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MESSAGE FROM , O S M O F F O T N E ID S E THE PR AN

R A G E S A L U K . S ’ O DAT

the lt appreciation to ions and heartfe Mr lat tu to ra , ng lar co cu t rti es pa earti RUM, and in FO SO M all FO d of an d mbika, Editorial Boar swaran, Ms Neela ne ck Vi of r M ue , iss m st ga Rasanaya agnificent fir bringing out a m r fo ed olv inv rs othe M. the FOMSO FORU BA President of MJT r Eric Kanapathy, M d to an t o or als pp ks su an d hole-hearte Our heartfelt th nt JTBA for their w ce M nifi of ag rs m be a em ch m su and all the M a reality in the FOMSO FORU efforts in making fashion. ors of articles nors and contribut do ing nd fu all to also Heartfelt thanks RUM. FO SO M FO e th to including the to all concerned ks an th lt tfe ar our he their enthusiastic We also convey our Affiliates for all of rs be em Presidents and m MSO FORUM. support of the FO MSO FORUM. cond issue of FO se e th to rly ge ea We look forward

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With best wishes

and regards,

aran Dato’ S. Kulaseg FOMSO PRESIDENT OF

CAISRTEDR OU K YIM AN THOM THE PR E MIN

NFOAMJIB D H O SRESI M TOE’PR DTOATH SO F O IDENT

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FOMSO FORUM SEPTEMBER 2013

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Editor

K. Neelambika

Contributors

Sarojini Pasupathy K. Aruljothi Elisabeth Sugairtha Malar Alfred Sarojini Krishapillai Gordon Varuna Piyadasa Rathy Mahendran Dr E. Sivananthan T. Elagupillay Dr K. Thilagawathi Jeyakuhan S.K. Jeyasingam N.S. Ramachandran Siva Ahnantham M. Vickneswaran K. Neelambika

FROM THE EDITOR

W

ith the publication of the inaugural January 2013 issue of the FOMSO FORUM, we were delighted to receive many a great reviews. The members and readers of the community have found the magazine an excellent and impressive production with lots of interesting articles, both in its variety and depth. Such an acknowledgement is indeed very encouraging for all of us on the team, as well as our contributors. The magazine has since become a talking point. During a function at a member’s home, the magazine was used as a reading piece where the articles were read aloud in front of an enthusiastic audience.

FOMSO Editorial Committee

For this issue, the Deputy President of FOMSO, A. Gnanarajah, openly shares with us his life’s journey in the column ,‘In Person With ....’. It is one of meaningful experiences, without regrets, and he has done it all, and that, makes for one inspiring read. Tan Sri Dato (Dr) Ramon Navaratnam, FOMSO’s Advisor shares his personal views on matters affecting the community and the country which you can read in ‘FOMSO FORUM Meets ....’.

Creative & Design

Another feature is the work done for the Sri Lankan refugees in Malaysia by the Women & Welfare Bureau of FOMSO under the column ‘FOMSO’s Service to the Community’. You can also read about the interesting story of how Persatuan Persahabatan Bangsar came to be, and what it embodies, under the ‘Feature on FOMSO’s Affiliates’.

N. Rasanayagam (Chairman) S. Logarajah V. Mahalingam

Mahendran Sivanesan @ Mac Campus Media Resources Sdn Bhd

Publication Sponsored by Brickfields Asia College

Published by

Federation of Malaysian Sri Lankan Organisations (FOMSO) No: 24, Jalan Teh Hung Kiat (12/13) 46200 Petaling Jaya, Selangor Darul Ehsan Tel: +603-7954 2269 Fax: +603-7954 2321 Website: www.fomso.org E-mail: kneelambika@yahoo.com

Join us on Facebook @ fb.com/fomso.org

Read our magazine online @ www.issuu.com/fomso

The Ceylon Association Taiping and Malaysian Sinhalese Association came together to collaborate for an exhibition titled ‘The Role of Sri Lankan in Taiping 1883-1963’, which you can read under the ‘Heritage’ column. We hope for more of such endeavours among the affiliate members, and we would be keen to feature their efforts in the coming issues. We have for you a new column on ‘FOMSO Hinduism Classes’. This provides a synopsis of the lecture series on Hinduism organised by FOMSO’s Education Bureau. This issue gives a brief introduction of Hinduism. A diary of events provides the upcoming planned activities of FOMSO & its Affiliates. The recent activities of FOMSO & its Affiliates are covered in the ‘News Highlights’. We have for you a profile of an interesting and unusual personality in our community. He is Dr E. Sivananthan T. Elagupillay, the ‘Tiger Man’ in the Malaysian Government. Dr Siva takes pride of place right here in our community, given that the tiger is symbolic of the then Malaya and now Malaysia. The end of March through to April and May marks a significant religious calendar among the community of Christian, Hindu and Buddhist faiths respectively. We share with you ‘The Season of Lent’, which expounds the celebration of Good Friday and Easter, the ‘Tamil New Year’ and the ‘Significance of Wesak’. Aspiring entrepreneurs can learn a thing or two from the candid story on Eric Kanapathy, who has done extremely well for himself as a self-made entrepreneur. Another new column is ‘The Performing Arts’. Shanthi Kanthaswamy shares with us her

enlightening experience as the Co-Director of ‘Ramayana – Our Visualisation’, which was staged in January this year. The Jaffna Music Festival 2013 was held in Jaffna in March, and we are pleased that the Festival Director Kaushalya Navaratne, agreed to tell us more about the festival in an e-mail interview. Following from the article on the New Strata Management Bill 2012 that appeared in the January issue, Jeyakuhan, a lawyer who specializes in property matters, has now responded to several questions from readers. Do you want to know more on how to save for your golden years? Ramachandran who is a Private Retirement Consultant informs us on the Private Retirement Scheme (PRS). Why not try out the Sri Lankan recipes for Pol Sambol (Coconut Sambal) and Chicken Black Pepper Curry provided by the kind courtesy of the President of Malaysian Sinhalese Association, Gordon Varuna Piyadasa? If you have recipes that you wish to share with our readers, do write in to us. Many of us have hopped onto the bandwagon of social media to communicate and connect. Read on the write-up ‘Social Media as an Alternative Marketing Tool’ to learn more on how you can leverage on this revolutionary phenomena to market your products. Another new theme we have introduced is’ Youth & Personal Development’, that seeks to reach out to the younger demographics of the community. We hope the articles featured in this column would be a useful resource in the career and personal growth of the youths, as well as to realise one’s potential and talents fully. Want to be a better communicator or speaker? You can find out more in the article on ‘Public Speaking: The Toastmaster’s Experience’. ‘My Life and Times. A Memoir’ by Tan Sri Dato (Dr) Ramon Navaratnam is reviewed in this issue. The book is a highly recommended read. If you have not visited Istanbul, perhaps ‘A Day in Istanbul’ under the ‘The Globetrotters’ column would entice you to plan your travel to this undeniably stunning city. Sit back and enjoy reading what we have all put together for this issue, and that you are able to take away a thing or two. We do welcome contributions from our members and readers of the community.

K. Neelambika Editor On Behalf of the FOMSO Editorial Committee

Note: You may submit your article by E-mail to kneelambika@yahoo.com, or alternatively, you could post it to FOMSO’s address at No: 24, Jalan Teh Hung Kiat (12/13), 46200 Petaling Jaya, Selangor Darul Ehsan

NOTICE OF BIRTHS, WEDDINGS & ANNIVERSARIES We would like to make the FOMSO FORUM a more community orientated magazine. In this regard, we would like to invite our members and readers to send in their photographs with a brief caption of their Births, Weddings & Anniversaries. This will be a great feature in our magazine. Please send the photographs with full contact details to the Editor Ms. Neelam, email: kneelambika@yahoo.com. 2

FOMSO FORUM SEPTEMBER 2013


WHAT’S COMING

Planned activities of FOMSO & Its Affiliates Persatuan Perkhidmatan Masyarakat Ceylonese Selangor & Wilayah Persekutuan (PERMA) Visits to the orphanages and old folks homes

CONTENTS 3

What’s Coming

Planned Activities of FOMSO & Its Affiliates

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News Highlights

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In Person With …..

Recent Activities of FOMSO & Its Affiliates

Ongoing

WATCH THIS SPACE

A. Gnanarajah, Deputy President of FOMSO

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FOMSO’s Service to the Community

Bi-annual Gala Charity Fund Dinner at the Renaissance Hotel Entertainment provided by world renowned artiste. More details in the next issue. 17 November 2013 Malaysian Sinhalese Association Get-together sessions

Ongoing

NEWS HIGHLIGHTS

RECENT ACTIVITIES OF FOMSO & ITS AFFILIATES Federation Of Malaysian Sri Lankan Organisations (FOMSO)

FOMSO’s Aid to Sri Lankan Refugees in Malaysia

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FOMSO FORUM Meets ….

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Feature on FOMSO’s Affiliates

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Culture & Festivals

Tan Sri Dato (Dr) Ramon Navaratnam, FOMSO’s Advisor Persatuan Persahabatan Bangsar Season of Lent Tamil New Year Significance of Wesak

21 Heritage

The Role of the Sri Lankan in Taiping 1883-1963

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Profile on Leading Personalities from the Community Dr E. Sivananthan T. Elagupillay the ‘Tiger Man’ in the Malaysian Government

24 Entrepreneurs

Eric Kanapathy, President of Malaysian Jaffnese Tamil Business Association (MJTBA)

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The Performing Arts

An Afternoon with Shanthi Kanthaswamy, Co-Director of ‘Ramayana – Our Visualisation’

Dato’ S. Kulasegaran giving his address.

The Inaugural January 2013 Issue of the FOMSO FORUM was officially, and ceremoniously launched on 23rd February 2013, an auspicious day, by Dato’ S. Kulasegaran, the President of FOMSO. This event was held at the office of Dato’ S. Kulasegaran. Those who attended this event included Presidents of FOMSO affiliated organisations, the Malaysian Jaffna Tamil Business Association, the FOMSO Executive Committee and other invited guests. All the guests were treated to a high tea reception.

Mr Eric Kanapathy, President of Malaysian Jaffnese Tamil Business Association (MJTBA), giving his address.

Mr N. Rasanayagam, Chairman of FOMSO Editorial Committee, giving his address.

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Jaffna Music Festival FOMSO Hinduism Classes

Hinduism: A Brief Introduction

35 Legal

Awareness for Condominium Owners & Residents on New Strata Management Bill 2012

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Personal Finances

Private Retirement Scheme (PRS)

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The Sri Lankan Cookbook Information Technology

Social Media as an Alternative Marketing Tool

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Youth & Personal Development

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Books & Writers

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The Globetrotters

Public Speaking: The Toastmaster’s Experience Book Review: My Life and Times. A Memoir by Tan Sri Dato (Dr) Ramon Navaratnam A Day in Istanbul

FOMSO FORUM SEPTEMBER 2013

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NEWS HIGHLIGHTS

FOMSO & ITS AFFILIATES Griha Pravesh ceremony (commonly known as the milk boiling ceremony) for the Malaysian Ceylonese National Community Centre (MCNCC) was held on 17th March 2013.

Persatuan Perkhidmatan Masyarakat Ceylonese Selangor & Wilayah Persekutuan (PERMA) On 10th’ (before March 2013), the committee members of PERMA Youths took 13 children from the Karuna Iilam home in Taman Ehsan, Kepong to the Taman Tun Dr Ismail Library. They donated 170 books to the children, and also to The Revolving Library. In addition, each child was given a bag, notepad and stationery set. At the library, an experienced storyteller presented and entertained the children with various stories. The children were then taken to Rimba Park in Taman Tun Dr Ismail, where they had their lunch, while enjoying the atmosphere under the shade of trees. After lunch, some reading sessions and games were played. PERMA organised a day trip for the orphans from the Phileo Home in Klang to Kidzania, which is a centre

where kids are exposed to different careers through play. PERMA carried out a breakfast project at the Dengkil Tamil School on 6th April 2013. Breakfast was provided to 35 Indian children who attend special classes during weekends to prepare them for the UPSR examinations at the end of the year. PERMA pays for the breakfast for the whole year. This project has been carried out over the last few years, with the support of some benefactors. Cash awards are given to the children who achieve more than 5A’s. Talks are given to the children to motivate them to study hard and excel in their studies.

