Monday, June 30, 2008
As Malaysiakini reports:-
The man who lodged a police report against Anwar Ibrahim - his special aide Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan - is already undergoing a character assassination on the Internet.
Further, the most talked about 23-year-old in Malaysia is nowhere to be found.
Saiful now stands accused of being part of a conspiracy plot orchestrated by politicians from the Barisan Nasional government to defame or have Anwar jailed once again.
He alleged that the PKR de facto leader sodomised him at a luxury condominium in Damansara.
And at a PKR press conference yesterday - and now all over blogs and the Internet - pictures of Saiful and various BN politicians were distributed.
Besides posing with ministers like Shahrir Abdul Samad, Azalina Othman Said and Mustapa Mohamed, Saiful has also taken pictures with Deputy Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak's special officer Khairil Anas Yusof. Najib today denied any involvement with Saiful.
A visit to Saiful's double-storey link house in Bandar Utama in Petaling Jaya this afternoon showed no signs of people.
However, after several minutes of buzzing the house bell, a man who said he was Saiful's uncle answered the door.
A good kid
According to the uncle, who did not want to give his name, his nephew had gone into hiding and he had not contacted him since news of the report broke out on Saturday.
"But I believe in Saiful," said the 20-something-year-old at the double-storey house.
"He is a good kid and all that he has done, he has done with honesty. I just got back from Perak and we've not been in touch but I know why he lodged the report," he added.
Teary-eyed, the uncle said that his nephew reported the matter as he wanted to expose the PKR leader for what he was.
When asked about Saiful's alleged links to Umno politicians, the uncle brushed them off.
"We've got no help or connections with Umno. All he wanted to do is to expose the heinous crime."
Besides his safety, Saiful also stands to lose big if his allegations do not hold water. At midday today, Anwar's lawyers have filed a defamation suit against the former Uniten dropout.
In the suit which was filed at the Kuala Lumpur High Court registry in Jalan Duta, Anwar also claimed that the police report lodged by Saiful was an abuse of the process of law.
It was officiated by Najib who said in his opening speech: “To effectively position Malaysia in this globalised arena, we must be characterised by a unified core of competence and unique selling proposition that fits all levels of economy and society.”
Yesterday, along the way to and from work, the highlights of sodomy report againts Anwar were all over the air. Most radio channels that I tuned to had mentioned about this breaking news and later on the updates.
The repeats of "Malaysia Opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim bla bla bla" were indeed irritating to the ears when summer is already here reaching 50 degree celcius temperature and lot of Arab tourists flocking our shores for vacation.
Yes, any news is good news in marketing especially to promote new brands to the world. However, in this current situation, I was too embarrassed even driving alone with thousands other drivers rushing to reach their destinations.
In the office, some colleagues sought my opinion on this issue. Some expatriate friends called to know what was going on. I was again, dumbfounded while trying to analyse those reports as well as entries from other blogs and news sites.
My first reaction was, well, not again. Not again, not this kind of publicity and news splashing all over the world. This is not a laughing matter or mattress that can potray justifiably our civilisation.
One guy hangs Anwar's photo up in his room and he is not even a Malaysian or Muslim. Of course he never believes this accusation after 1998 fiasco that rocked the nation. He just asked, who was that moron how much was he getting paid to be sodomised?
One prominent businessman (not Malaysian) talked on the phone for more than one hour to let me know how stupid and low this damning charge could be to the nation. He was furious to hear the news and could not believe that the same strategy is now being used when the world has changed so much since ten years ago.
"Do these stupid perpetrators know what they are doing?"
I assume within my limited knowledge in politics, the stakes are already high for most politicians for their own survivals. Therefore, whatever price to pay by the nation is nothing compared to their own survivals. Life is marvellous in corridors of power. At this stake, the nation images and foreigners' esp investors' perceptions are not important at all.
The real victim is the people as this is a knee-jerk diversion from the real issues on the ground. Whoever behind this scam has been successful for now to make majority forget about petrol hike, inflation, security matters, altantuya murder, corruptions, wastage and other flip-flop decisons.
It could be another blessing as well and we see the next actions by those implicated and involved on both sides.
By the way, is this 'Sodomy' the master branding that Najib had in mind during the conference?
I would like to share this article from Malaysiakini.
Liwat-gate: Who's behind this?
Ong Kian Ming & Oon Yeoh Jun 30, 08 11:29am
In a previous podcast, we've said that it was unlikely that the authorities would sit idly by and let PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim scheme his way into forming the next government.
We speculated that the government might possibly declare an emergency or call for a fresh election. Recently, there has been intense speculation that Umno has been trying to entice PAS to cooperate with it on the basis of Malay unity. And there is always fear that violence might break out if Anwar tries to take over the government. But never in our wildest imagination did we envision that someone would recycle that old allegation of sodomy.
Reports surfaced over the weekend that a personal aide of Anwar had made a police report alleging that the PKR leader had sodomized him in a condo in Kuala Lumpur. This was followed by an immediate press conference where Anwar denied the accusation. To add drama to the whole situation, he later took refuge at the Turkish Embassy because of fear for his personal safety.
The notion that a 61-year old with a bad back can forcibly sodomise a strapping 23-year old is laughable. This is simply not the kind of thing that anyone, not even Anwar's harshest critic, is going to believe. Instead, people are going to conclude that it's a desperate, politically-motivated conspiracy.
That this desperate move will backfire is already a foregone conclusion. The big question is who is behind this latest move to try to impugn Anwar's character with a tactic dating back to 1998?
We had a look at all the messages and phone calls we received over the weekend from various people to try to identify some trends.
One thing that most people concur is that Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is not behind it. He had the same 'deer caught in the headlights' reaction when asked about the latest developments, just like when Sapp and Yong Teck Lee announced that they no longer had confidence in him.
Furthermore, nothing in his style or demeanor gives us any indication that he has the kind of mean streak that would allow him to agree to this kind of ruthless and dirty tactic. He is no Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
One could not discount, however, the possibility that someone close to Abdullah may have been behind this, in a misguided attempt to help him. But this seems unlikely as any sensible politician would foresee the negative reaction and the public sympathy that would emerge from the repeat of the sodomy allegation.
The issue of who benefits and who loses from all this will be dealt with in tomorrow's podcast but clearly one of the big losers from this is Abdullah. Political pundits, observers and insiders might immediately conclude that he has nothing to do with it but the mass public will naturally conclude it's an attempt by the government to smear Anwar. And who is the head of the government?
So, the natural question is who would have the motive to instigate something like this, knowing full well that such a move would hurt Abdullah? Two camps come to mind.
The first is the natural and obvious one. Who was the one responsible for branding Anwar a sodomite way back in 1998? It's not inconceivable that Mahathir, who still publicly states that he believes that Anwar is a sodomite, somehow had a hand in all this or at the very least encouraged it.
Perhaps he thought this is one way to kill two birds with one stone – discredit Anwar by taint of allegation and hurt Abdullah at the same time.
Of course, any serious political watcher would know that such a move would only serve to generate public sympathy for Anwar but when you are blinded by hatred for your enemies, sometimes you do desperate things.
The second person who would benefit from this would be Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak. To be fair, nothing in Najib's character or demeanor suggests that he has the kind of Machiavellian streak that Mahathir possess in copious quantities.
Perhaps someone in his camp, angry at the notion that perhaps Abdullah or his son-in-law, Khairy Jamaluddin, is holding some incriminating documents on the Altantuya case – as alleged by Raja Petra Kamarudin – dreamt up this strategy to undermine Abdullah and give Najib a boost.
If this was the case, the person responsible certainly did not realise that there exists a photo of the alleged victim with the DPM's aide outside the Najib’s office – a photo that has already been widely circulated on the Internet!
