Saturday, July 31, 2004

A few days in Hospital

Azlina or (was it?) Zalina.

She was the Staff Nurse who looked after me and 7 others on the 5th Floor (MGW-5) of Ampang Putri Medical Centre in Kuala Lumpur when I was admitted from Monday 26 July through Thursday 29 July 2004. There were other Nurses of course but she stood out because she had this small stature, dedicated, having a very pleasant personality and kept her cool despite the many needs of the patients. She was from Setiu Trengganu, when I asked where she was from. But being not very health at that time I did not really take notice of her name, thus the uncertainty of the name mentioned. When I was discharged on Thursday, she was not on duty.

What stood out was one night one of the patients shouted out, "What kind of hospital is this, one Nurse looking after 8 patients". She was that one Nurse. She calmly told him, "A mother can look after 8 children (so can she look after 8 patients)". And she did very well.

Friday 23/07 I woke up with a very uncomfortable feeling, aching body, splitting headache and hard warm breath. I thought, well maybe the weather was playing on me so, I did not really bother. By about 8.00 am when I was about to get up I felt the real fever coming. But of course my pride did not allow me to admit that I was ill. I had my normal warm shower and my usual breakfast of oat, corn flake and roughage with milk and my toasted soft spread margarine bread pieces. After that I was almost down and out. It was a Friday and I thought I should still be able to go the Mosque in the afternoon for Friday Prayer. As a precaution I went to the Doctors. The Doctors gave me Paracetamol and told me to go home and rest. So I rested, I thought but I could not. The fever became more intense and I tried to sleep through it. Nothing doing, and by the evening I was swinging from fever to sweating to fever despite taking the medicine the Doctors gave me.

The next morning, Saturday, it was the same, no effect despite my religiously taking the Paracetamol given by the Doctor, every 6 hours. I then asked my wife to drive me to another Doctor, for a second opinion, though I have not lost faith in the first Doctor. We went to another nearby Doctor. And the she Doctor suspected me of having denggi fever. She tested but no red spot came out. She also tested my glucose level and it was at 20 (mmole/l I suppose). That was pretty high as well. (I have not done this test for a long time now). And she asked me to go to the nearest Hospital to be admitted in case I had denggi fever, as well as to treat my high glucose level. She wrote a report asking me to give that report to the Hospital Doctor. Anyway it was already late Saturday evening so we just went home. I still with high fever, and the second Doctor did not give me any medicine.
I suffered through Sunday. By the Sunday evening somehow the fever subsided and my wife drove me to another Doctor, on my request. This time a Doctor whom I have never been to but I was told the Clinic has a better reputation. Anyway the (also she) Doctor said that if it was true that I have denggi fever, have a denggi blood tested at a Clinic somewhere close by, blood count test. But before leaving she gave me Vitamin C tablets for health and some Voltran tablets to keep the pain away. So we drove to the Clinic she suggested. They took some blood sample, tested it and found no sign of denggi fever. But the young male Doctor over there gave me a more powerful version of Paracetamol. On arriving home I took the medicine he gave. I felt a bit better for the night so I thought that my fever have now been cured.

But by the Monday morning the fever came again and I was in agony. So after checking my Medical l Insurance and my cash flow I told my wife to take me to a private medical centre nearby my house, the Ampang Putri Medical Centre in Ampang, Kuala Lumpur. I have been admitted there before, a few years ago and my wife have also been admitted a few years earlier and later. So we can still some recognise some of the faces over there. Why didn’t I go to the Government. Hospital? I suppose pride did not allow or it was the thought of waiting for hours before you can get to see a Government Doctor at the Hospital or even get admitted that scared me. Government Hospital in Malaysia have such unseemingly dark reputation for being inefficient. But that is only an impression I get from some recent bad experience with relatives who are ill and having to be admitted to Government Hospitals, and I have yet to prove that. But to those who knows no better, these Government Hospital are heaven sent. Anyway, I got admitted to this Ampang Purtri Hospital, and they warded me into 5th Floor, bed MGW - 5. Somehow I felt a sense of being better when I was admitted. Anyway they probe here, poke there, taken my blood and taken my urine etc etc but that did not bother me. I was in a hospital and I have that confidence that the Doctors over there know what to do with me to get me back to normal. I was put under the charge of a Dr Wahab, whom I have not actually met before but have heard of. They found that my glucose level was high and I have some virus in my body which they traced to my urine, one of them at least, and they did not tell me more where those virus may also come from. So I was put on a drip of antibiotic - quite a bit of it. After that it was antibiotic injections and then antibiotic pills. I am now probably full of antibiotics. And of course they give me Panadol to reduce my temperature, took my blood samples periodically to check want else I have in my blood and tested my blood for glucose level. And I complaint of coughing but they thought I had asthma but I did not really suffer from attacks of asthma, but the Doctor still treated me for asthma. Wrong treatment I suppose but I did not protest, the Doctor probably knew better. All became all OK except for my blood glucose level which was swinging from 20 to 14 for the 3 full days I was in the hospital. Despite even when I was injected with 7 units of insulin. I suppose the Doctor gave up on that. As I was healthy enough, except for the glucose level yo-yoing, the Doctor discharged me on the Thursday telling me to be careful on my diet, take proper food to control my glucose level, have a glucometer to check my glucose level and come back in a couple of weeks to see him. So now I have to manage my glucose level.

