Monday, October 29, 2007


You may have noticed that I have been saying sheeesh a lot lately. Actually, this is just a bastardisation of the above four-letter word which means crap or dung or whatever we old sailors often use in polite company. Perhaps we can be forgiven for taking liberties with the language when other "normal" people would not.

Someone sent me a light-hearted e-mail some time ago giving the supposedly true origin of this rude word as a nautical term, used when transporting manure as fertilizer deep in the holds of old sailing ships. The message claims that when manure gets wet, it produces methane gas, which can collect in the hold and blow up the ship when someone lights a candle or lantern. To prevent this, crates or sacks of dung were marked S.H.I.T., meaning "Ship High In Transit" to avoid contact with sea water. But I believe that this is also a lot of ... you-know-what.

My friend and fellow mariner Capt. Leibbrandt (you may have seen him playing colonial mat salleh types in some local made-for-TV movies) have confirmed that the word is indeed derived from the Olde English scitte and probably related to the Dutch word schijten, which means "diarrhoea'. Or the Malay equivalent cirit birit.

We are a little mealy-mouthed these days about the word, one of those classic Anglo-Saxon four-letter words, even though it is among the most common expletives known. When it first appeared, though, I believe there were no negative or vulgar associations or connotations about it and indeed some have even claimed that it is a truly pukka original golf term!


Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Truth Hurts

Fellow mariner Capt Karim Stuart Russell e-mailed me yesterday a copy of an interesting article by Michael Backman, a columnist from the Age of Australia - a favourite holiday destination for our jetsetting politicians, lawyers and judges. Thanks Stu. Read the full article here. (Fellow blogger Jeff Ooi of Screenshots also has the story, here.)

Here are excerpts from the article which caught my eye:

"The third incident relates to an ongoing scandal at the Port Klang Free Trade Zone - Port Klang is Malaysia's main shipping port. Essentially, the port authority was forced by well-connected individuals to buy far more land than planned for the free trade zone and at highly inflated prices, even though it could have compulsorily acquired the land, literally saving billions. This and development costs, and "professional fees", blew out the total cost for the zone from 1.845 billion ringgit to 4.2 billion ringgit. It is a scam of outrageous proportions and is just the sort of thing that is turning foreign investors off Malaysia in their droves."

"Malaysia is truly at a cross-road. It has many good people with great potential but it is slipping beneath the waves of mediocrity, weighed down by officials intent on an orgy of plunder while the ship's captain stands idly by."

Who made this bum captain?

Unless Pak Lah is fast asleep, I believe he cannot afford to ignore damning reports like these by foreign correspondents or else we can kiss foreign direct investments (FDI) goodbye, and thats fair dinkum*, mate.

* Aussie slang for 'the real truth'. I used to think this means 'nice kangaroo' or something ...

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Much has been written and blogged about the 'Lingam tape' biznes and I believe this is getting a bit out of hand. Malaysiakini today reports that former deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim who has insisted on a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) has said 'no way' to the Anti-Corruption Agency's demands that he hands over the original full version of the tape or face imprisonment. This will effectively put him out of the race for the next general elections. Sheeesh.

As for the recent Seagull Express ferry mishap, fellow mariner Capt. Karim a.k.a. Capt Abdul Karim Stuart Russell asserts that "superficial investigations are only scratching the surface, there must be a web of malpractices awaiting exposure and there will be many others who should be thoroughly investigated for possible criminal neglect, dereliction of duty, bribery and corruption, and even other even more serious offences like manslaughter." As such, short of a Royal Commission of Inquiry, a truly professional and " independent Marine Accident Investigation Board should be established to properly investigate the ferry disaster and all other marine accidents."

I fail to understand the government's morbid fear of RCI's or any other independent and all-powerful inquiry panels to get to the bottom of things, but we can all have a pretty good guess, eh?

Footnote: Above photo taken at Anwar and Azizah's 'open house' on Sunday. Besides meeting other former MCKK classmates, I also bumped into Lim Kit Siang, fellow blogger Nathaniel Tan and an old friend and former Penang Port Commission chairman Dato Zaharin Hashim.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

PAC visits PKFZ

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) led by chairman Dato Shahrir Samad visited the scandal ridden Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) in Pulau Indah today. Watch above Malaysiakini video from You Tube. (Click on arrow to play).

