Thursday, October 15, 2015

Life Long Learning as an Integral Part of a Healthy, Active, Balanced and Happy Living - Address at the 4th Convocation of MASA College

Dressed in the Official Gown for the Convocation Ceremony

Photo fr right Dr. Ranuka Das, Y. Bhg Puan Chin Phaik Yong, Y. Bhg Col. Prof Dato Dr Kamarudin Kachar, Mr. Selvaraja K. Sangarapillai

With members of the Board of Directors of the College before the Convocation Ceremony

Delivering the speech at the Convocation Ceremony

Y Bhg Col Prof  Dato Dr Kamarudin Kachar delivering his speech
1.  Introduction.  The fourth Convocation Ceremony of MASA College was held on October 1, 2015 from 2.00 to 5.30 pm at Dewan D, MAEPS, Serdang attended by 300 graduates and an estimated 1000 made up of the staff of the College, guests and parents of the graduates. The conferment of diplomas was for the following five faculties - Corporate Administration, Executive Secretaryship, Hospitality Management, Information Technology and for the first time, Computer Security and Forensics   It was officiated by Puan Chin Phaik Yong, Director-General of the Human Resource Department and among the distinguished guests present were Yang Berusaha Mr. Selvarajah K. Sangarapillai, CEO of MASA College and Y. Bhg Kol Prof Dato' Dr Kamarudin Kachar.  I feel greatly honored to have been invited as one of the speakers at the Ceremony.   

2. My Message to the Graduates. The details of my speech at the occasion was as follows: 

Tuan Pengacara Majlis,
Y.Bhg. Puan Chin Phaik Yong, Ketua Pengarah Jabatan Tenaga Manusia 
Y. Bhg Kolonel Prof. Dato' Dr. Haji Kamarudin bin Hj. Kachar dari ULAMA, 
Y. Berusaha Mr. Selvarajah K. Sangarapillai, CEO Kolej MASA
Pegawai kanan Kolej MASA,
Dif-dif kehormat, 
Ibu Bapa dan seterusnya para graduan dan pelajar sekalian,