Being admitted to hospital was no fun. It was a private hospital and I was 1 of 8 patients in the ward. I cannot afford the luxury of 1 person per room like I used to get when I was working for a reputable Co. before I retired a few years ago. And I did not see much of my other fellow patients, I was too ill to care for the first day or two. But I remember the nurses very busy trying to please every patient and also to ensure that the Doctors were briefed properly on each patient’s condition. May I remember 2 or 3 patients well. One was an old men who had a bed south of me. He was a patient who had a heart bypass surgery, and he was about 84 years old, so I heard him telling the Doctors. He moaned and groaned all the time, with pain and when the nurses tried to clean his wounds. He would say a few prayers all the time. This lasted for about 2 days while I was there and he was discharged earlier than I was. He had one of his daughter to look after him and at night he had an Indonesian servant to stay back to look after him. Another patient who was on my right was a young technician who broke a leg when he was involved in a lorry collision. He walked around in crutches, quite healthy except for the broke right leg. Not much that I can remember about him, he was discharged I day earlier than I; except that when he left he must have left his urine container not emptied and when the orderlies tried to clean the floors after he left the urine container must have spilt and it stank to high heaven. My wife have to complain many times before the hospital staff were able to reduce the smell to an acceptable level. And to south west of me was a young fellow who had blood in his urine. He was OK but under treatment. Of other patients I did not see much as I was separated by a wall from them. I only saw them going to the toilet, sickly lot they were. But I remember one particular patient who was very talkative and kept following the cleaning young lady around when she was mopping the floor in the ward. He did not sound sick at all when talking to that young lady, I suppose he was trying very hard to get her attention. Cheap he was.

The facilities? Quite good. I mean when you have to pay for them they have to provide you with something acceptable to you. Normal hospital bed of course, a bit old fashioned, you have to turn a wheel at the foot of the bed to make the bed fold up or down. Each patient is placed in a curtained compartment for privacy, and eating table and some drawers provided. When you are sick such amenities helped. But the food, it was terrible. I suppose I was sick and the food sickened me further. And having high glucose level in the blood, I had to be careful what I ate. And the choice was limited. I went for western food but even then it unpalatable to me. They gave me Asian food earlier but then I could not even stand the smell of them. I was hungry all the time but I survived.

We had common toilets and bathroom. Near me there was 1 shower room, provided with hot and cold water, and two toilets. They were kept reasonably clean, the toilets smell a bit some time, I suppose it cannot be helped when you have many sick men around. They could not really use the toilet properly. Even then by local Malaysian standard the toilets were acceptable, but could have been better. At least they were sitting type of toilet which I was thankful for.

But being a private hospital, visitors were not really controlled. There were people like having parties in the ward and also children were jumping up and down making all sorts of noise in the ward. At least not too to late into the night; by about 9.00 pm it was reasonably quiet. My first couple of nights were quite peaceful in comparison to what happened during the last night of my stay. Anyway I was too ill to worry about happenings in the first day. I only heard the old man groaning and the nurses trying to cool him down while dressing his wounds and while giving him bed-bath. He cursed the nurses loudly sometimes and the nurses tried to joke with him. And his family members who came was quite discipline and they were quite quiet. And the young guy on my right seemed to have been from Sarawak so he did not have to many visitors. One or two who came were either his Manager or his coworkers so they were very civil about it. Of course there were the odd patients who were extroverts, who talked loudly but that was all. But when the old man on my south was discharged, a new post-surgery patient came in. And the family was louder that the previous ‘old man’s’ family. I suppose they could not help it because this new patient had just been operated upon. Kidney I was told. And they came from all over, Melaka and Penang and they also had children with them. But the ‘party’ did not last very long.