While Abdullah may not have had anything to do with this, it is well within his power – and not to mention, politically advantageous – for him to nip this whole issue in the bud. Kill off the story before it becomes the kind of fiasco that it threatens to be.
Just as Mahathir had used the full force of the state machinery to play up the story, Abdullah could use that same machinery to make it go away. But knowing Abdullah, he would probably stand aside and 'let the police continue their investigation', to the detriment of himself and ultimately his government.
Beh Lih Yi Jun 30, 08 1:14pm
Deputy Prime Minister Najib Abdul Azak today strongly dismissed claims that he was involved in a conspiracy to ruin PKR leader Anwar Ibrahim's political career.
He said that he was not involved in the police report lodged by Anwar's aide Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan in which he claimed to be sodomised by Anwar."I'm not involved in this case," the deputy prime minister told reporters in Parliament.
When questioned on the existence of a photo of his special officer with Saiful, Najib said it was taken when the 23-year-old came to his office to seek a government scholarship to pursue his studies.
The photo (shows Saiful (in blue shirt) with Najib's special officer Khairil Anas Yusof. According to Najib, the photo was taken three months ago.
He repeatedly stressed at the press conference that he was not involved in any political conspiracy.
The deputy prime minister said that it was now up to the police to investigate the report lodged by Saiful to see if the alleged sodomy did take place.
Saiful dropped a bombshell on Saturday by lodging a police report stating that he was sodomised by Anwar.Anwar said that this was a fabricated charge and left to seek protection at the Turkish embassy after claiming that his life was in danger.
He also filed a defamation suit against Saiful this morning to clear his name.
Government's assures safety
Najib today said that Anwar was never harassed, even when he was busy campaigning against the government as an opposition leader.
"This is not a political persecution. Let the police investigate the matter," he added.
Najib also said that the government can assure Anwar of his personal safety.
Meanwhile, three other Umno ministers also denied that they were part of any conspiracy.
Photographs of Saiful with Shahrir Abdul Samad, Mustapha Mohamad and Azalina Othman Said appeared in the Internet yesterday, fuelling speculations of Saiful's involvement with Umno figures to topple Anwar.
The three ministers also said that they did not know Saiful personally.Commenting on this, Najib said that Saiful, being a student leader, could have taken photographs with many politicians.
Sunday, June 29, 2008
The UAE is closely studying the controversial water reclamation technology used by Singapore to become self-sufficient in water, it has emerged.
Rashid Ahmad Bin Fahd, minister of environment and water, told UAE daily Gulf News the emiratescould learn from Singapore’s experience and enhance existing applications to ensure sufficient water supply.
Fahd, who is attending the Singapore International Water Week, did not confirm whether the UAE was considering the same technology employed by Singapore, the newspaper said.
He said the UAE will still rely heavily on desalination technology, which produces the majority of the country’s water.
“Singapore is really at the forefront in many areas when it comes to environmental issues. Its water conservation measures and (water recycling) technology are some of the areas that we want to look closely,” he told the newspaper.
Singapore has been using high-grade reclaimed water called NeWater, which is produced from treated waste water that is purified further using advanced membrane technologies.
NeWater is said to be ultra-clean and even safe to drink, as it has passed more than 30,000 scientific tests and surpassed World Health Organisation requirements.
Although it’s safe for drinking, majority of the “reclaimed” water is used by commercial and industrial firms and only about 2%, which is mixed with the city’s raw reservoir water, is used “indirectly” by households, according to Yap Kheng Guan, director of 3P Network Department of the Public Utilities Board (PUB).
Singapore has three NeWater factories, with a fourth currently being built under a public-private partnership agreement.
Currently, the PUB blends 23,000 cubic metres of neWater with the reservoirs’ raw water, which is then treated and supplied as drinking water.
Singapore plans to increase the amount to 46,000 cubic metres by 2011.
Oil has been the dominant industry in Iran since the 1920s. The nation still holds massive oil and natural gas reserves, which should, provided the country's international relations improve, ensure that energy remains the country's core industry for many years to come.
According to most independent analysis, Iran has proven oil reserves of around 136 billion barrels, with 40 production sites - 27 of which are onshore and 13 offshore. In 2006 Iran produced 3.8 million bbl/d of crude oil, equal to 5% of world production and found mainly in the southwestern Khuzestan region near the Iraqi border. The crude oil generally has medium sulphur content and is in the 28o - 35o API range.
Despite best efforts, Iran has not yet been able to reach the 6 million bbl/d produced in 1974. The oil fields are in desperate need of structural upgrades, with an estimated 400,000 - 500,000 bbl/d lost due to reservoir damage and decreases in oil deposits.
The government has set a target of 5.8 million bbl/d by 2015, which, according to Global Insight, will need around $25-35 billion of foreign investment - something hampered by Iran's current political relations.
The state owned National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) is responsible for all oil and gas production and exploration within Iran. The National Iranian South Oil Company (NISOC), a subsidiary of NIOC, controls 80% of local oil production in the regions of Khuzestan, Bushehr, Fars and Kohkiluyeh va Boyer Ahamd.
Although private ownership of any upstream function is prohibited under the Iranian constitution, buy-back contracts have been allowed, enabling IOCs to engage in production and exploration if done through an Iranian affiliate.
Iran's oil consumption was around 1.6 billion bbl/d in 2006, and oil remains heavily subsidized by the government, increasing domestic demand but creating budget deficits. In 2005 the IMF estimated energy subsidies account for 12% of Iran's GDP, the highest rate in the world according to an IEA study.
IEA (International Energy Agency) statistics put Iran's net crude oil exports averaged 2.5 million bbl/d in 2006, primarily to Japan, China, India and other OECD nations, with export revenues at around $54 billion.Iran holds the largest fleet of oil tankers in the Middle East. The National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC) has 29 ships in operation, including Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCCs).
Kharg Island, the country's largest terminal, has a holding capacity of 16 million barrels of oil and a loading capacity of 200,000 bbl/d.
The Strait of Hormuz, found off the south coast of the country, is only 34 miles wide at its narrowest point yet 17 million barrels - roughly two-fifths of all seaborne traded oil - travels through the Strait every day.
Iran has a total refinery capacity of around 1.5 billion bbl/d with nine operational refineries run by National Iranian Oil Refining and Distribution Company (NIORDC), a subsidiary of NIOC.
There are plans to increase the capacity by a further 985,000 bbl/d by 2012 with expansions and upgrades to existing refineries, as well as new sites at Bushehr, Abadan and Bandar Abbas, however, much of this expansion is reliant on foreign capital investment, which is not forthcoming.
With an estimated 974 trillion cubic feet in proven natural gas reserves - the second largest in the world behind Russia, Iran is looking at stepping up production in the coming years.
Existing supplies are found mainly in the South and North Pars fields, Tabnak and Kangan-Nan, although approximately 62% of reserves are at non-associated fields as yet undeveloped.
Consumption and production of gas has grown rapidly over the last 20 years, mainly for Iran's domestic consumption and re-injection into mature oilfields.
In 2005, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), 65% of natural gas was marketed for production, 18% was used in EOR gas re-injection and 17% was lost due to flaring and reduction of wet natural gas from hydrocarbon extractions. Natural gas, like oil, remains heavily subsidized by the government.
The state-owned NIGC (National Iranian Gas Company) controls all natural gas upstream activity. Due to buy-back regulations and US sanctions, BP and Sipetrol have divested from Iran.
However, Total, Eni and Shell are the largest remaining foreign investors. Iran has looked increasingly to Eastern firms for investment in upstream activities under buy-back regulations; firms such as Indian Oil Corporation, China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation and Sinopec. They would have to hand over operational fields to NIOC, and in return receive payments from production to cover their investments.