Let me, first of all, take the opportunity to congratulate the Management of Kolej MASA for being able to continue providing the educational and training facilities and resources to the young citizens of the country and once again, for the fourth time, we are gathered here to accord recognition to 300 more graduates .
2.  Let me extend my heartiest congratulations to the the graduates who have successfully fulfilled their requirements for the diploma in Information Technology, Hospitality Management, Corporate Administration and Executive Secretaryship and for the first time in the area of Computer Security and Forensics. Your completion of this diploma course is an achievement to yourself and brings a feeling of pride to your parents and members of your family.
Ladies and Gentlemen, 
3.  I note that the College is moving with time in recognising the increasing importance of computer security and forensics by including it in its curriculum. Our civilization has moved from the Agricultural Revolution, which started with the domestication of wild species of cereals like rice, maize, sorghum which have served as our staple food, obtained from the rich biodiversity of our jungle into cultivated ones and developing the culture of growing them, an estimated 10000 years ago.  Rice was originally domesticated and cultured in the Malay world. Then we had the Industrial Revolution from 1750 to 1850 AD.  Presently, we are in the Information Revolution with the development of computing equipment like the computer in the 1940s. Immense progress has been made in this technology.  
  The first computer science degree was conferred by Cambridge University in 1953.  Purdue University in the USA awarded degrees in the 1960s.  When I studied at Iowa State University in 1965 the IBM computers that the students made use of, were  huge and computers were centralised in specially assigned rooms called the Computer rooms. One cannot input one's data right away but had to use special cards with the arduous task of punching them and then inputting them into the computer. 
  When I started work at the Malaysian Cocoa Board as its first Director-General in the early 1990s, we initiated the internet-based Cocoa Information System (we named it in the effort to centralize all the information on the cocoa industries, both from the primary production, processing, storage, transportation and marketing - in other words, gathering information on all aspects of the supply chain of the cocoa industry. 
4.  The computing hardwares now have shrunk considerably and become mobile - laptops, tablets and smartphones but the information uploaded in the system is staggering.  Google on any topic, like health, millions of websites e.g Ted Talks, Health Tips, Nutrition, Tourism, Travels, Pets etc.   The computer is certainly a great and easily accessible source of information. I find it an easy and simple way to publish books. I usually move around with a digital camera and a note-book.  Take photos of subjects with notes and then download into the blog.  After a period of time you have enough materials for your publication. 
  The internet is a source of entertainment. Go to the You Tube and Google for your favorite Indonesian Dangdut singers like Cita Citata or Ria Amelia for Minang songs or old numbers like Broery Marantika or Sharifah Aini or the Latin American beat, Zumba, Samba. 
  It is also a great mean to communicate through such social media as the Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and popular apps such as Whatsapp, Viper and Line to friends and acquaintances all over the world. 
5.  However, hidden among the staggering benefits of the internet, there are also as Chermaine Poo, a chartered accountant, actress an TV host, 'Crooks that lurk on Social Media' (The Star Metro Sept 23). Among the cyber crimes that Chermaine cited are:
     5.1 Ladies who fall victim to casanova who sweet talk them into surrendering their life saving 
     5.2 Victims gullible enough who believe in the scams that they have won big prizes and lost their              money in the effort to retrieve the prizes - spyware
      5.3 Men who were extorted by providing very personal photos to suppossedly pretty ladies.
      5.4 Enticing the young through the media who are then sexually abused and raped 
  6.  There are other more serious crimes such as:
       6.1 Illegally withdrawing money from other people's account. Recent incident where a bank                  was robbed by a Latin American crooks and more recently the African group
       6.2  Perhaps the most damaging are the many false information that are viral around that can                       destabilise, not only the economic situation but also the security and political situation of the               country
       6.3 Identity theft - in the current spate of political divide, names of political leaders of both sides              have been abused by the opposite side on the social media
       6.4 Purchase/Conferment of degrees by all kinds of Cyber Universities 
7.  With the many crimes linked with the internet, appropriate measures must be taken to address them.  The built up of skill in this area through curriculum development, as undertaken by the College is commendable. 
 8.  I am grateful and appreciative to have been invited to attend and  deliver a speech at this auspicious occasion. This is the third time that I have been invited to the College Convocation, having been given the honor on its first Inaugural Convo in June 2012 where then, I shared with graduates on BALANCED LIVING.    I accepted this invitation, firstly, as it provides an ULAMA like me to share my experiences and wisdom if there is any, with the Y Generation. Secondly, it provides the opportunity to interact with young people and makes one feel young.  More importantly, accepting an invitation to deliver a speech at an event mean that I have to do a little research on the issues that I wish to touch on. I have to read and continue learning new things.  Yes, fellow graduates, ladies and gentlemen, even after having lived for 77 years, reading, attending lectures, participating in seminars, conferences, following language courses, on health, on nutrition etcetcetc in the effort to make your mind active and ‎pick up new information is a continuous thing -  LIFE LONG LEARNING is part of a process of healthy, balanced, active and happy living.
9.  I am an elected Fellow of the Academy of Science.  In the effort to promote science and the utilization of science for development,  the Academy and its related network institutions, organize brainstorming sessions, idea exchange, lectures covering such current topics such as climate change, biodiversity; energy alternatives; housing and transportation; which I make a point to participate.  Ten days ago I participated at the International Conference on Nature and Biodiversity, where Tan Sri Dr Dzulkifli Abd Razak, the former VC of USM, who put a strong case to integrate 'soul' in STEM (acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and suggested that scientific development must not just look at from the economic perspective but has to be anchored with the 'soul' roots such as quality of life, the human aspects, equitibility, culturally-sensitive.  Two days later on September 23 I attended a public lecture organised by the Universiti Islam Malaysia on 'Was the Universe Designed for Life on Earth?' by our top astrophysicist, Dato Dr Mazlan Othman, who mesmerised her 400 participants with the various theories of how the Universe was created, constituents that make up the Universe, the various forces that regulate the existence of life (see my posting in this blog).  Such an informative and exciting lecture.  I am narrating this not to display my arrogance but that at this ripe age there is still that fire to learn and gather knowledge.
10.  As graduates today, you are, I consider, going through the first phase of life - (Acquisition of basic knowledge and Skill)  going through the various levels of schooling, picking up the knowldge and skill to equip yourselves, for a challenging journey in the second phase of your life (Working and gaining Experience). Upgrade your skill through reading and continuous exposure to various ways of upgrading your skill in your area.  Widen your area of knowledge, depending on interest.  There is so much one can pick up on the internet - motivation, self-help, finance, health, sports and recreation, entertainment.  Interact with your peers through discussion sessions. Participate in seminars and conferences.  One can gather so much information through these sources.
11.  In concluding,  once again congratulations on your success in going through the first phase of life and wish success in your endeavors and  ability to overcome the challenges in your second phase of life and to achieve what each one is striving in life i.e HAPPINESS and the keys to achieve it are:
     (a) Good Health – participate in easy and simple exercises, sports and recreational activities on regular basis; have proper and balanced diet and ensure having adequate rest
     (b) Getting involved in exciting activities such as  intellectual, art, culture, religious, gardening, travels, environment (tree planting)
     (c) Practice Balanced Living – physical, intellectual, spiritual and social
     (d) Supercharge thinking through reading – expose to various experiences, practices, words of wisdom of philosophers, leaders, teachers etc which become the driving force to unlock the talents within you
     (e) Change Thinking – choose, act, talk to be productive, healthy, exciting and happy
     (f) Commit to Excellence in Whatever You Do – profession, hobbies, sports, writing
     (g) Share and Write About Your Experiences

Hashim bin Abdul Wahab
Written on 24 September, 2015 Hari Raya AidilAdzha

Written and posting in this blog on Thursday October 15, 2015

Was the Universe Designed for Life on Earth? - The First I-SET Lecture Series

WMAP Image of Cosmic Background Radiation (Source: Wikipedia Encyclopedia - WE)