But a new guy who was bedded on my right was almost the extreme. He was probably a young man with a very loving family and with many friends as well. It seemed that he was operated on at his knee, the result of a football match so the knee was almost smashed.. When he entered, the whole jim bang came with him, family and all, children and relatives and everybody he ever know. It was real ‘Party Time’ if you can call it that. The friends and relatives consoling him loudly and the children playing and screaming in the ward and along the corridors. They were there until about 9.00 or 10.00 pm. Then when they left at about 10.00 pm two girls crept in. And he had with him a friend accompanying him in case he needed someone to call the Nurse. I could not help it but overheard them talking. I suppose they were there until about 11.00 pm when they needed a drink so they asked the Nurse on duty for a cup of drink. And the girls had brought along a cake with them so they again asked the Nurse for a knife to cut the cake with. The Nurse was very obliging, she was Azlina. They had a bit of a small party of some sort before the girls departed at about 11.30 pm to 12.00 mn. And the boy who was accompanying the sick guy soon left after. Quite an evening and a night for me. Luckily then I had already felt a bit better, but I must admit that I could not sleep until all the ‘merry making’ had abated. And I felt so lucky to be discharged by the Thursday, late morning.

But don’t ask me about the hospital charges, and considering all aspects and how healthy I am today, I suppose the price I paid was low.

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Saturday, July 10, 2004

Coach ride ........boat ride no more.

On Sunday 4th July 2004, there was a terrible accident between a lorry and a passenger coach at Lancang, a town about 80km east of KL. In which there were about 25 injuries from the bus passengers, the driver got thrown out and landed in the river below and broke his hip and his arm, (the accident happened on a narow bridge while the lorry driver was trying to overtake a motorcyclist), a motorcyclist ram into the coach from the back and a car also did the same, and I think all got killed whilst the lorry driver got decapicitated. That to me is a terrible accident. (I used to ride in the same route by the same coaches on my travel from KL to Kuantan and from Kuantan to KL when I do not wish to drive). And as a result of the accident there was about 25 km of cars queing. What was most unpleasant other than the injuries and death due to the accident was that the KL/Kuantan Highway awas already almost ready to be opened and yet not opened. I do not know why. They said that the Highway is not fully ready and will only be opened in August. I hope so. Come to think of it, had the Highway been opened, could such accident take place? I suppose it could but the probability could have been lessened. Will the authority take the signal now that such a terrible accident had happened. Of course some people will balme it on the reckless lorry driver or the coach driver who might have been driving at speed, trying to cross the narow bridge ahead of the other (I suppose). I mean that is ot the point, the point is by opening the Highway injuries might have been prevented and lives may been saved. I remember before they opened the North- South Highway (Penanag/KL) many terrible road acidents had happened to those travelling south to KL but after the opening of the North- South Highway, the no. of accidents have been reduced greatly.

But again, opening of a Highway is only a mean of preventing an accident. A few days after the above accident, another accident happened where a coach rammed into the back of a lorry on the North-South Highway, but this time in Johore. And it happened on a Highway.

I am going back to the article I wrote earlier about travelling on coaches in Malaysia. I suppose I am being a bit nostalgic here and also trying to say how fast we Malaysian tend to forget after a road accident. Malaysia is famous for ttat flash in the pan attitude, and then leaving it forgotten forever.

I am also re-publishing the article just to share what the passengers might have experienced whilst travelling the KL/Kuantan/way by coach, imagining what they saw when they travelled that way before they met the terrible accident above. Had it not been for the accident, the journey could have been very pleasant.

I must note that about 6 months ago we heard nothing else but road accidents. But then it was the festival and also school holiday seasons. One of the worst case was a school bus - passenger coach accident in the Kuala Lipis area where 14 people died. Typical of us Malaysians, we reacted to the situation by inventing new safety rules, as if there are inadequate rules already in place. Malaysians never learn, an incident happens and they react with stern measures. No proactive thinking whatsoever. And after 6 months they will forget about the whole incident. And worse still at this time when there was a Cabinet change.

While traveling on a bus/coach to KL from the East Coast it reflected on me how easy, convenient and comfortable it is to travel nowadays from town to town in Malaysia by buses/coach There I was in this fully air-conditioned, felt covered seat, window curtained, soft suspension bus/coach traveling on this smooth road listening to DJ playing soft popular music from one of the many radio stations that can be received along the way, at a time convenient to me for my travel. The drivers young and energetic, and most likely trained in a proper bus/coach driver training school. And there were two of them.

And the scene along the way, with all the development and brick built houses replacing the wooden ones.

While travelling, and as I was really doing nothing on the coach, I thought of sharing views of progress that had been made in the last 50 years from the eye of a Malay, like I, who has been lucky enough to be given the facilities and the opportunity to progress along with the development of Malaysia until today. And there is nothing better than to see them while travelling on a bus/coach. To others reading this article who has not lived that long or who has not been given the opportunity, I only have to say that God has been on my side, an I thank God.