The most significant upstream project undertaken by the Iranian government is the South Pars field. Found 65 miles off the coast of Iran, it has an estimated 450 Tcf of natural gas reserves - 47% of the nation's total. The government has installed a 25-phase development scheme spanning the next 20 years; with each phase expecting to yield 1 Bcf/d.
Iran is hoping that the first 16 phases will have been completed by 2010. Phase 12 of the scheme is a $500 million contract for LNG, which will be controlled by PAGC (Pars Oil and Gas Company). Most of the South Pars scheme will be natural gas consumption, the rest being either exported to South Asia or Europe, for LNG production, or GTL projects.
There has been an agreement made between Iran, IOCs associated with the South Pars project and SKS, a private Malaysian firm, to develop the non-associated Golshan and Ferdas fields for LNG exports, with and investment thought to be in the region of $16 billion.
An early proposal has also been made to build the 2,050 mile Nabucco pipeline from Iran and the Caspian states through Turkey and into Austria and other EU nations.
Construction would start in 2009 at a cost of $6.8 billion, and it would have a delivery capacity of 300 Mcf/d. More controversially, a proposal to build a $7.4 billion Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipeline has been made, extending the existing IGAT-7 pipeline to a total of 1,724 miles in length and a capacity of 5.4 Bcf/d, due to be completed by 2011.
In March 2007 Swiss company Elektrizats-Gesselshaft Laufenburg signed MoUs for a 25-year gas deal with NIGC worth $42 billion, the first time in recent history a European energy company will sign a firm contract with Iran. It would see 5.5 billion cubic meters of gas delivered into Europe along the proposed Nabucco pipeline.
Joachim Conrad, member of EGL's Executive Management and Head of EGL's Gas Division, said of the deal: "Natural gas from Iran is necessary to the opening of a fourth gas transportation corridor to Europe.
This corridor will ensure diversification and security of supply on the continent as Europe needs to tap into new gas sources in the immediate future, and EGL today made an important contribution to reaching this goal."
However, whether the project will be given the green light is debatable given the increasingly tough stance taken by the EU against Iran.ProblemsPolitical relations are putting strain on what should be a blossoming energy industry for Iran. The country desperately needs to find solutions to the problems they are beginning to face if they are to meet their energy targets.
The US and the UN have imposed sanctions making movement of goods, technology and money increasingly difficult - although, it is interesting to note that US sanctions are not actually enforced by the US president.
Samuel Ciszuk, Middle East energy analyst for Global Insight, said: "Just the threat of an over night enforcement of this law has been very successful in deterring companies from committing to large scale investment, especially as many or most of these projects are mid to long-term, which makes it very dangerous to commit funds to Iranian investments."
"Unilateral US and implied UN sanctions against the financial industry in Iran have cut off most of the Iranian banks and banking systems from the international money flows, which are hurting all operations in the country - including all imports and transport of technology, goods and material into the country," Ciszuk adds.
It is a challenging dilemma for the western majors considering Iranian opportunities, which often leads to companies stalling on the projects.
"They continue to keep there foot in the door and continue to hold their contracts, while actually doing as little as possible and stalling on decisions. This has been a tactic quite successfully deployed for well over a year or two years now by most companies," he says.
There has been talk of Iran seeking investment from Chinese, Russian and Indian IOCs as an alternative, and even looking at smaller western companies who usually would be outbid by the western majors.
However, their relative lack of experience and technical expertise makes them less attractive, especially in terms of LNG developments. Ciszuk explained that even recruiting outside the western majors would not be a viable alternative.
"During the last year we have had several instances of companies, especially Chinese, signing up for quite large projects in both gas and oil. But when they actually signed up they started applying the same strategy as the western companies - stalling on time and not committing," he said. The reason: The same US and UN sanctions which are forcing western IOCs to stall on projects.
"Even some of the smaller western companies - companies that usually wouldn't be able to pick up such projects because they are totally out of their league - are picking up these contracts and then just stalling their commitments like the majors," says Cizsuk.
There are also major issues concerning the infrastructure and technology of existing oil and gas plants, as well as a so called "brain-drain" of skilled engineers. International isolation is making it very hard for Iran to attract the necessary investment and technology.
Iran is really suffering from a technology fall-behind, with a lot of their infrastructure not being upgraded since the 1970s. There is also a considerable brain-drain, with high calibre people finding that opportunities are better outside the country, due to a global shortage of oil engineers which is pushing up salaries.
Much hope for the nation's energy industry, according to Ciszuk, will be pinned on the presidential elections of both the US and Iran.
"I think, from an IOC point of view, everyone is waiting for two things to happen right now. They are first waiting to see what US policies will be under the next US president and to be able to assess any long-term US attitude to Iran. And then I also think everybody is also waiting in Iran - what is going to happen after the Iranian presidential elections in summer 2009 and which faction will come to power."
After recent news of Shell and Repsol-YPF pulling out of phase 13 of the South Pars project, doubt remains over all Iran's future projects.The nuclear debate and poor political relations, government skepticism of foreign investment, buy-back contracts and high risk projects burden Iran's oil and gas industry.
"It all adds up to make the Iranian business climate un-ideal to say the least," observes Ciszuk.
As the bulldozers move into the old city of Makkah some scholars accuse developers and banks of making vast profits while destroying cultural sites.
Every year millions of Muslims descend on the Holy City of Makkah to perform the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages.
Now global investors are being invited to invest in the redevelopment of what is already the most expensive real estate on the planet.
Makkah is expected to attract some US$100bn in investment over the next decade and international investment is already flooding into the Holy City where scores of new skyscrapers, shopping malls, hotels and timeshare apartments are planned.
"Investors are looking for a safe haven and Makkah is as close as you can get to a recession proof-market. Makkah will always have Hajj season and Umra season," says Imad Awad, head of equity capital markets at NBD Investment Bank, which is advising on a private placement for a new property company established to redevelop part of the site.
"Muslims are becoming more and more affluent, incomes are rising and these people have a spiritual side of their life and they will always want to visit Makkah," he says.
But the race to redevelop the Holy City has drawn criticism from some Islamic scholars fearful that cultural sites are being destroyed while developers ramp up their profits.
The surging price of crude which reached a record high of US$139.89 a barrel on June 16, is pumping billions of dollars into the Saudi Arabian economy and driving demand for real estate among the nation with the highest number of millionaires in the world.
Wealth is also burgeoning among the region's Muslim nations according to the World Wealth report released earlier this week by Merrill Lynch which revealed the number of super-rich in the region jumped by 15.6% in 2007 to around 400,000.
Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter, had the highest number of millionaires at 101,000, up from 90,000 in 2006. The number of Muslim pilgrims travelling to Saudi Arabia is also rising and expected to grow at a rate of up to 10% over the next three years.
Hundreds of homes are being demolished around the Hamra to make way for a vast redevelopment of the site by order of HRH King Abdullah, while around 230,000 sq m of land is being cleared for the construction of high-rise apartments, many of which will be sold as timeshares to visitors.
"The whole area surrounding the holy sites is being developed, all the old buildings are being demolished, and in their place, more modern buildings that can accommodate more pilgrims are being constructed," says Dr Fahas Bin Al-Jarboa, deputy secretary general at the Supreme Commission for Tourism in Saudi Arabia.
"We expect Mecca to change dramatically."
But for some scholars the change is too dramatic.
"We are now witnessing the last seconds of Makkah as it was created by God with its landscape and mountains," says Dr Sami Angawi, architect and founder of the Centre for the Custodian of the two Holy Mosques Institute for Hajj Research, which draws on research from 160 scholars.
"Now they want to take away the mountains and make Makkah into a flat piece of land. The traditional city should have been left alone and we should have expanded outside like every sensible city has done in the world," he says.
Lahem Al Nasser, an independent Islamic banking expert supports the redevelopment of Makkah but says that new residential real estate should be reserved for pilgrims.
