Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Of Tranquillity and Silence

A Picture Paints a Thousand Words

Photo: A boater on a lake in Indonesia

Siti Gunung, Indonesia
Tranquility and Silence perfectly captured on camera

Source here

Monday, 30 May 2011

In the American Congress, Netanyahu could have bitten more than he can chew

Zionist Israel Prime Minister gave a combative speech in the American Congress on 24 May 2011, the combative speech delivered in what some say as Israeli Occupied Territory namely the Congress has drawn much flak in the media:

The Netanyahu Speech: 

Full Text of Netanyahu Speech to Congress

The antics of America's Congressmen during  Netanyahu's speech was a subject of ridicule by Uri Avery:

Bibi and the Yo-Yos
It was all rather disgusting.
There they were, the members of the highest legislative bodies of the world’s only superpower, flying up and down like so many yo-yos, applauding wildly, every few minutes or seconds, the most outrageous lies and distortions of Binyamin Netanyahu.
It was worse than the Syrian parliament during a speech by Bashar Assad, where anyone not applauding could find himself in prison. Or Stalin’s Supreme Soviet, when showing less than sufficient respect could have meant death.
What the American Senators and Congressmen feared was a fate worse than death. Anyone remaining seated or not applauding wildly enough could have been caught on camera – and that amounts to political suicide. It was enough for one single congressman to rise and applaud, and all the others had to follow suit. Who would dare not to?
The sight of these hundreds of parliamentarians jumping up and clapping their hands, again and again and again and again, with the Leader graciously acknowledging with a movement of his hand, was reminiscent of other regimes. Only this time it was not the local dictator who compelled this adulation, but a foreign one.
The most depressing part of it was that there was not a single lawmaker – Republican or Democrat – who dared to resist. When I was a 9 year old boy in Germany, I dared to leave my right arm hanging by my side when all my schoolmates raised theirs in the Nazi salute and sang Hitler’s anthem. Is there no one in Washington DC who has that simple courage? Is it really Washington IOT – Israel Occupied Territory – as the anti-Semites assert? Read More here.

News as reported by Haaretz:

Erekat: Netanyahu's Congress speech 'full of lies,' hampers peace

Many Americans were disgusted by Netanyahu's arrogant  speech and probably President Obama, the President of the most powerful nation on earth will not let it pass so easily:

Netanyahu was powerful, and misguided
May 28, 2011 01:17 AMBy Rami G. KhouriThe Daily Star

By any standard, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s performance in Washington this week was stunning in its audacity and intensity.

However, his speech before the U.S. Congress will probably be seen as negative rather than positive for Israel in the long run, for the fault lines it revealed and the precedents it set.

Netanyahu’s performance exposed four major breaches that may be damaging for Israel:

those between him and President Barack Obama;

between the American presidency and the Congress; 

between the pro-Israel lobby in the United States and the rest of the country; 

and between the Israeli people and their government.

All four dynamics have their ups and downs, but when they converge, as may be the case now, Netanyahu the brash star performer in Washington, may be seen as a political jerk, in Israel and in the U.S.

Netanyahu’s extraordinary reception in the Congress, full of hysterical adulation and blind, rabid support for any position that he took, clarified an important point in current American-Israeli ties: Congress is Israel’s most important terrain and its main line of defense in the United States, which Israel controls with unheard of unanimity. This is due to the very simple fact that every American member of Congress lives in absolute fear of being denounced by the pro-Israel lobbies as unfriendly to Israel, which would immediately result in that member losing their seat in the next election. This has happened enough times in the recent past, affecting people like Charles Percy, Paul Findley, Pete McCloskey and others, to make incumbent members refrain from testing the immense power of pro-Israeli forces to destroy an American political career.

Such practice is perfectly legal and normal in American political terms. However it is distasteful to most Americans to see Congress becoming a manipulated tool in the hands of a foreign power that uses it as a platform to challenge the American president.

Congressional subservience to Israel revealed itself as so exaggerated last week that many Americans took notice – and some started to speak out. Analysts, columnists and ordinary Americans alike started asking if they should put up with a foreign leader lecturing the president in the White House, and wondering if their Congress represents American or Israeli interests in the Middle East.

