Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Are you ready for Sri Lanka?

SRI LANKA wants YOU! Yes, YOU ... the traveller. And the longer you stay on the island, the better it would be for the country's fledgling tourism industry.

The end of the 30-year-old civil war in the country in May 2009 resulted in more tourist arrivals to Serendib (the origin of the word "serendipity"), as the Arabs called it in the ancient past.When the Portuguese arrived in 1505, they named it Ceilao, which was transliterated into English as Ceylon.

Tourism officials predict high numbers of visitors from abroad, notably India and China, in the future.

Tourist arrivals reportedly "grew by an impressive 50 per cent or an increase to 160,000 from 106,000 visitors in the first quarter of 2010, compared to 2009".

The downside of rising/increased tourism has generated debate as this website indicates. The concerns are valid. The rights of locals and proper care of the environment must be high on the list of priorities when tourism officials plan for the industry's development.

If Sri Lanka learns from the experiences especially the bad ones of other countries, it would be ready for the world.

I was in Sri Lanka last month and my journey began and ended cheerfully with a sense of adventure. Here are some pictures of my trip. More in the next post.

The three-wheeler taxi service or 'Tuk Tuk' is a common sight in the urban areas. It is fun and a good way to see the sights. The 'Tourist Friendly Tuk Tuk' project was launched in September 2009. For more, click here.

Buses are the main mode of public transport.






The Sri Lankan railway network covers one of the most scenic landscapes in the world, according to Wikipedia. I took the train from Kandy to Nanu-Oya and the scenery was breathtaking. The trip from Nanu-Oya to Colombo was less interesting, scenery-wise.
Let's cross over now while the railway track is clear. This happens daily.
The segregation of locals and foreigners at the toilets in railway stations. I wonder why this is so.
Vadai for the hungry traveller. This vendor is a common sight throughout the stops during the rail journey.
The lovely Kandy Lake in Kandy, Sri Lanka.
In ancient times, queens had their own bathing house. Click here.
The former Queens' Bathing Pavillion draws many curious tourists.
A till box within the premises of a temple in Kandy. A devotee pays his respect after making a donation.


Thursday, December 06, 2012

I can't write -- I'm stuck


I hit a mental block recently and found myself unable to produce a decent post. As you can see my last piece was published on May 3, this year.

A conversation with a good friend, who is also a journalist, compelled me to rethink my situation. Until our discussion on the times when we were unable to produce original work, I was quite happy to let 2012 pass without writing anything for this blog.

But Suzanna Pillay would not allow me to dwell on my current lack of enthusiasm for writing. She goaded me into action and here I am. Thank you SP!

The best place to start is to read about other people's experiences in overcoming mental blocks. I chanced upon these two websites (see below) which offer tips to those who often find themselves stuck.

1. 10 ways to overcome mental blocks and boost creativity

2. Do you recognise these 10 mental blocks to creative thinking?


Thursday, May 03, 2012

'Nayati is back home with us'


Kidnapped boy, Nayati Shamelin Moodliar, is back with his family. It was an emotional reunion after seven days of sleepless nights. Click here for more. See also this report.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Please return this boy to his parents


“Early this morning, 27 April 2012, Nayati Shamelin Moodliar was abducted a short distance from the Mont’Kiara International School. A police report has been filed, but his whereabouts are still unknown. If you have seen this child, please call the Malaysian Police on 999, or the school on 03 2093 8604. Please spread the message.”

Update: “In the abduction of student Nayati Shamelin Moodliar in Mont’Kiara, the auto used was a black Proton Gen 2. The tag number is WNH 1356. There were two Indian male occupants."


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Telok Chempedak in the morning

Journalist and guest blogger Jehan Mohd was recently in Kuantan for the kick off of the fifth season of the RHB New Straits Times National Spell-It-Right Challenge. On the last day there, she took a trip to Telok Chempedak to catch the sunrise. Little did she expect to see an entire colony of monekys playing on the deserted beach. Her account and photos below.

I've always had an affinity for the beach and the sea. Being based in landlocked Kuala Lumpur, I tend to go a little nuts whenever I do get to go to a beach. So when I was assigned to cover the SIR Challenge in Kuantan, I immediately thought that the beach was a definite stop I had to make.

And that's how I came to be at Telok Chempedak at sunrise on my last morning in Kuantan.