The bus/coach leaving its base on time, from a convenient bus station in the centre of the town, in my case for this article its the Kuantan Town. And there were many companies with such bus/coach for public traveling convenience. And reaching its destined destination on time safely, but accidents do happen now and then. Unlike the old days, the bus floors now is carpeted, no chicken, no dried rubber sheets in the middle, baggage placed in a special compartment in the body of the bus/coach. And small hand-carried baggage in special overhead compartments in the bus/coach. Depending on the season, most coaches are only filled to three-quarter of its capacity during off peak seasons but fully packed during school and special celebrations holidays seasons. In those seasons you may have to book months ahead. Luckily for me, I do not travel in those seasons in bus/coach, I am lucky enough now to have owned cars to travel in to any destination I wish to.

In the old days, the first bus I ever boarded was a rickety, wooden framed bus, open sided, exposed to weather, traveling about 6 miles from a riverine town to an inland town of about the same size. The seats were wooden, placed on the side, facing each other. It was a treat I will always remember. No complaint of the hard wooden seats or the noisy gear changes of the driver. There was only wooden steps when you boarded the bus, some from the back and some from the side of the driver. And no door.

The modern bus/coach I boarded has its engine placed at the rear. It was a noiseless drive, you do not even see the driver, he is well seated in a comfortable seat in front, behind a partition, and you only see him when you board or leave the bus. And the doors are all by his left side, closed when you travel, and can only be opened by the driver using probably hydraulic or pneumatic means. And the windows are curtained with beautiful well designed fabrics, clean and laundered they were, on a rail with even a catch to hold them when you want them folded.

Going to the bus station from my place of abode in town I walked on dust free but busy metalled surfaced road, under shady trees especially planted on the road sides, these trees are decorative trees as well as giving shade. There were people on the road, strangers who do not even say "Hello" to you. I am just one in a crowd, faceless and nameless. To them I was a person carrying a haversack on my back. What I do and who am I, no one cares. I look a bit old, but in this era, age is just a number.

In those days, when I was a teenager, I have to go more often by bus on a long journeys, and these journeys were routine, almost every 3 to 4 months repeatedly. Having to catch a bus then in a small riverine town going to a town further inland, about 60 kilometers away towards Kuala Lumpur. That was a long and tedious journey, full of adventure and danger as in those days it was still during the Emergency time, the roads were narrow and you may be even be stopped at anytime along the way by the Communist (terrorist). I think we were stopped more often by the Police and not even once by the Communist And you lugged along your baggage when you boarded the bus. But then in those days the bus conductors were helpful lot, they helped you and the they placed your luggage on top of the bus where they had specially made wooden or metalled framed carriers and were well covered by thick canvas to protect your luggage from the elements along the way. And along the way the bus stopped often to pick up passengers, some Malays but mostly young Chinese rubber tappers, mostly girls/women in black and well covered from head to toe on the way to tap rubber (in the morning) or back (in the afternoon) from tapping rubber. Spying through their cover, some were very pretty really.

The long distance bus/coach now do not pick up passengers along the way, except at certain prearranged locations. But they do drop off passengers at locations requested by the passengers concerned. Most of them are travelers, not workers. And they are mostly well dressed, not in working clothings. Yes, passengers clothings nowadays, they are most varied but very fashionable and in all sorts of colours. But in most cases they seems to have some sort of pullovers or jumpers or thin sport of jacket; the air conditioning in those bus/coaches now can be quite cold especially at night or during rains storms. The glass widows are fixed and not openable. Most passengers seems to be young and students or some young working persons, probably Clerks. There are also families but few with small children. Probably all about middle class Malays and some Chinese and a few Indians and Others. I have even met an Orang Asli on the such bus/coaches one day.

The buses I used to go by in those days have glass sliding windows on wooden frame. These windows were always opened, to let fresh air in. But when it rained, these have to be quickly pulled up to avoid rain coming in. Air-conditioned bus/coach was too far away from anyone's mind. And of course when these windows were open, the passengers were open to dust and fumes (what fresh air?), but in those days there was dust but very limited fumes as car and lorries were quite far in between. Never wear white, it might just stain brown after the long journey, I found it out the hard way as my school uniform was all white then and I on occasion rode on these buses wearing the school uniform..

Ever try riding buses then or now? Try it, its an experience. For me its not really seeking experience but in most cases out of necessity. I travel quite often outstation. And planes fares are expensive. And modern buses/coaches are very convenient mode of transport. But of course some people prefer to drive their own cars.