This attitude will once again open the debate that started a few years ago (after the publication of the book “The Israel Lobby”) about whether the pro-Israel lobbies are healthy or destructive for Americans. When the American and Israeli leaders mistrust or dislike each other and each other’s policies, and when foreigners intervene between the U.S. 

Congress and presidency, this can only spell trouble for Israel down the road, if these breaches are not quickly repaired.

The Obama position that Israeli-Palestinian negotiations for a permanent peace accord should be based on the 1967 lines with agreed swaps is not new. But it is significant for the fact that it marks the second major issue (the Israeli settlements freeze demand being the other) on which Obama has publicly declared the preferred American policy as one that is independent of Israeli policy.

Israel cannot accept that the U.S. and its president take positions on issues of strategic concern to Israelis that diverge from the Israeli position. That the U.S. president has now done this twice in two years is the equivalent of an existential threat from Israel’s perspective. That is why Netanyahu went berserk and showed how Israel can effectively dictate the position of the Congress on Middle East-related issues.

Netanyahu also faces problems at home, to judge by a new poll in Israel showing that 57 percent of the population thinks he should have agreed with Obama rather than oppose him. The Israeli public knows that the U.S. is Israel’s most important long-term strategic ally, and one not one to be alienated. The events in Washington last week showed that Israel relies heavily on the U.S. for its strategic wellbeing and survival, but also that Congress, in turn, relies heavily on Israeli approval for its own wellbeing and continued incumbency.

With the U.S. Congress now finding its extreme position on Israel somewhat isolated from the relatively more balanced position of the American president and public, Israel is slipping dangerously toward a point where its political support in the U.S. is as much a consequence of frightened, nearly prostituted, legislators as it is a reflection of the deep and firm support for the security of Israel that the United States traditionally saw as a worthy goal in its own right.

These fascinating movements in the Israeli-American relationship are worth monitoring. While being dazzled by Netanyahu’s powerful, self-assertive, performance in Washington, we should pay more attention to the underlying fault lines that such a dramatic show reveals.

Source here. The Daily Star .

Sure is interesting times in the Middle East, but somehow my gut feeling says  that Netanyahu might have bitten more than he can chew. He has delivered himself into a corner despite his arrogant bravado in Congress.

As some Malaysians leave in search of a "better" life, Here is a heart warming story why many more will stay

After all the many letters in the MI that make me puke about why Malaysians are leaving the country, there is this rather heart warming letter guaranteed to give sparkle to those like me who has had enough up till their head about the pathetic bye bye  stories of Malaysians who I would describe as when the going gets tough they just run away leaving a sorry tale of pathetic excuses. Thank you to my cyber sifu Blogger Hantu Laut for highlighting the letter in his blog here, it made my Monday.

I am reproducing the letter in full here from the MI:

May 28, 2011
MAY 28 — I shall start with a story of hope.
Two, actually.
I had an ex-colleague who runs a car wash business in one of the most ulu places in Peninsular Malaysia. It’s a simple business, so simple that his wife just sits under a tree all day long collecting money and supervising some school kids they employ to do the dirty work. He keeps his day job while earning a cool RM7,000 side income every month.
In my skyscraper of an office now, an old makcik pushes around a shopping cart (probably nicked while the guards at the nearby hypermarket weren’t looking!) filled to the brim with knick-knacks, kacang, muruku and stuff. She comes by once a week and without fail, my colleagues and I will stock up on junk food to munch on while working. Based on sales on our floor alone — okay, maybe we are gluttons! — but we estimate she profits around RM50 per floor, and with well over 50 floors in the building, she must earn at least RM2,000 a week (tax free!).
We can complain about spiralling cost of living, but these are ordinary people taking full advantage of the abundance of opportunities in Malaysia to earn a living. This is the land of opportunity. If an illegal immigrant can come here and earn a living, justly or not, there is no reason why a person like me, born and bred in this environment, with ample knowledge of how things work — for better or for worse — cannot make it big.
I shall say this, whether or not people choose to leave the country is entirely up to them. Everybody has their own dreams and ambitions, and if migrating overseas takes you closer to those dreams, so be it. But do not give excuses to justify you leaving. You don’t need an excuse, certainly not a bad one, to pursue your life-long goals.
You do not need to blame the crummy education system — it is crummy, but it is an education system we all grew up with and I would like to think that a lot of us turned out fine.
You can’t blame racism or glass ceilings because everyone honest enough to admit will tell you that glass ceilings exist EVERYWHERE. The current debate over the “tradition” of Europeans as the de facto head of the IMF should tell you more than you need to know about glass ceilings.
All those crummy reasons don’t hold up because while Malaysians are busy flocking to Singapore, Singaporeans are busy flocking elsewhere too. That is where the whole argument falls apart. Do we see some green pasture across the straits that the Singaporeans don’t see? And do the Indonesians see something green about KL that we don’t?
My friends, this is the age of globalisation. Borders between countries are blurring. This is not like the time where miners came to Malaya from China with the sole purpose of better economic prospects. Today, there are Malaysians working in Sudan, Dutchmen working in Nigeria, Americans working in Siberia. Do you think these people are where they are because of some misguided notion that these places are better than their homeland? No, people work where they work and people build a home where they do because this is where life takes them.
When addressing his own country’s emigrant issue, Rajiv Ghandi once said: “A brain drain is better than a brain in the drain.” That we, as Malaysians, are deemed capable enough to be able to work anywhere in the world is a clear indication of our talents. And whether the people migrating will choose to admit it or not, these are talents nourished by the foundations we built for ourselves while growing up on the streets of KL, Ipoh and JB.
I can go on and on about how I want to change this country, how I want to make a difference. That is all true, but that is also secondary. People can claim that they are leaving because of better prospects, a more comfortable life. That is probably true as well, but still a secondary issue.
I propose a simpler explanation. I stay because I want to. People leave because they want to.
We go where life takes us.
* John Rahman is Malaysian who is appalled that in many of the stories published thus far, a point was made by the writers to identify themselves by race, all the while criticising the racial divide in this country. Is John Rahman a real name? What is he? Malay? Chinese? Indian? Dan Lain-Lain? Does it matter?
It matters not who John Rahman is, but he or she,  I believe represents a great majority of Malaysians who despite of everything that is happening to this blessed and beautiful country choose to stay for better or for worse.
I share John Rahman's sentiment exactly and I have always believed that the movement of people/labour cross borders in search for a better life for themselves and their families have and will always exist as long as there is the  human race.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

JPA scholarships..it is not as simple as ABC get straight As and you qualify

The JPA Scholarships have been a subject of contention almost every year of its existence, I think chiefly because many lack understanding on the qualifying criteria for a JPA scholarship. Many still think that one get automatic selection when one get straight As, actually no, one gets qualified for an interview when one gets good grades and the interviewers will have set criterias that one have to fulfill before one gets to be awarded a scholarship.

See it this way, when one graduates with a good First Class degree one do not automatically get a job with a company, one applies for the job and if lucky one get called for a job interview where one's academic and personality will be evaluated. If pass, then you get the job.

I think this method is used by all Scholarship providers and sponsors, in fact I have been thru a scholarship interview once myself, 32 long years ago, where I had to face 8 interviewers, asking all sorts of questions designed to test one's personality and knowledge and interest in the course one applied for, some of my friends with better grades were awarded local scholarships, while I was lucky enough(well I like to think I am) to get a scholarship to the UK to study Civil Engineering. 

So, one must correct this perception that straight As student should automatically qualify for a scholarship whether local or overseas. This criteria has been in existence for a very long time in JPA and I believe any other Scholarship Foundations etc. 

There is this excellent post by  blogger Goh Wei Liang:

JPA Scholarship - Rational Review

Yesterday Minister Nazri came out to defend the JPA on the Scholarship award issue:
Nazri defends ‘excellent’ PSD

UPDATED @ 10:36:25 PM 24-05-2011By Clara Chooi May 24, 2011

KUALA LUMPUR, May 24 — Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz went on record today to defend the Public Service Department (PSD) against MCA’s accusations of power abuse, saying its officers were “excellent” and had not been negligent in their duties.