Poster on the Lecture projected on the Screen

1.  Introduction  I attended the first public lecture of the In Search of Truth (I-SET) Series organised by Universiti Islam Malaysia (UIM) with the intellectually inquisitive topic of 'Was the Universe Designed for Life on Earth?' presented by the First Malaysian Astrophysicist, Datuk Dr Mazlan Othman, FASc held on Tuesday 22 September, 2015 at the Grand Putrajaya Ballroom, Putrajaya Marriott Hotel.  It was participated by an estimated 400 largely representing students and academic staff of the universities in Klang Valley.  Datuk Mazlan is currently the Director of the Mega Science 3.0 Project at the Academy of Sciences Malaysia.  After obtaining her Ph. D in Astrophysics, she had an illustrious career, initially as a lecturer at UKM and then appointed to set up the National Planetarium where she became its chief executive.  She subsequently set up and led the National Space Agency (ANGKASA) and later spearheaded the National Astronaut Program, which saw the launch of the first Malaysian astronaut in 2007.  She took a break serving the nation by taking up the position of Director of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (OOSA) in Vienna, Austria.  For her contributions, she has been conferred numerous awards, among them are Honorary Doctor of Science from University of Otago, New Zealand and Universiti Sains Malaysia;  Russian Federation 'Blue Planet' Award; President's Medal of the UK Institute of Physics; Austria Space Forum Polarstar Award; International Academy of Astronautics Social Science Award; and International Telecommunications Union Merit Award.

2.  Opening Ceremony .  In his welcoming remarks, Tan Sri Prof Dr Mohd Yusof Noor, President of UIM noted that universities play the role of disseminating information to students for attaining qualifications but unfortunately, members of the public were left out. UIM therefore has taken the initiative to organise a series of public lectures to allow people to enjoy intellectual discussions and at the same time, in contributing towards shaping their attitude on certain issues and fulfilling their knowledge and truth.  The lecture series so far organised include U-Wise (in Search of Wisdom) and Halaqah Bicara Intelek and the latest being I-SET.  According to Tan Sri Dr Mohd Yusof , 'the objective of I-SET is to search, explore and articulate the truth based on relevant researches and discoveries.  It is not unusual for research to move into an area of ambiguity and even mysteriousness. This may be the beginning of the truth.  It is a long journey and a very exciting journey, and there is light at the end of the tunnel'.  The honor of officiating the inaugural I-SET lecture was given to a very distinguished Malaysian scientific personality, Y Bhg Tan Sri Dr Omar Abdul Rahman, who was the first Science Adviser.  He has served with distinction with the Veterinary Research Institute and the Founding Dean of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Sciences in the then newly established Universiti Pertanian Malaysia and currently serves in many honorary roles in both the national and international organisations.  Tan Sri Omar is also recipient of honorary doctorates from five international universities and Emeritus Professor of UPM.  In his remarks he highlighted the low allocation of funds for research and development in Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) averaging only 0.14 percent of GNP with Malaysia, allocating a slightly higher percentage at 0.6, compared to developed countries like Japan and Korea.  The same is true with acquisition of knowledge in these countries, which need our attention.

Tan Sri Prof Dr Mohd Yusof Noor delivering his Welcoming Remarks

Tan Sri Dr Omar Abdul Rahman delivering his address in launching the I-SET Lecture

The official opening of the Lecture 

3.  The Lecture.  Dr. Mazlan started her lecture with the Big Bang theory of the creation of the universe estimated to occur 14 billion years ago.  Since then it has continued to expand exponentially in its early formation (according to Hubble Expansion and Inflation theories).  The observable universe is estimated to have a diameter of 91 billion light years. It is constituted of heavy elements (0.03%), stars (0.5%), free gases (4%), dark matter (23%) and the bulk is dark energy (72%). The three possible option of its shape is either open, flat or round.

Timeline of the Universe (Source: WE)

Earth's location in the Universe (Source: WE)

Map of the Superclusters and voids nearest to Earth (Source: WE)

The Three Possible Options of the Shape of the Universe (Source: WE)

Comparison of the Contents of the Universe today to 380000 years of the Big Bang (Source: WE)

The speaker went on to emphasize that the laws of physics determine the nature of the universe.  Nevertheless, she admitted that lately astronomers have found remarkable coincidences that led to fine tuning of these laws.  The universe, under the fine tuning theories, is in a situation when 'certain universal fundamental physical constants lie within a narrow range so that if any of the several fundamental constants were only slightly different, the universe will not be conducive to the establishment and development of matter. For instance, 
a. if the ratio of the strength of the electromagnetic force to gravitational force is slightly smaller, the stars would be less massive than the sun and therefore, incapable of producing heavy elements required for life.  If it was slightly bigger, stars would be too massive, their lives too brief and too uneven to support life; 
b. the strength the atomic nuclei bind together, determines the types and abundance of elements produced within stars which will influence the existence and type of life on Earth; 
c. if the amount of material is too high, the universe would have collapsed.  On the other hand if it is too low, galaxies and stars would have never been formed.  So the amount of matter has to be finely tuned to allow a long-lived universe suitable for the development and sustaining life; 
d.  if the degree of structure in the universe is only slightly smaller, the universe would be inert and would lack any kind of structure and if a little larger, the universe would be too violent for the survival of galaxies, stars or the solar systems and only colossal black holes would exist;
e. if the anti-gravity effect which influence the rate of expansion of the universe changes minutely, galaxies, the stars and the planets and life cannot exist.

  It is the fine tuning of the above factors that create the conditions for life to exist.  Who ultimately regulates and controls the fine tuning?.  It is Allah.  However, a few physicists have theorised that the fine-tuned universe is due to its continued expansion and the existence of not one universe but many - multiverse.

