Tuesday, May 06, 2008

First Muslim Battalion Guards the Queen

120 soldiers of the Royal Malay Regiment have become the first all-Islamic Company to provide a British monarch's ceremonial guard.

Report by Shell Daruwala.

The Royal Malay Regiment soldiers with Members of the Welsh Guards during the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace on Friday 2 May 2008
[Picture: Sergeant Mick Howard RLC]
At Buckingham Palace today, Friday 2 May 2008, red jackets and black bearskins were replaced by pristine white tunics, brocade 'sampins' and gold-banded 'songkoks', when the Malay Regiment changed guards with 1st Battalion Welsh Guards.
The Regiment is visiting the UK to strengthen ties between Malaysia and the UK. Malaysia is only the fourth Commonwealth nation, after Canada, Australia and Jamaica, to be honoured in performing Public Duties in England.
Major Mohd Fuad bin Md Ghazali led his Company as the Malaysian Army's first Captain of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. He said:
"It is a great honour to be here guarding Her Majesty, who is the Head of the Commonwealth, and it is an expression of the close ties between our two countries."
The Royal Malay Regiment (RMR), or Rejimen Askar Melayu DiRaja, is the most senior in the Malaysian Army. The 1st Battalion (1 RMR) is the ceremonial battalion to their King and only draws recruits from the ethnic Malay population. Because the State religion of Malaysia is Islam, the elite soldiers of the 1st Battalion must all be practicing Muslims.

Dress uniform showing the emblem of the 1st Battalion The Royal Malay Regiment
[Picture: Shell Daruwala, MOD]
The Regiment's own band accompanied the Guards onto the parade ground today. Wearing Malay dress uniform consisting of white tunics and trousers, gold and green brocade 'sampins' (a type of kilt or sarong), topped off with gold-banded, green velvet 'songkoks' (Islamic caps), the bandsmen played a selection of traditional Malaysian tunes to the delight of the gathered crowds.
Major Norhisham bin Kamar, of 1 RMR, said that this was a proud moment for the Regiment:
"This is a very historical moment for us doing this job, and we will show the best to the audience here, as well as to the Queen."
He said that this was also a way to help break through religious tensions between the people of Islamic and non-Islamic nations:
"Nowadays there is some difficulties between religion," he said. "Here we will show that Muslim countries can work together with non-Muslim countries. We came from a Colonial country - there's no problem with us – and can show how Muslim countries have no problem to work together with other people."

Garrison Sergeant Major WO1 Mott watches with pride as soldiers of the Royal Malay Regiment carry out the Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace [Picture: Shell Daruwala, MOD]

Welsh Guards Drill Sergeant, Warrant Officer Second Class Dorian Thomas, was one of the three British trainers who spent three weeks training the RMR in Malaysia, preparing them for their ceremonial duties in the UK. He said:
"I've now trained many incremental Companies that have come across here, and their standard of drill to begin with was immaculate. All we really had to teach was the procedures, or the different procedures we use on our Guard Bands."
Following today's ceremony, WO2 Thomas said that the Malaysians had been outstanding; the best visiting company he had ever seen.
Another of the trainers was Warrant Officer Class 1 W D G Mott OBE, who is the Garrison Sergeant Major at London District and oversees all the Royal ceremonial parades taking place in London and the Home Counties:
"I think it's lovely to have the Malay Regiment on guard now," he said. "They're on Queen's Guard. They've mounted. They're very professional. They've got a lovely attitude towards it.
"From the inception of this with the Chief of General Staff with the Chief of Army over in Malay, General Ismael, everything has been 'cooking on gas'. They've been positive all the way through – very professional as I say – and it's lovely to have them on board."

A soldier of the Royal Malay Regiment and a soldier of the Welsh Guards
are given orders for their duties on guard at Buckingham Palace
[Picture: Sergeant Mick Howard RLC]
"The Malay Regiment are very professional men and they've come on board with an absolutely outstanding attitude. And that three weeks – you'd think they've been training for about six months."
He said that Malaysians everywhere should take pride in the professionalism of their soldiers:
"If we have Malay persons that live in this country, they should be proud and they should come into London to see them. Over in Malaysia they should be very, very proud of their countrymen that are over here on Royal Guards looking after Her Majesty, the Sovereign."
The Royal Malay Regiment began their Public Duties in the UK by providing the Windsor Castle Guard on Tuesday, 29 April 2008. The Company's London duties are expected to end on 13 June 2008.
London District Brigade Major Lieutenant Colonel Jeremy Bagshaw said:
"We are delighted to welcome the Royal Malay Regiment to participate in ceremonial duties. We are most impressed by the excellence of their turnout and their quality of drill and musicianship."

