Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Research on Oral Hajj History

I have written a lot of posts on the Hajj and Hajj Doctors in this blog.

I have also shared some photos of the Hajj belonging to my grandfather, Dr Che Lah bin Mohd Joonos, who was a Hajj Doctor, in this blog and with a Hajj research (below).


I am posting about a current research at the Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) in Penang, conducted by Prof Mahani Musa. This research is about Oral Hajj History (refer poster). This research is a collaborative effort between USM, Prince of Songkla University of Thailand and the public.

Whoever has knowledge about various aspects of the Hajj rite and pilgrimage can contact the researchers (refer poster).

I'm sure many of our readers have some knowledge and stories of their own Hajj, about the Hajj of their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, colleagues etc. Non-Muslims who have dealt with the Hajj and pilgrims are also invited.

Some of you may have been involved directly or indirectly with the Hajj. If you have any knowledge or any involvement with the Hajj, you can contact the collaborators and tell them your story.

Whatever aspect of the Hajj which has been left out of books and publications on the Hajj, you can contact any of the collaborators and share your story.

Hajj research poster 2018


Tentatively, a Hajj exhibition is planned for 14 April 2018 at the Penang State Museum. Please search for further details.

Sunday, 4 February 2018

In memory of Che Maarof bin Haji Zakaria (1)

Che Maarof was a young Malay lawyer and bank director. He set up the first Malay bank. However, he was killed and hung up a tree when his remains was discovered. The mystery of his demise has never been solved. Just like Jalil Ibrahim's murder in Hong Kong which was never fully resolved and properly narrated to the Malaysian public, Maarof's story has also gone cold.

Any crime story that has to do with money or wealth always ends up in murder of an innocent man. I am a concerned mother as I too have a son who is about Jalil's age when Jalil was murdered. A man who works in the banking, taxation and such industry, is bound to discover a lot of truths and untruths. Working out cases, find the truths and hidden wealth siphoned is a special job and requires special skills, along with secrecy, as with most jobs of this nature.

When I wrote about Jalil Ibrahim, I had already met him when he came to meet his wife, my class teacher. The next I heard about him, he had died. Awestruck, I lived with that memory of a murdered teacher's husband all my life. I was already reading Sherlock Holmes as a teenager in high school. But Jalil's murder was too much for me to accept. I read up about his murder whenever something came up on TV about him. I don't recall reading about him in newspapers.

As for Che Maarof, he too was young and died young and knowledgeable. In 1947, Malaya was still under the British and that period was referred to as British reoccupation. It was a period of Malay uprising against the British colonials. It was a difficult time and the Malays wanted to rule their own country and not be ruled. However, the British rulers disfavoured Malay uprising against them and curbed such activities. So when Che Maarof operated his own Malay bank, the British rulers opposed.

So who would want Che Maarof off the list? From my Sherlock Holmes reading, I would say the British. They wanted him dead and the Malay banking system vanished. Then who actually killed Che Maarof? I don't have all the details. There are stories out there about how he was killed. Now we have forensic sciences and services. So we should have some answers on Che Maarof's murder when we can find forensic evidences and piece all the jig-saw puzzle pieces together.

If we find out the real murderer of Che Maarof, what can we do today? Can we hold the British officers then as murderers? I think we can but they cannot be persecuted. Colonials have a protectionist agreement that they will not be sued for their past actions. So we cannot punish them. Anyway, the British officers then (eg in their 20s in 1947) would be in their 90s today. There is no need to hang them. But a letter of apology to Che Maarof's family and descendants would be more appropriate. That way, we will not have to seek revenge for an evil past.

I hope, that colonists and colonial officers have the heart to learn and learn to live with us, the Malays. Coming to conquer a peaceful country and enforcing the white man's ways and laws onto the Malays are something unforgivable, unthinkable and should not have happened in Malaya. The Malays have never gone to conquer a white man's country and forced Islam upon them.

Another thing I want to bring up is Maarof's wife. I have on my list of Early Malay Doctors, a Malay girl's name. When I asked around about her, I was told she quit medical school. I was told she married Che Maarof who was later murdered. She remarried but to a graduate doctor, our first Director-General of Health Malaysia. I was told she is still alive the last time I enquired. But since she didn't graduate as a doctor, I didn't seek to interview her.

Che Maarof is remembered by a road named after him - Jalan Maarof. It is a short stretch of road in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur. I remember looking up that road but I was stricken by his murder that I refused to write about him at the time. I may have a photo taken of it too, unknowingly.

Yes, now I recall her name. She is Khamsiah bt Mohd Ali. I had her name down as Dr Khamsiah bt Mohd Ali as I thought she had graduated with the rest. But she quit medical school after second year. There are 2 photos of her in medical school in Singapore before she quit. One was a dinner photo and and another was a group photo of the medical and dental students before dinner. Dr Salma bt Ismail was among them.

