Monday, September 1, 2014



This is a good question if you ask me. The common way has always been one of direct confrontation and to fight it out physically and in the open.  This has been the way of the many so-called civilizations in human history.  Ironically, this way is considered barbaric but is still with us till today and being openly practiced everywhere.

Generally, the term "barbarian" refers to a person who is perceived to be uncivilized.  It was first used by the Greeks on any non-Greek.   The word is usually used either in a general reference to a member of a nation or ethnos, typically a tribal society as seen by an urban civilization and viewed as inferior, or admired as a noble savage.  In the Americas the native Indians preferred consultation and negotiation with the Europeans through pow-wow sessions while smoking the peace pipe.  They settled for peace with numerous treaties with the Europeans.  None of the treaties were honored by the far more “civilized” Europeans.  This sort of treachery happened to the native Indians in both the Americas and even in Africa.  Open confrontation or threat with a conspicuous military advantage has happened in all the countries that were colonized by the Europeans.  In fact, it is actually an ongoing reality where “might is right”.

Why am I rambling on about this confrontation and consultation thing one might ask? Okay let me get to the point.  Right here in Malaysia too it is a problem now as I see it.  Open confrontation has become increasingly conspicuous especially among Malaysians.  Such Western orientation may not be actually in sync with our Malaysian culture.  This is being seen not only in the politics of the day but also in other public spheres too.  If one understands the predominant and mainstream Malay culture in Malaysia well, it is a well-known fact that most Malays prefer to sit down and talk things over in a consultative style.  Even if they are adversaries the confrontation is subtle and in the past even poetry was employed to “whack” each other.  If confronted physically the reply is “ Melayu pantang dicabar” and the average Malay mind only then resorts to the use of force.  Even Chinese secret societies preferred to table talk first before hacking each other with parangs.  The Indians?? No comment because I really am not too sure.

Today we are seeing open confrontation even by the Malays against Malays and of late even confronting the royalty.  Non-Malays who are secondary in the main national equation in such matters have also joined in the fray.  We may be westernized in many ways but deep down we are all colored people and considered natives by the West which itself outclasses us with an amazing history of world wars, civil wars, war of roses including the famous 100 Years War between France and England.

All religions and real civilized cultures advocate consultation rather than confrontation.  I do hope that the majority of younger folks in Malaysia too will see it that way.  In fact there is no other way to move forward as we have done in the last 57 years. Less confrontation and more consultation please.

THE 3 R’s in Malaysia

Let Us Stand United As Malaysians

Educators worldwide know what is meant by the 3 Rs – reading, writing and arithmetic.  In Malaysia there is an unwritten 3rs as well – Race, Religion and Royalty, something I dare say that many Malaysians still do not understand the implications that go with it.  From the dawn of Merdeka, these three factors have kept the nation growing and made Malaysia what it is now today. Malaysia has had one of the best economic records in Asia with its GDP growing at an average 6.5 % for almost 50 years.  Though the 3Rs may be seen as divisive factors the early Malayans and most Malaysians understand that these “divisive” factors to many has actually kept us progressing and united.  It is only of late that these factors have surfaced in the face of our economic success and the transformation of the national landscape and rapid urbanization of the rural masses.  Industrialization too has contributed towards this change and transformation.

The three major races that started off as Malaya in 1957 became even more diverse with the addition of the East Malaysian states in 1963 when Malaysia was formed. Racial understanding, acceptance and tolerance had been exemplary save a brief period of racial unrest in 1969 and that too was mainly confined to the capital city of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur.  The government with a constant more than two thirds majority carefully steered the populace back to economic prosperity again with increased affirmative action particularly for the Malays who had been left behind in the economic success of Malaysia to a greater extent.  In the 1980’s under the stewardship of Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir  the Malays particularly began to taste better economic success as preference was given to them in almost all public sectors and government controlled businesses, oftentimes at the expense of the non-Malays.  The Chinese being known for their resilience worldwide, weathered the changes and adapted with their usual perseverance and industry and prospered even better as the Malaysian economic pie grew bigger and bigger.  According to Forbes list of the 50 richest entrepreneurs in Malaysia more than 40 are still Chinese.  Malaysian Indians particularly the descendants of the labor classes became handicapped in the Malaysian spurt in economic growth. Many reasons can be offered but I will skip them here but merely would mention one that has kept a significant number of them lagging and handicapped at higher levels of the education process – Tamil vernacular which is provided for in the constitution.