Members of the Royal Malay Regiment band [Picture: Sergeant Mick Howard RLC]

Founded by British Commanding Officer, G McBruce in 1933, the Royal Malay Regiment began life as an Experimental Company of just 25 men, becoming the Malay Regiment, with a complement of 150 men on 1 January 1935.
The Regiment now consists of 25 Battalions and has a distinguished record of service in the Second World War, The Malaysian Emergency in the 1950s and the Indonesian Confrontation in the 1960s. More recently, the Regiment's 19 (Mechanised) Battalion were involved in the rescue of downed American servicemen during The Battle of Mogadishu in 1993 – a story immortalised in the Hollywood film 'Black Hawk Down'.During their stay in London, the Regimental Band will also be involved in the Royal Windsor Castle Tattoo on 8-10 May, Beating Retreat on Horse Guards on 4-5 June and the Royal Hospital Pageant on 7-8 June 2008.
1 Battalion RMR is allied to the Royal Anglian Regiment.
During their tour the Company is based at RAF Uxbridge.

High living costs driving expats out of Gulf

Gareth Hitchings is planning his return to the United Kingdom, Filipino Josielynne Antes last month filed her papers to move to Canada, and India’s Benny Phillip is waiting for a decision from Australian immigration.
All three once chose to move to the UAE – to forge a career and build their futures in a tax-free sunshine paradise with an unrivalled quality of life.
But the dream they shared – and shared with millions of other expatriates – has turned sour as they struggle with the rising cost of living across the GCC.
Antes, an information technology co-ordinator whose salary has increased 200 per cent, said: “Everything is so expensive now that I am just at break-even.”
“Although my salary is three times what I received in 2004, I feel my salary was still higher in 2004.”
Dissatisfaction with the widening gap between salaries and the perceived cost of living are making more people consider switching jobs, industries and countries, a study by Bayt.com and YouGovSiraj has found.
And another study carried out by the two firms shows more than 70 per cent of the people in the UAE are unhappy with work.
Benny Phillip, 38, an automotive engineer, turned to leasing property to supplement his monthly salary, but even then, could only “just make ends meet”.
“The cost of living here is so high. I have been here for 10 years but I have to leave as I cannot bear the cost anymore,” he said.
“I am happy here, yes, but there is no permanent residency, so it is not for long term and the high cost prevents me from bringing my family here.
“I plan to leave the UAE and go to Australia hopefully by the end of next year.”
Hitchings, originally from Surrey in the south of England, said: “I came to Dubai five years ago with the plan to stay for 10. But the cost of living now means that, with schooling fees for my two children, I have next to no money left at the end of the month.
“It seems I am working solely to be able to afford to stay in Dubai. What’s the point?”
A combination of a falling dollar and the rising cost of living across the GCC has led to unprecedented levels of discontent among regional employees, the studies revealed.
The online survey polled 15,000 employees in six GCC countries across 20 industry sectors, including automotive, finance, advertising, IT and pharmaceuticals.
Across the GCC and across sectors, salary rises were far outstripped by perceived cost of living increases.
The disparity was most pronounced in Qatar, with a perceived average cost of living spike of 38 per cent, 22 per cent higher than salary increases.
In Dubai, living expenses are said to have risen by 37 per cent, representing a gap of 20 per cent between salaries and living costs.
The widening shortfall between salary increases and the cost of living has led many to consider dramatic steps. In Qatar, 50 per cent of respondents said increases in household expenses have led them to consider relocating to another country or returning home. Oman came in second, with 47 per cent, while Kuwait saw the lowest numbers of professionals looking to leave the country, at 32 per cent. In the UAE, 37 per cent had thought about moving abroad.
“The story here is not just about employees. The pinch is also being felt by businesses themselves, with many workers planning to move on,” Nassim Ghrayeb, CEO of YouGovSiraj, said.
“These results reveal just how much of a headache the spiralling cost of living and weak dollar is having on employers, who also need to consider their margins,” added the chief executive.
In the UAE, employers are taking the hit of this economic shortfall, with many employees considering job migration to improve finances. Forty per cent of the UAE workers said rising expenses might force them to look for a better job in the same industry and 24 per cent said they would consider switching to another industry.
In Saudi Arabia, corresponding figures were 45 and 19 per cent. Only 15 per cent of people in Qatar and 20 per cent in Oman said they would consider changing industries.
“In terms of perceived cost of living increases and what this is doing to retention rates, the numbers are cause for concern,” Rabea Ataya, CEO of Bayt.com, said
“Around 70 per cent of the survey’s respondents said they’ve held two or more jobs in the past five years. On average, people change jobs about once every two years,” Ataya added. “We also found that loyalty improved as salaries increased. Employers who do not close the gap between earnings and living expenses will have difficulty attracting and retaining people.”
The recent localisation policies are also rubbing salt to the wound, says Mohammed Benayoune, head coach with the Achievement Centre International. “The problem here in the region, in my experience, has much more to do with loyalty. If you are an expatriate and you know that anytime there’s a national who can sooner or later replace you, do you think you would still be engaged?” Benayoune, who is the former CEO of Aromatics Oman and Oman Polypropylene Director, told Emirates Business.
He said: “This is the challenge now, I’m not against localisation, in fact, I think it’s a good policy. I am against the way they implement it. I have seen it implemented very well in some companies but some are not handling it very well.”
In addition, the widespread racial discrimination is also a big factor behind some expatriates’ decision to leave.
“Another reason I would like to go to Canada is the equality in the working environment,” Antes said.
A British national who did not wish to be named said: “Many people, though highly qualified, don’t get the job because of their background. I know this is discrimination, but it happens a lot in this part of the world.”
Nigel Armstrong, editor of Dubai-based Future Fuels, told Emirates Business said: “In the West, you don’t see advertisements specifying UK, US, Filipino or Indian national nor do you see ads specifying any age preference. It is simply not allowed.
“They’ve got equal opportunity regulations, which many countries in the Middle East don’t have.”
Albeit many expatriates have already made up their minds to migrate to another country or to go back home, most of them could not due to their mounting debts.
Data from Dubai Police shows that 42 per cent of inmates at Dubai Central Jail are there for failing to repay loans.
Consumer loans in the UAE surged almost 40 per cent in 2007 as the second-largest Arab economy struggles to contain inflation and resist calls for it to drop its dollar peg or revalue its currency. Loans to individuals rose to Dh43.46 billion on December 31, compared to Dh31.26bn a year earlier.
Consumer lending has almost doubled over the past four years, during which time oil prices have also more than tripled, helping drive the UAE economy and borrowing.
The high inflation is also fuelling absconding cases.
David Martin, RakBank business advisor, said: “The price increases, especially in house rents, cause a lot of people to just go back home. So whatever facilities or debt they had from the banks they just leave them.
“This has more effect on our customer base whose salary is below Dh5,000 a month,” he added. “There has been increasing bad debt in that segment of customers. And we feel that this has been seen by other retail banks as well.”
The UAE’s Federal National Council has proposed stringent rules for personal loans to prevent more people falling deep into debt. At a meeting last week, officials urged the speedy creation of an independent credit bureau to regulate the multi-billion dirham lending industry. UAE courts have to settle thousands of debt-related cases despite the overall amount of personal debt in the UAE being relatively low at Dh43bn. There is also no system to track credit history and assess people’s borrowing capacity.
A special committee reported that while banks were required to limit personal loans to Dh250,000, some were lending customers with low salaries more than 55 times their monthly wage. About 560,000 people borrowed nearly Dh700bn last year, government figures show.