"A number of people are concerned about preserving the historical value of the architecture in Makkah and are conservative about building towers that will hide the view of Al Kaaba and its surrounding landmarks," he says.
"It's an understandable viewpoint but the existing need for these developments also has to be taken into consideration."
The 'Rawabi Abraj Al Bait' project is the latest large-scale real estate development to be launched by a newly formed property company spun out of Kuwaiti developer Grand Real Estate and is being built by a unit of Saudi Bin Laden Group.
The first phase will include nine towers, developed on a 'Build, Operate, Transfer' basis at a cost of nearly US$3bn while the entire development will eventually include 21 residential and hotel towers with over 26,000 rooms.
It will provide underground access through tunnels to the Holy 'Haram' area.Property prices around the Haram in Makkah have already reached almost US$67,000 per square metre and are expected to rise four times higher says Awad.
That is almost double the cost of land in Monaco, the most expensive real estate in the world according to data from the Global Property Guide.
"The land around the ‘Haram' costs around 250,000 riyals (US$66,670) per square metre and a lot of developers are expecting the price of this land to go up to one million riyals (US$266,000) per square metre," says Awad.
Saudi Arabia is under pressure to increase the allocations it sets every year for visiting pilgrims from around the world, which has encouraged authorities to add new apartments, shops and hotels around the site.
Last year Muslim pilgrims spent more than 10 billion riyals (US$2.66bn) in Makkah during Hajj, according to the local Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The influx is attracting increased interest from international hospitality chains, competing to open hotels in the Holy City and around other religious sites in the country.
Hotel groups including Fairmont and Rezidor also plan to tap surging demand in Saudi Arabia for religious tourism with Rezidor aiming to open three new hotels in the Holy Cities by 2010.
"Saudi Arabia is one of our major growth markets."
Last year over two million Hajj pilgrims visited the Holy City during its peak period. Religious tourism will be our main focus," says Jean-Marc Busato, area vice president of the Rezidor Hotel group.
The most expensive land in Makkah is located around the 'Holy Haram' area where views of the Al Kaaba command the highest prices.
As many as 15 million people visited Makkah in 2007 according to Dr Saleh Habib, CEO of Jiwar Real Estate Company, the unit of the Saudi Bin Laden Group that is building towers close to the Holy Haram.
"Demand for real estate is extremely high because there's no supply," he says, adding that visitor numbers to Makkah are rising by as much as 10% every year.
While demolition work gathers pace, the developers of the Holy City will need to tread a careful path between providing desperately needed accommodation for the rising number of pilgrims visiting Makkah while ensuring they do not further alienate conservative opinion opposed to the redevelopment of the old city.
"The planning is only thinking how many people can be accommodated and how much money can be made from buildings overlooking the Kaaba, as if it were a tourist attraction," says Dr Angawi.
"Maybe the development is going to make a lot of money but can't they make it and respect the sites at the same time or do we just make the two Holy Cities totally out of balance when they are supposed to be the example of equilibrium in the world?"
Wan Azizah to file report against IGP, AG
Jun 29, 08 9:42am
PKR president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail is expected to lodge a police report against the police chief Musa Hassan and attorney-general Abdul Gani Patail later today over their alleged misconduct during Anwar Ibrahim's trials in 1998-1999.
Wan Azizah will be making the report on behalf of her husband Anwar Ibrahim.
Yesterday Anwar had said that he had evidence implicating Inspector-General of Police Musa and AG Abdul Gani Patail in the misconduct, including fabrication of evidence in the cases launched against him after his sacking from government in 1998.
He added that a fresh police report lodged against him for sodomy was a result of "interested parties to attack me in retaliation" over this evidence in his possession.
The report alleging sodomy was filed by Anwar's aide, 23-year-old Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan, yesterday.Anwar claimed that the accusation against him was a "complete fabrication". PKR also said that Saiful was arrested and forced by the police to lodge such a report against Anwar.
Anwar is presently seeking shelter at the Turkish embasy after fearing assassination attemps on him.
Wan Azizah: Aide was volunteer staffThis morning Wan Azizah said that Saiful was a volunteer who joined to help the party during the general election period three months ago.She added that little was known of him and that no background check was done on him as he was just a volunteer. He later become a special assistant to Anwar.
Saiful is a former student leader at the Universiti Tenaga Nasional.
Wan Azizah also added that Anwar "was taking it well" with the latest happening.
The police have denied that Saiful was arrested and forced to fabricate evidence as claimed by PKR.
Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has also denied that the government was behind the new allegation against Anwar and he would let the police investigate the matter and take the necessary action.
Meanwhile, Anwar's supporters have started gathering at the Quality Hotel in Shah Alam in anticipation of police action against the politician.Many were there overnight to monitor the situation and protect Anwar, who is staying at a hotel to attend a two-day PKR workshop with all its elected representatives.
This morning, there were two police patrol vehicles outside the hotel.
PKR leader unfazed by fresh allegations
Terence Netto Jun 29, 08 2:38pm
PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim reached for the rapier in preference to the bludgeon in describing yesterday's police report of sodomy against him as a "tottering regime's last gasp attempt to delay its doom".
An Anwar aide, 23-year-old Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan, had lodged a police report yesterday alleging that he was sodomised by the former deputy prime minister. Police are expected to arrest Anwar soon to press charges against him.
"It's surreal that this is happening," said Anwar in remarks to Malaysiakini this morning. "But you can never know the nadir to which the desperate would descend."
Anwar was charged with sodomy and corruption in separate cases brought against him in the aftermath of his sacking from the deputy prime minister's post and the deputy presidency of Umno in September 1998.
In light of what was shed by the sensational Lingam video clip which Anwar released last September that was the subject of a royal commission report earlier this year, the court cases against Anwar a decade ago look decidedly shaky.He was sentenced to six years jail on the corruption charges and nine years on the sodomy charge. He was acquitted on appeal in the latter case after having served a total of six years.
His sacking from government and Umno, his initial detention under the Internal Security Act, and subsequent jailing for corruption and sodomy became not just a national but an international cause celebre.
Anwar: Welcome to Kafka land!
"You would think that the authorities would be chastened by the shocks dealt them at the general election last March such that they would not stoop this low to defame me this time.
"Well, welcome to Kafka land!" asserted Anwar sardonically while holed up in a hotel in Shah Alam where he was closeted with PKR and Pakatan Rakyat officials for a two-day meeting.
Franz Kafka was a renowned Czech novelist who wrote dyspeptic novels that evoked the dread faced by innocent people charged with crimes they did not commit.
Kafkaesque is a term that has entered the lexicon to convey the existential angst of the innocent before some surreal and impending disaster.
Anwar's lawyers are planning to lodge a police report imputing allegedly damning conduct to present inspector-general of police Musa Hassan and current attorney-general Gani Patail in connection with the corruption and sodomy cases of a decade ago against Anwar.
Musa and Patail were then a police investigator and a top prosecutor respectively - both on the rise within the criminal justice system.
"Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold," trailed off Anwar, reaching for some resonant lines from the poetry of WB Yeats in trying to come to terms with the latest twist in a personal-cum-political saga that started a decade ago and whose reverberations continue to dog the Malaysian body politic.
I share this article with a smile. Been there, done that!
My skills at household maintenance are worse than nil. Attempts at DIY usually result in the creation of rather more severe problems, so much so that I am mostly forbidden from gathering my favourite tools — a hammer, super glue and duct tape — to address repairs. I have constantly suffered: in Europe and America, I have grudgingly endured the tyranny of high-priced maintenance; in the Middle East, I have suffered a martyrdom to the inscrutable ways and means of an army of handymen. Looking at both, I choose the former.