The 2nd R which is religion was not a big segregating factor in the earlier days when the three major communities cohabited in separate spheres so to speak.  The Malays were mainly living quite happily in the rural kampongs with the Chinese mainly dominating the trade and businesses in the towns especially in the west coast of the peninsula. The Indians confined themselves to the rubber plantations by convention and did the same even in Tamil enclaves in the towns.  All this “peaceful” scenario has changed with Malaysia’s economic success and transformation from an agrarian base towards a more rapid industrialized one.  The increased economic and educational preferences and opportunity for the once displaced Malays has become a sour point of discontent among the non-Malays.  This dissension is simmering and can become quite explosive if left alone and not well addressed.  The HINDRAF street demonstrations of more recent times are an indication of this growing discontent.  Today, almost everything is seen through a racial kaleidoscope.  With this background religion which hitherto was not such a divisive force has increasingly become one.  From the early times the cunning British well knew that the Malays were easy to deal with if their religion was left alone.  They even introduced laws that did not allow any form of proselytizing among the Malay Muslims well before Merdeka itself. These laws still stand.  With the power they had, they could have easily forced all Muslims to become Christians as the Portuguese and Spanish records show worldwide.  But the British had only economic intentions which also became their priority over here.  All Malaysians should learn from the British and leave the Malays and Islam alone. This is easier said than done especially if religious rulings fringe upon the rights of non-Muslims.  This has to be kept in check.

The 3rd R refers to our royalty, another unique institution in its own way and not to be found anywhere else in the world.  Tiny Malaysia has nine sovereign monarchs of  the total of about twenty five monarchs worldwide.  It must be remembered that the Malay royalty has been part and parcel of the Malay culture as is Islam and thus enjoys a symbiotic relationship with both.  The Malay sultans were never really disposed off even by the first colonials who come here. The Portuguese merely occupied Melaka.  The Dutch too merely occupied Melaka after the Portuguese. The English were the “smarter ones” who occupied Melaka through a treaty with the Dutch in 1824.  Thereafter, British intervention in the Malay states was not through conquest but mainly through the requests of the ruling sultans or whenever ascendancy problems arose.  In this way, the sultanates became British protectorates rather than colonies per se. Only Penang, Singapore and lastly Melaka became British territories.  The Malay rulers were pampered and left alone by the British and the sultans continued to be heads of religion and cultural matters while the British exploited the land with "permission" granted by the Malay rulers.  The British realized that if the sultan was not happy the Malay hornet’s nest would have to be dealt with. As such, they kept the sultans happy and placated. Malay rebellion, against the British was thus rare and a few who did rebel were severely dealt with and even banished.  With Merdeka, the sultans became more powerful so to speak as their sovereignty became more pronounced and extended. Today they are usually seen as mere constitutional heads as in some other western democracies.  This is not quite true as the sultans still have much power at their disposal which is seldom used.  For starters, they are commanders of the armed forces and the police force.  This is something even educated Malaysians do not seem to understand.
Divided We Fall

It is sad that such things are not clearly spelt out in schools or even at the tertiary levels. This situation has given rise to a feeling of disenchantment with the establishment by Malaysian youths particularly of the non-Malay variety.  It is my understanding that the British knew the nuances of each of the three major races and used the said understanding well.  When they were preparing to leave after the 2nd World War they created and set into motion several institutions that would see perpetual power in the hands of the Malays. This must have been their desire and motive.  They started affirmative action for the Malays even before Merdeka. Institutions such as the Malay Civil Service ensured that mainly Malays only would have administrative posts right from state secretaries and district officers to penghulus and ketua kampongs. Elite educational institutions such as MCKK, TKC and the Tun Fatimah College were set up exclusively for bright Malay children. The personnel in the police, navy and army was made up of  almost entirely Malays too.  This situation remains.  In this way, the "gun" was given to the Malays.  The exclusion of Chinese in such things was, in my view, based on the deep British distrust of the Chinese. They well knew what the Chinese were capable of and remember the hell the Japanese has suffered during the Japanese occupation of Malaya.  And after all, the British High Commissioner Sir Henry Gurney was killed by communist insurgents who were mainly Chinese too.  Despite the aforesaid, the British had been fair when they left and had afforded citizenship, rights to one’s own religion and vernacular education for the Chinese and Indians.

I am rambling off here just to remind my fellow Malaysians to understand the basic pillars on which this nation stands upon and was built.  Let us not spoil what we have built all these years.  Instead let us safeguard the rights of one and all that are ingrained in the constitution which is something the founding fathers had agreed upon. By us, I mean the various races including the Malays as well. Let us not rock the boat too much.

Thursday, September 19, 2013



An article by Dr. Chandra Muzaffar who is President of the International Movement for a Just World – published in The New Straits Times on 17.7.05 – transcribed by Joe Chelliah

It’s unanimous: The dastardly bomb attacks in London on July 7th 2005 were a barbaric act.  There is no other way to describe the planned, premeditated targeting of civilians.  It is political violence of this sort that constitutes stark naked terrorism.