One drawback when traveling by these modern buses/coaches is when they stop to rest at some very dirty outback restaurants/inns where its far away from normal civilisation. You have no choice but to seek for food in those restaurants, use their dirty washrooms, smelly and most unhygienic in most cases. When you stop during prayer time, you have to pray in surau they provide, and these suraus are also quite dirty by normal standards, at least by the standard I am used to. And the food these restaurants serve, most unappetising. But why do these buses/coaches stop at these places? Some say these places serves cheaper food, some say because its easier to control the passengers, that they do not go astray when the coach/bus is about to leave and many say that the dtivers get free meals and cigarettes at these places. And probably, if the good Minister was telling the truth recently about buses/coaches drivers are high on dadah, then they may even buy dadah from these places, who knows.

When you go by coach from Kuantan to KL or KL to Kuantan, you have to cross the Temerloh Bridge which span the Pahang River, the biggest river in Peninsular Malaysia. The bridge is high above the river and is not within reach by flood waters thus far that had happened in Pahang. Pahang River is flood prone, and those people living by its bank have all been advised to move upland to higher ground, plots of land provided by the Govt. A majority of them have moved to these new areas but many of are staying put where they are. These folks have been living in those riverine areas for generations and many decades and to make them move out may not really be socially acceptable to them. And looking at the Pahang River again brought a lot of good memories to me. And from that bridge vantage point one can see the Temerloh Town, the Semantan River and the big Pahang River meeting the Sungei Semantan. History was created in that Town and the mouth of Sungei Semantan when Datuk Bahaman rebelled against the British rule in late 19th century.

When I was a small boy growing up in a riverine kampong, at the bank of Pahang River, about 12 miles upriver, the first time I traveled out by public transport, was on an outboard engined boat which could take about 20 passengers. It took about 2 hours to reach Temerloh Town, the down river 'big' riverine town. The boat then had inverted V-shaped attap roof, and later on as time progresses the roof became flat and made of flattened galvanised zinc sheets. On that first trip, having to get up early in the morning to catch the boat, waiting on a logged floated wooden platform jetty in the cool misty morning. The boat came, we waived and the boat neared the 'jetty', stopped; half-full with upriver people, and laden in the middle portion with chicken or/and dried rubber sheets to be marketed in the down river big town. Along the big river bank the scene were all peaceful Malay villages, and in that period of the Emergency you could even see houses that had been burnt and coconut trees dying due to them being torched by the what the Government at that time called Communist terrorist. You don't actually see these terrorists but they existed and it was their kind that probably burnt those houses, Malay houses they were. Other than that the river was very peaceful and the banks were filled with beautiful scenery of swaying coconut palm trees and areca nut palms, and big tall trees either wild or fruit trees and people bathing or washing clothes in them, and some in small enclosures on these log 'jetties' doing their "business". Occasionally you may see water buffaloes, cooling themselves in the shallower portions of the river. The scenery was beautiful, of peaceful Malay riverine villages, and they were there almost all along the way.

In those days there were many people living in houses built on wooden log rafts in the river bank just below the Temerloh town, and most of these people were migrants from Kelantan. And when the boat neared aand being tied to these wooden 'jetty', there were always hives of activities, mostly involving Chinese coolies, some grabbing the chicken to buy and most negotiating to take the rubber sheets to their designated towkeys whose shops were just up the bank of the river. These Chinese coolies were really strong, they could pick up rubber sheets almost equal to their own body weight or maybe more, put these on their shoulders, carry them up the river bank to their designated rubber dealer towkay. And the weighing instruments they used to weigh the rubber sheets were something old fashioned, spring supported, levers using heavy solid cast iron counter weight. How accurate were they? Difficult to tell as in those days as enforcement were not really that visible. I expect that they must have made a lot of profit from the inaccuraciesof these weighing instruments. Anyway in those days nobody really cared as rubber price were then very high, it was the period just after the big wars and about to begin the Korean War. And the kampong people were really enjoying the rubber price boom, buying furniture and jewelry most of them, when they earn their big money. Saving? Nobody really saved in those days.

When do these town goers return after their trip by boats to the town? They reached Temerloh by about 8.30 to 9.00 o'clock And they finish their selling by about 1 hour later, after which they begin their buying. What do they buy? Menfolks buy mostly furniture and some items of clothings but women folks bought mostly jeweleries and plenty of clothings/haberdasheries. But business people buy items to sell back in the kampongs, like dried fish, condensed milk, flour, sugar, sweets, bottled drinks and such likes. By 12 o'clock they all have to rush back to the 'jetty' to be on the boats for the return journey. The return journey is always tiresome, boat going upriver in a slower pace, in the heat of the day and boat full of items just bought. The middle of the boat is usually full of the 'business' men's items, you can hardly put your leg in those areas. So you are squeezed. Safety? There was no lifejacket, no nothing. If the boat sinks, then you either sink or swim. In those days, almost everyone could swim. And when you reach your home, you are almost dead, tired because of the journey and probably with the excitement of going to town.