Sunrise at the main beach at Telok Chempedak
A glimpse of the more secluded beach
The more secluded beach has more rocks
Sea shell, sea shell on the seashore
Rocky terrain of the more secluded beach
Awe-inspiring beauty right in Kuantan
Can you spot the tiny sand crab making its way back to its hole?
Time to head back to the main beach
A view of the main beach from a look-out point on the walkway
Rocky beauty of Telok Chempedak
After ooh-ing and aah-ing and taking loads of photos, we decided to head back at about 8am - and that's when we encountered the monkey residents of Telok Chempedak. Being early on a weekday, the beach was deserted except for a mother and young daughter, city council cleaners, me and my sleepy husband and the monkeys.

When the humans' away, the monkeys will play
Monkeys doing what's only natural
One man's rubbish is a monkey's food source

Monkeys on the beach

A little groomming in the morning

Mother and baby together

Another baby monkey exploring on its own

A monkey Banksy?

A monkey trying one of the vices humans enjoy
Pretend smoking

Family time- the baby throws a parting shot


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Protect our parents from elder abuse

All's well that ends well. At least that was how Harian Metro, the number one Malay tabloid in Malaysia, portrayed it.

Amir Mohd Omar, who abandoned his paralysed mother to the care of strangers at a budget hotel at Jalan Raja Muda Musa, Kampung Baru, Kuala Lumpur, has accepted a job offer from an entrepreneur and Malaysians have high expectations regarding his filial duty.

Would he be able to hold it together this time and not crack under the strain of managing his day-to-day life which includes looking after his aging mother?

I would like to think that he would do the right thing now.

Anti-Amir sentiment ran high when the public read that he had walked away from his physically incapacitated mother, Faridah Maulud, 66,  after checking her into the hotel.

His distraught mother was discovered by hotel staff a few days later when they found out that he didn't pay the hotel bill. Her gut-wrenching photo on the front page of the tabloid touched many readers of the newspaper including this writer.

The reasons for his action are unclear but the then jobless 27 year-old reportedly said that it was an act of sheer desperation: he was worried about his health and financial difficulties.

He reunited with his mother -- thanks to Harian Metro which went to town on the story -- ten days after abdicating his responsibility. Congratulations Harian Metro!

"I knew he did not mean to desert me. I want to stay with him because he is the only family that I have. Thank you all for bringing him back to me," said Faridah at the reunion.

That is a good example of unconditional love. Amir! How could you? That was my initial reaction and I am certain that was how others felt too. There's no excuse for such behaviour.

Islam is strict about elder abuse and mandates that adult children take good care of their parents. The reality is that Amir's case represents only the tip of the iceberg, since headlines suggest that people discard their parents at hospitals, nursing homes and on the streets.

There are other cases which go unreported including the one involving an acquaintance who was kicked out of the family home several years ago when he objected to his youngest daughter's choice of marriage partner.

The fact that the young woman's suitor has a criminal record and was staying illegally in Malaysia at the time seemed irrelevant to his wife and two daughters who were adamant that the couple should get married. 

The situation overseas is just as tragic. As the New York Times (When the ties that bind unravel, Mar 3, 2010) puts it: "While there are no official tallies of parents whose adult children have cut them off, there is no shortage of headlines."

Here's one: Angelina Jolie mends her eight year rift with father Jon Voight after Brad Pitt plays peacemaker

The New York Times continues: "A number of Web sites and online chat rooms are devoted to the issue, with heartbreaking tales of children who refuse their parents' phone calls and e-mail and won't let them see grandchildren. Some parents seek grief counselling, while others fall into depression and even contemplate suicide."

A wide range of emotionally stressful events may trigger parental estrangement: "conflict over money, a boyfriend, or built-up resentments about a parent's divorce or remarriage".

Psychologist Joshua Coleman, an expert on parental estrangement and author of "When Parents Hurt", notes that "we live in a culture that assumes if there is an estrangement, the parents must have done something really terrible".

"But this is not a story of adult children cutting off parents who made egregious mistakes. It's about parents who were good parents, who made mistakes that were certainly within normal limits." According to Coleman, parental estrangement is a "silent epidemic" because many parents are ashamed to admit they've lost contact with their children.