Malaysian Ceylon Saivites Association

PERMA also visited the needy Indian families living in and around Dengkil, and donated 50 food parcels to 50 families.

A Tamil New Year cultural show was held at the Kalamandapam on 21st April 2013. Saivites President, Perampalam & Sivanathan in action

PERMA committee members and teachers with the students

7A’s achiever in the previous year, receiving her award of RM250.00 – this is an encouragement to the students currently attending classes for their exam later this year

Motivation session with the students

Student of Jeya Nritha Kalalayam Dance Academy in a Beautiful Dance Pose

The students enjoying their breakfast PERMA organised a day trip for the orphans from the Phileo Home in Klang to Kidzania, which is a centre where kids are exposed to different careers through play.

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FOMSO FORUM SEPTEMBER 2013

Cynthialini Naganathan


NEWS HIGHLIGHTS

Jaffnese Cooperative Society (JCS) Mr. S. Makeswaran, Chairman of JCS (left) presenting souvenir to Mr. Satguna Raja. Background are Board Members Dr. Christopher V. A. Nicholas (JCS Treasurer) and Mr.Vijayasuriar Kanapathipillai.

The annual lunch in appreciation for JCS staff and retiring Board Members was held on 19 January 2013 at the newly opened Yarl Restaurant in Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur. At the lunch, Mr. S. Makeswaran, the Chairman of JCS, honoured Mr. P. Satguna Raja, the Immediate Past Chairman, and recently retired Board Members and Mr. Ruben, an ex-Board Member with a souvenir in recognition for their services. Unlike in past years, this year’s lunch was a spread of authentic Jaffna Tamil food. Staff with Board members and Internal Auditors having an authentic Jaffna Tamil food for lunch

Mr. S. Makeswaran (left) presenting souvenir to Mr. Ruben.

Yarl Sports and Cultural Association Melaka A fund raising dinner was held on 2nd March 2013.

Speech by Mr Amirthalingam, President of Yarl Sports and Cultural Association Melaka

Some of the guests at the fund raising dinner

Cultural dance performance

Welcoming speech by the Organising Chairman, Dr Gajendran

Presentation of cheque to spastic home

Presentation of cheque to the old folks home

FOMSO FORUM SEPTEMBER 2013

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IN PERSON WITH....

A. Gnanarajah,

Deputy President of FOMSO FOMSO FORUM: You are the devoted and diligent Deputy President of FOMSO. What motivated you to accept this position and to devote so much of your energy and time for your many FOMSO activities? GNANA: Doing service has played an instrumental part of my life. Having served in PERMA, a Ceylonese community organization dedicated to serving the underprivileged, irrespective of caste, creed or religion, and being involved in several other non-community national organizations, when the idea to form a Federation of Malaysian Sri Lankan Organizations was mooted, it did not take me long to accept the proposition. Although I was already inundated with so many other responsibilities, I was inspired to contribute, this time, to the development and growth of my own community in this country. To my mind, the Ceylonese community in Malaysia is somewhat fragmented. I viewed the inauguration of FOMSO as an umbrella body which would harness and bring together all Sri Lankan based organizations in a spirit of unity and cooperation. For that matter, it behoves me to say that it was a shared consensus by all the individuals who had

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come together with a view to making a change. Today, I am pleased to say that FOMSO has a membership of 21 legally registered organizations and continues to grow in size and stature. It is testimony of the efforts made by FOMSO that has made this a reality. Towards this purpose, we have visited almost all affiliates throughout the country on a number of occasions. If all goes well, I expect that FOMSO will contribute immensely to the community’s development in the near future. FOMSO FORUM: In your view, what is FOMSO’S critical role in meeting the needs and aspirations of the Malaysian Ceylonese community? GNANA: There is a need for unity, goodwill, mutual understanding and respect, which is sorely lacking. In the past, as most will concur, the Ceylonese people played an extremely important role in the development of the country and its independence. Along the way, we lost that glory and failed to protect the future of the younger generation. Possibly, it was a time for the survival of the fittest. As individuals we may have succeeded, but as a

FOMSO FORUM SEPTEMBER 2013

Gnanarajah in Macchu Picchu

community we certainly did not. We need to strive to return to those glorious years. The potential of the Ceylonese community is undeniable. This potential must be harnessed and developed to the fullest. It is high time that the members of the community realize that as established as we may be individually, we have to collectively work together towards the common good. A good example on the effect of unity is the new Malaysian Ceylonese National Community Centre (MCNCC)

which is the result of both FOMSO and MCC joining forces in a spirit of goodwill and understanding. Together, we approached the Malaysian Government for a grant to establish a ‘community centre’, and together we succeeded in obtaining a donation of RM2.5 million. It is a milestone achievement for the community. For the first time in the history of this country, we have been recognized by the Government with a generous grant for the benefit of our community. It is because of the concerted efforts of a united enterprise which has brought about the desired result.


Likewise, there are many more important issues which need to be addressed with the authorities. But first, we have to be truly united and speak with one voice. FOMSO FORUM: Recently, in 2012, you played a major role in realizing the first national level Malaysian Ceylonese National Community Centre (MCNCC). In addition to identifying the property, you worked tirelessly in the fund raising effort. What is your vision for the future role of the MCNCC? GNANA: As divine providence would have it, I happened to be at the right place at the right time. With the assistance of Mr S. Logarajah, I managed to secure the property in Taman Kanagapuram for the centre. It was the realization of a dream. I remember telling my wife that in respect of this centre, I will spare no efforts to help in every possible way, including raising the necessary funds to complete the transaction. However, it is with great sadness that I say that, although the sale and purchase transaction concluded with success, the funds are insufficient to carry out the proposed renovations and improvements to the building. We have to strive much harder and double our efforts to achieve what we had set out to do. It is not an insurmountable task. The establishment of a fine National Centre for the community in this country is something everyone can be proud of for a long time to come. MCNCC’s role will fortify FOMSO’s vision to unify the community in the truest sense.

FOMSO FORUM: How do you foresee FOMSO’s future role for the community? GNANA: FOMSO’s future role is an integral part of success. It must continue to foster and preserve unity, understanding, mutual respect, goodwill and harmony. United, we can achieve so much more. FOMSO FORUM: You had been on several FOMSO’s Humanitarian Missions to Sri Lanka, and had visited several of the most devastated areas. Please tell us your impressions. GNANA: FOMSO has completed 12 missions to Sri Lanka.

affected folks to help kick start their lives again. The next visit was in November 2009. For me personally, it was a very difficult trip. FOMSO had received numerous reports that our people, some 300,000 of them, had been herded into the infamous ‘Manik Farm’ camps in Vavuniya immediately after the war. Due to the conflicting stories being spread about, we

decided to see it for ourselves. We went to Sri Lanka, only to be mentally disturbed by what we saw and heard. The living conditions in the camp were simply deplorable and totally unacceptable in this day and age. Tamil prisoners were heavily guarded by the army in camps fenced off with double barbed wire. Imagine 300,000 people being forced to manage in a small area, living in make-

The first official visit was made immediately after the tsunami which had left a devastating impact on the country. Moved by the plight of our own people, ten of us, led by FOMSO’s President Dato’ S.Kulasegaran went to Sri Lanka to deliver humanitarian assistance to the affected victims of the tsunami in the North (Vadamarachi), North East (Muluthivu) and the South (Veeraketiar). At that time, getting into Tiger country, namely, Muluthivu and Kilinochi was subject to getting visas issued by the Tigers Regime under the shade of trees at a cost of Rupees 1000 for a validity period of 3 months. It was quite an experience! Muluthivu was extensively damaged by the ferocity of the tsunami; dolls, kitchen utensils, household items; these things could be seen hanging from the tree tops. Many houses had been washed away and many had had their roofs blown off to quite a distance. We gave away 200 bicycles and 200 sewing machines to the

Launch of my book ‘Laws of City Hall Kuala Lumpur with Cases and Commentaries’

FOMSO FORUM SEPTEMBER 2013

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IN PERSON WITH....

shift tents without light and adequate water, scarce food and inhumane toilet facilities. Although we were permitted to openly interact with the prisoners in the camps, there was nothing we could do other than hope and pray that they would be released, and allowed to return to their homes soon or whatever that was left of it. These trips left an indelible and marked impression in my life. It is not something easy to forget. FOMSO FORUM: You are also the President of Persatuan Perkhidmatan Masyarakat Ceylonese Selangor & Wilayah Persekutuan (PERMA), which has been very active with charitable and welfare projects. What drives you to devote so much energy for these social services for the larger Malaysian community? GNANA: Before I joined PERMA, I was an active member of Apex Malaysia which is an association dedicated to service and fellowship. Joining PERMA was a natural transition, as PERMA is essentially a charitable organization. PERMA is one large happy family. The Management Committee comprising 10 ladies and 5 men are a truly dynamic group of people. All of them attend meetings regularly, and everything is conducted with transparency and open discussion. Welfare and service projects are carefully investigated by regular visits on the ground, and full reports are submitted to the committee for discussion and decision. Funds are expended with extreme care. I am driven and greatly encouraged by the response

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to the aid that PERMA is able to render to the underprivileged, the physically and mentally impaired, single mothers and neglected homes. It gives me tremendous satisfaction to see the smiling faces of these folks, when we do something for them. It makes me realize that we take so much for granted. FOMSO FORUM: On reflection, what would you list as your most satisfying achievements in life? GNANA: On reflection, I would say that I have achieved all that I had set out to do and more. As such, I have no regrets whatsoever. For your information, I was just a normal trained teacher in Seremban for 9 years. I resigned in 1962 and managed to pursue my dream of studying law at the Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn, London. I even passed the Criminal Law paper with flying colours and was placed 1st in Order of Merit. Unfortunately, the prize money of £50 was not awarded to me. Being 28 years of age at the time, I exceeded the age restriction of 25 years in order to claim the award. The prize was then given to a graduate of the University of Oxford. I was too pleased with the results to ponder over my loss of the £50! Soon after my return in July 1965, I got married to Radha in Seremban. Incidentally we were engaged before my departure for the United Kingdom. We had to wait for quite a while to get married! We are blessed with two daughters, Sumita and Geeta, who are both lawyers and are in active practice. In 1966 I was called to the

FOMSO FORUM SEPTEMBER 2013

Malayan Bar. In 1968, I joined the then Municipality of Kuala Lumpur as Assistant Secretary (Legal). I was appointed Head of the Legal Department, which position was later designated as Director of Legal Affairs, City Hall Kuala Lumpur, in charge of all legal matters including prosecutions, loan syndications, laws, by-laws, orders etc. in 1973. It is with great satisfaction that I am able to say that when I joined City Hall, there was no Legal Department, but when I left there was a full-fledged Legal Department with approximately 75 staff and 6 lawyers. I was due to retire in 1990, but my service was extended for a further period of 2 years. I finally retired from Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur in 1992. The day before my retirement from City Hall in 1992, my book entitled “Laws of City Hall Kuala Lumpur with Cases and Commentaries” in 4 Volumes was published by the International Law Book Services, and was officially launched by the Mayor of the City of Kuala Lumpur in the presence of an august gathering. It was an event of great pride for me. FOMSO FORUM: What would you say is your greatest disappointment? GNANA: My greatest disappointment is the abandonment of a project involving a piece of ‘land’ in Seremban. I had set up a committee comprising of Mr S. Logarajah, Mr T.Satgunarajah, Dato Vijayananthan, Mr Sarath Jeyatilaka and Mr Seelan Chelliah. For many months, the Committee took time and scouted for a suitable piece of land around Selangor and Negeri Sembilan.

