Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Fazurin In The News

Fazurin with a most corny gesture, preparing for this year's Rat Race (yes he's been doing this crazy thing for many years already). The news featured in today's theSun.

Familiar Face

If you have been paying attention to TM's rebranding exercise especially the big billboards all over KL (and Malaysia presumably), you will notice this billboard (this one taken at KL Sentral, the guy waiting for LRT must have thought I was taking his picture ha ha ha).

The model is Shahredza from Class of 97. I remember interviewing him way back in 1994 for Warta KPKM.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Annus Horribilis

This is a story that began with a simple request, which then evolved into a big enterprise. All for a common love of a place called MCKK – a notion that most people outside the MCKK circles find it difficult to understand.

The simple request was from a group of teachers, who loved the teams and the school so much that they could not bear witnessing defeat after defeat for the past 4 years, from the pinnacle of achievements in the late 90s. A big enterprise because by the time we went into our opening debates in Putrajaya in May this year – it had involved a mini HQ at the boutique Shangri-la Putrajaya, thousands of ringgit spent on training and coaching and air tickets, more than 20 coaches from 3 generations of debaters/collegians and a great yearning for a fair play and with that fair play the Prime Minister’s Cup. The last two items we didn’t get in the end.

From Four Corners

The coaches and the boys really looked forward to this year’s PPM – because no college team, from 1905 onwards, was this prepared for a PPM tournament. Preparation began in earnest from the beginning of 2005. Not enough with the readings and conventional training, the whole contingent also went for a team building exercise, knowing that only the teams that bonded as brothers ever won PPM before. We combed through every minute aspect of the team – from the mental preparedness to the soft issues between teachers-coaches-debaters – to make sure that we do not commit a single mistake this time around.

The team fulfilled all the requirements and criteria to win – dedication, brain power, wits and talents. When we were at UIA earlier this year, we were asked what did we put our boys through to get the kind of breadth of knowledge they displayed in the tournament – simple, get them to read The Economists. Not many secondary school students read The Economists in Malaysia, and we are proud that our boys were one of the very few.

The preparation for the PPM in SAS, Putrajaya took place in parallel. The boys carried out their daily discussions and practice, whilst the coaches convened two sessions in KL to prepare the case. The results of these sessions were combined in another grilling 2-day session between the teachers, coaches and debaters – from the morning to the next morning – to make sure our case was full proof. By the time the bus left for Putrajaya this May, no MCKK team had ever had a more sound case to bring to the debating rooms.

No MCKK debating team ever had a team polo t-shirt for PPM – and this one has. Not for showing off, it was a testament of the pride and the hope of this particular one team to win it both this year.

But obstacles were all over the place. Work commitments meant that the coaches had to take flights from 4 corners of the Earth to be with the team in Putrajaya. I had to take a small boat ride, then “hitch-hiked” on 3 successive prebet sapu to reach an airport, before catching a flight by a whisker (since the original flight was cancelled). Ben flew in from overseas. Canoe rushed from an assignment in Australia. Fazurin barely recuperated from a 3-week leadership program in the States, having arrived a day earlier, to be with the boys on the night of the preparation.

The boys had to carry out their daily discussions during the semester exam – sitting for the exams during the day, studying and coming up with debating points at night until the wee hours. The torment and torture could have been overwhelming if I were in their shoes, but they did great (with 4-5 debaters becoming top in their class despite the divided attention).

Looking back, all of us must have been very proud of the commitments that everyone – from the teachers, to the coaches, to the boys – had put for this year’s tournament. No other school but MCKK can summon this kind of love and loyalty, period.

The Obese Argument

But the joy and hope was short-lived, for there was one thing that we could not get hold of, regardless of how careful our preparation was – the stupidity and immaturity of the very people who were supposed to groom our children to become wise and matured men and women: the teachers who become judges.

We could make the team intact, the bonds irreplaceable, we could make them understand macroeconomics and appreciate fair play – but not the judges.

Unfortunately the judges reign supreme in debates. Their decision is unquestionable and beyond reproach. What makes things worse for MCKK – you are often debating against the judges, not against the opponents.

You see – very rarely that your opponent is better than you. Occasionally they were teams better than ours, to which we would bow down graciously and salute the team.

Most of the time, they were worse than our team – it’s a question of degree. Whether they are “sayur” or marginally worse than you. The ball park figure of 70-30 must be the only set of numbers that features prominently in MCKK’s debating teams – unless you can convince the judges that you are better than your opponent by 70% margin, you will definitely lose; because generally judges do not judge you against your opponent, but against their expectation. Often judges scout for mistakes that MCKK team makes and begin listing them – these are the grounds for making MCKK lose, irrespective of how the other team performs.