4.  Concluding Remarks.  An intriguing subject indeed.  Astronomy nor physics is my plate of knowledge as my educational background is more biological and agricultural.  However, the topic is certainly of much interest to everyone of us, especially on the creation of the universe and the existence of life itself.  The speaker has certainly enlighten us on the colossal size of the universe and for the first time, at least to me, to know that there are the possibility of more than one universe.  Though I have taken much notes of the lecture but there were considerable information that was Greek to me. I have to resort to Wikipedia Encyclopedia, an extremely useful information source written in simple language, that I resort to, to get a better understanding of the difficult phenomena of the happenings of our universe and the many images produced in this article.  My appreciation to the organizer for the invitation to the lecture, camaraderie of the occasion and the lunch.

Section of the participants

Photo with distinguished guests and participants (seated from right Tan Sri Dr Arshad Ayob, Tan Sri Dr. Omar Abd Rahman, Dato' Faridah; standing from right Dato' Hassan Mad, Prof. Dr Khalid Mohd Nor, Dato' Dr Hashim Abd. Wahab, Tan Sri Mohd Noor Ismail, Col Prof. Dato' Dr Kamarudin Kachar, Datuk Dr. Mazlan Othman, Tan Sri Prof Dr Mohd Yusof Noor, Datuk Dr Awang Sarian

Written and posted on 15/10/2015 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

STEM - Missing the Roots for the Branches: Keynote Address at the International Science & Nature Congress 2015 (ISNaC 2015)

The Opening Ceremony.  At the table are from left Tan Sri Salleh Mohd Noor, Chairman of the Steering Committee; YB Datuk Madius Tangau, Minister of MOSTI; Datuk Dr Soon Ting Kueh, Chairman Organising Committee

Section of the participants - with Dato' Dr. Abdul Rashid Ab. Malik, CEO Pulau Banding Foundation

 Cutting the Anniversary Cake to signify the Official Opening of the Congress

With Prof. Mashhor Mansor of USM

1.  Introduction:  The International Science &  Nature Congress 2015 (ISNaC 2015) was held from 21 to 23 September, 2015 at the Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC), Kuala Lumpur.  It was jointly organised by four scientific-related organisations, who were celebrating their anniversaries - Malaysian Nature Society (MNS 75th), Malaysian Scientific Association (MSA 60th), Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM 30th) and the Academy of Sciences Malaysia (ASM 20th), to discuss the latest findings in scientific research, technological development encompassing materials science, nanotechnology, organic chemistry, forest product development and technology, and, nature and biodiversity conservation. These four organisations: FRIM has been in the forefront of tropical forestry research; MNS, an NGO who has been a long time champion of the conservation and protection; ASM, an organisation that 'undertakes strategic STI studies and delivers programs that mobilise a wide spectrum of expertise through its local and international partners to bring scientific community to a common consultative platform with stakeholders to provide timely, relevant and credible STI inputs to address issues of national and global importance'; MSA, an NGO that promotes science to the public; has been brought together by a dynamic, versatile academician who has been involved in all the four organisations serving in different capacities and currently President of the Malaysian Scientific Association and also served as Chairman of the Steering Committee of the Conference, Academician Tan Sri Dr. Salleh Mohd Nor.  The Congress was attended by close to 600 delegates from 20 countries including 50 Japanese scientists, senior professors and other academics.  It was officially declared open by YB Datuk Madius Tangau, Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI). The opening ceremony was followed by a keynote address at the plenary session of the Congress.

2.  Keynote Address:  The keynote address was delivered by Prof. Tan Sri Dato' (Dr) Dzulkifli Abdul Razak, FASc, Fellow of the Academy of Sciences Malaysia; Chair of Islamic Leadership, Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia and President of the International Association Universities.  Prof. Dzulkifli, in discussing the topic 'STEM - Missing the Roots for the Branches' where STEM refers to Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, pointed out that the Second Machine Age, through science and technological development, has brought prosperity, which is associated with excessive consumption. This has subsequently brought serious consequences, as the population increases, the demand for such natural resources as forest products, biodiversity, water, energy etc escalates. Our environment and the ecosystems - terrestrial, marine and atmospheric - are destroyed and development becomes unsustainable and there is erosion of wisdom.  This, according to Prof Dzulkifli, is development brought about by an arrogant mind and when science loses its soul, leading to a society that is machinistic, dehumanising, utilitarian, externalised, hollowed-out and tech-dependent. He suggested a different approach where economic development is metaphorically regarded as development of the tree of knowledge where the tree is linked to the roots i.e mind and heart. The roots can change and different trees have different types of roots. Nevertheless, these vital roots can nourish relationship, collaboration and trust building that will provide the soul to the living tree via STEM.
  The 21st century, Prof. Dzulkifli added, is an Age of Biology and also an Age of Enlightenment where there is a shift from Mechanical to Organic; Technology-based to Nature-based; Arrogant mind to Humility mind;where things are undertaken with the heart of love, justice, mercy and loyalty. Instead of STEM where economic needs and technology are emphasised,  the scientific community has to adopt the acronym STREAM where R refers to Religion (spiritual needs), E to Ecology, A-Arts, M-Management. Ultimately, the ROOTS have to be anchored strongly where the considerations are maintaining balance, humanity focused, quality of life, high purpose of life, believe in karma and connected to MICROCOSMOS.  and Technology has to be looked at as fit for the purpose, user-friendly and sustainable.  Development in the Malaysian context is INCLUSIVE, EQUITABLE, COLLABORATIVE and CULTURALLY-SENSITIVE.