Many weekends were spent travelling and talking to many Real Estate Agents. Finally, we came across a 100 acres piece of land near the Labu Toll Plaza in Seremban. Negotiations were held with the landowners and an agreement reached in principle to buy the land. We then structured a payment scheme and sent out an official FOMSO Circular to members of the community seeking offers to purchase 10,000 square feet at RM60,000.00 (@ RM6.00 per square foot). The Scheme required 400 participants. To my disappointment, only 54 applied. As a result of the poor response, FOMSO abandoned the project. Today, the same land is valued in excess of RM25.00 per square foot, if not more. The abandonment of the project was a total disappointment, as I had put in so much of my time, effort and money trying to get it off the ground. The project, if it had been successful, would have been another Taman Kanagapuram or Taman Yarl!. FOMSO FORUM: You are a most avid traveller. What have been your most unique and cherished trips? GNANA: The travel bug bit me in my early twenties, and I have been travelling ever since. At the age of 22, I was leading delegations of teachers with two other close friends, C.P.Rajah and Michael Kanny to Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, India, Burma and Japan. On one occasion, we led a group of 25 to Hong Kong by boat. Another trip entailed a group of five comprising my nephew Pulendran, P.K.Singam, Stanley Nathan and Kok Tak


PERMA committee in full force at their Biennial Dinner function 2011. President and wife cutting the 35th anniversary cake.

Min. We drove around the whole of Europe for 14 days. We started in Paris, moved on to Lourdes, Barcelona, Genoa, Rome, up into Germany, and then into Belgium. We gave up the rental car in Ostend and took a boat to Dover. It was a great trip. Since then, I have led groups to New Zealand (North and South Island), South Africa and Zimbabwe (Victoria Falls), Egypt, Jordan (Petra) and China (Great Wall of China). There have also been many trips to India which included the Golden Temple in Amritsar returning via Chandigarh, Haridwar, Rishikesh, Varanasi and Delhi. I have also been to the Grand Canyon, and Jamaica in the West Indies,

as well as Eastern Europe, including Austvich and the famous salt mines in Poland. In the last few years, I organized for our groups to go on three luxury cruises; the Baltic, the Alaskan and the Mediterranean. Thankfully, there was not much issue with seasickness! Cruises are honestly very relaxing, serene, peaceful and restful, as you spend a few days, usually 7 to 10 days, in rooms, equivalent to 5 star hotel accommodation without the need to move from hotel to hotel. Last year, I led a group of eight to South America, namely, Rio De Janeiro, Iguassu Falls, Buenos Aires, Puno, Lima, Lake Titicaca, Macchu Picchu,

and Quito, Ecuador. Going to South America was to me, a childhood dream come true. South America is an amazing country which did not fail to fascinate and astound all of us. This is a trip I would strongly recommend to any traveller. Last month, a group of 24 went to Myanmar. We visited Yangon, Mandalay and Bagan. All in all, the different cultures, weather, scenery, the architecture of buildings, the facilities and the programmes that have been designed for us on all these trips, not to forget the great company, have collectively resulted in truly enjoyable and memorable experiences. FF

FOMSO FORUM SEPTEMBER 2013

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FOMSO’S SERVICE TO THE COMMUNITY

FOMSO’S AID TO SRI LANKAN REFUGEES IN MALAYSIA With the influx of refugees into Malaysia after the civil war ended in Sri Lanka in May 2009, FOMSO’s Women & Welfare Bureau has been actively and diligently involved in reaching out with a helping hand to the Sri Lankan refugees in Malaysia. Mrs Sarojini Pasupathy, the Chairperson of the Women & Welfare Bureau explains that the principal objectives of the Bureau’s relief work is to not only to provide immediate sustenance need, but importantly to prepare the refugees to survive anywhere in the world, wherever they choose to settle down. The Women & Welfare Bureau has undertaken the following aid programmes:-

Year 1 students taught in the English medium, based on the Malaysian syllabus

FOOD PROGRAM Monthly provisions consisting of rice, cooking oil, sugar, milk powder, coffee, ‘milo’, wheat flour, eggs, ‘mee hoon’ and ‘ikan bilis’ were provided to about 30 to 40 families. Currently, this program is extended only to the very needy families, with 2 or more children, and single mothers, as well, as the unfortunate detainees who are in urgent need.

MEDICAL ASSISTANCE Arrangements are made for doctors and specialists to treat both the adults and children. Financial assistance and in kind are also provided for new born babies.

EDUCATION The Women & Welfare Bureau sponsored secondary school students and school leavers with basic and higher level computer courses in collaboration with FOMSO’s Education Bureau. We also collaborated with FOMSO’s Affiliates to provide financial assistance for students taking professional courses. We are currently working on conducting these courses ourselves as a joint effort with FOMSO’s Education and Special Projects Bureaus.

Beverage provided to the primary school children during recess

Monthly provisions provided to the families

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FOMSO FORUM SEPTEMBER 2013

In 2012, school fees were paid for Year 1 students to be taught in the English medium, based on the Malaysian syllabus in a Learning Centre. Assistance was also given in the form of school uniforms and library books. Teachers were also assigned to teach Moral Studies to the primary school children. Beverages in form of ‘milo’ and milk were provided to the

Committee Members of the Women & Welfare Bureau Chairperson Sarojini Pasupathy Deputy Chairperson Pushpa Leela Mahalingam Deputy Chairperson Saraswathy Mahalingam Secretary Thillaga Vasuthevan Rajaletchumi Poobalan Leela Selvaratnam

primary school children during recess. Motivation courses were also provided to the school leavers and those with O level.

TRANSPORT Transport subsidy is given to needy children coming from faroff places where they reside, to the Learning Centre, as the parents cannot afford to send them to school.

COMMUNICATION ENGLISH English teachers were engaged to conduct classes in communication English, once a week, to the mothers as most of the Sri Lankan refugees cannot speak English.

SKILL TRAINING Currently skill training is being provided to the Sri Lankan women with tailoring experience in industrial sewing in a sewing factory. This would enhance their prospects to secure tailoring jobs anywhere in the world and earn an income in Malaysia.


trained teachers. 8. Seek employment for the skilled trained tailors

School leavers and O level students attending motivation course

From an estimated 30,000 Sri Lankan refugees in Malaysia since 2009, approximately 4,000 of them still remain in the country.

FUNDING

A letter from a former Sri Lankan refugee in Mal aysia and now settled in Sri La nka From: Rajah Rajah Sent: Wednesday, Januar y 02, 2013 To: Logarajah Subject: New Year wishes from Rajah Dear Sir, Happy New Year. Wishi ng you another 12 months of happiness, health, wealth, hope, opportunities, love, joy, che erfulness, and all the good charms of life. I am very happy celebrating this New Year with my wif e after four and a half years. This opportunity was given by you, for that we are grateful to you and your organization (FOMSO). I know how har d being as a refugee. I was helpless that time. It was you who helped me and save my life. I nev er forget that. Since you have been providing great help for helpless people, May God be wit h you to do so in 2013. Regards Rajah

BUREAU’S FUTURE PLANS IN 2013 The Bureau is continuing its aid programmes in the following areas:1. Monthly provisions to the very needy families, with 2 or more children, and single mothers 2. Transport subsidy to needy children coming from far-off places where they reside, to the Learning Centre 3. School fees for Year 1 students to be taught in the English

The Bureau gets its funding from the Relief Fund set up by FOMSO in July 2009 and the generous donation in cash and in kind from the local community, even from as far as the Ceylonese community in Australia.

COLLABORATION BETWEEN THE BUREAU AND THE LEARNING CENTRE OF TAMIL FORUM MALAYSIA The Bureau has collaborated with the Learning Centre of Tamil Forum Malaysia in the following areas:1. School fees for Year 1 & 2 students to be taught in the English medium based on the Malaysian syllabus 2. Assigning teachers to teach Moral Studies to the primary school children and English to the mothers 3. Beverages in the form of ‘milo’ and milk to the primary school children during recess 4. Transport subsidy to needy children coming from far-off places where they reside, to the Learning Centre 5. Provide a tutor, and FOMSO and Tamil Forum Malaysia will each bear half of the cost for the tutor’s fees to teach English to Sri Lankan Tamil trained teachers. FF

A Thank You Card from the refugee children The Year 1 children who earlier could hardly speak or write English were so overwhelmed with the gifts from an 8 year old Malaysian Ceylonese boy, Rohan who donated all his birthday presents in cash & kind to the refugee children, that they collectively wrote a “Thank You Card” to Rohan and his friends.

medium based on the Malaysian syllabus 4. Beverages in the form of ‘milo’ and milk to the primary school children during recess 5. Motivation and short accountancy courses to the school leavers and those with O level 6. Communication English classes to the mothers of the refugee children 7. Provide a tutor and to bear half of the cost for the tutor’s fees to teach English to Sri Lankan Tamil

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FOMSO FORUM MEETS...

comprehensively review its socio economic strategies and get us back on track and to position Malaysia for a more sustainable economic growth position. 

Tan Sri Dato (Dr) Ramon Navaratnam FOMSO’s Advisor

FOMSO FORUM: Over the period from 1997 to 2004, when Malaysia’s severest ever economic crisis occurred, you had been a prolific economic analyst of the issues and challenges faced by the nation. In this period, you had published books and written numerous articles offering your prognosis and recommendations. Are Malaysia’s economic policies and programmes heading in the right direction? TAN SRI RAMON: Yes, I had written numerous articles as a columnist particularly, in the New Straits Times. I had subsequently updated, expanded and reedited these articles which were published in nine books. My tenth book was my memoirs, titled ‘My Life and Times’. Frankly, I am currently uncomfortable with the `direction` that the Malaysian economy is taking. The previous prudent and strict fiscal discipline has been gradually eroded over the last several years. Over the recent years, the budget deficit and national debt have been increasing year-on-year. With the prevailing slack international economy, our exports and the balance of payments are also beginning to come under strain. Most importantly, there seems to be an attitude of fiscal laxity, as it is felt that short term spending can be undertaken without too much concern for the longer term structural damage to the economy. So I would recommend that after the 13th General Elections, the government has to

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FOMSO FORUM: Access to quality education is perhaps the greatest enabler of our community’s upward social mobility. However, there is deep disquiet over declining standards and flip-flops in the medium of instruction for science and mathematics. What are your views on the impact on our children’s education, and consequently, their future? TAN SRI RAMON: Education is what has set us apart as the Malaysian Ceylonese Sri Lankan community. Our culture has imbued in us the strong values to sacrifice and save, and to invest in our children’s education. That is why as a minority, we enjoyed a disproportionate share of the top positions in government during my late father’s era, which was before and soon after the Second World War. However, we now have a much smaller share in the dominant positions in government. On the bright side, we have increased our proportionate share in the business sector, although our relative share in the various professions has declined over time. I believe, like my forefathers, that good education is the main enabler for upward social mobility. That is why we should continue to give high priority to education and now, vocational skills and business development. Although the educational standards have declined in Malaysia as evidenced by international professional assessments, we have to make the best of it and strive to excel. With internet facilities, we can compensate for weak education with more self learning and greater diligence. FOMSO FORUM: In your view, what are the biggest issues or challenges facing our community? TAN SRI RAMON: I am just unhappy to see so much disunity within the community. Why can’t the community be united in a spirit of our rich culture of mutual understanding and goodwill? FOMSO FORUM: For decades, our community has not had any political representation in either the Cabinet or in the Legislature. Is this a serious problem in safeguarding our community’s interests in the future?