My question to Amir is: what did your mother do to you to deserve abandonment? I imagine it's a terrible experience and I wouldn't wish something like that on my worst enemy.

Your mother needs lots of tender loving care to feel safe again. Please remember that, Amir.


Friday, March 09, 2012

Guest Post: When love and hate collide

Having just sunk a third of her monthly salary into a new mobile phone, guest blogger Jehan Mohd ponders its prominence in today's world.

People have a strange attachment to their mobile phones - it's a relationship of epic proportions.

Look around and you will notice more than a handful of people with their eyes stuck on a small screen as their fingers are busy tapping away on the flat surface or a mini keyboard.  

It is not unusual to see individuals interacting with their phones more than with the people they are actually out with, or for audience members to be more engrossed in whatever is on the small screen than on the big one in the cinema or in the live action happening on stage in a concert or play. 

But I digress. The whole point of the preceding paragraph was to show how close people can be to their handheld devices. 
  
I have to admit that I am too (but not to the point where I forget to enjoy real life as it happens in front of me). 
  
I've owned mobile phones since I was a Year 11 student in an Australian boarding school back in 1996 (when such a device was still a rarity, especially among young people).  
  
Aside from very brief periods when I had an Ericsson phone (before it became Sony Ericsson and recently became completely extinct when Sony bought out its shares to become Sony Mobile), an old Motorola model (which may have actually been my mom's phone) and a cute pink Samsung specimen, my mobile devices have all come from the Nokia family. 
  
The longest relationship I had with a phone was with my trusty Nokia 3210, which survived being dropped, scratched and scraped several times over the four-odd years I had it.   

The trusty 3210 (also known as the brick) saw me through some memorable moments such as college, graduation and my first years as a working stiff. - Picture by Discostu (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Since then I change phones on average once in a year or two (one lasted a mere two days: it was irreparably damaged after I accidentally dropped it - luckily it was a cheap secondhand one).  

There has never been one that gave me the same satisfaction as the 3210 ... but I haven't stopped looking and hoping. And it is sometimes still difficult to let go of tried and tested phones that are in still decent shape.

The E5 (left) and 3120 classic are two relatively hardy phones that have survived being dropped, getting splashed with water and curious baby nieces and nephews. The 3120 is my back-up phone for travelling. - Picture by Jehan Mohd (taken with the Lumia 800 and auto-adjusted with included software)
Things have changed a lot in the mobile world.  

Where before the mobile phone was merely a tool to make and receive calls and to send texts through Short Message Service (or, simply, SMS), now it is practically a mini computer that helps us keep track of schedules; do work, play and communicate online; and takes photos and videos, among others. 

My most recent acquisition is something I had serious doubts about - from what I read the battery life was a huge letdown, the applications I could get for free were nothing compared to more the established smartphones, iPhone and Blackberry.  

But being a loyal Nokia user, I could not see myself getting anything else (times when I did did not end so well for the phone or for me).  

That is how I ended up getting the Lumia 800 - the first Nokia phone using the Windows operating system - about a week ago.  

My first major smartphone - the Nokia E5 I had before this is way simpler compared to this baby. - Picture by Jehan Mohd
   
Being a smartphone that is controlled by touching the screen and having an interface that is akin to a Windows computer, it is easy to think of it not as a phone but as a small computer that fits in your hand - with the battery life of a netbook computer (i.e. awfully short). 

The screen has a brilliant display, which makes decent pictures look great. - Picture by Jehan Mohd

It has been a love-hate relationship from day one.  

First, what I love about my phone: 
  - gorgeous good looks, both in terms of the body and the included software 
  - simple interface that is easy to learn 
  - zippy performance  
  - a decent autofocus camera (Nokia seems set to include awful fixed-focus cameras in its latest range of phones with the exception of certain smartphones - this was one of the main reasons I bought this model instead of others)  

Second, what I hate about my phone: 
  - being a touch phone, it can be a bit tricky typing, or even making a call      
  - it has a screen which attracts dust, smudges and fingerprints
  - a pitiful battery, which meant that I had to charge the phone every few hours during the first couple of days I owned it. It has not been as bad the past two days, though, so I reckon it could be a matter of adjusting to its quirks (I still bring the USB charger cable with me in case I need to charge it at work). 