Why is it that maintenance is so spectacularly bad in the region? The mere suggestion of preventive maintenance is met with blank stares of incredulity: “What is problem?” inquires the maintenance man when I ask him to come round.“No problem yet, the drains are simply a little slow, which suggests the beginning of a blockage. I don’t want to wake up one morning to find my kitchen swamped with sewage,” I respond.
“Sewage in kitchen? That’s very bad.”“No, not yet, just slow drain,” exasperation creeping into my voice.“So no problem? How I fix no problem?”Eventually I get him to understand that the sink is slightly blocked; when he turns up the next day he brings two car batteries and begins to dump the acid down the drains. “Better than Drano,” he smiles.Fixing explicit problems is no easier, even if they can be readily identified and explained in few words. With most rental properties, there is allegedly a maintenance component that is part of the contract. The large, posh towers seem better than villas; at least there is some chance of mediocre maintenance. But in villas, there is no hope. The strategy seems to be to make maintenance so inept and infuriating as to drive the renter to pay for independent contractors. It works.
I recently hired a highly recommended air-conditioning man to do a thorough cleaning of the nine split-units in my villa. He dutifully appeared with an impressive array of kit and proceeded to wash them inside and out, without making too frightful a mess with the many gallons of filthy water he collected in plastic sheeting over my prized oriental rugs. All told a great success: the A/Cs all blew cold, clean(ish) air. I paid him handsomely and felt smug that for once things had gone according to plan.
And then five of the units began to drip water down the walls. Lots of water. It was not residue from the cleaning, but the condensation that is supposed to be piped to the outside drains. Eight visits later, he has staunched the leaks in all but one; that remaining unit, in my bedroom, now has towels taped around it and a bucket beneath it. I suspect it will remain that way forever.I have countless similar examples. One chap came to fix the heavy metal gates of my driveway. For two hours he swung at them with a sledge hammer and finally managed to get them to close. But could we open them again? A painter came to replace the chalky yellow on the walls with an eggshell white. I bought the paint but he transferred it into a plastic bucket from his last job; my white walls now have purple flecks.
A pipefitter came to plumb in the washing machine. First he knocked a fist-sized hole through the wall to the loo; then he discovered the connection point was somewhere else so he filled the first with plaster and knocked a second hole. The e-vision man drilled holes through my exterior walls and draped cables down the side of my house. The phone company figured it was better to drill through the aluminium window frames to get their wires out. Is it any wonder that whole neighbourhoods look like shantytowns?
Looking back, many of these stories now seem quite funny, but maintenance has safety implications. The standard of electrical work on most residences I have seen is potentially disastrous. Those blackened, melted outlet plugs are a bad sign, and the annoying little shock from the dishwasher can suggest more serious issues. Compromised plumbing and filthy A/C units surely have an influence on health.
The maintenance business here is in dire need of regulation, standardisation and professionalisation. Electricians, plumbers, joiners, A/C technicians and so forth are skilled jobs. How does the resident know that the man who arrives with the toolbox is properly qualified? And if he is, that he is up to date with his skills and the requirements of the latest regulations? As the housing stock increases and the UAE moves towards more owner-occupied housing, the need for quality domestic repair services is going to grow exponentially. The maintenance business needs more than a little maintenance of its own if it is to cope.
Dr Christopher K Brown is Associate Professor of English language and literature at Zayed University
A police report is expected to be lodged against the police chief Musa Hassan and attorney-general A Gani Patail this morning over their alleged misconduct during Anwar Ibrahim's trials in 1998-1999.
Lawyers acting for the PKR de facto leader are expected to lodge the report.Yesterday Anwar had said that he had evidence implicating inspector-general of police Musa and AG Abdul Gani Patail in misconduct, including fabrication of evidence in the cases launched against him after his sacking from the government in 1998.
He added that a fresh police report lodged against him for sodomy was a result of "interested parties to attack me in retaliation" over this evidence in his possession.
The report alleging sodomy was filed by Anwar's aide, 23-year-old Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan, yesterday.
Anwar yesterday had claimed that the accusation against him was a "complete fabrication".
PKR also said that Saiful was arrested and forced by the police to lodge such a report against Anwar.
Wan Azizah: Aide was volunteer staff
This morning party president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said that Saiful was a volunteer who joined to help the party during the general election period three months ago.
She added that little was known of him and that no background check was done on him as he was just a volunteer. He later become a special assistant to Anwar.
Saiful is a former student leader at the Universiti Tenaga Nasional.
She also added that Anwar "was taking it well" with the latest happening.
Anwar's lawyers are expected to hold a press conference at about 12 noon today, to be followed by one held by Anwar himself.
Meanwhile, Anwar's supporters have started gathering at the Quality Hotel in Shah Alam in anticipation of a police action against the politician.
Many had was there overnight to monitor the situation and protect Anwar, who is at staying at a hotel to attend a two-day PKR workshop with all its elected representatives.
This morning there were two police patrol vehicles outside the hotel.
Saturday, June 28, 2008
Jun 28, 08 11:03pm
A police report has been lodged against PKR
MCPXde facto leader Anwar Ibrahim for allegedly sodomosing one of his aides - the second time that such an accusation had been made in over 10 years.
The report was lodged by the 23-year-old victim at the Jalan Travers police station at 6pm.
KL police chief DCP Muhammad Sabtu Osman confirmed that the report had been made.The man has been sent to Hospital Kuala Lumpur for a medical examination.
It is learnt that Anwar met with a number of party leaders at an emergency meeting late tonight.
At 11.15pm, PKR sent out an SMS message stating that the police had detained Anwar's special aide Saiful Bahari this afternoon and forced him to lodge a police report about being sodomised by his boss.It added that the police are expected to arrest Anwar soon.
Meanwhile, Anwar is expected to comment on this latest crisis at a pre-arranged press conference tomorrow.
The press conference is scheduled to be held after a meeting between Anwar and all PKR members of parliament and state assemblypersons.
'A very serious situation'
Party sources said that Anwar was chairing a party supreme council meeting at a hotel in Shah Alam when he received an SMS at about 9pm on Saturday night about the police report lodged against him.
He apparently then told the party leaders that his aide Saiful had been missing for two days."He then received another SMS at about 9.30pm and his faced changed dramatically after reading that SMS," said a party insider.
"He did not reveal the details of the SMS but merely said that the situation was very serious," added the insider.
Anwar is said to have left the supreme council meeting to meet his lawyers until about 11pm.The council however continued their meeting without Anwar.Party leaders are saying that they have to be prepared for any eventuality.
DAP's veteran leader Lim Kit Siang wrote in his blog that he had spoken to Anwar over the phone and that the PKR leader was expecting the worst.Watch out for government attacksAnwar himself issued a press statement at about 1.40am, saying that the report lodged against him was a complete fabrication.
"I believe we are witnessing a repeat of the methods used against me in 1998 when false allegations were made under duress," he said.
"This is clearly a desperate attempt by the Barisan Nasional regime to arrest the movement of the Malaysian people towards freedom, democracy and justice."
He said that the police report against him was organised by interested parties to attack him in retaliation for evidence he had recently obtained implicating Inspector General of Police Musa Hassan and Attorney General Abdul Gani Patail in misconduct including fabrication of evidence in the cases launched against him in 1998-1999.
"This vile attack will not prevent me from releasing this dossier to the public," Anwar added.Anwar urged Malaysians to stand against the repressive forces that "will be unleashed by the government in the coming days and weeks".
"We expect the media, the judiciary and the police force to all come under the direct and unchecked control of the executive," he said.
Accused of sodomy in 1997
Meanwhile at about 1am about 400 people had gathered outside the hotel in Shah Alam to ensure that nothing happened to Anwar.
The party leaders and Anwar's lawyer SN Nair also held a press conference at the Shah Alam hotel at about 1.30am where they distributed Anwar's press statement. Anwar, a former deputy prime minister and finance minister of Malaysia, was sacked from the government in 1997 for allegedly being involved in sodomy and abuse of power.