3.  Other Scientific Programmes. There were four concurrent sessions of the Congress covering:

      3. 1 Conference of Forestry & Forest Products Research which covered, among others, such                      topics as :
             - An Effective Future Forest Management Approach for the Protection of Environment
             - Forestry and Environment R & D
             - Tourist Carrying Capacity Assessment for Ecotourism Development
             - Evapotranspiration in a Small Forested Catchment
             - Forestry in the Post 2020 Climate Change Regime: Role of Science
             -  National and World Heritage Sites
             - Forest Biotechnology
             - Forest Biodiversity
             - Natural Products
             - Forest Economic and Social Sciences

         3.2 Symposium on Materials Science and Nanotechnology touched on Functional                                      Polymer, Nanotechnology, Composite and Other Materials, Advanced Materials.

         3.3 Symposium on Organic Chemistry discussed Synthesis, Mechanism and Reactivity,                              primarily studies undertaken by the Japaneses scientists

         3.4 Symposium on Biodiversity and Nature attracted environmentalists who highlighted the                      serious threats to our biodiversity such as fireflies, sea grass in the Straits of Johor, tigers,                    birds in Setiu Wetlands, montane flora in Cameron Highlands, seabirds in the East Coast                      Malaysia, Sunda pangolin in Peninsular Malaysia, elephants.  MNS, the organiser of the                      Symposium, took the opportunity to report on the conservation achievements during the 75                  years of its existence and its partnership with the corporate sector in the various                                    conservation projects.

In the Symposium on Biodiversity and Nature with from right Dato' Ghazaly Yusoff, member of BOT MNS; Mr. Vincent Chow, Chairman MNS Johor Branch; Mr. Henry Goh, President MNS 

Group photo with participants at the Symposium on Biodiversity and Nature

4. Concluding Remarks  There is so much information one can get from the Congress of this nature within the short space of time.  However, there were too many sessions to cover in this Congress.  I was particularly interested on issues pertaining to many aspects of forestry from its effect to climate change, rehabilitation, selective logging; on biodiversity and nature and conservation efforts; also on some aspects of nanotechnology.  I could manage a few presentations on biodiversity and nature.  At the same time the Congress provided me the opportunity to catch up with old friends as I am involved in various capacities in three (ASM, MNS, MSA) out of the four organisations associated with the Congress.  I too have many friends in FRIM.

Written and posted on 13/10/2015

Friday, October 9, 2015

Khmer History and Civilization

Angkor Wat (from Wikipedia Encyclopaedia) 

1. Introduction.  My involvement as Vice-President of the World Malay-Polynesian (M-P) Organisation, since its establishment in 2012 (see earlier posting on the blog entitled International Conference of the Malay-Polynesian Ancestral Nations in July 2012) gets me interested in all aspects covering history, culture, languages, religion, economic, education, social, politics etc of the 33 nation states of the M-P ancestral nations, covering as far West as Malagasy to as far East as Easter Island, covering southern Thailand, Cambodia, Southern Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, the Philippines and the Polynesian Island archipelagoes in the Pacific Ocean. So when the Institute of World Malay Civilization of the National University of Malaysia (UKM) in Bandar Baru Baru, a km away from my residence, organised a lecture on Khmer History and Civilization, I was present at the lecture.  It was held on September 18, 2015 starting at 2.30 pm and the lecture was delivered by Prof. Dr Chanthourn, Archeologist and Deputy Director of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, Institute of Fine Arts, Cambodia.  It was attended by an estimated 50 participants.
A section of the participants at the lecture

Photo with speaker, Prof. Dr Chanthourn (third from left)

2.  Early History.  The Khmer Civilization was preceded by three earlier kingdoms:

     Funan Kingdom - 68 to 550 AD. The Kingdom covered present-day Vietnam, Cambodia,  southern Thailand and Peninsular Malaysia and it was a Hindu kingdom, composed of many small settlements with each having its own chief.
     Chenla Kingdom - 550 to 800 AD
      Champa Kingdom - 1000 to 1800 AD

The Funan Kingdom

3. The Khmer Civilization.  802 to 1432 AD - The Civilization, which was centred in Angkor Wat,  is known for the many temples built in honor of Hindu God, Vishnu and the water systems comprising of canals and reservoirs used for irrigation, trade and travel.  The people developed a sophisticated way of rice cultivation and were skill in metallurgy especially in making tools from iron, of which the Kingdom was rich in. The iron bars were used to cut rocks, located in the mountain range around 125 km away, into huge slabs which were then loaded into rafts and transported to the temple site in the vast plain of Siem Reap. Other iron tools were used for stone carving - among the popular figures engraved in the stones were forms of gods and goddeses,  human faces, elephants and buffaloes.
  Prof. Chanthourn is active in archeological work and share his professional experience.  He narrated of the discovery of historical relics during road construction. He  was instrumental in the establishment of a Historical Park in Siem Reap, where many of the historical relics and artifacts are kept.