External links:

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Rumah Tetamu USM Kubang Kerian, Kelantan

I am posting on the USM Guest House because we currently have the MMed Anaesthesiology students here for the con-joint Anaesthesiology exam for 2 weeks. I found one lady hunting for the keys to her room and the security officer was not around. The security shed at the gate said to go to Jabatan Keselamatan to get the keys. She didn't know where that was as she came from UPM. So my son and I took her to Jabatan Keselamatan, she signed for her room key and we drove her back to the guest house.

This is the second time someone got problems with the guest house. Last time, a few years back, 2 outside MMed students had booked the USM Guest House, but they booked the wrong guest house. They had booked the one in Penang, while they came to USM Kubang Kerian, Kelantan for the MMed exam! I found the 2 lady doctors by the roadside, dragging their heavy luggage back and forth, not knowing what to do. I was enjoying the evening when I noticed them and stopped to enquire if everything was ok. Then I found out they had booked the wrong guest house! So we took them to AV Budget Inn across the road, in front of Hospital USM (HUSM).

So here is the help on Rumah Tetamu USM based in Kubang Kerian, Kelantan.

Tel: +609-767-2300

Check-in after 2 pm
Check-out is 12 noon (add half-rent after 12 noon)

Operational hours:
  1. Sunday-Thursday, 8.10 am - 10 pm
  2. Friday & Saturday, 8.10 am - 4.55 pm

After hours:
  1. Sunday-Thursday, after 10 pm - get your key(s) from Jabatan Keselamatan at PPSP.
  2. Friday & Saturday, after 4.55 pm - get your key(s) from Jabatan Keselamatan at PPSP.
  • If you arrive after 10 pm on Sunday-Thursday, get your room key(s) from Jabatan Keselamatan at PPSP.
  • If you arrive after 4.55 pm on Friday or Saturday, get your room key(s) from Jabatan Keselamatan at PPSP.

Room rates:
  1. Room with single bed is RM60 per night 
  2. Room with double bed is RM75 per night (eg BT004, BT006, BT103, BT106)
  3. Family room (1 double bed + 1 single bed) is RM90 per night (there are 2 rooms in Asrama Block C: BT1, BT2)

All rooms are carpeted.
Room with one double-bed is RM75 per night.
The family rooms are in a separate block from Rumah Tetamu USM.
The VIP suite (VC's room) is not available for rental.

Main entrance Gate A. Look for the letter A at left brickwall.
Road entrance to Rumah Tetamu USM, Kubang Kerian, Kelantan is broad
Rumah Tetamu USM in Kubang Kerian is grey with a big porch

Rumah Tetamu USM, Kubang Kerian is grey

Wall plaque of Rumah Tetamu USM, Kubang Kerian, Kelantan

Park here for free and NOT in the porch. Porch is for unloading and VIP. If you park in the porch, the security officer will clamp your car tyres. You then have to search for a security officer on duty and pay RM50 to unclamp. So DON'T park in the porch.

Entrance door to Rumah Tetamu USM, Kubang Kerian, Kelantan. PULL the door and go inside and check at the counter to see if your room keys are there. If not, you have to go to Jabatan Keselamatan and get your keys first. Drive over to Jabatan Keselamatan to get your keys. Jabatan Keselamatan is not the Pondok Pengawal by the Gate Entrance A, but at the Medical School complex, on the ground floor. It is 5 minutes drive.
This is the purple plaque for PPSP. Drive straight down to the porch and park. 
Pusat Pengajian Sains Perubatan (PPSP). Jabatan Keselamatan is on the ground floor (to the left)
This is Jabatan Keselamatan at the Medical School complex. The Medical School is called PPSP (Pusat Pengajian Sains Perubatan). So go to Jabatan Keselamatan counter at PPSP and ask for your key there. There is a security officer on duty. He maybe busy on the phone, giving directions to others. Be patient and wait your turn. He will open the door and you walk in and sign the Guest Book and get your keys. Your key(s) will be in a white envelope and with your full name. Double check your name and room key number. Then drive back to the guest house.
This is the counter of Rumah Tetamu USM, Kubang Kerian, Kelantan. It is dark because it is day off or time off. This counter closes at 4.45 pm and re-opens at 8.10 am. It is closed on weekends.

This is the lobby. You can wait here or go to your room. The building is 2 storeys. There is no lift in this guest house. You have to carry your own luggage upstairs. There is no porter to help you. Be careful with the steep staircase.
Layout of the ground floor rooms at Rumah Tetamu USM, Kubang Kerian, Kelantan
Rooms 001, 002, 003, 004, 005, and 006 are on the ground floor.
Rooms upstairs at Rumah Tetamu USM, Kubang Kerian, Kelantan
Rooms 101, 102, 103, 104, 105, 106, 107, 108, 109 and 110 are upstairs.