Sometimes it's easy to forget the Lumia is a phone - making a call involves a few steps instead of just one when you're at the home screen. - Picture by Jehan Mohd
Despite the sucky (no pun intended) battery life - which makes me hate the phone - I don't regret the decision I made to buy the phone because I love it too. Only time will tell if this will last longer than the others I have had since the trusty 3210 (seeing how my last few phones have been, I somehow doubt it). 

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

It ain't over till the sleeping cat awakens


A stray kitty enjoying the one of life's best luxuries - a catnap! - Picture by Jehan Mohd
 
This cat was spotted just a few doors down from Hillside Corner, a lovely little eatery in Bukit Antarabangsa in Ampang, Selangor, Malaysia.

We were heading for a dinner party at the famous Hillside Corner when journalist Jehan Mohd noticed this stray cat sleeping soundly just a few doors away from the restaurant. Being a photography freak and having a new camera phone (more on this in another post) that she wanted to try out, she stopped to snap this picture.

She says: "It just looked so peaceful and cute that I couldn't help myself. I thought that it would make a good picture because of its surroundings."

This cat seems quite at home in the area - aside from a delicious menu that includes fantastic carrot cake and the most delicious nachos, Hillside Corner is also a haven for all sorts of cat-themed decorations from paintings and figurines to calendars and card holders. See pictures below to get an idea of what I mean:
 
Cats at the payment counter send happy and full customers on their way. - Picture by Jehan Mohd
One of a few cat pictures hanging on the walls of Hillside Corner. - Picture by Jehan Mohd

(Disclaimer: the colours did not originally come out this brilliant, Jehan Mohd says she tweaked the saturation and contrast levels to "make the pictures pop".)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The friend within

Alone but not lonely as this beauty knows
People generally say unkind things about single females and males. "Something must be wrong with him/her," is one example. My favourite is: "You're too choosy." My friend Rabiaa Dani says the first thing they utter is "I am sorry" when she tells nosey parkers that she is single. Her standard reply: "Don't be. I am not!"

Singles are considered an anomaly, women and men deserving of pity and help. People who think that have yet to realise that "the most profound relationship" that they will ever have is the one with themselves (Shirley MacLaine). Marriage is not for everyone but even those who have found marital bliss will discover that sometimes "they have to stand alone to prove that they can still stand" (source unknown).

There are times when singles feel very lonely but those who are truly evolved go to sleep secure in the knowledge that they are their own best friends as Aristotle eloquently puts it: "He is his own best friend, and takes delight in privacy whereas the man of no virtue or ability is his own worst enemy and is afraid of solitude."

Kiplinger celebrates the joys of being single by putting together its list of best cities for those who live by themselves. Click here to read.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

No alcohol in coke, says PR man

This report alleges that Coca-Cola contains alcohol. But Coca-Cola Malaysia's public affairs and communications director Kadri Taib refutes the allegation and says that alcohol is not an ingredient and no fermentation takes place during the manufacture of the drink.



Click here for the full report.

Monday, January 30, 2012

He's heavy, he's the camp commandant!

Mohamed, my 17-year-old nephew, came home for a few days from National Service camp during the Chinese New Year holidays. He had been at the camp (somewhere in Malaysia) for three weeks then and the boyish enthusiasm bubbling up inside him was apparent. He shared his experiences -- good and bad -- with relatives who were curious to see how he had got on at the camp with other "wira (heroes) and wirawati (heroines), as the participants are called.

Mohamed was positive about his time there expect for one thing: he could not understand why the camp commandant -- a Major in the Malaysian army -- is overweight and unfit.

Mohamed and his mates had expected to see a military man with the physique of an athlete ala "Will Smith". Instead, they saw a fatty who seemed a likely candidate for The Biggest Loser programme. And the two officers who came together with the commandant were similarly heavy and seriously in need of regular hard workouts. Mohamed and his friends exchanged glances when they were introduced to the commandant and his officers at the "meet and greet" session with camp personnel. They later discussed their disillusionment.

But their faith in the uniformed units was somewhat restored when an admiral came to the camp a few days later to talk to the participants about careers in the navy. "The admiral was in great shape and looked very sharp in his uniform; we were impressed," says Mohamed.

What were the camp organisers thinking? You can't fool the Net Generation, which has grown up with computer games and everything associated with communications and media technologies. My nephew is a serious gamer and he is really into war games.