While all of us would regard 7/7 as barbaric, some of us would be deeply disturbed by statements attributed to the British and American leaders in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, statements that sought to present themselves as men upholding the canons of civilised conduct.  In their view – and in the sight of the media – they were “defenders of civilization” under siege from barbaric elements.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  If it is barbaric to murder 50 civilians is it civilised to kill 100,000 civilians in Iraq?  That is the number of civilians who have died in Iraq as a result of the Anglo-American occupation since March 2003 according to The John Hopkins University study.

Is it civilised to use cluster munitions, incendiary bombs, depleted uranium (DU) and chemical weapons against a civilian population? 

As a member of the Jury of Conscience of the World Tribunal on Iraq (WTI) which sat in Istanbul on June 23-27, 2005, I was presented detailed evidence by expert witnesses on “how leukemia has risen sharply in children under five residing in those areas which had been targeted by DU”.

I heard accounts of how the occupying forces deliberately directed attacks on hospitals, residential neighborhoods, electricity stations and water purification plants.  The total destruction of Falluja is testimony to this.  It is a city where even children, pregnant women, elderly persons and wounded civilians were sprayed with bullets. 

And lest we forget, what about the degrading torture of prisoners not only in Abu Ghraib but also in Mosul Camp Bucca and Basra?  Is that a mark of civilization? 

The “civilised” destruction of Iraq did not begin with its occupation in 2003.  The severe and inhuman economic sanctions against the people of Iraq over a period of 12 years beginning in August 1990 had already killed 650,000 children.  How can civilised leaders preside over such inhumanity?

But Iraq is only the latest victim of the “civilised” embrace of the great centres of Western imperial power.  We still remember Vietnam, whose soil is soaked with the blood of millions of men, women and children
who were slaughtered mercilessly as they resisted first French and then American aggression.  The latter had no qualms about using such “civilised” weapons as Agent Orange and napalm as it attempted to crush the “barbaric” Vietcong.
Other “barbaric” nations in Asia and Africa have their own tales to tell of the colossal price they paid when they came face to face with the “civilised” marauders from the West.  It has been estimated that in the Western colonial subjugation of the two continents some 40 million lives were lost.

But the continent that has suffered most at the hands of Western civilization is, of course, Latin America.  From the extermination of the indigenous peoples from the 15th century onwards (perhaps some 30 million people were killed) to the elimination of opponents of US imperialism in the 20th century, it is a continent that has borne the brunt of the “civilizing mission” of powerful aggressors.

The point is simple.  Leaders in the West, specifically those in London and Washington, have no moral authority to talk of civilised standards.  One should realize that when these leaders kill civilians it is invariably part of some nefarious plan to conquer someone else’s land, or control someone else’s resources, or to establish one’s hegemonic power.

In other words, civilian slaughter has been an integral dimension of the numerous wars of aggression that the centres of power in the West have undertaken in the course of the last 1,000 years, the Iraq adventure being the latest.

Of course non-Western states have also embarked upon wars of aggression.  Whoever the perpetrator, a war of aggression by its very nature is a far greater evil than any other violence we know, as the Nuremberg Trials observed.

It follows from this that the killing of civilians in such wars is, from a moral perspective, more barbaric than the senseless, mindless violence that those who are fighting subjugation and occupation sometimes engage in.  Thus in specific language, the occupiers of Iraq have been more barbaric than the London bombers.

Why is it that most people are not aware of this? Why is it that the barbaric deeds of those who claim to be civilised are not part of the popular consciousness?  The main reason is the reality of global power.  Those who have donned on the robe of civilization happen to be the rulers of the world.  They are in a position to shape the global discourse on what is right and what is wrong, who is good and who is evil.  Their power is so overwhelming that they have transformed oppressor into liberator; aggressor into victim; warmonger into peacemaker.

Which is why barbarians masquerade as the civilised today?

Saturday, August 10, 2013

How the British Seduced and Won Over Our Nature’s Gentlemen : A Lesson For All Malaysians.

(by Joe Chelliah)

I have often wondered how only a relatively few Brits ruled over and controlled such a vast empire on which, they had boasted, that the sun never sets. They had employed different strategies that best suited in differing localities all over the world and have gone down in history as the last of the greatest empires in human civilization.  It is generally agreed that they divided and ruled which I personally am not too comfortable with.  But I will not ramble on on this issue but merely focus on how the British managed to excel in Malaya and make it indeed the “ gem on its crown’ without actually “ruling” the place.  I say this that the Malay rulers were NEVER disposed, even during the Japanese occupation to a great extent.  Even the Japanese left the Malays alone.