FOMSO FORUM SEPTEMBER 2013

TAN SRI RAMON: I don’t think so. For a long time, we have asked for a senator’s seat, but to no avail, since time of Sir Clough Thuraisingam. In any case, how much can one senator do especially in a senate just make a few speeches? What our community needs to ensure recognition in the larger national community is a large pool of good professionals, skilled workers and hopefully more Ananda Krishnans, and community leaders like FOMSO President, Dato’ Kulasegaran.We can then be well positioned to better influence the leaders of the majority community to introduce and implement policies that are fair to even the minority groups like ours ! FOMSO FORUM: Tan Sri, you have had a rich and illustrious career spanning almost six decades – the first half as a senior civil servant, and subsequently in the private sector. What career guidance would you give to our young who must navigate through the turbulent 21st century? TAN SRI RAMON: I don’t think I’ve had a ‘rich and illustrious’ career! Nevertheless, I can suggest to the young that they have to realise that - the world does not owe them a living, especially as a minority race, life is what you make it. Pull yourself by your bootstraps  and plug into the system, and as I say in my autobiography - everyday I do my best, and to God I leave the rest I can’t do better than my best so then I’ll  sit back and rest most importantly - strive to reach your full potential and be true to your God, values and conscience although it is often difficult ! FOMSO FORUM: Tan Sri, from FOMSO’s inception to now, you had served as her Advisor. In your view, how important is FOMSO, and how should its role or function evolve to better serve our community? TAN SRI RAMON: FOMSO is a major milestone in our long journey of struggle and progress in Malaysia. It has united a large number of Malaysians of Ceylonese (Sri Lankan) origin under one beautiful umbrella in Malaysia. It is my dream and prayer that all Ceylonese in this lovely and blessed country will one day come together under this FOMSO umbrella, and advance forward in peace, progress and unity. FOMSO FORUM: Turning to you as a person, who has been the greatest influence on you?

TAN SRI RAMON: Undoubtedly my late father and mother, and of course my dear wife, despite occasional differences, it comes out clearly in my book – ‘My Life and Times ’. Further, there are many of my relatives, friends and bosses who have touched and influenced my life for my good, in one way or another. To all of them, I say, thank God and thank you! FOMSO FORUM: Looking back, what would you consider to be your most satisfying accomplishments? TAN SRI RAMON: With humility, let me say that I have been a honest and successful civil servant, particularly, as one of the very few from our community in the top echelons of Malaysia’s civil and diplomatic service. I was directly involved in all the major policies, like the New Economic Policy (NEP). It was a exemplary policy aimed at social justice and fairness for all Malaysians. Unfortunately, it was skewed in its implementation and bred a great deal of polarisation, which is regrettable! Finally, I believe that I had managed to achieve most of my full potential, despite my own limitations and the policy constraints in Malaysian society. FOMSO FORUM: Currently, what professional projects and social causes do you devote your energies to? TAN SRI RAMON: I was President of Transparency Malaysia, and still try to fight corruption. I am President of the Children’s Last Wish Society, which aims to bring cheers to terminally ill children. I also serve on the Malaysian Crime Prevention Foundation, and help out in church and Indian community projects. As Chairman of the ASLI Centre of Public Policy Studies, I am privileged to be able to continue with my civil service preoccupation to improve our national policies for a better Malaysia! FOMSO FORUM: Who are your favourite authors and books? TAN SRI RAMON: I like reading and writing, but I don’t have favourite authors, but will read any book, articles and magazines that catches my fancy. There is one area that I wish to explore further as I retire, but I am still working full time at Sunway and am quite active outside at conferences and meetings, which give me little free time. I’ll have to scale down my work and do more reading soon! Thank God, I am blessed with relatively good health at 78 and lead a busy and generally, a meaningful and satisfying life! FF


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FEATURE ON FOMSO’S AFFILIATES

by K. Aruljothi

Building on the Base of

I

Persahabatan Bangsar Fellowship

t’s often said that what you take with you in the end will be the things you’ve done and the people you’ve met. A living embodiment of this sentiment can be seen in the form of Persahabatan Bangsar. In the 1970’s Mr K. Kanagandram, Mr K. Sivalingam, Mr K. Nadarajah and Mr K. Vijayaratnam, all happened to work around Kuala Lumpur’s then landmark, the State Secretariat Building (now the Sultan Abdul Samad Building) in the city centre. They discovered, upon their many tea breaks together, that they all lived in the Bangsar neighbourhood. In 1978, Mr Kanagandram suggested that the foursome organise a monthly Saturday dinner together, adding that footing the bill would be a shared cost. After these dinners, they would usually proceed for a nightcap to one of their houses. As these dinners went by, month after month, more people started to join the little group. During one of their meetings, on July 1st 1981 at Mr V. Sothilingam’s residence, the friends decided that these informal gatherings be made formal, eventually leading to what soon became Persahabatan Bangsar. The principal objectives of Persahabatan Bangsar were:-

• Promotion and maintaining goodwill and mutual understanding • Promotion and sustaining cooperation, self-help and mutual help • Promotion of business consciousness • Conducting social, cultural, sporting, educational and welfare activities for the benefit and advancement of members • Publishing and circulation of literature for the advancement of the objects or the promotion of the interest of the members

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• Raising funds for charitable purposes

Sothilingam’s residence serves as the registered premise.

An apolitical organisation, Persahabatan Bangsar’s initial focus was on family, cultural and religious activities. Among these endeavours was the annual dinner, during which children of the members performed in short concerts and performances.

Aaniuthiram

Thai Ponggal

Every year during the cultural festival of Ponggal, alternating members would offer their residence as a venue to conduct a traditional-styled celebration. Extended families and friends of the members would be invited to participate. Some of the additional activities that would take place during the celebrations are talks on the significance of the festival, as well as the singing of ‘thevaram’. This is usually followed with dinner.

Hindu New Year

Ushering in the Hindu New Year is an event usually held at the home of Mr Sothilingam. Members and their extended families spend two weeks prior to the weekend celebration to stage a performance as entertainment. Members band together to erect the performance stage, and to prepare the dinner for the night. The time spent together during the preparation, leading up to the event has resulted in strengthened comradeship and understanding. Some of the children who participated in these events are now professionals and entrepreneurs, all doing their part to contribute to society. The 30th Anniversary of Persahabatan Bangsar, which was held at Mr Sothiligam’s residence in 2011, holds many a fond memory for all members. Since the inception of Persahabatan Bangsar, Mr

FOMSO FORUM SEPTEMBER 2013

Since 1983, Persahabatan Bangsar has been sponsoring the Aaniuthiram festival at the Ramalinga Eeswarar Temple in Bangsar. Members would assemble at 4.30am for the ‘abishegam’ and ‘pooja’ in the morning. This is followed with breakfast. At 6.00pm in the evening, they gather for the evening ‘pooja’ and Lord Siva’s procession, where members and temple youth carry the deity around the temple. Following that, dinner is served.

Year-End Party

Mostly held at hotels or function rooms, this function too banded together members’ spouses and children. In the mid-eighties, we extended our assistance to our community by raising funds for the rebuilding of the Ramalinga Eeswarar Temple in Bangsar and the renovation of the Sri Kandaswamy Temple in Brickfields. In the nineties, Persahabatan Bangsar furthered their reach and involved themselves in more charitable causes. A number of donations were made to homes of the needy and these included items such as uniforms, shoes and school bags. An annual charity drive is held, from which all the proceeds go directly to the Sivananda Ashrama in Batu Caves. Socially, a number of excursions were made to various Malaysian towns and also to places abroad. A bus load of members and their families made trips to Malacca and Seremban, where meetings with fellow community members took place for exchange of ideas and networking purposes. Similar trips were also made to Medan in Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka.

Overnight trips to closer locales such as Port Dickson, Pulau Tioman and Pulau Ketam served similar purposes. The Association initiated the formation of Pahnar Sdn Bhd, and encouraged its members to buy shares in the company. With the initial capital contribution of RM 80,000.00, the value of the assets consisting of land and stocks and shares appreciated to RM 625,000.00. The shareholders decided to dispose the assets, distribute the proceeds, and explore other new opportunities with the entry of new, younger shareholders. In 2005/06 the Sri Kandaswamy Temple launched a project aimed at rebuilding the priests’ and staff quarters, which amounted to a total cost of RM 1,600,000.00. Persahabatan Bangsar, through its members, their families and friends held a charity dinner, and managed to raise RM 320,000.00 for the project. In 2012 the group rose to the call to raise funds for the upcoming Malaysian Ceylonese National Community Centre (MCNCC). MCNCC purchased a building, including projected renovation cost of RM 6.6 million. Members of Persahabatan, along with their extended families, friends and wellwishers raised a whopping RM 542,000.00 towards this building. The co-operation and closeknit understanding that is shared amongst its members and their families is what has kept Persahabatan Bangsar together for 32 years. The trust that has been built has been demonstrated in their helping hand, in time of need, be it auspicious or otherwise. Persahabatan Bangsar hopes and prays that the sun will not set on them and their brethren, and will continue to grow to be even a more meaningful and stronger force. FF


by Elisabeth Sugairtha Malar Alfred

The Season of

CULTURE & FESTIVALS

Len

L

ent in the Western Churches was originally a period of forty days of fasting and penitence, readying the Christian soul for the great feast on the ensuing Easter Sunday. This is held as a period of sober reflection, self-examination, and spiritual redirection. But, why forty days? It is because the number forty has long had a symbolic importance in the Christian faith. Moses and Elijah spent forty days in the wilderness; the Jews wandered forty years searching for the Promised Land; Jonah gave the city of Nineveh forty days’ grace in which to repent. And Jesus retreated into the wilderness and fasted for forty days to prepare for His ministry. It was for Him a time of contemplation, reflection, and preparation. So by observing Lent, most Christians join Jesus on His retreat.

And Lent over the years, has also become the way of penance. It is good for us to undertake acts of penance in sorrow for our sins, our failure to acknowledge and to love God in Himself, in others, in ourselves. The traditional forms of penance, fast and abstinence, are to be observed according to Church law. The habit of more personal forms of penance is certainly to be encouraged. Not only is penance appropriate as an expression of sorrow for sin, but it also helps us to be less attached to the things of this world. Penance helps us to put things in proper perspective. The way of Lent is also the way of good works, the way of loving service of others for e.g. to be particularly attentive to the needs of the homeless. The season of Lent is a time of preparation for all believing

Christians as we ponder and reflect afresh each year on the sufferings of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It begins with Ash Wednesday and ends with the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday. It is the second great season in the Christian church calendar – the first being the season of Advent when each year we remember the birth date of God’s Son, Jesus Christ – His first coming into this world as a baby. Being an Anglican, I will now share the understanding of the season of Lent from within the Anglican Tradition. Originating in the 4th century of the church, the season of Lent, spans 40 weekdays beginning on Ash Wednesday, and climaxing during Holy Week, with Holy Thursday (Maundy Thursday), Good Friday, and

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concluding Saturday, before Easter. Originally, Lent was the time of preparation for those who were to be baptized, a time of concentrated study and prayer before their baptism at the Easter Vigil, the celebration of the Resurrection of the Jesus early on Easter Sunday. But since these new members were to be received into a living community of Faith, the entire community was called to preparation. Also, this was the time when those who had been separated from the Church would prepare to rejoin the community. Today, Lent is marked by a time of prayer and preparation to celebrate Easter. Since Sundays celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, the six Sundays that occur during Lent are not counted as part of the 40 days of Lent, and are referred to as the Sundays in Lent. The number 40 is connected with many biblical events, but especially with the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness preparing for His ministry by facing the temptations that could lead Him to abandon His mission and calling. Christians today use this period of time for introspection, self examination, and repentance. This season of the year is equal only to the Season of Advent in importance in the Christian year, and is part of the second major grouping of Christian festivals and sacred time that includes Holy Week, Easter, and Pentecost.