PAC could not have seen much development taking place and I can gather from Shahrir's tone of voice that he wasn't very impressed although he must have been told that everything was peachy and according to plan, i.e. mengikut perancangan. There is also the Attorney General's testimony in the offing about procedures and questions about the land procurement.

Was the bail-out oso 'according to plan', meh?

Monday, October 15, 2007

That Sinking Feeling

(Source: the Star online)

Today's newspapers and Malaysiakini reports of a maritime disaster off Mersing where "survivors of a Malaysian ferry fire which left four dead and four injured described a terrifying scene as the ageing vessel filled with smoke, forcing them to hurl their children into the sea". The Star reports of the ferry Seagull Express that "On Saturday, 4 passengers of the ferry drowned while 99 others, including 3 crew members, were plucked out from the sea after the vessel caught fire while on its way to Pulau Tioman. Three other passengers are still missing."

Sheesh. I have always thought that this sort of thing can only happen in places like the Philippines or Indonesia where they are very relak about safety standards. But here in Malaysia? Obviously heads must roll and as usual the Ministry of Transport will just await reports which will take some time coming.

Fellow mariner Capt Karim comments in my previous blog about the possibility of criminal negligence on the part of authorities and recommends the setup of an independent professional Marine Accident Investigation Board tasked to investigate all marine casualties. This is especially so as in the past, "maritime incidents have been poorly investigated and shortcomings have been simply swept under the carpet. In many cases the guilty were not punished. Innocent lives will continue to be lost at sea if the typical Malaysian lackadaisical 'tiada apa' attitude continues unchecked."

I do concur. Only when innocent lives are lost are the wheels of government usually set to turn. Here I was told that in the case of the PKFZ debacle or the current mess in the judiciary and unlike the Hong Kong BMF scandal where someone, an accountant I believe, was murdered, we can forget about Royal Commissions of Inquiry. Unless someone gets bumped off first, that is.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Eid Mubarak

I used to send out greeting cards by the hundreds, or rather my secretary did, but stopped doing so when I went into early retirement some years ago. I have also not received any since, well maybe a few, at about the same time. Its not that I am a cheapskate or something but somehow greeting cards have never really meant much to me. This is probably a throwback to my sailing days when we seamen will usually receive our mail after many days, even weeks after the fact when we reach a main port of call. A bit of a dampener you will agree.

So here's wishing everyone Eid Mubarak or Selamat Hari Raya Idilfitri as we say it here in Malaysia. To all those driving balik kampung, remember that you may be the best driver in the world but its the nut on the other side of the road you will have to worry about.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Time Out

Sorry folks that was a long time out indeed.

Its just that after a half a century of fasting during Ramadan, you realise that you are no longer a spring chicken and it takes a toll on you. You are not really your usual sweet self. You lose a few kilos which you will undoubtedly put on again after a couple of weeks and try as much as you like to kick your nicotine fix habit, the last stick puff after sahur is still the best yet.

Ah well, still a couple of days to go.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Whither PAC?

OK, so I was wrong.

I must confess I was greatly encouraged at the outset by the fact that a couple of senior members of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) appeared convinced that there was no way that the perpetrators in the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) debacle could escape what was coming to them. Suffice to say that I am very disappointed now though I am not that naive to have expected anything much. Quite evidently there were greater forces at play. Also in question is the lack of political will and precise terms of reference for PAC to make it truly effective so as to provide the necessary checks and balance for the whole system.

So Shahril, before you expose yourself further as a liar and a cad (in the holy month of Ramadan too) and a poor excuse for a chairman of PAC, please get the Attorney General to explain why the PKFZ land was acquired at such an exorbitant price. We are quite sure now what his learned answer will be, beyond any shadow of doubt.

Perhaps the only way out of this wayang kulit farce is to press for the setting up of more independent Royal Comissions of Inquiry (RCI) but then again, past experience has also shown that RCIs are really no guarantee as panacea for the country's ills. But it is a start and definitely a step in the right direction.