In 1999, he was sentenced in a highly controversial trial to six years in prison for corruption, and in 2000, to another nine years for alleged homosexual acts.
However in 2004, the Federal Court - the country's highest court - reversed the second conviction and he was released.
Anwar has always maintained that the charges were a government hatched political conspiracy against him, a move denied by the government.
Najib said at the opening of the International Conference on Meeting of Minds: Developing the Malaysia Master Brand:
“To effectively position Malaysia in this globalised arena, we must be characterised by a unified core of competence and unique selling proposition that fits all levels of economy and society.”
Destination branding is no enviable task, as I found out during the past week when I went through hundreds of websites, brochures, articles and a couple of books. More so for a nation as varied as the United Arab Emirates, where identifying a unique characteristic which can generate a positive emotional response from a person is only a part of the task; but also involves addressing issues like the volatility of the middle-east and cultural sensibilities.
Nations has increasingly resorted to the “We have everything” or a “We are different” angle which did nothing more than to get fairly easy approvals from governments and other decision-making bodies. Among Uniquely Singapore, Incredible India, Enchanting Finland, Wonderful Greece, Magical Kenya, Dynamic Korea, Naturally Nepal, Uruguay Natural, Wow Philippines, which one will actually generate a positive human response from a citizen or a tourist is debatable.
Others have resorted to their regional significance – Tanzania claiming to be ‘Authentic Africa’ while Rwanda urges you to ‘Discover a new African Dawn’ (featuring a Gorilla naming ceremony!) and Zambia reckons you can Experience the Real Africa’, Samoa is ‘The treasured island of the South Pacific’, Grenada is the ‘Spice of the Caribbean’ while Dominica is ‘The Nature Island of
the Caribbean’, Malta is the ‘Heart of the Mediterranean’ while Croatia is ‘The Mediterranean as it once was’.
Still more get philosophical and poetic- Macedonia is the ‘Cradle of Culture, land of nature’, Maldives claims to be ‘The sunny side of life’, Nicaragua is ‘A country with heart’(Sorry Dubai), Cayman Islands is ‘Close to home, Far from expected’, Niue Islands is ‘Undiscovered Unspoiled Unbelievable’, Thailand offers you ‘Happiness on Earth’, Vietnam is ‘The Hidden Charm’ while Panama takes up the clichéd ‘The road less travelled’ tag.
Others can simply be mistaken with products like mineral water, television or even shoes - like Seychelles claiming to be ‘As pure as it gets’ (or sometimes a little less) while New Zealand is ‘100% Pure’, South Africa says ‘It is possible’, Hungary has a ‘Talent for entertaining’.
Only a few has managed to stand out and make an impact– either due to their long-term vision or with the help of a bit of creativity shown while making their identities, executing campaigns and ensuring some level of consistency. Malaysia's ‘Truly Asia’, despite its obvious simplicity has proved to be a winner. Alaksa, which has a predictable tagline,
‘Beyond your dreams, Within your reach’ came up with an excellent Alaska B4UDIE campaign to boost tourism revenue. Ethiopia’s questionable ‘13 months of sunshine’ may not have prompted a huge tourist influx, but is nevertheless unique, but has not been marketed well. Latvias ‘Land that Sings’ is delightful, Cyprus’ ‘The golden apple’ is intriguing, Ireland’s ‘Your own Ireland’ works well combined with its identity, Jamaica’s ‘One Love’ is representative of the nations fun-filled outlook.
Australia emerges the winner of the pack with excitement always present in its identity and campaigns that generate discussion, not to mention the popularity of the destination itself. Poland used a plumber and a nurse to inject some fresh lease of life into the tourism industry. Bahamas has a unique and contemporary logo, but it is doubtful whether it portrays a national identity as well as Spain’s does.
Britain, one of the first countries to take destination branding seriously did not create much excitement in terms of creativity. ‘Visit Britain’ promised to be as boring as the country was perceived to be, while the pretentious ‘UK OK’ was typically unimaginative. And in case if you were wondering who was behind Saudi Arabia’s innovative tourism strategy, you are welcome to the lovingly named ‘Supreme commission for Tourism’.
But all over the world, what all this phraseology often very seriously lacks is the clear mention of names and the exact brand name identities attached to each project, as most have no recollection as to how to differentiate or even address these icons. Most cannot appreciate generic name brand like "World" to describe the cluster of islands, nor can they explain the "South American" region to tell others that they want to live in "Brazil, Dubai".
In a recent select study of the Dubai Brand Name-Identity Profile, conducted by ABC Namebank, Toronto - New York, the most significant observation was that there is a strong awareness of the number of Dubai's projects around the globe, but a serious lack of clear brand name identity recognition.
In Dubai and also all over the GCC, the first generation of the branding wave is almost over, where massive colourful campaigns were created to boost the image and visibility at the local level with all the tools of traditional advertising deployed resulting in some hugely successful projects.
"Do you know me, I am Mohammad Bin Rashid," said the visitor and as the elderly man looked closely at his face, he realised the visitor was special.
"You are most welcome Abu Rashid," said Mohammad Salem Khamis Al Ka'abi, who said he is 100 years old. "It is an honour to have you," said the Emirati.
The special visitor that day was His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
A five-minute conversation that day changed the life of the centenarian.
"It was an unforgettable moment," said Al Ka'abi, who has three sons and a daughter. Four other sons have died, three if them in road accidents.
"Give me an order father, whatever you want, just name it, said Shaikh Mohammad," said Al Ka'abi. "I just hope for a long and happy life," replied Al Ka'abi.
Shaikh Mohammad looked around and saw the old man's house had cracks on the walls. "Here we will build for you a very comfortable home," Shaikh Mohammad reportedly told him.
Al Ka'abi told Shaikh Mohammad that his house was given to him by Shaikh Rashid and he decided never to leave it even though the house deteriorated due to lack of maintenance over the years.
Shaikh Mohammad also ordered that the house be fully furnished.
When Shaikh Mohammad learnt that five grandsons of Al Ka'abi who lived in a similar dilapidated house nearby, he ordered that it also be renovated, furnished and equipped. Their father had died in a road accident.
"The contractors worked day and night. They never stopped, never took a rest, till the entire work was completed," said Al Ka'abi. "The contractors repeatedly invited me to have a look at their work, but I refused and never entered the new house till they handed me the keys," he said.
Neither Al Ka'abi nor Aliba know the number of bedrooms they have in their new home, but they think it has six or seven bedrooms. "The house was prepared, furnished and equipped in a way which makes our life comfortable," said Al Ka'abi. "Foodstuff, vegetables, fruits, and even tissue boxes were in the house, as if Shaikh Mohammad was telling us to just live a comfortable life."
Each room has two split air-conditioning unit and has spacious majlis, an independent huge water tanker with a large pump, he said. "Words fail to express our thanks and gratitude to the generosity of Shaikh Mohammad," said Al Ka'abi.
"Shaikh Mohammad can fulfil anyone's dreams. It just requires only meeting him once, and he looks you in the eye and then looks around you. He can easily find out what you wanted without your asking for it," he said.
One of Al Ka'abi's sons, Saeed, said he was in Abu Dhabi when he got a call that Shaikh Mohammad was visiting his father. "I never expected that it was him, even after I was informed. It was a dream visit," he said.
Al Ka'abi said his homes will never be sold. "Not even for billions of dirhams," he said. "My children after me know this that the houses granted to us by the Al Maktoum family will never be for sale."
President George W Bush hosted Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, for a stay at the Camp David presidential retreat. Mr Bush welcomed Sheikh Mohammed to the rustic wooded retreat in the Maryland mountains yesterday, a return favour for the US president’s stay in Abu Dhabi in January. During that visit, Mr Bush travelled to Sheikh Mohammed’s desert property, where he raises horses and prize falcons.