contrite hearts, that lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, we may receive from You, the God of all mercy, perfect forgiveness and peace, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” And at some point during the service on this day, there will be the imposition of ashes on everyone attending the service. This is a powerful biblical symbol of both repentance and grace. Placing of ashes in the form of a cross on the forehead of each worshipper is a mark of human mortality and failure. Yet it is also the mark of a willingness to come in humility before God to confess our failures, and to ask for forgiveness and new strength. This act of contrition also expresses faith in the grace of God who calls us to accountability for our sins, yet who also extends grace in the willingness to ‘forget’ those sins for a new beginning. It is this dimension of movement from the past to the future, the movement from failure to second chances, the movement from the old to the new that marks the beginning of the journey through Lent toward Easter. Let me close with the words of a powerful poem entitled “The Third Cross” and whose author is unknown:

A prayer said on Ash Wednesday taken from the Book of Common Prayer of the Anglican church reads: “Almighty and everlasting God, You hate nothing that You have made and forgive the sins of all those who are penitent. Create and make in us new and

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FOMSO FORUM SEPTEMBER 2013

Two crosses stood on a hill Where soon a third was raised. Two criminals awaiting death Looked toward the third, amazed To see who hung between them. Suffering quietly as He died – The gentle son of Joseph – Why would He be crucified? And still across the centuries, The question sounds today: Why would the gentle Son of God Meet death in such a way? If die He must, why not a death Of honor and acclaim – Why choose to be identified With sinners and their shame? And yet His death upon the cross Enables us to see – He comes to us right where we are, Not where we’d like to be. Amidst our darkness and disgrace, Our suffering and our sin, The Saviour comes to each of us, Time and time again. FF


CULTURE & FESTIVALS

the

Tamil New Year

M

rs Sarojini Krishapillai, a retired teacher and now an ardent student of Siddhantha Saivam and the Tamil language, shares her understanding of the significance of the Tamil New Year with FOMSO FORUM The Tamil New Year begins when the sun passes directly over the equator on its northerly journey. Based on the Tamil ‘panchagam’, each new year is part of a sixtyyear era, and this year its the ‘Vijaya Varasum’. Prior to the new year, Hindu temples will prepare the ‘Maruthu Neer’ by boiling a collection of different herbs and flowers that include the lotus flower, pomegranate, basil (tulasi), certain grasses, cow’s urine and dung, turmeric, pepper, ‘thippili’ and dried ginger in huge tubs of clean water. On New Year’s eve, families will collect a portion of the ‘Maruthu Neer’ which is used for the first bath of the New Year. The ‘Maruthu Neer’ not only has medicinal properties, but is also believed to clear away ‘thosam’ or obstacles and negative energy that might surround one. In this current new year cycle, those who are born under the stars of ‘karthigai’, ‘rohini’, ‘mirugaseerridam’, ‘chidrai’, ‘suathi’, ‘visaham’ and ‘utharaadam’, are advised to regularly bathe with ‘Maruthu Neer’ throughout the year. According to our tradition, after the first new year bath, everyone would put on new clothes. This year, yellow and blue are recommended to draw in the right energy. As a family,

we would then pray together at our home altar which would have been spruced up and decorated with fresh flowers and garlands for the Deities. Next is the conduct of the first financial transaction of the year, the giving of a clean new currency note wrapped in a betel nut leaf (‘vathela’). This tradition is known as the ‘kai-vishesham’. On New Year’s day, a special meal is cooked that is intended to activate our six taste buds with ingredients that would prime the sense of sweetness, the sour, the bitter, the spicy, the salty and ‘thuvarpu’ or the taste of betel nut. The front porch would also be adorned with an ever-silver or brass pot, the ‘kudam’ and sprouted with mango leaves and a clean shaven coconut pasted with sandalwood and a ‘pottu’. The archway to the front door is also strung with an odd number of fresh mango leaves to welcome family, relatives and friends. Typically, on the evening of New Year’s day, the entire family will go to the temple for prayers. We are encouraged to perform our first act of charity by donating through the temple ‘undial’ or to give to the needy. This charitable act is known as the ‘Thaana-Dharman’. Often at most temples, after the prayers, there would be special community bonding events that could include the group recital of our Saivite holy hymns, the ‘Thevaram’, recognition and prize giving ceremony to children who had taken part in religious classes and competitions, and the sharing of sweet meals. It is also customary to visit and to host visits by family and friends. FF

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CULTURE & FESTIVALS

by Gordon Varuna Piyadasa, President of the Malaysian Sinhalese Association

e of nc

Signifi ca

Wesak Devotees at the Buddhist Maha Vihara temple in Brickfields on Wesak Day

T

he best known date on the Buddhist calendar, familiar even to nonBuddhists, is the thrice sacred day of ‘Wesak’. Wesak is the name of a month in the ancient Indian calendar and it usually falls in May, though sometimes it may commence in the later part of April or extend to the early part of June. Wesak is derived from the original Pali word ‘Wesakha’ or Sanskrit ‘Waishakha’. In some countries it is also known simply as Buddha Day. Wesak Day is the holiest of all Buddhist holy days and embraces a three-fold commemoration – the day Lord Buddha was born, the day He received Full Enlightenment and the day on which He attained Pari-Nibbana, i.e. the day on which He passed from this life. This three-fold commemoration day is universally observed by Buddhists with great veneration. The laity especially sets aside this day in performing acts of merit such as giving alms to the poor, making offerings to the temples, reciting sutras, meditating, listening to preaching and observing the precepts.

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Birth of a Noble Prince The Buddha, or the Supremely Enlightened One was born in 623 B.C. on a Wesak full-moon day. The young Prince was named Siddhartha or ‘the one who has brought about all good.’ His parents, King Suddhodana and Queen Mahamaya, ruled a small kingdom in Northern India. It is said that when he was born an ancient sage called Asita came to visit him. The sage took the child in his arms and first smiled, then wept. Questioned about his extraordinary behavior, the sage explained that he smiled because the Child would one day become the Greatest Teacher the world has ever known and he wept, because he would not live long enough to see the boy grow up.

A Prince of Superior Intelligence Siddharta Gautama was provided with all the worldly comforts that could be provided in a royal palace. His parents shielded him from the harsh realities of the outside world. He excelled in sports and showed his superior intelligence but he was not satisfied with such fleeting pleasures.

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He was usually a meditative person. One day he noticed a frog about to be swallowed by a snake. Just then an eagle swooped and flew away with the snake and the frog in its mouth. This set him thinking: that human life was the same whereby the stronger was to constantly destroy the weaker in never ending succession. This made him realize that happiness could only be found when this battle for survival could be ended. One day, when he was outside the palace gates, he saw an old man bent with age, a sick man and a corpse. The young Prince was horrified when he learnt that the human body which was so well cared for in youth could be subjected to the ravages of age, disease and death. He started to contemplate deeply and was determined to seek a panacea for such sufferings. The Prince also saw an ascetic, dressed in simple clothes but glowing with the inner peace of one who had given up his worldly passions. He was deeply impressed by the sense of happiness and calm the ascetic radiated.

Upon his return to the palace, young Siddartha, then aged 29, decided that he would give up all the temporal power that he was heir to and seek answers to the questions that troubled him. What was the cause of human suffering? What was the path to happiness? He went to many teachers but wise as they were, their wisdom was limited. They could not help him to gain the Enlightenment that he was searching. So he decided to seek the path on his own. The struggle for realisation of the Truth took him six long years. One of the first lessons he learnt was to seek the Middle Path that is not to go to extreme. He felt that we should not indulge too much in worldly pleasures or subject ourselves to extreme austerities. In order to calm the mind to gain purification we must be moderate in all aspects.

Buddha’s Enlightenment Finally, on the 35th anniversary of his birth, again on the fullmoon day of Wesak, and seated under a Bodhi tree in Buddha Gaya, the ascetic Siddartha


became the Buddha, the Fully Enlightened One. For the next forty-five years, the Buddha traveled around Northern India preaching His message of Loving Kindness for all beings and realization of the nature of existence. As we recall the Buddha and his Enlightenment, we are immediately reminded of the unique and most profound knowledge and insight which arose in him on the night of his Enlightenment. This coincided with three important events which took place, corresponding to the three watches or periods of the night. During the first watch of the night, when his mind was calm, clear and purified, light arose in him, knowledge and insight arose. He saw his previous lives, at first one, then two, three up to five, then multiples of them .. . ten, twenty, thirty to fifty. Then 100, 1000 and so on.... As he went on with his practice, during the second watch of the night, he saw how beings die and are reborn, depending on their Karma, how they disappear and reappear from one form to another, from one plane of existence to another. Then during the final watch of the night, he saw the arising and cessation of all phenomena, mental and physical. He saw how things arose dependent on causes and conditions. This led him to perceive the arising and cessation of suffering and all forms of unsatisfactoriness paving the way for the eradication of all taints of cravings. With the complete cessation of craving, his mind was completely liberated. He attained to Full Enlightenment. The realisation dawned in him together with all psychic powers. This wisdom and light that flashed and radiated under the historic Bodhi Tree at Buddha Gaya in the district of Bihar in Northern India, more than

2600 years ago, is of great significance to human destiny. It illuminated the way by which mankind could cross, from a world of superstition, or hatred and fear, to a new world of light, of true love and happiness.

The Buddha’s Passing Away Finally, after forty-five years, lying under two beautiful sala trees, before a large assembly of monks, the Buddha passed away at Kusinara. This passing away is also known as Mahaparinibbana or the attainment of ultimate peace and bliss. This great event also occurred on the full-moon day of Wesak. The Buddhist Era begins from the Mahaparinibbana – Passing away of the Buddha.

the Buddha is contained in the teachings of the Four Noble Truths, namely, • The Noble Truth of Dukkha or suffering • The Origin or Cause of suffering • The End or Cessation of suffering • The Path which leads to the cessation of all sufferings The First Noble Truth is the Truth of Dukkha which has been generally translated as ‘suffering’. But the term Dukkha, which represents the Buddha’s view of life and the world, has a deeper

the Aggregate of Form or the Physical process, Feeling, Perception, Mental Formation, and Consciousness. These are usually classified as mental and physical processes, which are constantly in a state of flux or change. When we train our minds to observe the functioning of mental and physical processes we will realise the true nature of our lives. We will see how it is subject to change and unsatisfactoriness. And as such, there is no real substance or entity or Self which we can cling to as ‘I’, ‘my’ or ‘mine’.

A sea of oil lamps

A Thrice Sacred Day Hence on Wesak Day, Buddhists all over the world commemorate three great events: The Birth, Enlightenment and the Passing Away of Gautama Buddha. As Buddhism spread from India to all parts of the world, the teachings were readily assimilated with the cultures of the people who accepted the teachings. As a result, Buddhist art and culture took on a rich variety of forms with profound gentleness and kindness as the Buddha expressly forbade the use of force. The practice of Buddhism was adapted in many ways to suit the nature of the various cultures that accepted it. It is most important to remember that this sacred day is purely and simply a religious festival and not a festive occasion for feasting, drinking and dancing. On this day all Buddhists are expected to reaffirm their faith in the Buddha Dhamma and to lead a noble religious life. It is a day for meditation and for radiating Loving Kindness.

Heart of the Teachings The heart of the Teachings of

philosophical meaning. Birth, old age, sickness and death are universal. All beings are subject to this unsatisfactoriness. Separation from beloved ones and pleasant conditions, association with unpleasant persons and conditions, and not getting what one desires - these are also sources of suffering and unsatisfactoriness. The Buddha summarises Dukkha in what is known as the Five Grasping Aggregates. Herein, lies the deeper philosophical meaning of Dukkha for it encompasses the whole state of being or existence.Our life or the whole process of living is seen as a flux of energy comprising of the Five aggregates, namely

When we become aware of the unsatisfactory nature of life, we would naturally want to get out from such a state. It is at this point that we begin to seriously question ourselves about the meaning and purpose of life. This will lead us to seek the Truth with regards to the true nature of existence and the knowledge to overcome unsatisfactoriness. From the Buddhist point of view, therefore, the purpose of life is to put an end to suffering and all other forms of unsatisfactoriness - to realise peace and real happiness. Such is the significance of the understanding and the realisation of the First Noble Truth.