He is in awe of warriors from the past and aspires to be like them. He thinks the flag bearer of an army was the most important person in ancient times because he would be the first to give his life up for his country during a war. His idea of a warrior is one who is healthy, strong, loyal and has high moral principles.To his great disappointment, the commandant at his national service camp did not live up to expectations. His sense of humour is his saving grace, says Mohamed.

It is difficult to watch my nephew's thwarted expectation. The only thing I could do was to offer him quiet support and to gently tell him that all teenagers experience disappointing situations every now and again. I remind myself that he has to go through adverse conditions such as failure, disappointment, loneliness and grief in order to discover unknown and interesting things about his character. He must acquire the ability to feel better quickly after something unpleasant. And I think he handled this particular tough moment very well.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Without money, food and other things

PERTIWI Soup Kitchen volunteers distribute food and drink to the needy regularly.


The homeless are everywhere. Sometimes I see them walking the sidewalks of the less glamorous parts of Kuala Lumpur city. I caught two sleeping on a pavement opposite the bus station at Puduraya. I don't think about them all the time but they are on my radar screen.

I saw them again recently at the area behind Tune Hotel at Medan Tuanku. I had accompanied a photojournalist friend who wanted to take pictures for a magazine of members of PERTIWI Soup Kitchen serving meals to the homeless and hungry. The NGO does this on a regular basis and visit various locations around Kuala Lumpur distributing food and drink to the needy.




He quenched his thirst with a hot drink.



A long queue of homeless people built up as soon as PERTIWI volunteers set up tables for the soup kitchen. Women and men quietly waited for their turn to take their food and drink. Those who have received theirs smiled in appreciation and disappeared to their favourite spots in the immediate vicinity to enjoy their rations.

They were also given hygiene packs, courtesy of HSBC Bank Malaysia Berhad.


Did this meal satisfy his hunger?



Observe good personal hygiene.




Where do they go after this? Where will they sleep tonight? What dreams do they have? Do they think of their families? What's for breakfast tomorrow? When will their next meal be? Where will they take their shower?

I ask myself these questions each time I come face to face with a homeless person. And if I thought I was safe from such a fate, I had better think again.

"I'll never be homeless." What an arrogant assumption! Lots of evidence reveal otherwise. The fact is, a series of incidents in our lives can leave us completely destitute for years. Click here for one example.

PERTIWI Soup Kitchen: pertiwisoupkitchen@gmail.com









Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Guest Post: Moderate or Wasatiyyah: Can we make up our mind?



The New Straits Times published an article entitled "Malaysia has a gift for the world" on 16 December 2011. It was written by Distinguished Professor Dato' Shamsul Amri Baharuddin, Founding Director of the Institute of Ethnic Studies (KITA) at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), and Deputy Chair, National Professors Council of Malaysia (MPN).

He has allowed me to reproduce the full text of his paper from which the newspaper article was pruned. Please see below.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Shamsul Amri Baharuddin
By Shamsul Amri Baharuddin


Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Najib Razak introduced his idea of a “Global Movement of the Moderates” (GMM) in his speech at the UN General Assembly, New York on 27 September 2010.


As he put it:

“…Across all religions we have inadvertently allowed the ugly voices of the periphery to drown out the many voices of reason and common sense. I therefore urge us to embark on building a ‘Global Movement of the Moderates’ from all faiths who are committed to work together to combat and marginalize extremists who have held the world hostage with their bigotry and bias.”

Towards the end of his speech Najib showcased Malaysia as a model of moderateness and ‘equilibrium’; a country that is multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-cultural and democratic but has ably managed its diversity through the promotion of mutual respect, peaceful coexistence, positive interaction and synergies between the various communities and faiths.

“It is this equilibrium that leads to moderation or ‘wasatiyyah’ in the Islamic tradition of mutual justice,” said Najib.