He held a press conference in Parliament here this afternoon to clear all confusion over the issue by explaining the mechanics behind PSD’s scholarship awards, including its selection process and criteria.

In his explanation, Nazri reiterated that in tandem with the prime minister’s pledge last year, all SPM students who scored straight 8A+ and above were guaranteed a place in either local or foreign institutions.

He added that the scholarships offered were centered on courses considered critical to Malaysia’s civil service like medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, engineering, science and technology, and social sciences.

“We have two major categories for the scholarship awards. One is the PILN (overseas degree programme) for 1,500 students and another is the PIDN (local degree programme) for 2,500 students, both amounting to 4,000.

“We also offer 8,000 spots in local universities for other qualified students who will get scholarships for matriculation or diploma courses,” he said.

He revealed that of the 4,000 PILN and PIDN scholarships awarded to the 2010 batch of SPM top scorers, 2,183 spots, or 55 per cent, were snapped up by Bumiputera students and 1,817, or 45 per cent, were offered to the non-Bumiputeras.

A total of 16,900 students (7,277, or 43.1 per cent, Bumiputeras and 9,623, or 56.9 per cent, non-Bumiputeras) had applied for PILN scholarships, he said, but only 8,857 made the cut with the minimum academic requirement of straight 9A+ and above.

Nazri also explained that out of the 1,500 scholarships offered for PILN, 300 were given out solely based on merit to the highest scoring students.

“If I’m not mistaken, 363 students qualified for the merit scholarship interviews but we could only give out 300 in the end,” he said.

Nazri also explained that since only 1,500 PILN scholarships were offered to the 8,857 qualified applicants, the remaining 7,357 who failed to make the cut were still allowed to apply within the PIDN category.

As there were only 2,500 spots offered under PIDN, he added, the remaining 4,857 students who failed their interviews would still be eligible for the 8,000 scholarships offered to other qualified students who are offered matriculation or diploma courses at local institutions.

Nazri revealed that the government was spending a total of RM1.44 billion for the 4,000 scholarships offered under PILN and PIDN — RM1.08 billion for PILN and RM0.36 billion for PIDN.

Nazri also continued to chastise MCA Youth chief Datuk Dr Wee Ka Siong for raising a hue and cry by alleging abuses of power in the PSD without first attempting to clarify the confusion with him as the minister in charge of PSD.

“We have to be fair to the officers. When you are a politician and you attack a civil servant, they cannot defend themselves. I am doing this on behalf of all the excellent officers that we have,” he declared.

Nazri revealed that both the prime minister and his deputy had been briefed on PSD’s selections for the year on May 5, before the awards were announced on May 13.

Source here.

I think Minister Nazri's explanation will not be able to cool down the anger of those who did not get selected, whether they are Malays/Bumis, Chinese or Indians students and their families. In a multiracial democracy unique to Malaysia nobody, no one race will be satisfied by what the Gomen of the day can give or do. But one can still try for other Scholarships, the point is do not lose hope keep on trying.

Scholarships in Malaysia.

From the NST: How not to lecture US Presidents by W.Scott Thompson

From the NST:

How not to lecture US president
By W.Scott Thompson

ONE of the most formidable people I ever met was a retired head of one of Israel's intelligence services. We shared a programme at Harvard some time back. Unsentimental, unsparing of bad analysis, realistic and soft-spoken, he was the kind of person a country in peril would wish to rely on. Right now, there are 18 men in such retirement -- from the leadership of Mossad, Shin Bet (internal), and the Israeli Defence Forces.

Interestingly, according to a highly informed report that has come my way, eight of these see a gigantic danger for Israel in the near-term. Six of them seem to echo the same view more quietly -- and the other two are in Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet and thus muzzled.