The British colonials  were quite unlike the Portuguese and Spaniards who also had a missionary zeal to spread Christianity on their agenda worldwide.   The football countries of South America and The Philippines can serve as good examples.  They ae staunchly Catholic countries today.  I posit here that the British mission was purely set on trade. Only the Dutch can come as a close second as both came here as mercantile companies – The Dutch East India Company (VOC) and the British East India Company (EIC).  Since its creation in 1600 by The Royal Charter granted by Queen Elizabeth I, the influence of The East India Company has been well documented.  Without the EIC our world would not be as it is today. 

The early colonials saw great potential in the fertile plains and undulating hills in Malay Peninsula. They acquired Penang and Singapore quite easily be helping the Malay rulers fend off the Siamese besides helping their preferred candidates to ascend thrones claimed by disputing
brothers, uncles and cousins.  Melaka was taken over through negotiations with the Dutch through the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824 which effectively divided the Malay Archipelago into the English and Dutch spheres of influence among themselves.  What was under the British is what we know as Malaysia and Brunei today with Indonesia being wholly “owned” by the Dutch. This treaty also effectively kept the Spanish out of the Malay a archipelago who then centered their mission and activity in only the Philippines which is predominantly Catholic today.

It is my take that the British managed to rule Malaya well until 1957 by understanding the local Malay psyche very well.  They had studied the Malays well and knew their strengths and more so their weaknesses.  They knew that their “nature’s gentleman” (that is what they had termed the Malay) could be the best of friends and the worst of enemies. Leave them alone and they leave you alone – almost a hornets’ nest story. There were essentially four things that they knew that would upset the indigenous Malays terribly.  So they very cleverly steered off the four “taboos” and worked around them which I can identify – leave the Malay sultans, Islam, the Malay language and Malay local customs alone.  Simple as that.

Malays have a strange symbiotic relationship with the Malay rulers.  The word feudalism has actually been an alien thing to Malays.  Till today, no Malay worth his salt will allow anyone to insult
his sultan.  Not quite unlike Siam and Japan, the Malays have a very strong love and loyalty to their respective rulers and since a long time ago.   Even British monarchs were “merely” referred to as His or Her Majesty but in Malay, check this out, the Malaysian king is referred to as Duli Yang Maha Mulia Seri Paduka Baginda Yang Di Pertuan Agung. The early sultans had had all sorts of problems with pirates, tax collection and rival claimants to the throne besides the Chinese secret societies menace all of which they found cumbersome and hard to manage.  With British help all these problems were sorted out quite easily.  Further, the British “placated” the Malay rulers with generous pensions, built stately stone mansions to replace wooden palaces, taught them “social graces” of the British including dressing, regalia, polo and horse riding and brought them to see even distant England.  The Johor royalty is the
best example of this influence to date.  Thus you take care of the sultans and you are afforded a free hand to literally do what you want with the land.  Malay rebellions against the British have been quite insignificant in the overall scheme of things.  When the British tried to curb the powers of the sultan or even dispose them through their proposal for a Malayan Union after WW II the whole Malay race was in the streets in nationwide protests which immediately halted any such British design. This was then replaced with the Federated Malay states in which position of the sultans remained intact.  As I had mentioned, do not play with a hornets’ nest is and was the order of the day.  Today, such a thing is even unlawful to bring up even in Parliament.

Second, Islam has always been the religion of the Malays since the 15th century. Even though Hinduism had left an indelible mark on Malay culture and remains strongly embedded in it, Islam

has always been the religion of the Malays till today. Being a Muslim is equated with being a Malay….. constitutionally speaking too.  Knowing and understanding this Malay sensitivity fully, the British never tried to proselytize Christianity to the Malays and left the sultans in full control over such matters.  They even promulgated a law that prohibits anyone from preaching any non-Islamic religion to the Malays – a law that still stands today.  No missionary activity was allowed on the Malays but it was a free-for-all where non-Muslims were concerned.  To cement Islam and the position of the sultans, the British also made the sultans the respective heads of Islam as well which must have immensely pleased the Malays who allowed the British to do almost whatever they wanted in Malaya.  The  British only technically ruled Penang, Singapore and Melaka which were accepted as Crown colonies.

Thirdly, I am reminded of the Malay saying “Biar mati anak, jangan mati adat”.  The British understood this very well and left the Malays and their customs too alone and conveniently put it under the control of the respective Malay sultans.  The “adat perpatih” practiced in Negeri Sembilan is one that even contradicts Islam especially in matters related to hereditary inheritance.  It is a matriarchal society in which only women can own traditional Malay land
and property which is again something that British had gazetted.  The British, in this way, also protected the Malay ownership of such land from falling into the hands of the migrants.  These laws are in place even till today.  Thus the British stayed clearly off in matters of Malay “adat” (customs) too which again helped them to rule this country quite freely.

Fourthly, the Malay language too was left alone by the British.  Till today, even the most educated Malay is quite happy and proud to speak Malay.  Even if linguists may say that it is an under-developed language and tends to borrow heavily from Sanskrit and English the Malay continues to be proud of his language.  Thus Malays had always had their own schools albeit in huts / pondoks or ramshackle placesto teach Malay and Jawi ( the original written form of Malay).