[Wasatiyyah, an Arabic term, has been translated as ‘intermediacy’ by Hamid Ahmad Al-Rifaie, Al-Wasattiyah: An Orthodox Pivot for Dialogue of Cultures, Series of ‘To Know Each Other’, No. 19, International Islamic Forum for Dialogue, Jeddah: Al-Medinah Press, 2005, p.15. For Dr. Yusuf Al-Qaradawi it refers to “a set of principles on moderate and balanced thought,” please see,  “The 30 Principles of Principles of Moderate and Balanced Thought”, this opinion appeared on 22 February 2010 in http://www.suhaibwebb.com/islam-studies/the-30-principles-of-wasatiyyah/]

Since September 2010 he has made many more speeches on the global stage (Turkey, Australia, UK, USA) as well as locally (too numerous to list) extolling the virtues of being ‘moderate’ and making known his idea for a GMM.

On 12 November 2011, in a speech at the East-West Centre, Hawaii, Najib spoke about the inaugural International Conference on the Global Movement of the Moderates, to take place in Kuala Lumpur from 17 to 19 January, 2012.

The keyword is ‘inaugural.’ It indicates that, whatever has been said in the last year about GMM, or ‘wasatiyyah’, was just to test the waters. It is a clear signal that from this conference onwards we would give serious consideration to this matter.

Let us scrutinize briefly both the concept and content of the GMM and why it should be known as the GMM, not the GWM (Global Wasattiyah Movement). This will encourage a consistent global understanding of the central concept of moderate and avoid confusion occurring among interested international supporters of the GMM.

In the literal, generic and everyday usage of the word, being a ‘moderate’ is a rational and common sense orientation in terms of a person’s social behaviour, as opposed to being an extremist and worse still, as a violent extremist. 
In short, being ‘moderate’ is being ‘non-violent’ and/or ‘peaceful.’  This is very much in line with the definition of peace in the Global Peace Index 2011, which is ‘the absence of violence.’

Malaysia was ranked 19th out of 153 countries listed in the Index but it is first in Southeast Asia, second in Asia, behind Japan, and fourth in the Asia-Pacific region, after New Zealand, Japan and Australia. In 2007, Malaysia was ranked 38th, and its improved position in 2011 only demonstrates an increased intensity in its peace and stability goals, hence the term ‘moderateness.’

People and governments globally are alarmed when violent extremist behaviour escalates into a full-scale war -- from the behaviour of an individual to that of a larger social movement based on historical, religious, economic or political justification -- which subsequently costs the lives of hundreds and thousands of innocent people. The return to moderateness, therefore, is not only a rational and logical thing to do but also an imperative necessity.

The moot question is, who is going to champion ‘moderateness’ at the social collective level, especially on the global stage?

The answer: Najib and Malaysia.  If adopted globally, Malaysia’s proposal could re-define and transform the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) into GMM.

GMM is a deceptively simple, rational and logical agenda for the largest of social movements. However, embarking on this task involves complex diplomatic maneuvers and suave realpolitik. The GMM campaign invites a huge risk, both for the Prime Minister and Malaysia, given the reality of a global politics shaped by the prejudiced perceptions of the world’s media.  In the spirit of NIKE’s ‘impossible is nothing’ GMM’s possible success ensures a handsome and long-term reward for the global community.

The period of floating the idea is over. Now we are getting down to business!

This fundamental premise of GMM was supported at the 8th ASEM meeting in Brussels in October 2010 and it is now endorsed internationally by the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) 2011 Final Communiqué in Para 7(g).

Para 7 states CHOGM’s central agenda in “maintaining their commitment to a stable and secure national and international environment, as a foundation for sustainable growth and resilience for Commonwealth countries and the broader international community.”

The CHOGM, in Para 7(g), is committed to improving international security, by taking a number of steps, one of which is by “embracing moderation as an important value to overcome all forms of extremism, as called for in the ‘Global Movement of the Moderates’.”

For Najib and Malaysia, it is time to drop the use of the term wasatiyyah, however important the term is, politically, for the domestic Malaysian audience, as the ‘moderate’ concept is now relevant in a global context.

Any advertising company worth its salt would say that we cannot continue to use the two words, ‘moderates’ and ‘wasatiyyah’, simultaneously or interchangeably. They are connected but carry different meanings when translated from Arabic to English. The world has now endorsed the English concept, as stated in the CHOGM 2011 Final Communiqué.

Perhaps the ‘National Seminar on Understanding Wasatiyyah & 1Malaysia’, a curtain raiser for the UMNO General Assembly 2011 held on 26 November 2011, should be the last occasion the word wasatiyyah was used in connection with GMM. After the disappearance of  ‘madani’ and ‘hadhari’ in the quicksand of Malaysian politics, to drop wasatiyyah is wise.