  4.  Comments and Concluding Remarks.  Khmer Civilization was part of the bigger Malay-Polynesian Civilization, linked in history to Funan, Langkasuka, Srivijaya, Majapahit and Melaka kingdoms, where the inhabitants of these kingdoms were known for a number of attributes - skilled farmers that had domesticated rice and developed a very advance cultivation culture of it; metallurgists who developed iron tools to build enormous structures like Angkor Wat and other temple centres in Cambodia, the Borobudur and Prambanan temple complexes in Indonesia; musicians and great sailors.  The lecture provided me more insights on the rich shared historical heritage of the Khmer-Malay-Indonesian history and the need for scholars to work together in the study of our history. Also, the lecture threw light to the many other temple complexes around Siem Reap, which I missed to visit on my trip to Angkor Wat some years ago and new historical locations such as the Historical Park that are worth taking a look at. Further more, participating in such anthropological discussions makes me understand deeper my roots.                       

  The Khmer Kingdom (Wikipedia Encyclopaedia)                 

Temple structures

Engravings on the stone wall and religious relic

Written and posted on October 8, 2015

Monday, October 5, 2015

Visit to National Botanic Gardens Shah Alam (Taman Botani Negara Shah Alam)

Maps shown during the briefing on the numerous botanic gardens in the country

The briefing by Encik Mohd Gaddafi (in red) to the delegation (on right)

Exchanging of books after the briefing

1.  Introduction:  The idea of visiting the Gardens was kindled,  following the discussion with the Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, YB Dato' Ir. Hamim bin Samuri, on issues pertaining to the need to pursue Sustainable Development, particularly, on the conservation and protection of our biodiversity and environment, where, one of the strategies is the establishment of a National Natural History Museum. Subsequently, there was a report published in the New Straits Times on the National Botanic Gardens in Shah Alam and I was curious whether this Park fulfils the roles and functions of a Natural History Museum.  I rang up my brother, Tan Sri Adzmi, who lives in this capital city of Selangor and a regular visitor and user of the Gardens as he treks in the many trails in it, weekly and he offered to assist by contacting its authorities and arranging the visit. I also invited a close friend, Tan Sri Salleh Mohd Noor, an ardent environmentalist and a strong advocate of the conservation and protection of our rich natural heritage, who agreed to come along with his wife.  The date of the visit was fixed on Wednesday 16 September, 2015 and by the scheduled appointed time i.e 10am I was escorted to the meeting place at the Data Collection Centre and welcomed by the officers at the Centre headed by its Director, Encik Mohd Gaddafi bin Denis. The delegation was made up of Tan Sri Adzmi Abdul Wahab, Tan Sri Dr.Salleh Mohd Noor and Puan Sri and myself.
The briefing was followed by an exchange of books.  Tan Sri Salleh presented two of his books entitled  'BELUM Revisited' and 'Endau Rompin' to the Gardens and in return Mohd Gaddafi presented the visitors '100 Birds of National Botanic Gardens Shah Alam'.

2.  Objectives and Functions of the Gardens.  According to Mohd Gaddafi,  the Gardens, which currently covers an area of 817 ha, has a long history. It was originally established as an Agricultural Park and launched as Taman Pertanian Bukit Cherakah in April 1986.  In 1991 DYMM Sultan of Selangor renamed it as Taman Pertanian Malaysia Bukit Cahaya Seri Alam.  It was in 2011 the decision was made to call it Taman Botani Negara Shah Alam (National Botanic Gardens Shah Alam) with an intended bigger roles and functions.  As revealed on its website, the Gardens are principally an agricultural-based tourism centre with its functions covering education; conservation of selected agricultural areas of interests such as herbs, spices and fruits; scientific research, documentation and recreational.  Its many attractions project its roles as more focused in touristic and recreational activities.  Among the attractions are Animal Garden, Spices Garden, Cactus Garden, Herbal Garden, Fruit Garden and Four Seasons House. The recreational activities include the adventure challenges, packaged as Skytrek, cycling where visitors can rent bicycles and pedal in the various trails, fly fishing, trekking and swimming. The Gardens is administered by an Executive Board chaired by the Secretary General of the Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry (MOA).  The technical aspects of the Gardens is overseen by an Advisory Board headed by the Director-General of MARDI.

  3.  Conducted Tour of the Gardens.  We were taken on a conducted tour of the Gardens by the Director on the tour bus, passing through the Animal Garden, the Spice Garden, the Fruits Garden and our first stop is the reservoir.  The reservoir was the old water supply source for the city.  There are cages to rear fish in the reservoir which, we were informed, are mainly the red tilapia.  The forest reserve, which presently constitute part of the Gardens, is still extensive.  However not much could be done to deter people from entering the forest and interfering in its biodiversity.  The second stop was at the Four Seasons House, which was built to emulate the seasons of the temperate countries - Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter.  In September, it is the tail end of summer.  Among the plants found in the House are Japanese maple, silver birch, maple oleogami, apple, pear, cherry blossom, Ginko biloba and Japanese cypress According to Mohd Gaddafi, the Gardens continue to be popular attracting more than 400,000 visitors in 2011.  The highest number of visitors recorded was in 1994 when an agricultural show (MAHA) was organised here.    