How do we know? Because it’s our team’s trait that our boys will go and meet the judges after each debate and thank them and solicit feedback from them, no matter how painful the process is especially just after they give away what is rightfully yours to your opponents. Most judges would casually give comments outlining why they make you lose, without a slight hesitation to reflect how ridiculous their comments sound.

Let me relate this to real life examples.

In the debate that crushed our BM team’s chance of winning PPM this year, the opponent couldn’t even understand that highway toll charges are independent from toll concessions given to toll operating companies. Even when the government decides to end toll concessions eventually, the government can continue to levy toll charges to road users. This understanding is important when you are debating a motion on toll charges.

The opponent, all along thinking that the charges were levied because of these toll concessionaires, argued on the concessionaires' behalf i.e. micro explaining the issues. So a debate about the merit of toll hike, became a debate about a merit of taking back the concessions from these concessionaires, which they argued would be catastrophic because “…. Who would run our highways maaaa?”

Our boys, who were fresh from discussions on the issue – argued along the macroeconomic and social perspectives e.g. the inflationary effect, the corporate social responsibility aspect as they were cash cows already making profits beyond the concession agreements, the burden on users already suffering from hikes in petrol prices etc. And their figures were intact – statistics from FOMCA, Plus Berhad’s financial statements etc. etc. (remember that they came really prepared?)

In the end, in a debate through which I was smiling because I was very confident that we would win – we lost. The opponent cried on the spot, because even they did not expect the result.

But the chief judge, a teacher from an SBP in Kedah – nonchalantly attributed koleq’s loss to our boys’ lack of command of bahasa baku! You can cheat yourself, but please do not cheat us. If a debate in the end boils down to bahasa baku, let’s rewrite the competition rule to give bahasa baku prominence of 90% of the marks.

As if not to be beaten by the stupidity of the BM’s argument, the English debate that we loss was also as comical. I need to mention here the unprofessional manner that one of the judges behaved before the debate – casually mingling and laughing with our opponents and their teachers before the debate. I know they were both from Sekolah Agama group, but please don’t do that again – it’s just mean to show your partiality even before the debate begins. To convince our opponent that she was on their side, before the result was announced, again she made signs and gestures to the teachers and debaters that they had won.

The motion was on whether Malaysians have become more caring or not. I took offence at one of our opponent’s flagship argument – that Malaysians have become less caring because “they are more fat people around now, so it’s a proof that they don’t care about themselves”. Our boys rightly stood up and pointed out that the debater himself was a bit large in size, so did he mean he too was not caring?

So a debate on values, on societal change and on sociology, became a debate on “people are more obese so they are not caring, “people smoke so they are not caring” etc. etc.

Unsurprisingly it was this team that won that debate that day, and went on to win PPM this year (I seriously hope they did not argue on obesity again, it would have been such a degradation to the prestige of Tun Mahathir’s Cup!).

A Culture of Mediocrity

I came back from that tournament shattered, as were the boys and the teachers. Cikgu Umi was quite certain she wanted to quit and switch to a sports team next year. Unlike debate, you can train and make the best of preparations because that preparations, if they are more superior than other teams', will win the game. It’s a match of stamina and strategy.

We had done all that we could this year, we had covered all grounds. I kept saying that no team was ever this prepared.

No team had spent six months preparing, with full texts and rehearsals done for both sides of arguments before PPM began, backed by an extensive research.

No team had a one to one coach to debater ratio, with the kind of coaches that we had – more than 5 First Class Honours, a few from Oxbridge, a PhD and British top university’s best scholar at 25, a few Chevening scholars, a combined multilingual talents of 10 languages, a few former PPM champions and best speakers, TV presenters, world/international debate champions, working experience from several countries, consultants, lawyers, chartered accountants, economists etc. etc. (no point reciting all the credentials as none – not the credentials, not the arguments – mattered to the judges).

Unfortunately the kings and queens of PPM are shallow minded people who do not see beyond the veil of their school identity or common hatred for elitism. "MCKK was elite, MCKK was everything that we are not, we must push one of us through, not these elite schools (same fate befell TKC, STF, SSP, STAR etc.)"