Sheikh Mohammed’s stay at the Maryland property puts him in an elite class of world leaders who have been awarded visits to locales prized by Mr Bush, including the presidential retreat and his own ranch in Central Texas. As Sheikh Mohammed’s helicopter landed on a large hilltop meadow at Camp David yesterday, the flag of the United Arab Emirates was hoisted alongside the American flag.
Mr Bush greeted Sheikh Mohammed at the white-topped helicopter’s steps and they walked down a double phalanx of Marines and Navy sailors. After chatting and posing for cameras, the two leaders climbed into a golf cart and Mr Bush squired his guest off for a tour of the grounds. They were having a picnic dinner of fried chicken, corn on the cob, deviled eggs, potato salad and slaw.
Their official meetings – all private and closed to any media coverage – were scheduled for this morning, followed by a lunch of hamburgers, french fries, onion rings and ice cream. Sheikh Mohammed was expected to leave Camp David this afternoon.
Another leader who is now in his retirement always says, "I know' for his defence when he is under attacks for his previous life as a leader of the nation.
Read this story of 'I Know' syndrome.
He was an adorable young man - diligent, obedient and well mannered. He had good habits and was honest to the core. Best of all, professionalism was his greatest asset.
I would like to call him TK.
During my active career days, my office had put him under my charge for training purpose. It was because of the unusual combination of his qualities that he had endeared himself to all the colleagues in a very short period. He had become a virtual darling of everyone at work.
The only problem with TK was that he had developed the habit of using 'I know' as a prop to his speech. Whether you are talking to him alone or in a group, he would very frequently interject with his famous 'I know'.
Ask him anything and he would respond with 'I know' with the speed of lightening. It seemed that there was no subject or issue on earth about which TK did not 'know'.
His 'I know' would roll out of him mechanically and effortlessly. It dawned on me that because of this reflex response the only thing that he did not 'know' about was when he would blurt the two words.
As it happened, for quite some time, nobody in the office noticed the excessive and repeated replay of the two words by him. This was because TK's good image had eclipsed the adverse impact that was being created by his penchant for using those two words:'I know'.
But gradually, people started noticing the 'I know' syndrome. It became increasingly irksome and jarring to many ears. This was certainly another thing TK did 'not know' - that by his own habit, slowly yet steadily, his image was taking a severe beating.
During staff meetings when the boss spoke, everybody listened attentively. So would TK. But sometimes he would suddenly blurt out, 'I know'. That would turn all eyes towards him because of the unwarranted interruption.
And we would find young TK's tongue in between his teeth in an expression of being apologetic. It was perhaps because of his boyish looks that TK was silently granted reprieve by all without being told explicitly.
But we all know that old habits die hard. So we did not notice any changes in his behaviour despite realisation by him of the irritating factor. By now, all those who had adored him all this time were feeling disappointed, rather annoyed.
Interestingly, while TK was getting compliments for accomplishing the tasks assigned to him to the satisfaction of his seniors, his 'I know' was becoming unbearable. But there was little they could do about it. So was the case with TK who, too, 'did not know' how to get rid of his 'I know' syndrome.
During one meeting addressed by the boss, a discussion was in progress on the merits and demerits of the old elevators with collapsible doors vis-a-vis today's virtually airtight ones. There had been a mishap a day earlier.
At one stage, the boss observed, 'You never know when the lift might get stuck...'
'I know', interjected TK even before the boss could complete the sentence.
The boss gave him a nasty look. TK lowered his eyes, mumbling, 'Sorry'.
Like others, I was also fed up with the 24 x 6 (excluding one weekly off day) replay of 'I know'. Back in our room, I made TK sit by my side.
I was quite agitated that moment. Yet, very politely, I told him, 'TK, do you know that you have become a wretched pain in the neck of everybody here?'
Instant came the reply, 'I know'. This time, all those present had a hearty laugh. The 'all knowing' young man reached for his ear. He vowed before us to shed the habit at the earliest.
I told him, 'It may not be possible because we know old habits die hard.'
'I know', responded TK with the speed of lightening as he looked at us with a gaping mouth and eyes wide open.
Friday, June 27, 2008
Mandela served as his country's first democratically elected president from 1994 to 1999. In recent years he has campaigned on behalf of HIV and AIDS awareness and has long called the battle against AIDS a basic human right.
In 1964, a court sentenced Mandela to life in prison for plotting to overthrow the government by violence. He spent the first 18 years at Robben Island Prison, off Cape Town, South Africa, and later spent time at Pollsmoor prison and Victor Verster Prison, closer to the mainland.
While in prison, Mandela became recognized as the most significant black leader in South Africa and he became a potent symbol of resistance in the anti-apartheid movement. Mandela consistently refused to compromise his political position to obtain his freedom.
South African President F.W. de Klerk released Mandela in February 1990 after 27 years in prison. The African National Congress elected Mandela president the following year.
No man ever came back home, from a rough day of hunting with primitive means, to be asked by his wife: "Honey, does this dress make me look fat?"
Things changed during the Middle Ages, I guess, especially for the aristocrats. Having all this time on their hands, the nobility class invented make-up.
Obviously, they couldn't get enough of it on their faces. Restraint was not exactly an adopted policy in anything during those wild times.
Oscar Wilde noted that too many ladies in London remained 35 for a very long time! Today you would be lucky if you hear a lady admitting that magic number in the first place!
The desire to stay, look and feel young is deep rooted more than ever in our collective psyche (whatever that is); it is becoming a major, burning obsession that is almost taking over our lives.
We live in a culture that is simply obsessed by youth, for purely commercial reasons, I must say. Entire industries, from movies to cosmetics to pharmaceuticals, are making billions of dollars simply by whipping up fear among consumers. Fear from looking, feeling or getting old.
In the US, people have been trained, many years ago, to avoid mentioning the word "old" altogether.
The question about age thus becomes, how "young" are you? Prompting surreal answers such as: "I am 80 years young!"
If we are not obsessed with looking young, how could we tolerate a TV title such as: Nip -Tuck?
An ad agency in Lebanon is using the image of flat tummies of young female models to advertise a certain flat screen TV brand. Do I really need the endorsement of a young female, albeit with a flat stomach, to pick an appliance that happens to have a flat design?
When you are constantly bombarded by media images that glorify all that is young, regardless of context, meaning or value, you get what I call "Youth-fatigue".
This syndrome hits, for example, when you read about a fashion model that makes millions of dollars by splashing her face on magazine covers while bragging that she was born in 1991!Give me a break!
While risking sounding like a United Nations devotee, I must say that pure genetic luck shouldn't give her millions while millions live on less than a dollar per day! In short, I think someone out there is making tonnes of money by seducing us all into fighting a losing battle against age.
Mothers can't compete with their teenage daughters, the same way fathers can't compete with their teenage sons.
No cream, operation or hair-replacement technique will make the trick! It is the law of nature that each generation must give way, let go and move over for the new ones to go ahead. Age is not a bad thing, after all.
It is simply inevitable; like death and taxes! Alfred Hitchcock was asked once how he felt when he reached 70.
His answer was: "I am not 70 - I am 35 twice!"
“I work a 12-hour shift every day, starting at 5.30 in the morning to 7pm in the evening,” said a taxi driver. “Often there’s hardly any time for even a cup of tea. From the time I put my foot on the pedal, there’s little time for rest. The pressure to make the minimum amount is high with 6,500 taxis plying on the roads of Dubai.
“We only step out of the taxi for a quick meal or a cup of tea. We breathe air-conditioned air for 12 hours, we get no exercise of any kind and when we finally get home - if you can call it one - we just flop on the bed (there’s little room for anything else as three others share the small room). We get up for our first real meal of the day, chat a bit and then hit the sack.