Rooms are carpeted and fitted with retro furniture (zaman 1950-an) which are interesting and give a calming effect.

Room BT004, Double bed, RM75 per room, this is a square room, it is very bright 

Room BT006, Double bed, RM75 per room, this is a long room at the end of the corridor.

Family rooms are located in a separate block called Asrama Block C or just Block C.
There are only 2 family rooms available for rent (BT1, BT2)
Rental is RM90 per room

This is Asrama Block C

Main entrance to Block C
RO Water supply outside the main entrance to Block B
When you leave Rumah Tetamu USM, leave by the same Gate A you came. Turn left to go to Kota Bharu. Turn right to go to the Sultan Ismail Petra Airport at Pengkalan Chepa. Turn right to go to Kubang Kerian Square (KK Square) to do some shopping. There is Mydin, Dominos Pizza, Submarine (sandwiches) and a host of eateries. All are halal in Kubang Kerian. There are batik and tudung shops here too. Everything you need you can get them here. Don't worry.

Friday, 26 January 2018

The Early Malay Doctors: Port Swettenham

The Early Malay Doctors: Port Swettenham

Monday, 22 January 2018

The Hawker As An Elemental Capitalist

The Hawker As An Elemental Capitalist
M. Bakri Musa

Consider the simple enterprise of a roadside hawker selling fried bananas, the most elemental business activity. Every Malay villager feels he is competent to undertake that venture as it requires minimal capital, financial and otherwise.
            Yet to succeed at this most basic level of enterprise would still require rudiments of financial, human, and social capital. Meaning, to succeed these would-be hawkers must have some training and familiarization with the business. Yet the government seems to think that giving them cheap loans would be enough. Thus, they are given money and then left floundering when their enterprises fail, as surely they would.
            Imagine if those would-be hawkers had been given some elementary training before giving out those loans. To start with, I would give them cooking classes and teach them elementary health and safety practices as well as sound rudimentary business techniques like simple bookkeeping. I would explore with them the effects of the choice of banana, oil, flour and even cooking temperature on the taste and flavor of their final product. There is a definite difference in taste between fried pisang raja (king banana) versus nangka (jackfruit variety), enough to justify a premium price for the former. Similarly, the type of flour used, whether from wheat, rice, or tapioca would also influence the texture and flavor.
            There is no limit to enhancing your product line and thus its market value by tinkering with the ingredients and other variables. Consider the version of fried bananas served in fancy Western restaurants–bananas flambĂ©–where the fruit is covered in syrup instead of flour and then drizzled with alcohol and served in flames. It sells for around US$12.00 per serving. You could offer a non-alcoholic substitute for Muslim customers. Imagine the value added to your final product and the consequent enhancement of your revenue with such modifications.
            Beyond the preparation and recipe, I would also teach these would-be hawkers personal hygiene and general cleanliness, and the impact these practices would have on their customers. Frame them as a public health issue, and if that does not convince those hawkers, then as a religious imperative or better yet, a marketing tool. Sick customers do not return! I would have these hawkers invest in a clean apron and cap to cover their hair, as well as wear gloves when handling food products, just like the executive chefs at fancy restaurants. Again, those would be good marketing and advertising tools! Look at the hawkers in the Japanese supermarkets in KL as well as in Japan.
            Among the crucial elements to the success of any business are inventory control and cash-flow management. Thus, I would teach these would-be hawkers cost-saving strategies like buying nonperishable items in bulk to get volume discounts. That would require some financial outlay, and that would be the right instance to introduce credit loans. An alternative and also more preferable would be for MARA to use its clout to buy those inventories in bulk to achieve greater savings and then pass them on to the vendors.
            Going further, we should encourage these hawkers to explore other ways to cut down on costs. They may not be able to supply their own flour or cooking oil and gas, but they may have some idle land in the village where they could plant their own bananas and thus incur considerable savings by not having to buy their primary ingredient. They could even sell the excess to their fellow hawkers, producing another revenue source.
            MARA could commission an innovative design of a simple hawker cart on wheels, complete with a roof and separate holding tanks for clean and waste water. Again with MARA’s influence, those carts could be constructed cheaply through the economies of scale.
            After implementing these initiatives, MARA should monitor the progress, tweaking the program as necessary and assessing the results. The whole process is an ongoing series of improvements and innovations, as well as learning from experience.
            Out of every 100 of these would-be hawkers and budding entrepreneurs you take in for the initial training, perhaps only a fraction of them would have the discipline and motivation to complete it. That would leave only the most hardy and motivated applicants to receive your business loans. Consider the cost of training as investment in human capital. Even then, instead of simply handing these would-be hawkers the cash, I would make the checks out directly to the suppliers for the purchase of inventories and other goods.