The numbers
37% The percentage of expatriates planning to move abroad as living cost in the GCC rises
Dh700bn The amount 560,000 people borrowed from banks last year in the UAE, say government figures
42% The percentage of inmates at Dubai Central Jail who failed to repay loans, according to Dubai Police
15,000 The number of expatriate employees surveyed in the six GCC countries across 20 industry sectors

Where Have All The Leaders Gone?

This book reminds me of our current situation in Malaysia....where have all the UMNO (Baru) leaders gone? Not that I love this political racist party but that is the critical issue that matters, leadership. UMNO president is unfortunately our PM, the one who steers our nation.

5o years on, we are in an unchartered territory. Time to reflect the situation and ask ourselves especially for those who are still harping on ketuanan Melayu gimmicks or abused DEB, as Lee Iacocca dares,

'You don't get anywhere by standing on the sidelines waiting for somebody else to take action. Whether it's building a better car or building a better future for our children, we all have a role to play. That's the challenge!

'Am I the only guy in this country who's fed up with what's happening? Where the hell is our outrage? We should be screaming bloody murder. We've got a gang of clueless bozos steering our ship of state right over a cliff, we 've got corporate gangsters stealing us blind, and we can't even clean up after a hurricane much less build a hybrid car. But instead of getting mad, everyone sits around and nods their heads when the politicians say, 'Stay the course'.
Stay the course? You've got to be kidding. This is America, not the damned 'Titanic'. I'll give you a sound bite: 'Throw all the bums out!'
You might think I'm getting senile, that I've gone off my rocker, and maybe I have. But someone has to speak up. I hardly recognize this country anymore.
The most famous business leaders are not the innovators but the guys inhandcuffs. While we're fiddling in Iraq, the Middle East is burning andnobody seems to know what to do. And the press is waving 'pom-poms' insteadof asking hard questions. That's not the promise of the 'America' my parentsand yours traveled across the ocean for.
I've had enough. How about you? I'll go a step further. You can't call yourself a patriot if you're not outraged. This is a fight I'm ready and willing to have.

