greater margin, carrying
49 of the 50 states in defeating Democrat Walter F Mondale, Carter's
vice president.

- AP

Those famous Reagan gaffes

Former US president Ronald Reagan was famous for his gaffes.

His most noted came in 1984, at the height of the Cold War.

He said: "My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you I just signed
legislation which outlaws Russia forever. The bombing begins in five

He was joking around in a voice-level test before broadcast, but it
turned out the microphone was switched on.

He was a keen humorist and sometimes it was hard to tell which of his
remarks were jokes and which were gaffes.

His assertion that "trees cause more pollution than automobiles" may
have been seriously meant - at least it caused outrage among green

He also reportedly said: "All the waste in a year from a nuclear power
plant can be stored under a desk".

Asked by a reporter in 1966 what kind of governor he would be, the
former B-movie actor is said to have replied: "I don't know. I've
never played a governor".

And he was presumably deliberately joking when he said: "They say hard
work never hurt anybody, but, I figure, why take the chance?"

And his intention may have been similar when he said: "I am not
worried about the deficit. It is big enough to take care of itself".

And again when he quipped: "I have left orders to be awakened at any
time in case of national emergency - even if I'm in a Cabinet

But "We are trying to get unemployment to go up, and I think we're
going to succeed" appears to have been a slip of the tongue.

- PA

A strong, controversial world statesman

Ronald Reagan, Hollywood star turned political force, swept into
office as the 40th US president in 1981 on a flag-waving conservative
revival that changed America's political and economic landscape.

Reagan, who died today at 93 after a long struggle with Alzheimer's
disease, was a genial optimist and maestro of a simple - critics said
too simple - creed promising lower taxes, less government, a powerful
national defence and unabashed patriotism.

That might sound familiar against a succeeding parade of conservative
leaders from Newt Gingrich to George W Bush, but as a governing credo
it was bold and new when Reagan began a turbulent White House reign
marked by economic resurgence, the collapse of Soviet communism, vast
budget deficits, an assassination attempt and a scandal or two.

Early in his political rise, analysts laughed him off as a shallow
show-business buffoon, all grin and pompadour. One high-ranking
Democrat, Clark Clifford, dismissed him as an "amiable dunce".

But Reagan's crystal-clear convictions and sunny manner captivated
voters tired of blurry, indecisive politicos. And Reagan marched
steadily upward from popular ideologue to California governor to
two-term Republican president from 1981 to 1989 - a force from the
right such as modern America had never seen.

If sabre-rattling Senator Barry Goldwater made conservative hearts
flutter in the 1960s at the prospect of their own president, his
philosophy of "extremism in defence of liberty" frightened off
middle-of-the-road and liberal voters.

But the die of the conservative revolution in American politics had
been cast with Goldwater's 1964 presidential campaign, and Reagan
became the answer to conservative prayers.

Fifteen years later, Reagan became the first right-wing president in
50 years; the first in 30 years to serve two terms; the first ever to
spend a trillion dollars on peacetime defence, the first to hold five
US-Soviet summits or witness a doubling of the national debt.

A conservative hero

He made his conservative successors politically possible. Historians
may long argue his proper rank among US presidents - great or not? -
but few would contest that he was a leader who left a deep imprint,
grudgingly admired even by opponents and revered by millions.

Reagan left the presidency more popular than any predecessor, despite
the Iran-Contra scandal that marred his last years in office. And when
he passed the mantle to protege George H W Bush in January 1989, it
was with a sweeping farewell boast typical of his glowing

"We meant to change a nation and instead we changed a world," he said
as he and his adoring wife, Nancy, headed for retirement in Los
Angeles' swank Bel-Air district.

Even when stricken by the disabling Alzheimer's disease in 1994 - a
disease that confined him to final years of seclusion, not even able
to recognise his wife - Reagan disclosed it in a "My fellow Americans"
letter brimming with upbeat faith in the future.

"When the Lord calls me home ... I will leave with the greatest love
for this country of ours and eternal optimism for its future," he said
in the letter released on November 5, 1994. "... I know that for
America there will always be a bright dawn ahead."

Three days later, Americans illustrated the enduring allure of the
conservative credo he espoused by putting Republicans in full control
of Congress for the first time in 40 years.

As president, however, Reagan was in fact a paradox.

He railed against federal spending but followed policies - twinning a
vast military buildup with tax cuts - that more than doubled the total
national debt and left succeeding presidents and Congresses to deal
with the consequences.

He abhorred bargaining with hostage-takers and called for an arms
boycott against states accused of fomenting terrorism. But he also
sold arms to Iran in a clandestine operation that mushroomed into the
gravest scandal of his presidency.

He built a career on fiery anti-communist rhetoric and
Kremlin-bashing, but developed an affection for Soviet leader Mikhail
Gorbachev in the course of five summit meetings.

His meeting with Gorbachev in Moscow in 1988 typified the ironies that
made Reagan such a fascinating public figure for so long. Here was
America's best-known anti-communist, the man who called the Soviet
Union an "evil empire", doing business in the Kremlin with the
political heir of Lenin on a chummy "Ron" and "Mikhail" basis.

It was Reagan being Reagan: accepting compromise and doing business
while still proclaiming the patriotic conservative cause, just as he
has done all his political life.