These Malay schools also made the learning of Islamic tenets and reciting the Quran an integral part of the curriculum.   In 1957, Malay was made the national language in the Federal Constitution which again was drafted by none other than the British.

When the British left they did not completely forget the large almost 50% non-Malay communities that had contributed towards the British coffers too.  As such full citizenship for non-Malays born after Merdeka was enshrined in the Malayan constitution with an allowance for naturalized citizenship too for those born before 1957 ……… and also for those who, though born elsewhere, could apply for citizenship after staying in Malaya for a certain period of time. Those born in the Straits Settlements even before 1957 were considered British citizens with automatic Malayan citizenship. The other provisions for the non-Malays (or seen as concessions today) were and they include included the right to profess non-Islamic religions and the right to study the respective mother tongues of the Indians and the Chinese.  All these were agreed upon by representatives of the Malays, Chinese an Indians whom the British recognized and negotiated with before granting independence.  In return the Malays were to enjoy certain special privileges that included Islam being the official religion of Malaya and the Malay language to be made the national language.  All such provisions are now referred to as the “social contract” although that word is a more recently coined word. 

 It would be good for all Malaysians to know of these things which I consider the basic foundations on which the nation stands today. ………including the “social contract” which have helped Malaya, and later Malaysia, to grow and prosper with peace and stability even till now.  When these provisions are questioned by anybody the boat gets rocked which can result in much civil commotion and social disorder that we can ill afford. I hope for a more united and peaceful Malaysia.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


By Joe Chelliah D.N.S., A.N.S., P.J.K.
The writer Joe Chelliah is a musician cum educator since 1960 and is an events consultant since     1993.  His vast experience includes managing an assortment of corporate events from annual dinners and company outings  to family carnivals and launch for clients such as Motorola, Texas Instruments, Petronas, UEM Group, PLUS, MRCB, Perodua, Westport, Northport, FELDA and MIDA.


An event can be any social happening can be and have become part and parcel of our cultural landscape that involve the government, corporate or community sectors. However, event management still remains an unregulated “business.  Events cover a wide array of purposes including entertainment,  education, sports, life style events, religion, seminars, marketing , branding and what not..

The very term “management” implies overcoming significant problems and managing them.  So, event management is also problem management in reality.   There are literally thousands of self-proclaimed event managers and because there is no official regulating body anyone can be an event manager.  This in itself is a problem.  The construction industry in contrast is regulated by various bodies including the CIDB and contractors are graded from A to F. 

It is my contention that event management is about handling any problem that arises in an event from planning and conceptualizing to the final delivery.  I must also state unequivocally that managing an event and organizing an event organizer are totally different sides of the same coin.  This distinction must be understood clearly. The event organizer is the one who is hosting and paying for the event while the event manager is the professional who is paid to manage the event.  The management of problems in most events generally revolves around:

a)     The client
b)     The suppliers 
c)      The entertainers 
d)     The budget 
e)     Quality Control

Professionals are needed to manage an event smoothly 
Managing The Client

Client expectations are usually very high and this makes them also very anxious of the outcome of the event.  I call this “client trauma”.  A good event manger must manage this trauma from the design stage itself with much tact and diplomacy. The client may have had bad experiences with a previous event which might have been badly managed.   Allaying the client’s fears and worries by highlighting the event manager’s track record with visuals and videos does help.  This strategy is better than giving references like in the old days.

 Clients’ expectations can even be unreasonable at times given the poor budget allocation.   Thus the lowering of a client’s expectations and then exceeding it in the final delivery helps establish the event mangers credibility in the long run. Most clients are often taken in by smooth sales talk. It is better to remind and warn the client of Murphy’s Law in advance ….that is “anything that can go wrong will go wrong” and more so in the use of electronic equipment.  The client can be reassured that the equipment being used is well maintained and fairly new.

Some clients indeed try to manage or part-manage the event by unnecessarily by procuring certain items or artistes themselves thinking it is cheaper. This is not necessarily true.  They can also keep breathing down the event manager’s back like a “mandore” and this too can be a hindrance to the event manager’s team.  Artistes or suppliers contracted directly will usually only listen to the client and may not follow the instructions of the event manager.  It is always best to have one event manger who sees the forest as a whole and not merely the trees or branches as would a supplier or an artiste.  Too many cooks can spoil the soup.

Managing The Suppliers

There is such a thing called a supplier mentality, trust me. The supplier’s main interest is to supply what he has been contracted for.  Of course that does not mean he is not bothered about the event but his view is only of his “tree or branch” and not the “forest”. These days some suppliers have also become event managers and some are actually doing well.  Suppliers tend to impress the client by the fact that they own all the things being supplied.  Suppliers are also only interested to rent equipment from their own stable even if such logistics may not be always be suitable for the event.  Event managers on the other hand will think for the client and procure only the most suitable and the latest stuff available in the market for the event.