Conducted tour of the Gardens led by Mohd Gadaffi

The entrance leading to the Reservoir in the Gardens

The Reservoir with fish cages and the forest reserve in the background

Visitors at the entrance of the Four Seasons House in the Gardens 

Group photo in the Four Seasons House (from right Tan Sri Adzmi, Puan Sri, TS Salleh)

 The Garden with flowering plants and fruit trees in the Four Seasons House

  4.  Comments and ConcludingRemarks.  The visit was nostalgic as I was also involved at the initial stage of its development  and glad that the Gardens have survived the test of time and remain a popular agro-tourism destination.  What is more important is that the biggest green lung area in Klang Valley remains as a recreational and healthy ecosystem for the people in the surrounding areas especially for those living in Shah Alam, Kuala Lumpur and Kelang.  However, from the briefing, allocation of fund and the change of name, I feel that the Federal Government plans that the Gardens have  more extensive functions and roles, commensurate with its national image, covering the exploration and studying the biodiversity of our remaining forests; conserving and protecting threatened and endangered species; undertaking research to understand deeper all facets of biodiversity and ecosystems - atmospheric, terrestrial and marine; the development and collection of literature on our tropical rainforests from all available resources; establishing collections of plant species of interest; establishing of herbarium for identification purposes; assessing and planning the utilization of the forests and their products for sustainable economic activities; and coordinating in the conservation and protection of our forests and the development of botanic gardens in the country.. In other words, playing the roles and functions of a National Natural History Museum (NNHM).  Unfortunately Natural History Museum connotes to, many of our national administrators, as an organisation that handles old and antique objects and monuments that should be under the ministry responsible for museums, rather than be placed under the Natural Resources and Environment (NRE) Ministry as it should, as its main function is to conserve and protect our natural resources on land and seas such as the fauna and flora of these ecosystems.  Currently, the Gardens are supposedly to get its technical advise from the Technical Advisory Committee, with representatives from research institutions and universities, but I was informed that the Committee has not met in the last two years.    I strongly feel that the Gardens can certainly play the role as a NNHM and located here with possibly two options.  The first option is that the current developed area covering about 170 ha continue its present activities as an integrated agro-tourism centre, administered by the MOA and the remaining area be converted to serve as NNHM and to be managed by NRE Ministry.  The second option is that the whole Gardens are transferred to NRE as a site for the much awaited and desired NNHM with the recreational facilities being made available to the people like the Kepong Forest Reserve under the Forest Research Institute (FRIM).
  The Gardens are getting considerable challenges as there are encroachments into its forest reserve, pressure to excise part of the Gardens for housing and business development.  It is critical that this green area in the heavily populated Klang Valley be retained as the livalivity  and quality of life of the residents around Kuala Lumpur and Shah Alam is getting lower with green areas to population ratio is fast diminishing and the residents are facing the challenges of pollution, traffic congestions, and flash floods.  It is suggested that Friends of TBNSA be formed as activist group to ensure that the Gardens and the forest reserve with the present hactarage remain in tact as a green lung area of Klang Valley.

Written and posted on October 5, 2015  

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Carnival for Rural Entrepreneurs 2015 (Karnival Usahawan Desa 2015)

The large crowd at one of the Pavillions

 A few of products displayed - dried food products and handicrafts

   1.  I visited the Carnival site on the Saturday (September 5, 2015) afternoon and spent around three hours.  It was held for five days, from 2nd September to 6th, 2015 at Precint 3, Putrajaya to promote and market products produced by small scale entrepreneurs in the rural areas. The exhibits were housed in sprawling huge tents that were constructed in the parking areas amidst the ministries and departments of the Government in the new Federal capital.  It was officially opened by the YAB Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, the Prime Minister of Malaysia. 

   2.  Among the range of products displayed include food and beverages, handicrafts, herbal health and cosmetic, clothings, organic, eco-tourism and services related to the agricultural and rural industries.  The new product displayed that has received considerable interest, was the cabin chalet, which was constructed using containers. The interior of these cabin chalets were beautifully decorated.  These exhibits were displayed under the agencies that have sponsored their development, among them were,  RISDA, FELCRA, KEDA, Jabatan Orang Asli.

   3.  The Carnival also provided a forum for, a. recognising young entrepreneurs  who have participated in the Rural Business Challenge (RBC) 2015 organised by the Ministry of Rural Development in its effort to encourage youths from the rural areas to embark in business enterprises, b. distribute grants to 23 winners of the RBC programme. 


 Special booth for photography
The entrance to the Jabatan Orang Asli Pavillion which housed the exhibits of the Orang Asli
The pavillion that housed exhibits of rural entrepreneurs sponsored by RISDA

Posted on 4 October, 2015 

Biological Toxins and Weapons Convention (BTWC) - Status in Malaysia

   1. The topic was an Idea Exchange programme of the Academy of Sciences Malaysia held on July 28, 2015 at its premises on the 20th Floor MARTRADE Building, Kuala Lumpur to enlighten its Fellow members on the status of biological weapons both in the country and other parts of the world.  The lecture was delivered by Dr. Zalina Yunus.  It was participated by an estimated 50 individuals. It is a new topic to me and whatever knowledge I have about it is related to the Iraqi War which was alleged to have started when the Western powers accused Iraq of producing weapons of mass destruction, usually referred to as biological weapons.  