“It’s the same every day, day in and day out seven days a week. We cope with salary cuts, grumpy passengers and traffic jams. We have no-pay annual leave and an annual ticket is just a dream. You report in late or someone complains and our income is cut. Our side of the story does not matter. This is not living. This is existence,” he said.
And he’s been driving us around since 1992. Time we gave these drivers a break.
Africans They usually head for Deira, Baniyas Square (popularly known as Al Nasr Square), Naif Souq, Frij Al Murar, Hamdan Colony and Al Baraha.
Indians, Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans and Pakistanis They go to Bur Dubai, Karama, Old Pakistani Consulate, Oud Metha Road, Al Rigga Road, Al Muteena Road and Al Qusais.
Indian businessmen Great to pick up during business hours as they take business routes. After 5pm, they head back to the aforementioned locations.
Asians The Chinese live in large congregations, either at International City or in various areas around BurJuman Centre.
Filipinos Usually residing in Satwa, Jebel Ali or Al Muteena in Deira. Always take short rides
Emiratis A rarity
Saudis Singles usually stay at hotels in Deira near Al Rigga or Muraqabbat Roads. Saudi families make great customers as they tend to travel to major shopping malls such as Mall of the Emirates and Ibn Battuta Mall
Arabs Risky pick ups. They get upset fast and go to Sharjah a lot
Eastern Europeans Usually stay in Sharjah or Ajman, which means running into traffic.
Westerners Preferred customers. They usually go to new Dubai, from Jumeirah onwards.
Allegations or charges of improprieties in the way VIP wives are treated by Malaysian missions are not totally incorrect. I have seen myself in few places the way our diplomats had treated these VIPs with great care, including sometimes willingly carried their bags or drove them around for sight-seeing. It could be due to the great respect or obligedly under instruction or for some future investments.
A month ago, Mohd Azmin Ali (PKR-Gombak) raised this issue at the Dewan Rakyat regarding certain VIP's wife, who allegedly went on luxury shopping sprees, with her large purchases transported back home at the expense of the Malaysian High Commission in London and national carrier MAS.
He further alleged that the overseas missions apparently were required to go overboard in ‘helping’ Cabinet Ministers and their wives. He was in government before working in an important ministry under an important man, therefore he should know better, if not was given the same bloody treatment.
In defence, all relevant parties immediately claimed this allegation was untrue.
However, the same shit story has emerged from Dubai as we speak.
Apparently, the same named VIP's wife still has some extra luggage from her recent shopping sprees, while on promoting some Islamic missions or something like that, stuck somewhere in Dubai. The quantity is not that small to begin with.
I hope any of PR MPs can raise this matter during supplementary question in the current sitting. I can expect to see there will be similar efficiency and speed of the investigation into this matter with some ready answers.
Then again, this is a trivial matter when there is a bigger issue like C4 bomb ticking and haunting some VIPs and yes, the whole nation especially the top leaders are still in the state of denial!
Someone wrote this one in a blog....
One day She went to Dubai to attend a sort of exhibitions. At the Dubai airport at Mas counter, on homeward bound, she checked in her luggages which were in exess. The counter asked her to pay but she refused; insisting that being a VIP's wife she should not be charged. My friend was happened to be there witnessing the whole episode. He felt so horrified and ashamed of the whole thing.
Nothing to do with the entry. This Photo taken from Dubai's International Islamic Fashion Week last May.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
bara nafas yang melebar rindu
merentas saujana perbatasan waktu
berlabuh esok di senja kelabu
hayat pun diam tersipu
terkedu merenung seribu kilauan
pecah imbasan foto-foto perjalanan
yang kian pasrah memanjang
nun jauh ke belakang
wajah bertopeng dalam cermin
masih berhias di pelamin
pakaian robek dan usang
jasad kering dan gersang
tahun-tahun yang terperangkap
hari-hari berlalu pun merentap
setiap saat di bingkai kaca
kehidupan monotonous tanpa warna
itulah kita, imej-imej semasa
melantun dari hitam putih kacamata
anak kecil yang sayu menatap
cahaya dari gerhana lanskap
sedang perjuangan belum selesai
semangat semakin longlai
lalu apakah yang masih tinggal
dengan kail sejengkal?
Dubai, 26 Jun 2008
One of them looked up, glanced at me, and ignored me.
“Hey, excuse me, it is an emergency!”
I said a bit more loudly.Nothing.
A man came up next to me and with one clearing of his throat, got a nurse to immediately come to his aid.
I waited until he asked his questions and left, and then I tried to get the attention of the same nurse.
“One minute,” she told me and disappeared into the back.
One minute passed, two minutes, and then five minutes.“Please, I just need to know which room my friend is recovering in,” I said.
Nothing. No one came to my aid. Such a simple request was turning into a great nuisance.
That is when I wished I had a “husband” who could stand by my side and demand service and people would respond. Despite what people like to think or say, it is still a man’s world — particularly in this part of the world.
The minute I raised my voice a bit and tried to sound firm, I got the “evil-eye” from everyone. I could have sworn that one of the male nurses mumbled something under his breath.
Finally, a doctor passed by and I apologised to him for disturbing him over such an easy yet apparently tedious matter, and asked him how to find out where people recovering from a simple operation are put up.
He looked at the same nurse who had been ignoring me and told her to assist me and to actually “take me” to the patient.
The nurse didn’t look pleased.
This reminded me of a similar incident where being a single woman was a disadvantage. It actually happened twice to me, and also to several other single female friends of mine, when trying to get a table at a restaurant.
Just a few days ago I went to a restaurant in one of the fancy hotels here to try to get a table for me and my friends, who were coming from Dubai.
“Reservations?” the hostess asked me.
“No, but could I make a reservation now as my friends will be arriving soon from Dubai?” I asked sweetly.
“No free table,” she said, adding: “We are fully booked.”
The restaurant was completely empty, except for the staff and waiters, and just maybe, around one of its corners, I may have seen a couple sitting at one of the tables.
“We can go in now and then leave before the dinner rush?” I suggested. This was about 6pm.
She snapped at me and said: “No, sorry.”I left and my friends and I ate at another restaurant in the same hotel. This time the host was a man. I’m not sure if that is what made a difference, but I noticed that sometimes women are more aggressive to each other and less helpful. Interestingly enough, the following week I ended up with a male friend of mine at the same restaurant with the same rude hostess.
Same situation, and same day of the week. We had no reservation and the rest of the group was arriving a bit later.
“Reservations?” the hostess asked.
“No, we would like a table for four,” said my friend.
“OK, this way,” she said with a big smile and showed us a table near a window.
It wasn’t enough that her mannerisms were different, but the fact that she was so attentive and helpful made me wonder if it was a gender thing after all or the simple fact that single women are not taken seriously.
I polled a few of my single male friends to find out if they had ever experienced the same problems, and they all told me that they never faced the same difficulties as single women in getting tables, services, and their questions answered.
Perhaps it is the way we single women ask for things? I know I have caught myself hesitating and probably sounding unsure of myself when the person I faced was unfriendly.
I certainly felt that single women are treated worse in the Middle East when I heard the following story. My friend Leila recently went to hospital for a simple medical procedure requiring general anaesthesia. She told me that after the medical team had prepared everything and she was dozing off, “everyone just left.”
“I just felt very alone and vulnerable,” she said. She believes that if she had a partner, then that experience would have been easier on her.
I have tested this theory out, and there is a sort of security blanket effect that comes out of having a male colleague, partner, friend, tagging along with you in public.
Growing up in the Gulf, a “mahram” — a male family member that accompanies a woman as her guardian — was “expected” to be with me as a single woman during visits to Islamic or official institutions.
Even though that has changed a lot, there are still some remnants of that tradition. I know for sure that it has affected me, as I find that I do walk more confidently if my brother or father is by my side.