The ‘Islamic’ political mileage notwithstanding, the stark reality is that we need to stick to ‘moderate’ now because globally it is known as GMM not GWM.

The next step is more critical. This concept has to be carefully deliberated and skillfully elaborated, with clear implementable strategies for action, devoid of rhetoric. This is deemed necessary if GMM is to remain on the global stage and to find a permanent place in the landscape of global political idiom and activism, along with ‘glasnost’, ‘clash of civilizations’, ‘non-alignment’, and ‘sustainable development’.

In short, GMM has to have substance.

Najib has showcased Malaysia as a case study and a model of moderateness. He believes that it is the ‘equilibrium’ that exists within Malaysian society “that leads to moderation or wasatiyyah.

What is this ‘equilibrium’?

How do we explain to a leader from Africa or a non-governmental organisation member from Latin America or a high school kid from Japan or a young demonstrator at Tahrir Square, Cairo, about this phenomena called ‘equilibrium,’ which is the key to ‘moderateness’?

Before we can explain this, the PM’s team of ‘thinkers’ have to deliberate upon the following: first, the concept of ‘equilibrium’; second, the methods taken by the Malaysian government thus far to achieve it; third, the practical steps needed to build and sustain it; fourth, the strategy for monitoring results, in the short- and long-term; fifth, evaluating success, failure and any unintended consequences; and finally, how to put all these in a comprehensive package, for instance, from kindergarten to adulthood, as a procedure which could be applied globally.

Does Malaysia have these to offer to the world on the 17th January 2012? We must assume that we have because the occasion to launch the GMM has such serious global implications.

In the process of producing a credible document and eventually a full-fledged GMM do-it-yourself package for global distribution, we need to clarify the social phenomenon labeled as ‘equilibrium’ by the PM in order to explain the origin and pre-conditions of the state of moderateness that Malaysia has enjoyed so far.

In the logic of causal relations, a situation of ‘equilibrium’ that exists in Malaysia must have been the result of ‘something else.’ In other words, Malaysia must have done something right to have successfully created a situation of ‘balance’ in its society, hence ‘moderateness’ in its social outcomes which have led to its position in the Global Peace Index next to Australia.

Sociologically speaking, a state of ‘equilibrium’ or ‘balance’ in a society could only be achieved if sets of ‘opposites’ or ‘contradictions’ that exist within it have been successfully ‘realigned and arrived at a point of convergence’, including the acknowledgement to agree to disagree. These factors are necessary pre-conditions for ‘equilibrium.’

In the plural, fragmented and diversified Malaysian society, this ‘equilibrium’ has been brought about by a surprisingly unrecognized and intense ongoing social process of realignment and convergence called ‘social cohesion,’ which, in turn, is the origin and pre-condition of the Malaysian state of ‘moderateness’ that encouraged the PM to launch his GMM.

Perhaps we have been so engrossed in our pursuit of ‘national unity’ that we have failed to recognize our achievements in the last four decades since the May 13, 1969 tragedy, that is, peace and stability, in the form of ‘social cohesion’ created by serious efforts, official and non-official, rooted in a genuine desire to achieve ‘national unity’.
  
Put simply, ‘social cohesion’ in Malaysia is about how the plural, fragmented and diverse components of our society, characterized by deep opposites and contradictions, have been able, through a continuous process of negotiation, consensus and compromise, to rise above it all in a most mature manner, to embrace peace and reject any form of violence for long-term mutual survival, sustainability and resilience.

The GMM promoted by Najib will showcase Malaysia’s social cohesion to the world, not only in terms of how we have managed to bring it about through an endless series of ‘fire-fighting’ efforts, but also how we have monitored and calibrated it through an early warning system which has been constructed, as a pre-emptive and preventive strategy, to suit our peculiar circumstances, with the possibility of it being applied in other societies necessarily in a modified from
.
Essentially, the GMM is more than just wasatiyyah for it is an integration of tireless top-down efforts and imaginative bottom-up activism of ideas, practices and commitment, by Malaysians for Malaysia, for the rest of the world to share.

This is the message, concept and package we must deliver at the inaugural conference on GMM in mid-January 2012 as a gift from Malaysia to the world.