2.  Biological weapons and toxins are infectious agents such as bacteria, viruses and fungi that are released to the environment for hostile purposes such as destroying  humans, livestock and crops. According to Dr. Zalina, each country has a different list of biological weapons and toxins and realising the potential threat to international peace and security of these easily and cheaply produced
destructive organisms, BTWC that came into force in March 1975, bans the development, production, stockpiling and acquisition of biological agents that have the potential to be harmful to mankind. Malaysia is a party and signatory of the Convention and to date, 172 countries are parties aand signatories to the Convention.  Dr. Zalina also indicated that among the challenges facing the country on this issue are lack of resources in terms of manpower and funds to undertake research, containment of these microorganisms that can easily be carried by animal host such as SARS or MERS,

  3.  Googling in the internet provides lots of information on the subject. Biological weapons have been used early in our history.  During Roman times dead animals were used to foul water supply of the enemies. In more recent times anthrax was used to infect livestock and rice blast to destroy rice crops.  Among the 'scariest bioweapons' listed on one website are plague, smallpox, Ebola haemorrhagic fever, Tularemia bacteria, Botulinum toxin, Nipah virus in Malaysia that are spread through livestock rearers who handle pigs, Chimera virus, Rice blast and Rinderpest virus

Posted on October 4, 2015

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Installation of the 35th Sultan of Perak


DYMM Paduka Seri Sultan Perak Darul Ridzuan, Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah Ibni Almarhum Sultan Azlan Muhibbuddin Shah Al-Maghfur-Lah dan DYMM Raja Permaisuri Perak Darul Ridzuan, Tuanku Zara Salim (NSTP Photo)

The lineage of Kesultanan Perak, established in 1528 (Utusan Malaysia Photo)

Congratulatory Message from the people and the State Govt of Perak

Another congratulatory message from a Malaysian Corporation, UEM

    1. Introduction:  DYMM Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah was installed as the 35th Sultan of Perak         on Wednesday May 6, 2015  at Iskandariah Palace in Kuala Kangsar, in a ceremony that was               steeped in tradition of the Perak Malay sultanate.  DYMM Sultan Nazrin is close to my heart as I         have been following a few of his public lectures and very impressed with his intellectual                     discourses, and his involvement with many activities for the betterment of the rakyat, which win         their hearts. He has been reported to have reminded, from time to time, the State administration           to implement projects that will benefit the people. Among the issues he has highlighted include:
        education, poverty eradication, availability of regular supply of clean water, sustainable                       development and greening the State, provision of affordable homes. He has written articles                 and delivered keynote addresses covering a wide range of topics on Islam, Nation Building,                 Finance, Constitution Monarchy.

     2. Background :  DYMM Sultan Nazrin was born on November 1956 and had his primary and               secondary education at St. John's Institution in Kuala Lumpur, completing his secondary                     education at the Leys School in Cambridge. HRH pursued his tertiary education at University of         Oxford where he obtained his degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics and at Harvard                 University, USA where he was conferred a Ph. D in Political Economy and Government. HRH           has also been elected to serve on a number of honorary organisations, among them are:                         Honorary Fellow of Worcester College, University of Oxford; Hon. Fellow of Magdalene                   College of University of Cambridge; member Board of Trustees of the Oxford Centre for                     Islamic Studies; Royal Fellow of the Institute of Defense and Security; Royal Fellow of the                 Institute of Strategic and International Studies; Royal Fellow of the Institute of Public Security           of Malaysia; Royal Patron of the Malaysian International Islamic Financial Centre; 4th                         Chancellor of University of Malaya; Colonel-in-Chief of the of the Regiment of Royal                         Engineers and the Royal Medical Corps of the Malaysian Armed Forces. On the international             front, HRH has been appointed by the United Nations to co-chair the UN High-Level Panel on           Humanitarian Financing. HRH married Raja Permaisuri Perak Tuanku Zara Salim in May 2007           and the royal couple is blessed with two children: Raja Azlan Muzzaffar Shah, who was born on         March 14, 2008 and Raja Nazira Safya Shah, on August 2, 2011.

    3. Highlights of HRH Installation Address.  In the opening remark, HRH solicited the protection             and guidance of Allah in ruling the State and indicated that it is the duty of the Ruler to protect           the sovereignty of the State and that the emergence of an enlightened era in an administration is           when when leaders hold respect for religious leaders and scholars who have the courage to voice         out their rights and firmly opposed untruths. Guided by such leaders, a Ruler is protected from             going astray.  HRH Sultan Nazrin emphasised that the royal institution is not a ceremonial                   ornament but the Federal Constitution provides for Constitutional Monarchy in the country,                 detailing the roles and responsibilities of the Rulers. Accordingly, the Ruler must be vibrant,               dynamic and confident in fulfilling his role as the unifying figure in a political landscape , which          increasingly is showing signs of cracks in the racial and religious harmony. He went on to                    highlight that the powers of the Ruler is governed by the law and thus he has to abide by                      Islamic guidelines which provide for checks and balances, to ensure justice, the importance of            Day of Judgement. He concluded his address with the prayer that Allah will protect the State              and the people. Amin..amin

        Posted on October 3, 2015.