Evil Empire

Asked if he still saw the Soviet Union as the "evil empire," he
retired his famous phrase without a flinch. "No," he said, "I was
talking about another time, another era."

He and Gorbachev put into force a treaty banning intermediate-range
missiles, the first to abolish an entire class of nuclear weapons.

Many traced the collapse of the Soviet Union a few years later in part
to the economic stress of trying to compete with Reagan's relentless
US military buildup.

He left office two weeks shy of his 78th birthday in 1989, by far the
oldest president America had ever had.

It was typical of the amazing physical resilience he had shown in
office, surviving a 1981 assassination attempt that put a bullet near
his heart, a 1985 colon cancer operation and 1987 prostate and
skin-cancer surgery.

In his last years he slipped further into his own world as Alzheimer's
took its toll. Eventually he failed to recognise old friends or even
recall he had been president. Physical frailties followed - he broke a
hip in a fall at home in January 2001 - and his beloved second wife,
Nancy, became his primary care-giver in their home in Los Angeles'
exclusive Bel-Air district.

She called Alzheimer's a "long goodbye", and in a rare public speech
last May she called for stem cell research, saying "Ronnie's long
journey has finally taken him to a distant place where I can no longer
reach him".

She added that, because of this, stem cell research was needed to
"save other families from this pain".

Career in Hollywood movies

Ronald Wilson Reagan was born on February 6, 1911, in Tampico,
Illinois, the second son of Jack and Nellie Reagan.

His father was an itinerant salesman and a heavy drinker, barely able
to eke out a living for his wife and two children as the family moved
from one small Midwestern town to another.

After graduation from Eureka College in 1932, Reagan became a radio
sportscaster known throughout the Midwest as "Dutch". More than 60
years later, that moniker provided the ironic title for a highly
controversial, Reagan-authorised biography by historian Edmund Morris.

Reagan headed for Hollywood and a career in films in the midst of the
Great Depression years. He made 51 movies from 1937 to 1964, mostly
B-grade comedies and romances. He co-starred with a chimpanzee in
"Bedtime for Bonzo", which achieved cult-film status during his

During his film career, he met both his wives, actresses Jane Wyman
and Nancy Davis. He and Wyman had a daughter, Maureen, and adopted a
son, Michael. The second marriage produced another daughter, Patricia,
and a son, Ronald.

Reagan, a liberal Democrat and admirer of Franklin D Roosevelt,
converted to conservatism in the Cold War era of the early 1950s. In
1964 he entered politics as a Goldwater supporter. He won terms as
governor of California in 1966 and 1970 - a path later followed by
another sunny, charismatic Hollywood celebrity, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Reagan lost to Richard Nixon in a bid for the Republican presidential
nomination in 1968, and in 1976 fell just short of wresting it from
the Republican incumbent, Gerald Ford.

He kept trying and thrashed President Carter in 1980.

His candidacy profited from low national morale caused partly by the
Iran hostage crisis, in which Muslim militants held 52 Americans
hostage for over a year despite Carter's efforts to free them. They
were released as Reagan took his oath of office.

In retrospect, that seems the dawning of a radical Muslim force that
now shapes America's international horizons, and the Middle East was a
particular challenge for Reagan, too. The periodic seizing of American
hostages in Lebanon led him into the Iran-Contra crisis. A guerrilla
bomb killed 239 US servicemen during an abortive peace mission in
Beirut in 1983.

A busy foreign policy

Reagan made good a threat to retaliate against "terrorists" by
ordering air strikes on Libya in April 1986.

He protected Gulf oil-shipping lanes during the Iran-Iraq war by
having warships escort US-flagged Kuwaiti tankers.

To Americans, his most popular foreign policy success was an invasion
of the Caribbean island of Grenada in October 1983. It ousted a
Marxist regime and rescued stranded Americans.

On the domestic front, he scored victory after victory in Congress
during his first term. After pushing through the largest tax cuts in
US history - 25 per cent over three years - in 1981, Reagan saw
America emerge from its worst recession since World War II. Inflation
fell sharply.

But federal budget deficits mushroomed to then-astronomical
$US200-billion-plus annual levels by the mid-1980s - although that
seems modest next to the far greater deficits rung up later under
George W Bush, the son of Reagan's successor.

Reagan's last political hurrah came in 1984, when he scored the
biggest electoral landslide in US history, winning 525 of a possible
538 votes in the Electoral College and sweeping 49 of 50 states
against liberal Democrat Walter Mondale.

Only after he achieved many of his economic and military goals did his
political magic desert him. The Republicans lost their Senate majority
in the 1986 election, and a Democratic Congress reined in such Reagan
programs as "Star Wars" missile-defence research and aid to
Nicaragua's Contra rebels.

Finally he was thrust into his gravest crisis with the disclosure in
November 1986 that the United States had sold arms to Iran in 1985-86
and diverted proceeds to the Contras.

Congressional hearings in 1987 backed Reagan on one central point:
witnesses said he was never told about the Contra funds diversion. But
the hearings also portrayed an out-of-control White House and an
out-of-touch president, whose zealous aides made major foreign policy
moves on their own.

Reagan himself always insisted he was guilty of nothing but poor

- Reuters

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