Many clients seldom know that suppliers have two sets of rates for their logistic rentals – one for event managers and one for clients they are not the same. It is just like any retail and wholesale business.   The client always gets the higher price tag while a significant discount is given to the event manager to “cari makan”.  Just as there are A to Z category event managers, suppliers too can be categorized along similar lines. Good event mangers can differentiate them

Thus a sound working knowledge of the latest artistes and AV equipment available in the country  is essential to be a good event manager. This usually comes from experience and a constant updating  of the  latest trends, artistes and AV logistics available.

A Family Carnival in Stadium Settings

 Managing The Entertainers

Entertainers are usually the main attraction and crowd pullers.  This aspect can go wrong for a host of  reasons such as mismatching of an artiste with the audience,  insensitive handling of the artistes and poor stage production.  Most artistes are easy to handle if you exercise a bit of psychology and have a little common sense. 

Remember never to scold any performer in private or in public for anything even if they are as guilty as a fox with a chicken in its mouth.  They can be very sensitive and it is unwise to reprimand them for anything including such things as arriving just five minutes before the show without any rehearsal or sound check.  They can just walk away.  So it is of utmost importance to understand this and “tolerate” their idiosyncrasies, if any.  This happens more often with certain artistes who are convinced that they are superstars and deserve special treatment.  Event managers know how to handle such difficult but usually very popular artistes.

All artistes appreciate prompt payment and preferably in cash.  The 50% deposit must be paid in advance besides making all transport, accommodation, sound system and F & B requirements for the artiste and entourage.  The balance must be paid immediately after the show preferably in cash too.  If the artiste is paid in full even before the show after the sound check you assured of a good show from the artiste.

There are cases where artistes had been paid nothing else other than the 50% deposit.  The event manager goes missing after the show is over or refuses to take calls from the artiste concerned for the balance payment.  Generally, artistes know who the really professional event managers are and are happy to work with such managers. In any case, they will still perform for anyone who calls but pays them according to their terms or a no show situation can arise.  And finally, like suppliers, artistes too quote higher prices directly to clients when contacted but have a lower rate for event managers.  And yes, there are still some artistes who come with an unessarily large entourage comprising  of not only legitimate make-up artistes or technicians but also boy/girl friends, children or friends or relatives.


Managing artistes at a show is an event management skill  – even with clowns

The Budget

This of course is the main problem often precipitated by the supply and demand factor.  Event managers are a dime a dozen today as are artistes. Knowing this, a client may tend to squeeze the event manager particularly if the procurement department folks of the bigger multi-national companies come into the picture.  Such people treat the entertainment people in the same way the procure pipes and nails for their companies from vendors.  In the 1990’s a medium budget annual dinner could cost anything above RM 50,000.  These days the budget for a similar event can be as low as RM 15,000 and the clients still ask for the “wow” factor with such a budget.  Given the growing number of event managers to choose from this situation is not likely to go away.

Managing the Quality Control (QC) in Events

To manage and  to QC well, an event manager has to know what quality is in the first place and therefore have proper experience and a sound working knowledge.  Any microphone can be used for example but a good event manager must first know what a quality microphone is in the first place.  For example, in supplying the sound system the size of the crowd, whether the venue is indoor or outdoor, the sound pressure level (SPL), the acoustics of the venue and so on must all be factored in.  It becomes all the more important with the mass availability of made-in China clones that have flooded the market in almost every facet of audio-visual logistics in Malaysia.  Of course most clients do not know the difference but it is imperative for a good event manager.  Some “good” event managers intentionally use cheaper sub-standard AV equipment to maximize their profit and in this way would definitely compromise on quality.  Clients can be unaware of such tactics.

Concluding Remarks

As in any business there is always the profit motive and survival in the entertainment world of event management needs a delicate balance and juggling between reputation and quality and there are many quality event managers in Malaysia but sadly they are heavily outnumbered by lesser event managers in this “dog-eat-dog” industry.  Generally, what you pay is what you get.

Monday, May 13, 2013


Today, as also in the colonial times, Malays remain well-protected in all spheres of life. Islam, the religion of the Malays, is well protected in the constitution as the official religion. Proselytizing any other religion to Muslims is a legal offence although Islam may be propagated to others without any problem....the British made this law in the peninsula a long time ago. Malays are and have always been very sensitive in this matter. Such are the laws of the country that have been accepted all these years. Malay as the national language is guaranteed and enshrined in the constitution. Customary practices of the Malay peoples and their royalty are also unquestionable.