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CULTURE & FESTIVALS

The Second Noble Truth explains the Origin or Cause of suffering. Tanha or craving is the universal cause of suffering. It includes not only desire for sensual pleasures, wealth and power, but also attachment to ideas’, views, opinions, concepts, and beliefs. It is the lust for flesh, the lust for continued existence (or eternalism) in the sensual realms of existence, as well as the realms of form and the formless realms. And there is also the lust and craving for

is how suffering is ended, once and for all. The Fourth Noble Truth explains the Path or the Way which leads to the cessation of suffering. It is called the Noble Eightfold Path.

The concentrated and cultured mind is a contemplative and analytical mind. It is capable of seeing cause and effect, and the true nature of existence, thus paving the way for wisdom and insight.

The Noble Eightfold path avoids the extremes of self-indulgence on one hand and self-torture on the other. It consists of Right Understanding, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort,

Wisdom in the Buddhist context, is the realisation of the fundamental truths of life, basically the Four Noble Truths. The understanding of the Four Noble Truths provide us with a proper sense of purpose and

The teaching of the Buddha became a great civilising force wherever it went. It appeals to reason and freedom of thought, recognising the dignity and potentiality of the human mind. It calls for equality, fraternity and understanding, exhorting its followers to avoid evil, to do good and to purify their minds. Realising the transient nature of life and all worldly phenomena, the Buddha has advised us to work out our deliverance with Beautifully decorated float procession of Lord Buddha

non-existence (or nihilism). These are all different Forms of selfishness, desiring things for oneself, even at the expense of others. Not realizing the true nature of one’s Self, one clings to things which are impermanent, changeable and perishable. The failure to satisfy one’s desires through these things; causes disappointment and suffering. Craving is a powerful mental force present in all of us. It is the root cause of our sufferings. It is this craving which binds us in Samsara - the repeated cycle of birth and` death. The Third Noble Truth points to the cessation of suffering. Where there is no craving, there is no becoming, no rebirth. Where there is no rebirth, there is no decay. no, old age, no death, hence no suffering. That

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Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration.

direction in life. They form the basis of problem-solving.

heedfulness, as ‘heedfulness is the path to the deathless’.

These path factors may be summarised into 3 stages of training, involving morality, mental culture and wisdom.

The message of the Buddha stands today as unaffected by time and the expansion of knowledge as when they were first enunciated.

His clear and profound teachings on the cultivation of heedfulness otherwise known as Satipatthana or the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, is the path for the purification of beings for the overcoming of sorrows and lamentation, for the destruction of all mental and physical sufferings, for the attainment of insight and knowledge and for the realisation of Nibbana. This has been verified by his disciples. It is therefore a path, a technique which may be verified by all irrespective of caste, colour or creed.

Morality or good conduct is the avoidance of evil or unwholesome actions -- actions which are tainted by greed, hatred and delusion; and the performance of the good or wholesome actions, - actions which are free from greed, hatred and delusion, but motivated by liberality, lovingkindness and wisdom. The function of good conduct or moral restraint is to free one’s mind from remorse (or guilty conscience). The mind that is free from remorse (or guilt) is naturally calm and tranquil, and ready for concentration with awareness.

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No matter to what lengths increased scientific knowledge can extend man’s mental horizon, there is room for the acceptance and assimilation for further discovery within -the framework of the teachings of the Buddha. The teaching of the Buddha is open to all to see and judge for themselves. The universality of the teachings of the Buddha has led one of the world’s greatest scientists, Albert Einstein to declare that ‘if there is any religion that could cope with modern scientific needs, it would be Buddhism’

‘As the wise test gold by burning, cutting and rubbing it on a piece of touchstone, so are you to accept my words after examining them and not merely out of regard for me.’ The Buddha. FF


by Mrs Rathy Mahendran, the President of Ceylon Association Taiping and Gordon Varuna Piyadasa, the President of Malaysian Sinhalese Association

HERITAGE

the Role of the Sri Lankan in Taiping

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he First Galleria Taiping was officially opened by Major General Lalith Daulagala, the Sri Lankan Acting High Commissioner to Malaysia on 13th January 2013. FOMSO President, Dato’ S. Kulasegaran had also addressed the gathering, and had congratulated the organizers of this important exhibition that highlights the heritage and contributions of the Sri Lankan community in Taiping. The brainchild of the gallery is its Founder and Senior Curator, Encik Anuar Isa. Encik Anuar in his promotional pamphlet wrote:‘On display, you will find an Exhibition of ‘The Role of Sri Lankan in Taiping 1883-1963’. The agenda of venturing into this project is part of the progress of promoting the town assets of ‘Many Firsts’, and promoting it to a greater height as set by Taiping Municipal Council. The Collection is arranged chronologically beginning with the early eras of Railway, Ports, Wharves and Perak Civil Establishments, and ending at Portrait Gallery with contemporary collection of portraits featuring Sri Lankan men and women who have shaped Taiping’s history from as early as 1873 to the present day, especially Mr S. Durai Raja Singam who wrote almost 30 books during his life time. The Collection also display photos of Ceylon Association of Taiping from 1950’s and their glory years, and also the philanthropist, Mr Cathiva Valoo ‘Mr Brown’ of Penang, who donated $6,000 to construct the Ceylon Association building, Station Road in 1901’.

1883-1963

This exhibition is also a landmark event for the cooperation between FOMSO Affiliates. Two of FOMSO Affiliates, Ceylon Association of Taiping and Malaysian Sinhalese Association came together to jointly work on the exhibition titled ‘The Role of Sri Lankan in Taiping 1883-1963’.

The involvement of Ceylon Association of Taiping (CAT) and Malaysian Sinhalese Association (MSA) In November 2012, the CAT committee met Encik Anuar and he briefed us on his plan to produce an exhibition on the contributions of the Ceylonese community in Taiping. The CAT committee was happy to hear the good news and agreed to help him. The MSA then received a call from the First Galleria Taiping and asked whether they were interested to work on the exhibition. The CAT and MSA jointly supported this plan and were happy to help the First Galleria Taiping.

The idea behind the collaboration As the Sri Lankan (Ceylonese) are a very small community whose contributions are little known to the people in Taiping, we saw this as an opportunity to not only portray the achievements of our forefathers, but at the same time to create an awareness that there was a pioneering Sri Lankan (Ceylonese) community in Taiping. The CAT hopes that with this publicity, the old, rundown building of the Association, badly in need of repairs would attract the attention of the relevant authorities whom would assist with the restoration.

Once upon a time, there were 3 Ceylonese communities in Taiping - Jaffna Tamils (largest), Sinhala (smaller but noticeable) and Ceylon Burgers (very, very small). Today the Sinhalese in Malaysia can be counted on your fingers and the Ceylon Burgers are no more here and as for the Jaffnese, we are still here but our numbers appear to be dwindling.

Working together

(from top to bottom)

A week before the event, Anuar and Gordon, the President of MSA came up from Kuala Lumpur just for this meeting, and met with the committee members of the CAT to discuss the finer points to be attended to. The credit goes to Anuar and his staff who organised the whole event.

Dato’ S. Kulasegaran, FOMSO President, addressing the gathering at the official opening of the First Galleria Taiping Mrs Rathy Mahendran, President of Ceylon Association Taiping (third from left), Dato’ S. Kulasegaran, FOMSO President (fourth from right), Anuar Isa, Founder and Senior Curator of First Galleria Taiping (third from right) and Gordon Varuna Piyadasa, President of Malaysian Sinhalese Association (right)

Artifacts on display The furniture and some pictures were the property of the CAT. These items were in the Association’s building for a long time and to some extent, antique pieces which needed restoration. The Gallery collected them about 1 month prior to the event to be refurbished, cleaned and displayed - all at the Gallery’s expense. The MSA had some old certificates of its earliest members in the 1940’s, a tool box brought by the pioneers when they arrived from Sri Lanka and some cricket paraphernalia. There were other artifacts on display which were already the property of the Gallery. FF

Cricket paraphernalia on display in the exhibition

Books written by Sri Lankans on display in the exhibition: 1. A Hundred Years of Ceylonese in Malaysia & Singapore by S.Durai Raja Singam; 2. Port Weld to Kuantan by S.Durai Raja Singam; 3. Malayan Street Names by S.Durai Raja Singam; 4.Through Memory Lane by S. Chelvasingam Macintyre; 5. Sinhalese Immigrants in Malaysia and Singapore 1860-1990: History through Recollections by S.N. Arseculeratne; 6. The Sara Saga by Manicasothy Saravanamuttu

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PROFILE ON LEADING PERSONALITIES FROM THE COMMUNITY

DR. SIVANANTHAN T. ELAGUPILLAY

T

The in the Malaysian Government

he Malaysian Ceylonese community have served with dedication and excelled in many expects of the government service ranging from clerical, public works, audit, teaching, police, army, engineering, medical, agriculture, railways, survey and diplomatic. We are glad to highlight here another member of our community who is keeping with this tradition, but in a rarely heard of career related to the protection of wildlife and tigers in the tropical rainforest of Malaysia.   Dr. Sivananthan Elagupillay or Siva has been working with the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP or Jabatan PERHILITAN) of Peninsular Malaysia since 1982. Coincidently he is also known as the ‘Tiger Man’ in the government due his long association with the conservation and protection of wild tigers in the forests of Malaysia. Since 1994 he has represented the Malaysian Government at various international meetings related to tiger and wildlife conservation. He is also a member of the Cat Specialist Group of the World

Conservation Union (IUCN) and the Chief Editor of the Malaysian Journal of Wildlife and Parks.      Asked on how he had landed with such a job Siva recalled, ‘I was at USM Penang and had just completed the final exams.  Around that time the Public Service Department (PSD) was recruiting some of the first batch of graduates for the DWNP. I was not a Government Scholar, but was an active student, including an elected Student Union leader, President of the USM Indian Cultural Association and played cricket for USM. The USM Deputy Vice Chancellor then supported my application for this post. That was a turning point in my working career as I was soon hired as a Wildlife Officer at the DWNP.’   Soon Siva realized why many graduates stayed away from DWNP. It was a small government agency mainly working in the remote areas, and resource allocation, and career prospects then were minimal. On what kept him going in this field, Siva says, ‘I think the passion and interest among the DWNP personnel

to be part of that small group of enthusiasts to save Malaysia’s majestic wildlife and to work in the Taman Negara National Park has kept me and my colleagues going. Since this job involves days inside the forests, the blessings and support of my parents, wife and my two sons, enabled me to be with the DWNP and the government for the past 30 years.’ Siva’s first assignment in the DWNP was to resolve the recurring problem of wild tigers killing cattle at two farms. One was a government owned farm at Behrang Ulu, Tanjong Malim (now replaced with the PROTON City), and the other was a private farm at Bandar Muazzam Shah in south eastern Pahang. Coincidently, Tanjong Malim is also Siva’s hometown although he did his primary and secondary schooling in Malacca. Between 1982 and 1984 Siva shuttled between these cattle farms and also in the interiors of Taman Negara National Parks tracking tigers.   After understanding the ecology of the wild tigers and reforming the cattle farm management, the number of cows killed by wild tigers was drastically reduced from several hundred in 1982 to about 30 cows in 1984. This not only spared the lives of these

Sivananthan (right) with YB Dato’ Sri Douglas Uggah Embas, the Minister of Natural Resource and Environment (NRE) Malaysia and Mr. Nagulendran, a senior Administrative and Diplomatic Officer of NRE (left) who were part of the Malaysian delegation to the International Tiger Summit 2010 held at St Petersburg, Russia. Malaysia together with 12 other Tiger Range Countries (that includes Russia, India, China and Thailand) pledged to strengthen the tiger populations in the wild.