            These would-be hawkers are not used to having substantial amounts of money at their disposal. Were MARA to simply hand over the cash directly to them, as is the current practice, the first thing they would do is rush to the nearest Chinese store on a buying binge of items not even remotely related to their businesses. Or they would be inundated with relatives each with their own sob stories to justify their getting a portion of the money.
            Yet that was exactly the standard practice of MARA, and before that, RIDA. No surprise that those initiatives would fail. When that happened, the officials invariably blamed the poor hawkers. Worse, they would also be condemned as failures and forever caricatured as the alleged weakness of their race and culture.
            There are plenty of examples of such blunders, with price tags far exceeding the few thousand dollars loaned to the hawkers. I remember in my old village there was the well-connected politician who was given a lucrative timber concession. As if that bounty was not generous enough, he was also given a hefty loan. The first thing he did was buy a brand-new Mercedes sedan to drive around town. He did not think of buying a truck to carry the logs or a tree harvester. Had he bought a four-wheel-drive Land Rover, it would have made some sense. At least he could then visit his lumber camps, but a luxury car on a jungle road?
            In Trengganu there was the project back in the 1970s to supply fishermen with diesel motors and ice makers. Again the same misguided strategy; the officials simply handed the loan money to those poor fishermen. The first thing the engine suppliers in town did was to hike up the price of those engines and then tack on unnecessary service contracts and fees. Had those officials negotiated a package deal with the supplier, they would have secured substantial discounts and then passed them on to the fishermen.
            In Kedah there was the gaffe with the mechanization of Malaysia’s “rice bowl.” Again, the government was generous in providing the major landowners credit to buy tractors and combines to make their rice production more efficient. That part of the initiative was sound but as with any mechanization, many unskilled workers were displaced. As there was no mitigating program to take care of them, those workers ended up actively sabotaging the initiative and its principals. The program succeeded only in dividing the community, pitting the peasants against the landowners. The dynamics of that particular social crisis is well chronicled in James C. Scott’s Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance.
            The situation has not changed today except for the obscenely vast sums of money involved. Most recently there was a mega loan in the hundreds of millions given to a minister’s husband to start a cattle feed-lot operation. The first thing he did was buy a top-end Mercedes and two ultra-luxury multimillion-ringgit condominiums in Singapore. Same dynamics, only the price tags vary. While the minister’s husband may have an Ivy League PhD, his mentality and mindset was no different from the simple village entrepreneurs I cited earlier.
            Going back to my pisang goreng hawkers, imagine if only 25 out of the 100 eventually succeeded in having a thriving stall. At first glance that would appear abysmal, a success rate of only one-in-four. However, on the flip side, without the initiative, those 25 would have little chance at gainful employment; with it they are now earning a living and able to feed and clothe their families, quite apart from providing a service to the community.
            The benefits do not end there. Out of the hardy 25, a few would be sufficiently bitten by the capitalist bug and be inspired to venture beyond. One would decide that he could employ a few of his idle cousins to work on his banana plantations to supply bananas to the other hawkers. Apart from having another income source, he would also be providing employment for his cousins.
            Another who had been frugal and thus acquired some savings may decide to install a shade over his stall and add a few tables so he could also serve coffee and tea , as well as ice cream with his fried bananas, enhancing his product line as it were. Yet another could discover a winning concoction of a special variety of banana, a specific brand of cooking oil, and a particular flour to make a pisang goreng to die for. Building a reputation around his particular product and keeping his recipe secret, he could start a franchise operation, a pisang goreng equivalent of Ramly Burger or Starbucks.
            As can be seen the possibilities are endless, even with the humble hawking of pisang goreng. That simple enterprise has all the elements found in the most complex corporations: product (and production), marketing (customers), finance, location, and human resources.
            Instead of pursuing such incremental improvements in each area, we keep going for the spectacular–with billion-ringgit GLCs, and repeating the same mistakes with ever-escalating costs. It cannot be that all Malay leaders and policymakers are corrupt. Many are, but eventually you would get a few honest souls or some whose conscience would disturb them enough to blow the whistle and put an end to the nonsense. These Malay leaders cannot all be dumb even though again many are, for eventually there will be a bright soul or two who would learn from the mistakes.
            Beyond corruption and incompetence, I suggest that Malays have another and far greater problem. As a community we have a closed mind, trapped into believing that those lapses are not acts of incompetence or corruption but noble deeds. It is this blind loyalty to these incompetent and corrupt leaders that would have us honor them when they should be jailed, booted out, or at least looked upon with contempt.
Next: Membajakan Lallang (Fertilizing the Weeds)

Adapted from the author’s book, Liberating The Malay Mind, published by ZI Publications, Petaling Jaya, 2013. The second edition was released in January 2016.