Slow, but it was all we had in those days. At least the boats had outboard engines. What about in earlier times when there was no outboard engine, only paddles and long poles to push the boats upriver or down river. And yet they managed to sometimes go up river from Pekan, at the mouth of Pahang River up to Kuala Lipis, almost the uppermost point of the Pahang River, and maybe back after a few days. How long did it take? In those days time was never a factor to be considered. .

Now when you look down river from the Temerloh bridge, from you coach, you can still see the island formed by the sand bank, all overgrown with tall grass, weeds and some 'ara' trees. But when you look upriver, you do not see the flotilla of those motorboats anymore, you do not see the bigger diesel-engine driven big boats, and you do not see the Sultan's Houseboat (this boat was used by the late HH Sultan of Pahang as his 'hotel' for his annual visit to the people -his subjects - of Temerloh District, ferrying him and probably occasionally, his joget girls) being anchored next to the jetty down river of the Temerloh Town anymore. You may however see 1 or 2 old fashioned flat-roofed passenger outboard motor boat crossing the Pahang River, ferrying people from the other side of the Pahang River to Temerloh Town. They are most busy on Sundays, when Temerloh Town has its market day or Pekan Sahari Those days of passenger ferrying outboard motor boats on Pahang River are gone. Time has passed us by. Anyway the Pahang River has now become too shallow to safely maneuver these outboard motor boats, the river has silted and the deeper parts of the river are few in between. And motorcars, buses and lorries have taken over the tasks of ferrying people and carriage of goods in Pahang.

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Saturday, July 03, 2004

Corruption, Malaysian style.

To me corruption is a dirty word. Being corrupt is dirtier still. I have therefore composed an article which I published sometime back on my feeling towards corruption. But like it or not very many of us, especially in Malaysia, have condoned corruption as if it has moral stand. The reason being that it is very difficult to prove corruption or that the power that be may be corrupt; in which case no way one can prosecute such power that be. But the fight against corruption must go on before such practices become the norm, a habit and a culture.

Corruption Part 1.

There is something to learn from knowing what "corruption" is all about.

Years ago when I was a Contractor, I had to get some payment which I was told by my client that it was delayed at the Malaysian Treasury. After 6 months of not getting anything from the Department that I gave my services to I went to the Treasury to enquire. To my surprise the Treasury was very helpful. An Officer helped me to go to all the relevant Departments to get my cheque prepared. And within one week I got my payment. Where did I go wrong? Was the user Department not helping or were they waiting for some offer from me? Until today I have not found out and I do not want to find out in case it involves corruption.

Again as a Contractor then and I got some orders from certain Department where I knew everybody inside it, I got my payments very prompt. In fact when I was late to collect my payments, the Officer used to call me to collect my payment. Is this cronyism? Or was it just a good relationship?. I take it as good relationship. So if you are a Contractor, you have better have a good relationship with your client to get jobs and early payments. But I knew of one Department where if you want to get early payments you have to pay a small percentage as a processing fee. But I suppose you are paying for a genuine case. Its not really corruption as you need your money early. Again as a Contractor then, I had to suffer, while the staff holding on to the payments as I refused to give them a percentage of my sum (this is not the case of a processing fee). This was in one of the Town/City Councils. In the end I gave up, I gave in to their demand. Was I wrong?

Corruption knows no boundary. You can be seen to be most 'alim' (religious) but you can still succumb to corruption. My daughter works for a trading Company. She always complained to me that her Company has to pay a large sum to certain people in the client Company they do business with. She says, "Even those who seems very mild and wear 'tudung' (Muslim women head scarf covering their hair) or a 'kopiah' (skull hat) wants a cut". And she cannot understand it. And according to her, the giving away of hand phones is very common, as these are common items which seemingly everybody can afford. Is receiving hand phones considered as corrupt? Or is paying for an Official's daughter's wedding corrupt? It has happened.

I have a friend in a large conglomerate who gives their top Executives credit cards for traveling, lodgings and entertainment purposes. I asked him how do you know which is official and which not official. He says, "I don't, but I keep accounts". I asked him further on how the Company knows which is official and which is not official. He says, "The Company trust those Officers holding the approval authority". Now isn't that something. The word "trust". That is power. And there is a saying 'Power tends to corrupt. Absolute power corrupts absolutely". My friend is still in the Company and so far there is no problem with the credit card expenditure. Aren't they lucky?