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wild tigers, but also resulted in financial savings by the farms. Siva also wrote scientific articles and some of the findings became the guidelines for the wildlife rangers in dealing with such human-tiger conflicts (HTC).   Early 1985, at the age of 28, Siva was transferred to Alor Setar as the Kedah State Director for DWNP. Recalling his experience there, ‘In Kedah, I soon realized the Wildlife Rangers of Kedah rarely go into the deep forests of Kedah and camp inside unlike in Perak or Pahang where I had worked earlier. The reasons given by them were that most forests in Kedah were still ‘Black Areas’ and there were communist insurgents and explosive mines inside them. I reasoned with them that if the poachers can roam within these forests safely, we too can and should, to arrest these poachers as long as we inform the Army and the Police.’   With the blessings of the Department’s Director General, Chief Police Officer of Kedah and the Brigadier of the Sungai Petani Army Camp, Siva started

Sivananthan (right) interacting with a baby elephant while taking some JCS members on a visit to the National Elephant Conservation Centre (NECC) in Pahang.


a monthly forest patrolling programme. Siva himself led these patrols ranging from 5 to 7 days into various Forest Reserves in Kedah. In addition to enforcing the wildlife law, the patrols were able to document for the first time the presence of herds of elephants, tigers, wild cattle or seladang and even rhinoceros.  At the same time, the number of people caught for poaching of wildlife including deer, wild boar, wild birds, python and monitor lizards increased, with many being prosecuted in various Magistrate Courts in Kedah.     To speed up the backlog of wildlife cases, Siva understudied court prosecution from his Deputy who was also the Prosecuting Officer for the DWNP. Following that, Siva too successfully prosecuted cases at the Magistrate Courts of Kedah and Penang. Although a friendly person, Siva showed no mercy for poachers by going after them relentlessly.   Asked on what was his memorable incident, Siva recalled, ‘In 1988, I led a team of 8 and ambushed a house in a remote area of Sik, Kedah. We suspected the house owner was a poacher and supplier of wild deer meat. However, no one was in the house then. So we waited till nightfall. Suddenly about 100 of the villagers came charging at us with sharpened bamboo poles. Realizing we were greatly outnumbered, I ordered my men to retreat and took refuge in the Ulu Muda forest. We only came out of the forest after midnight and managed to make a police report. Preventing government servants from discharging their duties is a big offence. The OCPD himself investigated the matter,

but we were unable to identify any of them since it was dark when the incident took place. Nevertheless, the incident was a talk of the town and assisted to bring about greater awareness in Kedah. The concerned village leader himself came forward and assured us he would not tolerate any poaching in his village. Eventually some of the villagers even became regular informers to the department. Ten years later, I was appointed by the DWNP to head a team to track down a tiger that had killed two villagers at a remote Orang Asli Village in Sg. Siput, Perak. Emergency was declared in several villages and the Police and Army were deployed. After 10 days of trying to catch the tiger alive, and several close encounters with it, we had to resort to the unpleasant task of eliminating it in order to bring back peace to the villages.’   For the services provided to the state, Siva was bestowed with the Excellent Service Star (BCK) medal by His Highness the Sultan of Kedah in 1989.  After an eventful 6 years of service in Kedah, Siva decided to pursue his Masters studies at West Virginia University USA on a PSD scholarship. After obtaining his Masters, Siva was posted to DWNP Headquarters in Kuala Lumpur. It was then with the support of the Director General and the Ministry, that Siva negotiated and brought in several foreign funded projects to improve the wildlife and protected areas (such as national parks and wildlife reserves) management in Malaysia. As the Director of these projects, Siva had the privilege to work with more than 30 local and international wildlife experts and ensure there was knowledge transfer to the DWNP and related government agencies.   In 2001, Siva was awarded a PSD scholarship to do his PhD in Natural Resource Management at the University of Idaho USA. This also gave Siva the opportunity for Siva to undertake field studies at the world renowned Yellowstone National Park. Upon his return, Siva was posted as the Director of the newly created Institute for Biodiversity under DWNP. ‘Although, I was away from my family for 2 years, I had a fruitful

time working with and training a group of young officers and exploring the magnificent wildlife treasures within Krau Wildlife Reserve, a virgin rainforest as big as Singapore!’   Following that Siva was transferred back to DWNP in Kuala Lumpur as the Consultancy Division Director in 2007, and Law Enforcement Division Director in 2008, where he was involved in the development of the new wildlife law and devised a monitoring programme through which several illegal wildlife were arrested at airports and trading over the internet. Since 2009, Siva has been the Ecotourism Division Director where he is involved in sustainably develop tourism related activities at several natural sites including Taman Negara, Penang National Park and National Elephant Conservation Centre at Lanchang, Pahang. In addition to his present job, Siva has also been appointed by the Government as the National Director for a UN project to develop sustainable financing mechanism for National Parks and State Parks.   To sum up his work with wildlife, Siva says, ‘Tigers, elephants and other wildlife have a tremendous sense of belonging and attachment to where they were born and raised by their mothers. They have tremendous respect for other beings including humans. Unlike our domestic cows, dogs or cats, they have a greater sense of ingenuity because they have to survive on their own in the forest, look for their own food, treat their own sickness and communicate with one another in the vast stretches of the thick forest. Probably

that is why religions including Hinduism use wildlife like tigers, lions, elephants and peahen as symbols of wisdom, courage and bravery. I think it can be hypocritical to pray diligently to Lord Ganesha on one hand and knowingly or unknowingly be a party to the destruction of the forest that shelters the wild elephants or even poach them for the ivory. As a wildlife officer, I and my colleagues cannot directly assist the wildlife but can prevent fellow humans from causing harm to them. However, if all of us respect the needs of our wildlife and keep our forest intact, then our wildlife will flourish, and will be still there for our grandchildren to see them.’ To bring such awareness among the public, Siva has participated in a number of television programmes in Malay, English and also in Tamil, written articles for scientific journals, books and magazines, and presented numerous papers, both locally and overseas. Over the past few years, at the request of the Director General of DWNP, Siva is also assisting in wildlife policy development together with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (NRE) Malaysia. Siva has also assisted in organizing field visits to wildlife conservation areas for Jaffnese Cooperative Society (JCS) and Temple members.   In addition to protecting the Malaysian wildlife, Siva also finds time to serve the community. He was the Past President of the USM Indian Graduate Association, presently a Committee member of the Sri Subramaniya Temple Kajang and the Vice Chairman of JCS since 2012. FF

Sivananthan (right) inspecting a consignment of various protected wildlife poached that was seized by the DWNP. The poacher was arrested and prosecuted after a surveillance operation by the DWNP.

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ENTREPRENEURS

by K. Neelambika

Eric Kanapathy is

the President of Malaysian Jaffnese Tamil Business Association (MJTBA)

E

ric grew up in Jalan Pekeliling, then known as Circular Road, from the time he was born in 1951 until 1970. He was raised on a huge farm. On the farm were cows, goats, chickens, ducks and turkey. Vegetables and fruits were also grown. Freshwater fish was reared in a pond. There were six boys in the family. Eric was brought up in an environment of hard work. He and his brothers assisted their mother with preparing meals for the farm workers, as well as preparing fodder for the cows, from the tapioca grown on the farm. Eric’s father worked as a painter in the General Hospital and was also a toddy contractor. Eric had his primary education at Batu Road School. He continued his secondary education at a private school at Commercial Institute. When the school closed down, Eric studied for his Form 5 and Form 6 at

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the Methodist High School in Sentul. Upon completing his tertiary education, Eric wanted to pursue further education in Australia, but unfortunately, the decline in the commercial success of the family farm had not facilitated this ambition. Undeterred, at the age of 20, Eric started his first job as a plumber with a Chinese contractor. His daily wage was a mere pittance of $3.50. A year later, he was employed by CTC, a forwarding and transport company. What excited and enticed Eric to join this company was that, he was provided with a motor cycle, a Vespa, which was glamorous in those days. His monthly income was $90. Eric loved the sheer thrill and adrenalin rush of speeding on the Vespa. Roaring away on the machine, it would only take him a mere 10 minutes to reach Subang Airport from his office in Selangor Mansion, much to the astonishment of his boss.

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While in employment with CTC, Eric took it upon himself to learn everything about this line of business. He familiarised himself thoroughly with the cargo documentation. He equipped himself for this job by assembling a tool bag containing a nail puller, a metal strap cutter, screwdrivers, pliers, a knife and nails, and carried it with him at all times. The tool bag was an essential tool to his


trade. Regularly, the huge crates containing his customers’ goods had to be opened for inspection for customs clearance at the Customs Yard, where KL Sentral is now located. Once the inspection was completed, Eric had to re-seal the crates using the nails from his bag. Thus amply equipped and always hands-on, Eric was able to execute the job, and clear the consignments expeditiously. Eric worked with the right attitude. He had the capacity for hard work, had the initiative and drive, was a fast learner, and was amiable with all the people he worked and interacted with. He handled the customs processing with urgency, speed and accuracy. As a result, he built up a reputation with his customers and the customs personnel, in particular the Customs Superintendent, Rashid Khan. Rashid took Eric into his fold, and taught him the ropes of the job, and this included the classification and declaration of import duties on various freights, as outlined in the Malaysian Custom Tariff Classification, a voluminous 500 page manual. Three years later, Eric joined McGregor Swire Air Services Sdn. Bhd., as a clerk, earning a monthly salary of $750. Two years into the job, he was promoted to Assistant Supervisor. Eric had an excellent relationship with his clients. He was known in the industry, as ‘Mr No Problem’. Whenever called upon to do something, his immediate response would be, ‘no problem’, and got the job done right away. Eric then moved on to work in other companies which included Novo Express, West Asia Forwarding, and Central Air Cargo. During this time, Eric was headhunted by Harrisons and Crosfield, and he joined the international company in 1978. Knowledgeable and experienced in the freight forwarding industry, he revamped and streamlined the operations of the company,

despite some initial reservations through his contacts in from management. This exercise WACO to execute a lucrative was huge success. He then business project to air freight recommended that the company video games to the United become a franchisee of World Kingdom. Eric was initially Air Cargo Organisation (WACO). hesitant to take on this job WACO was a consortium of as he didn’t have in hand the forwarding companies operating required financial resources. in 60 to 80 countries worldwide. He consulted his contact As a franchisee, Eric believed in Cargolux who advised that Harrisons would be able him that this was a golden to tap into a host of potential opportunity not to be missed. benefits. This included the huge His contact would provide Eric contacts through international the facility to utilise his aircraft connections to procure projects. to transport the consignment. It would also enhance the Finally, Eric decided to take on company’s global presence. the job. The project was priced Once Harrisons signed up to at a whopping RM4.5 million. become a franchisee, Eric got the opportunity to travel overseas, The consignment was delivered twice a year, representing the to the destination on schedule. Eric, however, hit company at a snag with the WACO’s Annual delay in receiving General Meeting Eric had payment. This and Extraordinary an excellent plight put him General Meeting. This was also an relationship with through a period of considerable excellent avenue his clients. He anxiety and for him to build up was known in distress, as he his international had payments network. the industry, as to settle with ‘Mr No Problem’. various parties. In 1986, when Whenever There were the government called upon to also issues implemented the over damage to nationalisation do something, the goods, and of foreign his immediate the customer owned multiresponse would d e m a n d e d nationals in the services sector, be, ‘no problem’, compensation. In seeking a Permodalan and got the job resolution, Eric Nasional Berhad done right negotiated for a c q u i r e d away the payment of Harrisons and a lesser amount, Crosfield. Eric to cover the remained working with its subsidiary, Harrisons damages. He consequently Trading. In the meantime, his received his payment, and wife had set up a forwarding after paying off his debtors company, Wira SASA, which was and meeting the operational later renamed as SASA AirCargo costs, he was left with RM1.5 Express Sdn. Bhd. (SASA). Eric million. He applied the funds resigned from Harrisons Trading to revamp the operations of his three years later, and worked company, opened up branch with his wife in SASA. This was offices in Subang Airport, Port a challenging period in his life, Klang, Melaka, Johor Bahru and as he lacked the large funds that Penang, and purchased 7 to were required to operate in this 8 trucks. SASA is today a fully kind of business venture. No integrated logistics solution financial institutions wanted to provider, involved in air and sea freight forwarding services, extend him any loans. road transport services, packing Eric got a huge break in 1992, and relocation, and warehousing when he was approached and distribution.