Iran? No, the "hawk's hawk", Meir Dagon, recently retired Mossad head, said at a conference at Hebrew University on May 6 that the notion of attacking Iran's nuclear sites was "one of the stupidest ideas I've ever heard". Syria? It's too wrapped up in its own problems, as is Egypt.

The problem is Netanyahu. They are all working against him. His ostrich head-in-sand attitude toward the forthcoming United Nations vote on Palestinian statehood is threatening Israel's viability. Netanyahu reacts to events, they all seem to be saying. While the Arab world is waking up, the Israeli prime minister is falling into a permanently disgruntled sleep.

It looks as if most of the intelligence boys think a two-state solution is inevitable, and the sooner dealt with the better. Netanyahu has long since made clear, one way or the other, that it won't happen on his watch.

As I read this analysis, knowing that Netanyahu was going to Washington, I pondered how he could out-chutzpah his own chutzpah. After all, he knew that the president of the United States (POTUS) would know all of the above. So, lecturing POTUS in the Oval Office, he delivered of himself a sequence of absurdities and insults. The pre-1967 borders, with adjustments compensated on both sides, have always been the starting point for everyone else.

Netanyahu scoffed. The width of Israel then, he said, was the same as the Washington Beltway. Now, I was in Israel pre-1967 and at the narrowest point it was a well-defended 18km. I've crossed the Washington Beltway at least a thousand times (and Netanyahu has crossed it enough times); at no point is its width a tiny fraction of 18km. One allows exaggeration to make a point, not total fictions.

Then he continues his lecture to POTUS. There are new "realities" on the ground, that have to be taken into account: ah, the settlements on Arab land. More than half a million Jewish illegal settlers, basically squatting. But Netanyahu wants that to be the starting point of "negotiations". Accept that, swallow it, it's a new "reality". In other words, defy the law and then tell the negotiators that the starting point is an acceptance of the very "realities" causing the problem in the first place.

The group of retired intelligence heads are concerned about a different set of realities. 

Demographics is making Jews a minority in Israel and the territories occupied for 44 years. 

Worse for Israel, one by one it's losing its traditional friends in Europe and the rest of the world -- save, of course, the US. It had quietly built a remarkable network of quiet friendships through armaments sales, intelligence sharing, and common sympathies for a "socialist" state that was born of immense suffering. It developed a brilliant network of friends in Africa to outflank Egypt, at least diplomatically. It formed a remarkable alliance with South Africa, selling it "special" equipment with which to put down black guerillas and in return have space for testing nuclear weapons. It built a solid tie with Turkey -- a lot of shared enemies, after all.

Almost all of that is of the past. The ending of the Cold War cost Israel its utility to the US as a strategic partner, baring the real basis of its support -- 64 per cent of the total cash received by congressmen and senators, which comes from Jewish groups. Israel has few friends in Africa, least of all post-apartheid South Africa. Turkey, as a really special democratic, Muslim ally, was trashed as a friend.

The world has changed -- and more in the Middle East. If the prime minister were truly interested in "new realities" he'd concentrate on laying groundwork for real peace negotiations, rather than bragging how he has Barack Obama in a frying pan until after November next year and can push him around as much as he wishes.

My guess is that Obama knows there'll be no peace process until Netanyahu is swept out by an awakening that is hitting everyone in the Middle East except him. Obama's very precise address last Thursday was a blueprint for dealing with the region when the dust settles in the major Arab countries, and when Israel has a leader who can deal with reality. Obama didn't take Netanyahu on, but he introduced some new dimensions to the dialogue -- like letting the Palestinians sort out their relationship to each other so that negotiations with Israel are possible.

Netanyahu's constant allusion to Hamas's refusal to "recognise" Israel's right to exist is no more and no less than Fatah's, until the conference table was a real possibility. (As one Palestinian minister said to me years ago, "why should we give up one of the few negotiating levers we have?") Hamas has developed over recent years. Nor does the argument of Hamas rockets in southern Israel hit very hard: read the Goldstone Report if you want to read about which side hit the other the hardest.