Today, all the major components of the state machinery such as the civil service, the armed forces, the police and all other major enforcement agencies are completely under Malay control. Malay political dominance since Merdeka remains. All the sultans are Malays too as are the Menteri Besars. The top brass of the armed forces and police and judiciary are all Malays. The Malay Civil Service has always been in Malay control even during British “rule” and till today I have never heard of non-Malay District Officer, Penghulu or even a Ketua Kampung. So recent questions such as what do the Chinese want some more can be thrown back at the Malays with equal validity. Even before Merdeka, affirmative action for Malays has always been there.

If Indians and Chinese migrated over here it was done under full British auspices with permission of the Malay rulers. The British were only interested in trade initially and had the East India Company doing it here - nothing more than a mere commercial initiative. Seeing the formidable military power that the British had, the various Malay rulers slowly sought their protection against their foreign as well as political foes or rivals to the throne - Siam, the Bugis, Javanese, the Dutch and just about any perceivable threat to themselves such as rivalry in ascension to the thrones.

The British in return for the favors of the sultans took real good care of them by giving pensions (monetary reward for no work done), building stone palaces for the first time, westernizing them with cigar and wine and polo etc. The Johor royalty for example exhibits much British tradition in the official dressing and even handle-bar mustaches of older times. All such things immensely favored and pleased the Malay rulers who then "allowed" the British to “maharajalela” over here. In such a scheme of things, the Malay peasantry was not involved at all to the extent of even neglect one might say.

The British also "protected" Malay interests by instituting many other things like elite Malay schools ( MCKK), gazetted Malay reserves and customary lands, cleaned up old methods of governance, taxation and modernized the country albeit for the rubber and tin initially. As they the British too did not want any civil unrest or anarchy that would adversely affect their trade the British always “obliged” again and again in such matters. Again with the rulers' knowledge and assent they put into place a better system of governance and enforced it. This system still remains

Monday, March 18, 2013

Of Missionary and Government Schools in Malaysia: Some Thoughts

                                                                           The Old Seremban Convent                                                                                                                             

Almost everyone has some emotional attachment to their alma mater irrespective of whether it is a sekolah pondok, a university, college or school. I too have strong sentiments in the matter and to date think very highly of  all of my mine - the Muar High School, MPIK and The University of Iowa..  As such it is not uncommon to see those who had studied in the missionary schools of Malaysia to also speak fondly of them.  Both my sisters ( 85 and 76 yrs old) and daughters attended the Convent of The Holy Infant Jesus and would of course not say anything unfavorable of their alma maters and would instead speak accolades of them and take up a defensive stance if anything negative is to be said of their convent schools....even now
                                              The Old St. Paul’s Institution Seremban

The problem in Malaysia is when one tends to overrate his or her school. Before 1965 when a common school uniform was introduced nationwide all schools lost their identities.  The minister of education at that time was Khir Johari. The old names were retained but uniforms were standardized with the turquoise blue pinafores and khaki green pants.  Later on the baju kurung versions which crept in with especially the Malay medium schools of the 70's are now almost standard wear for Malay girls plus the tudong. 

Perhaps it was the government of the day’s idea to play down the prominence of the bigger and longer established town schools in Malaysia and to make the rural students of other “lesser” and newly established schools feel less inferior. It was also a time when Malaysia saw the unprecedented building and establishment of both new primary and secondary schools nationwide. It is not my point to comment on this move of uniform change but suffice it to say that it did “kill off” the uniqueness of long established schools and traditions.  Of course today, this move can be seen as a futile one if not stupid as it did diminish the pride and sense of belonging to a particular school.  In fact there has been a reversal of sorts with increased elitism in Malaysian education. What is now happening is the opposite trend when we have built and established elite schools and even special MARA schools and others with fully-boarding facilities. And of late its worse when we hear of sekolah pintar, sekolah this and sekolah that. The original spirit of the 1965 has been, therefore, defeated in purpose of making all schools same and uniform..... a futility from the start.

                                                                       Convent Girls in Their Old Blue Pinafore Uniforms

In government schools of the 50’s the boys wore navy blue shorts and white shirts. In contrast, the missionary school boys traditionally wore white shorts and white shirts.  This differentiated them pretty well. The Chinese schools had their own distinct uniforms too.  The girls in government schools wore a green pinafore while those from the convents wore blue ones.

There was immense rivalry between the mission schools and government schools in almost every field from academics to sports and games.  In Seremban the traditional foes were KGV and SPI who were quite evenly matched with SPI having a lead in hockey while KGV was better in rugby. In Muar where I was schooled, it was a no fight situation at all between St. Andrews and our High School which was an obvious winner in all fields from academics to sports and games.  I am pretty sure that it would have been about the same in all the major towns in Malaysia such as Penang, Ipoh, Taiping and KL.