As if timed to explain the phenomena in our schools, Megat Najmuddin, in an article published a few weeks after that, attacked the culture of mediocrity that strangled our country. Mediocrity has been the raison d’etre for many instrumental people in our system, so we reward mediocrity – not excellence.

In debating tournaments like PPM, our teachers, who are supposed to groom our children to go as far as they can reach, choose to reward the dumber arguments, the inferior performance instead of showing fair play, sportsmanship and high regards for excellence – they satisfy their bias and warped mind of shallow school rivalry, but in doing so they destroy the children that one day are supposed to carry us through the future. What will become of our people one day, when we reward the mediocre and punish the excellent crops?

And it’s already happening right now – we talk about brain drain, about mediocrity and lack luster mentality, we laugh at some initiatives or crazy ideas our politicians want to carry out – because right through from the school to the highest echelon of power in this country, we reward the mediocre. And one day we will pay.

As for us, there were some quarters – MCKK old boys themselves – who questioned the level of preparation we had this year. To them we lost because we sounded too clever that the judges did not understand.

My answer to them – too bad brothers, if they are stupid, it’s not my problem. PPM is prestigious, but it is not that prestigious that we are willing to dumb ourselves down just to win. We are above it.

Let we lose for a hundred years to come, so long as we come out cleverer and better than others. Let them win for a hundred years to come, so long as one day in their workplace they realize those MC buggers who lost at their hands in PPM ended up as their bosses.

Appreciation to the debating masters 2005

Sdr Faisal (Class of 1987)
Sdr Yusri (Class of 1989)
Sdr Ben Omar (Class of 1990)
Sdr Adany (Class of 1990)
Sdr Faiz Hussin (Class of 1991)
Sdr Rizal (Class of 1992)
Sdr Hafiz Othman (Class of 1993)
Sdr Shahrol Nizam (Class of 1993)
Sdr Syahril Nizam (Class of 1993)
Sdr Rafizi (Class of 1994)
Sdr Fazurin (Class of 1994)
Sdr Hazly (Class of 1994)
Sdr Azlan (Class of 1994)
Sdr Wan Azman (Class of 1994)
Sdr Affendy (Class of 1994)
Sdr Sani (Class of 1995)
Sdr Izrin (Class of 2000)
Sdr Amir Zarif (Class of 2003)
Sdr Izzat (Class of 2004)
Sdr Afiq (Class of 2004)
Sdr Meor Alif (Class of 2004)

Annus Horribilis - PPM Journey 2005

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

A Straight As Song

I happened to know that koleq had come out with a song, composed by our own staff, to inspire and motivate college boys to do well in exams. Apparently the song was showcased to all, by a pre-pubescent choir of Form 1 boys (what else is new ha ha, imagine a college choir made up of F5 boys!) during the last Annual Speech Day, graced by the YTM Raja Muda of Perak, Chairman of MCKK's Board of Governors.

I have not had the privilege to listen to the song, nor to draw inspirations from the lyrics. But the very idea that a premier school like MCKK has to come up with a song to so-called "inspire and motivate" its students, did inspire me to spare 15 minutes of my time to blog!

Personally, I feel that it's actually quite a mockery of what MCKK was and is all about. The moment we have to resort to songs and sloganeering, it is as if we too have embraced the spirit of "Boleh-land"! For each occassion, for each purpose, for each change of guards, there will be a silly song repeated over and over and over again - whoever who came up with the songs and actually believed that people do get motivated and patriotic when listening to these songs, are the true champions of "Boleh-land" who hopelessly delude themselves.

Because we all know that these songs are corny, crap, do not invoke patriotism or inspire anything, but most of the time provoke us to deride the mentality of those in power. If they think that Malaysia will achieve greatness and thrive in today's world through songs, that just shows their own simplicity of minds.

Similarly, if MCKK thinks that the current perceived (I say "perceived" because I never believe that an over emphasis, or over-kill on exam-oriented academic achievements reflects the actual objective and meanings of an education that we all sought when we were boys) drop in performance would be solved by this song, then I feel sad for MCKK. I can't help but feeling it's an act of desperado, of a spraying gun technique, to employ whatever comes across you without a careful study of how ridiculous this idea is.

The Kolej Song is more than enough to invoke pride, to inspire, to motivate collegians for the past few decades to strive for excellence. I don't see why the present boys cannot feel the same pride and the song not to have the same effect on them. Just because no where in the song did mention about "mengikut Amalina dapat 17A1" doesn't mean the song has lost its relevance and therefore the need to reinvent the wheel!