But Netanyahu will, of course, return saying that the American Congress is more right than his own right wing. Of course. When you want money, or something like that, you speak to the left of a leftie, and to the right of a rightie. If I had to choose whose advice to rely on, I'm sure the retired intelligence heads of Israel can speak more wisely of the right choice of roads ahead for their country than can American congressmen hungry for cash.

The writer is emeritus professor at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, the United States.

Source here.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

A Hungry man is Indeed an Angry man, but blame not the Gomen of the day for price increase

Bad news folks Food prices are set to go up and up without any signs of abating since early 2009, prices are not helped by the horrible Australian floods which destroyed farmlands 2010, Droughts and Fire decimate Russia's farmland middle 2010, Pakistan fertile plains hit by monsoon at the end of 2010. For the first time in world history in 2009, the number of hungry people topped 1 billion.

The rising food prices have pushed millions of people to poverty and hunger and even spark a revolution on the Arab Streets, the Presidents of Algeria and Egypt were forced out of office and turmoil continues in Libya and Syria and the Gulf states. Hunger can spark anger in a man like no other and drive him to do crazy things.

A poor family spends 70% of their income on food and 30% for other needs (medicine, schools, rent, clothings)

if food prices go up

A poor family  spends up to 85% of their income on food and 15% for other needs (medicine, schools, rent, clothings)

When food take up most of the  income for the family, the "other needs" will have to be reduced with dire consequences obviously.

Click here for clearer picture of infographics. 

Click here to see World Hunger Map 2011

    • 925 million people do not have enough to eat  and 98 percent of them live in developing countries.(Source: FAO news release, 14 September 2010)
    • Asia and the Pacific region is home to over half the world’s population and nearly two thirds of the world’s hungry people;
    • Women make up a little over half of the world's population, but they account for over 60 percent of the world’s hungry.
      (Source:  Strengthening efforts to eradicate hunger..., ECOSOC, 2007)
    • 65 percent  of the world's hungry live in only seven countries: India, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan and Ethiopia. 
      (Source: FAO news release, 2010)
    • Undernutrition contributes to five million deaths of children under five each year in developing countries.
      (Source: Under five deaths by cause, UNICEF, 2006)
    • One out of four children - roughly 146 million - in developing countries is underweight
      (Source: The State of the World's Children, UNICEF, 2007)
    • More than 70 percent of the world's underweight children (aged five or less) live in just 10 countries, with more than 50 per cent located in South Asia alone; 
      (Source: Progress for Children: A Report Card on NutritionUNICEF, 2006)
    • 10.9 million children under five die in developing countries each year. Malnutrition and hunger-related diseases cause 60 percent of the deaths;
      (Source: The State of the World's Children, UNICEF, 2007)
    • Iron deficiency is the most prevalent form of malnutrition worldwide, affecting an estimated 2 billion people. Eradicating iron deficiency can improve national productivity levels by as much as 20 percent.
      (Source:  World Health Organization, WHO Global Database on Anaemia)
    • Iodine deficiency is the greatest single cause of mental retardation and brain damage, affecting 1.9 billion people worldwide. It can easily be prevented by adding iodine to salt.
      (Source:  World Nutrition Situation 5th report ,UN Standing Committee on Nutrition2005)
A hungry Man is indeed a Angry Man. Let all leaders and Goverments of sovereign States beware of this.

Malaysia is a blessed country, definitely citizens will not go out to demonstrate against the Government because they are hungry.

Some of course would complain with merit because they have to spend less on the other things in life beside eating, some like the Leaders of PKR,DAP and PAS would complain for political capital, as if, they get elected they can make the world to bring  food prices down, but like the rising water tide, the Worldwide rising price for food is not controlled by a tiny but blessed nation called Malaysia with only 28 million people and hence our "try to be nice to all"  Gomen is caught between whether to give too much subsidy for food or utilizing the expenditures for subsidy for development.

How the Gomen manage the  inevitable price increase will determine how much support the Gomen can get in the next PRU13, the Gomen should balance any reduction in subsidies for food by also reviewing the humongous IPP Gas subsidies as well. Malaysians wait in nervous anticipation of the price increase.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Orphanage Land Slide Tragedy at Hulu Langat, public must be made aware of the inherent risk of building on unstable hill slopes

Alfatihah, my  deepest condolences to the families of those who had died in the recent landslide tragedy at Hulu Langat, Selangor on 21 May 2011: .