There are people in this world who are absolutely (did I say absolutely?) honest. I may not be one of them. But again if look through them you can see the "pimples". Or am I being too critical?

Nepotism, cronyism (this is an old word used differently in the modern context) and corruptions are like brothers (or are they half brothers?) Kata orang Melayu "adik beradik anjing?" {The Malay says "Like dogs brothers" i.e. same mother but so many different fathers} What about 'old school tie'? Aren't they not a half brother as well? In the UK, if you are from Harrow or Eaton you know where you will end up in the Civil Service, but if you are from a Comprehensive School somewhere you have better go for apprenticeship Or you will end up as a "Scientist" in one of the Research Institutions.

I remember sometime back our YAB PM (Prime Minister then, now retired) said, "There is no free meals". He talked sense, did he not? So what do yo do when you are offered a meal or you offer someone meals? And there is always the funny side to any situation. Years ago when I was working in a trading Co., a large claim for meals came, approved and paid. In the meal claim, it was stated for the 'purchase of papayas'. It came to the notice of the Co. Chairman. The claimant was called in explain why 'papayas' was so expensive. He explained, "My Japanese client wanted them". The Co. Chairman was an understanding man, so he said, "Next time make the item more realistic". The case was closed.

But what about favours? What about using the office phones for your private use? Or using the office stationery? Or the office car not for official use? False mileage claims, false lodging claims, false traveling claims and other falses? If anyone of us in those categories of ' misuse', may God forgive us.

Its a story without ending.

Corruption Part 2

I met corruption when I first joined the service a few years after graduation. A Contractor gave me RM 150.00. A Hari Raya (the celebration at the very end of the fasting month of Ramadan) gift he said. It was actually near Hari Raya Puasa. I panicked as he left the money exposed on my desk and when he walked out. I straightway told my boss, and he said "Just take it". Now are all bosses like that? Anyway I reported the matter to ACA (Anti Corruption Agency). They came to the office and took away all sorts of files. The Contractor was charged and I became the main witness. Imagine having to face the guy in Court. I was very scared but in the end the Contractor was convicted.

Then as I progressed in my career I became more careful. At one of the places where I worked, the men took bribes (I did not know it then). I was told by some Contractor that they had to pay some money to my men as they normally said "Some money had to be paid to the boss". And I was the boss. Now are we sure that in our career our men do not receive bribes? Are we sure that they do not say the same thing about the boss?

I was then having a bit of power where I could recommend increase or decrease in monetary contributions by Contractors/Developers/Owners on their projects. It was a very simple system where I had the authority of increasing or decreasing certain technical factors and the monetary contribution goes up or down accordingly. As far as HQ was concerned they trusted me and my judgment. They rarely questioned me. And Contractors/Owners were lining at my office door to negotiate on lowering of the monetary contribution. I could have made a bundle then and probably could own a few houses on the side but I did not take advantage of the situation. Regret? Looking at the situation and what is happening in the country now maybe I have a small regret. Anyway its all over now.

Something funny that I remember well was the question of whether we could accept hampers from Contractors during festivals. This always happened near Hari Raya. And those hampers were big and full of sweetie and drinks. Very tempting. I remember at one Hari Raya time, the delivery lorry came to my house. A good friend who happened to be my neighbour and in the same services but of different function in the Co. then watched the lorry coming to my house and I watched that went to his house. Delivery of hampers were in progress. I cannot remember whether we took the hamper or not but now when we recollect the incident we always have a good laugh. But what happened to him after that was no laughing matter though. They handed money to one of his sons and he had to act very quickly to avoid disaster to his career. Can I find such a honest man nowadays?

Anyway as years go by, I was progressing in my career. On one occasion I awarded a contract to a Contractor to erect fences for the office and the Co. housing compounds. One day my wife received a package with a fruit cake inside. My wife was pleased. When she opened the box to take out the cake she saw rolls of RM notes underneath. She phoned me. I told her to return the cake and the money to the Contractor. I called the Contractor to my office asking him to explain. And he said "I do that every time I got a Contract". Now, is that the practice? Or am I out of touch with reality?.

I have heard all sorts of stories when I progressed further in my career. But I have always been very careful. When in Sarawak, I was told that there are many 'buayas' (crocodiles) over there. The bigger the 'buaya' the bigger is their 'ngap' (snap). Some even 'ngap' buffaloes, I am told. True? Well there must be 'angin' (wind) or else how can the 'pokok goyang' (tree moves).