Sing this in your heart fellow budak koleq, if you can't feel even a tinge of pride out of this song, go and hurl yourself into Lubuk Mak Anjing:


Oh Kolej Melayu
Harapan bangsaku
Dengan sejarah yang cemerlang
Harumlah namamu

Kolej istimewa
Didikan untuk semua
Keluar membimbing negara
Maju terus mara

Bangga kurasakan
Khidmat kuberikan
Tak kulupakan jasa-jasamu
Oh Kolej Melayu

No song can better embodies what Malay College is all about - the pride, the tradition of excellence, the history, the meritocracy in action despite its aristocratic beginning (hence "didikan untuk semua"), the hope of every collegian that one day they will make a contribution to the country and its people, and the promise that we may leave MCKK, but MCKK will never leave us ("tak kulupakan jasa-jasamu"). I bet my entire life saving (which is not much) that the newly composed song can come no where near to this song (kudos to Datuk Salleh & Co. who penned the song - unlike its modern day usurper, this song actually came from college boys!).

I feel it's time we cut the crap and be firm about what it is being an institution. We pride ourselves of the heritage we defended for 100 years, but we run headless looking for a silver bullet lately, intense from an onslaught of confusing and mad education system that will one day grind this country to the ground. The MCKK family, if only for the benefits of all our future children, must have the courage to stand up and defy the order of the day and remain a firm believer in what we do best - churning out all rounders and leaders, not nerdies and straight As scorers who have never climbed a tree, or got caned for going out to towns at night for a late supper, or operate your own radio station etc. etc. (or ha ha stole a school bus for a ride at night ha ha). If we are really proud of the heritage, it is time to summon all the high mighty MCKK old boys and patrons together - otherwise we should stop citing our celebrated alumni if they can't do something about this.

As for other songs that are closer in sending the message of MCKK education to heart, I think Lee Ann Womack's "I Hope You Dance" is the best so far. This is what I learnt from MCKK, not to score 17As (and none of us did ha ha):

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder
You get your fill to eat
But always keep that hunger
May you never take one single breath for granted
God forbid love ever leave you empty handed

I hope you still feel small
When you stand by the ocean
Whenever one door closes, I hope one more opens
Promise me you'll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance

I hope you dance
I hope you dance

I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance
Never settle for the path of least resistance
Living might mean taking chances
But they're worth taking
Lovin' might be a mistake
But it's worth making

Don't let some hell bent heart
Leave you bitter
When you come close to selling out
Give the heavens above
More than just a passing glance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance

I hope you dance
I hope you dance

I hope you still feel small
When you stand by the ocean
Whenever one door closes, I hope one more opens
Promise me you'll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance

I hope you dance
I hope you dance

We might pick the wrong side or believe the wrong thing, but we always "dance", we are never a by-stander. That's why we have Dr. Azahari the Bomber all the way to Anwar Ibrahim, to Butterfingers and Tun Razak.

Saturday, August 06, 2005


As a delaying tactic, since it took me ages to come up with the pieces on PPM and Ameoba's wedding - I'll get you to view the pictures first.

Ameoba's Wedding & Trip to Visit Cik Siti

PPM's Over 5 Months Period

A Day of Reunions (or sort of)

I am on the way out of town again.

Had lunch with Zahadin and Allen yesterday, was expecting Auzir, Wong etc. to join but somehow the initial plan just fizzled out. Wong made the not-so-good-bargain to me that since I had not graced their weekly futsal, maybe it's time for him to stop gracing my weekly eating (see the contrast - they organise sporty stuff, I organise the unhealthy stuff).

Anyway to cut the story short, by the time we reach the mosque (which was quite late because we spent more time waiting for the food, though the fact that we brought our own sajadah may suggest that we had planned to camp under the trees all along), the rain started. In the end, Allen, Zahadin and I ended up praying by the side of an NGV pump, on a pavement that was 5 minutes before a parking space for a KL cab!

After work, Izrin treated Allen, Shahrol and I for dinner from his first pay. I swear to God they (not moi) gobbled the whole table of food within half an hour, leaving me eating alone after a while (I treasure the pleasure of eating, whether you are starving or not).

On the way back, I dropped by at the mosque again for Maghrib (this is as if to melepaskan geram from praying by the NGV pump earlier), only to meet with Ajaque. I had not met Ajaque from 1994 and he had not attended the reunion and 100-Year Celebration, so it's been a while. Physically Ajaque did not change at all, although from the way he laughed the first instance he realised it was me - he found my current state amusing (he would have laughed a while longer but I did cut him off rather unceremoniously).