Source: Here.

Workers clearing the hillslope  affected by the landslide that hit the Hidayah Madrasah Al-Taqwa orphanage.
Dangerous work: Excavator being used for  clearing the hillslope affected by the landslide that hit the orphanage.

'Vertically cut slope unstable'

KUALA LUMPUR: Initial investigations by geologists have revealed that the stricken slope in Saturday's incident had been cut vertically, severely weakening its foundation. 
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia geologist Dr Tajul Anuar Jamaluddin said the hill had a 70 per cent vertical cut, making it highly unstable.

"The cutting of the hill was not done by professionals. There was no work done to stabilise the slope after it was cut.

"The hilltop also appears to have been cleared and this had caused rainwater to come rushing down the hill." 

He said the clearing, believed to be for agriculture purposes, was about 130m long and 30m wide.

"Heavy machinery currently on the hill could have further destabilised the place," said Dr Tajul, who spent several hours on the hill yesterday.

He added that the area still remained dangerous and more landslides could occur.

Southeast Asia Disaster Prevention Research Institute director Datuk Dr Ibrahim Komo said such vertical cutting of the hillslope was typical of community development in village areas.

He said the area was known for landslides and based on information gathered so far, the slope near the orphanage was cut for several metres and the area around it had been flattened to build a house.

"This had weakened the hill's foundation and it was only a matter of time before a landslide occurred." 

Unlike housing developments where hills are usually strengthened after cutting the slope, small-scale vertical cuttings are not strengthened and left to the mercy of the elements.

Dr Tajul said vertically cut hills usually failed in about two to three years, but some even lasted 20 years before they caved in.

The orphanage is believed to be about 10 years old.

Classified as a medium-scale landslide, he said heavy rains had only triggered the landslide and were not the main cause of the disaster. 

"People should not blame the weather conditions. If rain was the cause, then many other hills in the area would have also experienced landslides."

He was also sure this was not the first such incident in the area, as smaller landslides or boulders may have come crashing down the hill before.

"Unless there was a loss of life, there would not have been much interest and people would not have reported them." 

Dr Ibrahim said the hills in the area were on granite rock terrain, similar to the Hulu Klang area where deadly landslides had previously occurred.

"However, the two landslides are very different. The slopes in Hulu Klang were cut and reworked to strengthen them. It is basically a cut-and-fill slope. But here, it's the more dangerous vertically cut slope."

Dr Ibrahim called for the study of new design models for hillslopes as the climate change over the past years had resulted in strange weather patterns, such as short bursts of heavy rain.

Read more here.

The Geotechnics experts has spoken folks, it looks to me from what I read and seen on paper as a disaster just waiting to happen when the hill slope was cut almost vertical to make a platform for the building to stand on. 

It could be a combination of the following possible landslides but I suspect it likely a combination of  A + B, investigations by JKR/Authorithies will reveal the detail of what type of landslide and the factors contributing to the disaster:

Source here.

In the meantime I hope all Local Authorities would check out all buildings build on hill slopes in their constituency to check whether it was built illegally or have been built with approval. Things would not get any better  if Local Authorities just say that "Oh, we are not responsible, the damned building was built without approval, we are washing our hands of this problem". 

Local Authorities must ensure that the public are aware of the risks of building on hill slopes without going through the normal process of approval based on the comprehensive Hillside development guideline that we already have, READ HERE and HERE. Bill boards and notices on quit rents or other bills could be used to inform the public of inherent dangers and penalties when building on hill slopes without approval. 

Malaysians should be made aware, the next landslide tragedy could be worse than this, God Forbid.

Another argument for a "Satu Sekolah Untuk Semua" system; "No bonding without common language" by Dr. Farish Noor

A superb article from the NST by Dr. Farish Noor which is a great argument  for a One School For All system:

No bonding without common language

I was once told a story by a friend of mine in Paris, who worked with the immigration authorities in France.