The danger with accusing people of their being corrupt is that it is very difficult to prove. In my first case, it was a clear cut proof. In all other cases, the hassle of trying to prove corruption will make you 'tawar hati' (discouraged). If you are not careful, the table will be turned against you ;you may be brought to court by the 'other side', who will accuse you of wrong doings. And if he/she wins, then you will get very 'malu' (ashamed).

Food for thought.

Corruption Part 3.

What is corruption? My Little Oxford Dictionary (new Edition) 1995 describes it as a noun for 'corrupt', 'corrupt' being defined as 'influenced by or using bribery; immoral, wicked'.

What say if Policeman hinted at you when you cross a speed limit or even a double white line? Just a few month ago, when at Kampong Awah, Temerloh, my wife overtook a lorry and crossed a short double white line. There suddenly in front of us appeared a Traffic Policeman who signaled us to stop. On stopping he said to my wife, who was the driver " Cik Puan tadi telah melangkah garisan double white line. Cik Puan bolih di beri saman. Tapi mudah kalau Cik Puan selesaikan disini sahaja". (Madam you have crossed over a double white line. You can be served a summon. But if you settle it here it will be easier for you). Is that a hint of asking for bribery? I wouldn't know, but I told my wife, "Take the ticket and let us go" We took the ticket and went. It would have been cheaper if we were just to 'settle' on the spot. Of course the Traffic Policemen will not give you a receipt. It would have been his meal ticket.

On another occasion, a Co. in which I was a Partner was given a Govt. Contract. This was a negotiated Contract. In the process of the negotiation my Partner said to me, "Leave everything to me and we will secure the Contract". I did just that. But after we signed the Contract my partner said, "Every time we get our payment, I want you to make a cheque for 10% of our collection to Company A". I have a rough idea of what had been happening, but having secured the Contract I did want to ruffle any feathers. I did what my Partner said. Did my Partner double crossed me? No, he did not. He was paying somebody who had the decision making in awarding us the Contract? I have now left the Co., having completed the Contract.

I relate the two examples above just to indicate how difficult to prove bribery. And who gets the money, if there is really bribery? I wouldn't know but I was told of a case where it was almost water tight; they even got the recipients bank account. But tracing the bank account, it lead to a name of a GRO (a call girl, the nearest I can translate) in Labuan. And the supposed to be culprit just laughed his way to the Bank.

What cause corruption. I can only speculate. Greed? Living above ones means? Grudges for not getting what one expect in ones career? The giver giving because of so much obstacle in his/her way to achieve his/her objectives? If one were to follow the court cases on corruptions, there seems to be a combination of most of these. In many cases, the accused went scot free as there is no concrete proof can be produced. Most of us can speculate but can one really prove anything, or can we?

How do we know as who is corrupt/taking bribes? One can hardly tell. But bear in mind that the 'givers' talk. As the Malays proverb goes, "Mulut tempayan bolih di tutup tetapi mulut manusia, tiada siapa yang bolih menutupnya.". (You can shut the mouth of a jar but not a human mouth). OK, maybe the givers give false information, but again the Malays say, "Kalau tak ada angin, macam mana pokok bolih bergoyang". (If there is no wind, how can the leaves on the trees move). Bad faith maybe but the likelihood cannot be ruled out.

In Malaysia, there if one were to look at those charged in court for corruption, one particular race stands out for small bribes and another race for big cheat. Both I interpret as corrupt practices, but only in terms of differential absolute sums. It does not matter whether you are highly educated or not but they still get charged for offences which when one thinks about it are too trivial, and need not had happened at all. Can I blame that to human nature? To the living environment? To work places? Maybe. Recently a neighbour in the housing estate where I live, in KL, was charged for corruption for favouring his brother in awarding some Contracts in the Government organisation he worked in. He just retired. And of course if he is found guilty of corruption he will be fined or jail and he will loose his pension benefit. But I know that he lives beyond his means, at least what sems to me, so maybe the charge was appropriate. But then he is such a small fish in the pond, the bigger fish seems to get away scotfree.

How do we prevent corrupt practices? Many of my friends are retirees, highly educated individuals, highly religious some times, fathers/mothers, husbands/wives, grandfathers maybe. We must have our own thoughts if you care to read what I have written, provocative maybe. I have put the article in 3 parts. I have no answer for the prevention of corruption, its too old to have any answer. Its like being a prostitute, its such an old profession that one can hardly find solutions to prevent anyone from prostituting himself/herself. Some of us have been there and most would let the situation RIP.

My write-up ends here. At least I have said my piece, some if not all about corruption. Just think about it, like the air, its all around you but you do not see it.

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