                                                          The Uniforms of Today

There are still many missionary schools around who do have some autonomy especially if they own the land and buildings but are fully government aided. However, the nuns and brothers are no more. They have quit. In Seremban both the Convent and the SPI buildings of yesteryears are gone. The land and buildings of SPI were negotiated for and bought over by some housing and development company which offered an alternative site in Lobak for the secondary school and Taman Bukit Emas for the SPI primary.  This happened in the late 70’s. The Seremban Convent did not initially agree to move or accept any commercial initiatives. Finally, the Convent nuns did sell off the property and actually shut down the school. The developers built another school for the displaced students from the Seremban Convent in the Taman Bukit Emas vicinity too and it became known as SMJK Puteri. This took place almost 10 years later in the late 80's.

Not many people are not aware of these commercial initiatives and often blame the government in their ignorance for the shutdown of such missionary schools.  The government of course did give its consent. In any case SPI and the Convent were dead smack in the middle of Seremban town centre and caused massive jams even at that point in time when car ownership was nothing like the extent that it is today.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

An Email Response to An Ardent PKR Supporter/Ex-Student

Dear …….,

I do understand your feelings and most other people like you. I too feel very frustrated often.

But let us not whack the whole Malay race just because there are also Malays who vehemently oppose some of UMNO's policies and its Ibrahim Ali sort of racism like you.  Let us not ourselves become racists in which case we would be no different than those people whom we are criticizing.  We should instead focus on issues and not just spew hatred for the whole Malay race. The following taken from your message to me is a case in point.

"The Malays have a very warped view of justice. Malays practise two standards of justice. There is one standard for the Malays and another for the non-Malays...."

You may qualify it by saying more specifically UMNO Malays........and many of them are your dear friends too.

The crux of whole problem may lie essentially in economics. You are now, like me,  also in your twilight years and old enough to remember what and how Malays were like esp in the kampongs in the 50's and 60's. Tamils were no better in the JKR quarters and rubber estates as were the Chinese in the new villages when we got Merdeka.  

FYI and if you are unaware, it was the British who initiated the basics of affirmative action to uplift the Malays whom they saw as the definitive race in this country. Even long before Merdeka, they had State and Federal minor scholarships for kampong Malay kids from Std 1 to Form V....they started elite educational institutions for Malays like the MCKK....and also the Malay Civil Service, The Malay Regiment, Malay Reserve Land etc etc.

The Malays have started tasting more economic successes esp after the NEP and its highly unlikely that they will let it a child that has come to like /addicted to the pacifier (that thing which babies suck - in Malay "punteng"). The UMNO linked Malays and their Chinese and Indian "parasite" cronies have been increasingly abusing the system to the tune of thousands, then millions and now billions and of late more people have become aware of these through the various scandals exposed. It takes a lot of patience and time to undo all of this .....this "rot" started in 1970's itself and that was 40 years it will take even a longer time to rectify all the mess - especially the "mental" damage.

It is also to be remembered that the non-Malays too have directly or indirectly also benefited from the NEP. The grandchildren and children of the labor class Indians and New Village Chinese today too are having a far better life....let's not kid ourselves.

The over-correction of the economic imbalance by over-enthusiastic leaders such as TDM has now got to be reversed. Around Merdeka and even up to the late 60’s, the Malayan civil service was controlled by the non-Malays and particularly “infested” with the Jaffna / Ceylon Tamils. They were everywhere  and  in every position from the top to the bottom.  Even hospitals, the railways, the ports etc was in non-Malay control and something to the tune of 90% non-Malays and 10% Malays (mostly drivers, jagas and ward attendants).

To correct this, the NEP was introduced in the aftermath of the May 13 incidents. During TDM's time the non-Malay prominence in such areas was completely reversed so that today it is the other way around with 90% Malays in the civil service - thus an apparent over-correction has taken place. A healthy 60% to 40% ratio would better reflect our Malaysian population mix of today....and this too has to come about slowly again.  This correction of the "over-correction" would be a step in the right direction.

So let us focus on key areas that have gone wrong that also involves all Malaysians. Many Malay politicians especially the UMNO variety have partaken in corruption from the top to the bottom of the Malaysian population and this alone is the MAJOR problem. But who bribes them or started bribing them in the first place?? The giver is as guilty. Two hands clap - not just one.  Till today those who perpetuate high level corruption are not solely the Malays.

The other major area that was badly affected is the quality of education quality with English down-graded to a lowly position and the sciences and religious study given undue prominence with the misconception that we will have a more morally upright and science oriented youth - again this has misfired with bigger social problems emerging. At best we may have been successful in making Malays dress and look more Arab than Malay.

So do some deep pondering on just the couple of major problems that I have highlighted......once these things are sorted out, the other problems will slowly disappear too, I believe.

Yours sincerely

Masterjee Joe