...The Biggest 'C' is Crisis!
(Iacocca elaborates on nine Cs of leadership, crisis being the first.)...
Leaders are made, not born. Leadership is forged in times of crisis. It's easy to sit there with your feet up on the desk and talk theory. Or send someone else's kids off to war when you've never seen a battlefield yourself. It's another thing to lead when your world comes tumbling down.
On September 11, 2001, we needed a strong leader more than any other time in our history. We needed a steady hand to guide us out of the ashes. Where was George Bush? He was reading a story about a pet goat to kids in Florida when he heard about the attacks. He kept sitting there for twenty minutes with a baffled look on his face. It's all on tape. You can see it for yourself.
Then, instead of taking the quickest route back to Washington and immediately going on the air to reassure the panicked people of this country, he decided it wasn't safe to return to the White House. He basically went into hiding for the day -- and he told Vice President Dick Cheney to stay put in his bunker.
We were all frozen in front of our TVs, scared out of our wits, waiting for our leaders to tell us that we were going to be okay, and there was nobody home. It took Bush a couple of days to get his bearings and devise the right photo op at Ground Zero.
That was George Bush's moment of truth, and he was paralyzed. And what did he do when he'd regained his composure? He led us down the road to Iraq -- a road his own father had considered disastrous when he was President. But Bush didn't listen to Daddy. He listened to a higher father. He prides himself on being faith based, not reality based. If that doesn't scare the crap out of you, I don't know what will.
A hell of a Mess
So here's where we stand. We're immersed in a bloody war with no plan forwinning and no plan for leaving. We're running the biggest deficit in the history of the country. We're losing the manufacturing edge to Asia, while our once-great companies are getting slaughtered by health care costs. Gas prices are skyrocketing, and nobody in power has a coherent energy policy.
Our schools are in trouble . Our borders are like sieves. The middle class is being squeezed every which way. These are times that cry out for leadership.
But when you look around, you've got to ask:
'Where have all the leaders gone?'
Where are the curious, creative, communicators?
Where are the people of character, courage, conviction, omnipotence, and common sense?
I may be a sucker for alliteration, but I think you get the point.
Name me a leader who has a better idea for homeland security than making us take off our shoes in airports and throw away our shampoo? We've spent billions of dollars building a huge new bureaucracy, and all we know how to do is react to things that have already happened.
Name me one leader who emerged from the crisis of Hurricane Katrina.
Congress has yet to spend a single day evaluating the response to the hurricane, or demanding accountability for the decisions that were made inthe crucial hours after the storm.
Everyone's hunkering down, fingers crossed, hoping it doesn't happen again.
Now, that's just crazy. Storms happen. Deal with it. Make a plan. Figure out what you're going to do the next time.
Name me an industry leader who is thinking creatively about how we can restore our competitive edge in manufacturing. Who would have believed that there could ever be a time when 'The Big Three' referred to Japanese carcompanies? How did this happen, and more important, what are we going to doabout it?
Name me a government leader who can articulate a plan for paying down the debit, or solving the energy crisis, or managing the health care problem.
The silence is deafening. But these are the crises that are eating away at our country and milking the middle class dry.
I have news for the gang in Congress. We didn't elect you to sit on your asses and do nothing and remain silent while our democracy is being hijacked and our greatness is being replaced with mediocrity.
What is everybody so afraid of? That some bone head on Fox News will call them a name? Give me a break. Why don't you guys show some spine for a change?
Had Enough? Hey, I'm not trying to be the voice of gloom and doom here. I'm trying to light a fire. I'm speaking out because I have hope. I believe in America.
In my lifetime I've had the privilege of living through some of America'sgreatest moments. I've also experienced some of our worst crises: the 'Great Depression', 'World War II', the 'Korean War', the 'Kennedy Assassination', the 'Vietnam War', the 1970s oil crisis, and the struggles of recent years culminating with the 9/11 hoax.
If I've learned one thing, it's this: 'You don't get anywhere by standing on the sidelines waiting for somebody else to take action. Whether it's building a better car or building a better future for our children, we all have a role to play. That's the challenge I'm raising in this book. It's a call to 'Action' for people who, like me, believe in America . It's not too late, but it's getting pretty close. So let's shake off the crap and go to work.
Let's tell 'em all we've had 'enough.'

Copyright © 2007 by Lee Iacocca & Associates, Inc., a California Corporation