One day, while interviewing foreign couples who were applying for French citizenship, he came across the case of a South Asian man who was married to an East Asian woman. Both claimed to have been married in France, were deeply in love and wanted to settle in the country to start a new life there.

Though their papers were in order and there didn't seem to be anything wrong with either of them personally, the problem lay in their relationship with each other, which seemed hollow to some. For the problem was that neither of them spoke the language of the other: the man spoke only Hindi and the woman spoke only Mandarin.

When asked if they loved each other, both said yes; but when asked how they communicated, neither could answer. Needless to say, their application for citizenship did not get them very far.

That anecdote comes to mind in the light of a recent -- albeit modest -- survey done by one of the local papers to see how many Malaysians spoke the national language, Bahasa Malaysia. It was startling, though not quite, to discover that more than half a century after this nation's independence, there remain significant sections of Malaysian society where the national language is not spoken at all, or even deemed necessary.

The question also came to mind this week when I was asked about the nation-building process by some Western defence analysts while giving a video lecture to a college abroad. Again, the same observation had to be made, with some regret.

For it is regrettable indeed that a nation like this cannot get its act together when deciding on a national language policy or a national education policy; and even more baffling to consider that some in Malaysia believe that nation-building can come about via an educational system that is based on separate vernacular streams.

Nations are and will always be constructs; things that have to be artificially put together, and this process requires some understanding of statecraft but also some political will to do things that are not always easy.

Nobody said that building a nation was like putting together a Lego or Airfix kit, and it takes more than glue to hold a nation together.

Robert Bartlett, in his work The Making of Europe, has looked at how the nations of England, France and Germany were put together from the late medieval to the early modern period, and notes that in all three cases, the foregrounding of a singular, national language and education system was the key.

Bartlett notes that if France today speaks with one tongue, it was not always the case. Up to the days of pre-Revolutionary France, the country was a patchwork of different linguistic groupings with languages, sub-languages, dialects and local patois being common.

The French Revolution led to the rise of the republican state, and that state was unitary in its perception and ambitions. In order to build that republic, it requires a singular language and education system.

Unfortunately, not everyone accepted that they had to speak the French of Paris and in the process of linguistic streamlining, it has to be said that resistance was offered, and met, by the republican state.

Looking to our neighbour, Indonesia, we can also see how Bahasa Indonesia was one of the most important elements of the Indonesian nation-building process.

It cannot be denied that in the process of making it the national language, harsh measures were sometimes taken.

But in retrospect, one can only ask if things would be better had such a single-minded policy not been pursued. Where would Indonesia be today without one language and one national educational system to bind that vast archipelago together?

Addressing the challenge of nation-building in Malaysia will be an equally difficult task, but a necessary one.

The fact that there remain Malaysians who are nominal citizens, who don't even speak a word of the national language, is a glaring anomaly that would not be tolerated anywhere else.

Even in countries like Australia, New Zealand or Canada, migrants are expected to learn the language of the nation in order to be part of it. And as the linguist's joke goes: even if we hate and curse each other, let us curse each other in the same language at least!

The problem for Malaysia, however, is that for a long time linguistic diversity has been elevated to the status of a near-sacred taboo that cannot be touched.

To even question the need for vernacular education leads one to being accused of political incorrectness of the highest order.

Conversely, there are also those who insist that the national language ought to be claimed as the language of one, and only one community, and referred to as Bahasa Melayu instead.

But this denies the reality that it is the national language -- Bahasa Malaysia -- and ought to be claimed by all Malaysian citizens, regardless of their ethnic origins.

Unless and until the policy-makers have the political will to impress upon the nation the fact that Bahasa Malaysia is the language of all Malaysians, and that we need to have one education system that accommodates, represents and includes all communities, we will remain a nation divided into linguistic ghettos of our own making.

That path leads not to peace, but only mutual ignorance of each other; and the fact that we -- as a nation -- will sink or swim together, even if we cannot communicate with our neighbours next door.

Dr Farish A. Noor is senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Read more: No bonding without common language