Ajaque is running his own business now (like many others in our batch, only idiots like moi rot myself slaving till the wee hours working for others) - not a surprise, coming from a family like his.

After a brief chat, we parted again - and Ajaque did give an informal commitment that at the next gathering he will make it, provided it's in KL. But the next gathering will be in KL he he.....

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Mo Mowlam In Critical Condition

(as you can guess, this has got nothing to do with MCKK)

Dr Marjorie Mowlam, or more popularly known as Mo Mowlam, a former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, is in "critical but stable" condition. She was diagnosed with a brain tumor in the months leading to Labour's (oo well it's New Labour) landslide in 1997 (the day when I stayed up throughout the night with British friends watching the general election coverage and the rude awakening that followed of the kind of scam we hold every 5 years). She had to quit politics in 2001 before another landslide due to her deteriorating health (she was almost bald by then).

Mo was one of the architects who put together the New Labour Project that eventually propelled King Tony to power. The New Labour that she worked tirelessly to sell to the voters in 1997 was not the New Labour that Tony Blair presided today, somehow I feel even if she is not in her current predicament, she would have quit together with Clare Short when Blair illegally declared war in 2003. Mo wouldn't have been able to stomach King Tony this long.

The world needs more people like Mo, especially at the time the British nation is at a junction post the bombing incidents last month. But with Charles Clarke, Peter Reid etc. at the helm (thank God Mandelsen is out for good) instead of Mo Mowlam, Clare Short or Robin Cook - the Britain that I cherished so much from my 8+ years there, is going to be a different country when I visit it next.

* ps - Karam Singh Walia can really be annoying

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Uniform For Bed Time

There was a serious discussion among the old boys about the state of the school now (ha ha nothing new there). It started from commentaries about the last OBW (which apparently left a lot of room for improvements, especially since we were hosting the Siamese - oooh I'd love to be there, just to tell these kids to hate Thaksin!), and digressed to the standard at MCKK now, then went on and on about the ridiculous changes happening and finally to the part that interests me most - the uniform for bed time!

A big ha ha - college boys now can only wear track bottom to go to sleep. No more shorts, no more "three quarters", no more kain sarung, a big NO NO to boxers.

There were many theories as to why this rule was enacted, ranging from the creepy crawlers thing at night (as if everyone wore boxers back then), to the maxim that "...

* I hate it when you are caught blogging by your boss!

... to the maxim that "a leader does not want to share the sin of youngsters not covering their aurat, hence the ruling".

I don't want to make comments about the ruling, but I do want to reflect how it was back then.

I sat very highly in Badan Revolusi Ugama (BRU), which by its name, suggests the uncompromising stand it takes as far as Islam was concerned. It was indeed uncompromising in many ways, but during our time - choice and tolerance were the catch phrase of the day that those who sat very highly in BRU were the ones exposing aurat left right and centre.

If my memory serves me right, throughout 1994, I had never once worn anything but a short. I had various shorts for the sleeping purpose - from the very short one, to a bermuda type, to a sporty type, to a "three quarter".

Every night during lights off, if the warden on duty were to be an ustaz, he would frown and expressed his displeasure as politely as possible that a president of BRU had the audacity to stand before him uncovered. But that was it - he wouldn't do more than just that, never was I beaten or punished because of my fancy shorts. Sometimes the next morning I may end up becoming an imam for Subuh prayers (if I woke up in time that is).

Personally speaking, it was not out of rebelliousness or trend or for stature that I wore shorts throughout my F5 days - it was purely the most comfortable attire to wear at night. The dorm was blazing hot and the silly fan just did not reach my bed. On top of that, I knew for a fact that shorts or pants were not a factor when it came to the creepy crawler bit.

And I wish koleq's administrators would just see it as that. It's for practical reasons that most boys wear shorts to sleep.

But college is a changed place. It is no longer the cradle for liberalism and openness that it was during my time. Some of us still retain the liberalism and openness that we discovered and exercised back in college, it is sad that the same liberalism and openness is perhaps no longer in existence there.

Perhaps the days when we could organise ourselves to counter HM's proposals, or to be given the freedom to run college ourselves, or to operate as an independent minded body of students, are long gone.

For when you are told what you have to wear for lights off has become an acceptable culture in MCKK, that tells a lot about the kind of freedom allowed for the boys.

Footnote: I no longer own most of the shorts - they were taken by juniors who did not mind sharing my shorts.