Running your own business is not without its challenges. SASA encounters competition from the multinational companies. There are also compliance issues with various government policies. The company differentiates itself from the rest by doing things differently, and providing personalised service. The thrust of service is economy, efficiency and effectiveness. Being a member of Business Network International (BNI) has provided Eric the channel to network and secure business opportunities. His latest ventures include importing coffee products and building materials for the franchise coffee companies such as Flappe from Taiwan, Coffee Coffee from Korea, importing interior design materials from Indonesia, food products from Palestine and supplying bull semen for artificial insemination in Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Vietnam. Eric loves doing what he does in this business. At 62, there is no slowing down. His advice to those who are keen to get into business is to do what you know and what you are familiar with. One also needs to study to gain the necessary knowledge and expertise about the business. Eric had been a member of Bankers Club for 6 years. Using this knowledge, he formed the Malaysian Jaffnese Tamil Business Association (MJTBA) to benefit any member of the community who is keen on a business career. His plans for MJTBA is to gradually open chapters in other locations, including Subang Jaya, Klang and Seremban, and eventually one chapter in each state capital, something similar to BNI’s concept. A bigger network of members of our community will provide the platform for the sharing of knowledge and information on various business enterprises, assisting its members to either start or grow their business, and to generate more business opportunities. FF

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THE PERFORMING ARTS

by K. Neelambika

AN AFTERNOON WITH

Shanthi Kanthaswamy Co-director of ‘Ramayana – Our Visualisation’

The Ramayana is an ancient Hindu epic of Rama and his beautiful wife Sita. When Sita is kidnapped by Ravana, the king of the demons, Rama sets off to search and rescue her, and enlists the help of Hanuman. Ramayana espouses the philosophy, moral teachings and ethical values of dharma (duty), devotion, loyalty, love and wisdom.

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T

here have been n u m e r o u s productions of this drama. The latest offering of ‘Ramayana Our Visualisation’, was co-directed by Shanthi Kanthaswamy, on behalf of the Ladies Wing of the Malaysian Ceylonese Congress (MCC), Old Klang Road Branch. The Ramayana was staged to raise funds for the Malaysian Ceylonese National Community Centre

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(MCNCC), and was performed to much acclaim on 5th January 2013 at the Tan Sri Jeffrey Cheah Auditorium in Subang Jaya. Shanthi was introduced to the arts at a young age of four, when she learnt to play the violin. The following year, she learnt classical dancing under Master Sivadas. She performed the Arangetram, dance debut, when she was 17 years. Her mother, the late Mrs

Thavapakiam Kanthaswamy was a great influence in nurturing her daughter’s love affair and involvement in the arts. Shanthi spoke fondly of her mother’s love for the arts and keeping the culture and traditions alive, and passing them on to her children and the community. Mrs Thavapakiam was an ardent supporter and took her children for cultural performances. She initiated the celebration of Navarathri festival in her house, with prayers as well as


Shanthi Kanthaswamy (right) in the back-stage during costume change

Shanthi Kanthaswamy (right) in the back stage during costume change

cultural performances. Shanthi played the violin and performed the classical dance during these Navarathri celebrations. According to her mother, Navarathri encourages the sustenance of the arts. So it was only fitting that the occasion is observed with rejoice in cultural renditions through music, dance and song, especially of the holy hymns or ‘thervarams’.

Making the props

After graduating with a Degree in Electronics Engineering from the University of Western Australia, Shanthi joined Malaysian Airlines System as an aeronautical engineer. It was here that a group of like minded Hindu colleagues got together and formed the Malaysian Airlines Hindu Society. The society organised activities such as Hindu religious classes for its members on Fridays during lunch break, Tamil New Year celebration with home cooked food and prayers at the temple, visits to the orphanage and

cultural performances. It was with the society that Shanthi had her first engagement with the Ramayana. The idea to stage ‘Ramayana - Our Visualisation’ was borne during the Tamil New Year celebration in 2012 by the Ladies Wing of MCC, Old Klang Road branch. The women wanted to do something more and something big to bring the community together to interact and bond in a big way. Shanthi swung into action to put the show together. She sought the support of her friends in the Malaysian Airlines Hindu Society. Her friend, Shankar Menon from the society became the Co-Director. Shankar was responsible for conceptualising the music. Shanthi and Shankar got working on the concept based on who they have as cast members and assessed their respective capabilities as they are non-professional actors. The concept of the play was given

FOMSO FORUM SEPTEMBER 2013

27


THE PERFORMING ARTS

Stage performance

a modern slant, and expanded into a multi-stage production to showcase talents in various art forms including dances. Having in mind the objective of involving the entire community, everyone was invited to join in, the young and not so young, including those not trained in acting or in dance. It was about giving the opportunity to everyone to enjoy the rare experience of taking part in a grand stage production. Their target, in particular, was the involvement of the children to know and appreciate their religious roots, gain knowledge and take pride in their cultural heritage. With an initial cast and crew of 40 people, the production slowly took a life of its own. More and more people came forward to offer their support. They were keen to be involved one way

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or another, even if they did not have the talent or could not act or dance. The enthusiasm was simply infectious. Shanthi upped the ante with a final huge cast of 106 actors and crew of 130 to 140 people. The youngest of the cast was a mere 4 months old baby, and the oldest was over 80. Everyone was involved in every aspect of the production – choreography, designing and making the costumes, making the in-house props, sale of tickets and seeking sponsorship. A group of 8 to 10 people were involved in working on the costumes. The costumes were painstakingly hand-made and sewn from old and new sarees, kindly donated by the members, friends and families. A lot of thought and creatively went into creating the period costumes. They had to be designed in such a way to ensure there

FOMSO FORUM SEPTEMBER 2013

Shanthi’s mother’s house became a hive of activity, as practice sessions were held here over a period of two months. Only the final two rehearsals were held on stage at the auditorium. There was, however, no dress rehearsal.

to take on the persona of the various characters. There were cast members who fleeting enrolled, but left as they could not commit their time. As they progressed, adjustments and re-adjustments, planning and re-planning had to be made in every aspect of production. Attention also had to be paid to every single detail, and the team persistently kept working at it to ensure a smooth production. Everyone gave it their all. Pep talks were given to members of the cast to energise and motivate them to do their best, and to leave the rest in God’s Hands.

A production of such size and the different age groups definitely had its challenges. As the cast members were non-professionals, Shanthi and Shankar had to train them in dancing and acting

One area of concern and anxiety was over the initial poor ticket sales. With all their hard work and tireless effort, it would have been most disappointing and disheartening for the cast to perform to a tiny audience.

was minimal costume change in between scenes. The timing between the end of one scene and the start of the next scene had to be impeccable to ensure a seamless production. A master of ceremony and pantomines were cleverly used as fillers between scenes to allow for quick costume changes.


As it turned out, the auditorium hall was packed to a full house on performance day. Shanthi attributes the resounding success to Divine Grace. Imagine the huge cast of amateurs having mastered the various skills in a matter of only a few months through the able direction and tutoring by Shanthi and Shankar. Shanthi personifies a truly dedicated and passionate advocate of the performing arts by our community. She created the platform to draw in a large cross-section of our community, to act and to undertake the mammoth task of the back-stage production. Through this huge endeavour, Shanthi has moulded numerous budding actors and dancers who in turn will sustain the future development and growth of the performing arts in our community. The children and the adults who participated in the Ramayana have learnt

an art form and discovered their own potential and hidden talents. This wonderful community project has indeed promoted understanding and enriched all of us.

Designing and making the costumes

This marvellous theatre production had also served as an excellent platform for the children and the youth to build confidence, take responsibility, whilst experiencing first-hand the marvels of team work for the common good of the community. It has also created much fellowship amongst the community. What was also important to Shanthi, was for the parents to be closely involved in their children’s activities as a way of bonding families together through community theatre. We are all most grateful to Shanthi for the time, devotion and energy that she put into this phenomenally successful project, and we now look forward to her next theatrical production. FF

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FOMSO FORUM SEPTEMBER 2013

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THE PERFORMING ARTS

J MUSIC FESTIVAL AFFNA

FOMSO FORUM conducted an e-mail interview with Kaushalya Navaratne, the Director of the Jaffna Music Festival 2013

T

he Second Jaffna Music Festival, a bi-annual event, was held on the 1st and 2nd of March 2013, at Jaffna city’s municipal grounds. The festival’s official website (www. jaffnamusicfestival.org) names the various local and international musicians and ensembles that had participated in this event. Several music and sound workshops were also held, and there was a traditional arts and crafts exhibition. FOMSO FORUM: How was the idea of holding the Jaffna Music Festival conceived? KAUSHALYA: Due to the nearly 3 decades of war in the northern regions, folk art as all other art forms in the north has suffered tremendously. Years of curfew, frequent displacement, abductions and recruitment, amongst many other factors have made it nearly impossible for folk artists to display, preserve and pass on their traditional art forms. In the context of this background, the Music Cooperation in consultation with senior scholars had decided to held this festival every other year

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Ritual songs of Batticaloa

in Jaffna. We believe these efforts will contribute towards harmony among the diverse ethnic groups in Sri Lanka. FOMSO FORUM: The 2013 edition of the Jaffna Music Festival is said to be larger than the inaugural version held 2 years ago. How long did it take to plan and organize this festival? KAUSHALYA: The Music Cooperation has a few collaborative partners in terms of funding, implementation and artistic direction. Prior to the implementation process, careful consideration was given to what would be the

FOMSO FORUM SEPTEMBER 2013

appropriate theme for this year’s festival, and the initial concept and design was started around 6 months prior to the festival date. Almost all artistic and selection details go through careful discussions in order to ensure that all selections made, both artistic and logistic, are the best possible standard and appropriateness. FOMSO FORUM: How did you choose the Sri Lankan and international musicians and performers? KAUSHALYA: Once the themes/ categories of music are decided, we then convey it to our Norwegian counterparts (Concerts Norway) who have

a wide network of musicians under their programmes all over the world. They then, in consultation with the Sri Lankan partners, select dynamic musicians keeping in mind the theme, audience and cultural and social aspects of the event. 


Traditional welcoming wooden arch at the main entrance Parai Mela Koothu (to the festival in the city’s municipal grounds)

collaboration with the guidance of the education ministry. FOMSO FORUM: Which performances were the most popular and draw the crowds? KAUSHALYA: The general feedback was that all performances were unique. Especially in the context of Jaffna, the collaborative performances and some of the more unusual performances that featured female artists playing instruments, etc. that are traditionally played by males were especially talked of. Most groups made special efforts to include a bit of local flavour in their repertoire.

The Sri Lankan artists are selected at a selection committee meeting comprising of veteran musicians and educators who have wide experience, knowledge and networks in the music industry. Items for the children’s programme were done in

Some of the audience at the festival

FOMSO FORUM: Was there much interactions and crosslearning between the local and international artists? KAUSHALYA: This year saw some unique collaborations occur at the festival, both with international artists and local. There were music and dance collaborations which featured 3

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Vezham Paduththa Veerankanai (Mulliyawalai, Mullaithivu District, Sri Lanka)

countries (including Sri Lanka) and the local artists too had many collaborations between the North and the South. This ensured an exchange of knowledge, ideas, culture, and also produced amazing performances. 

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FOMSO FORUM: Has this festival brought much tourism related benefits to Jaffna? KAUSHALYA: This year ’s promotions were 2 fold: promoting the festival and also promoting Jaffna as a destination.  The historical

FOMSO FORUM SEPTEMBER 2013

and cultural richness of Jaffna was emphasized. While we don’t have access to data regarding the impact on the local tourism, judging by the numbers that came for the festival (25,000 plus over two days), it could be assumed that

the hotel industry, industries involved in services such as food and beverage, etc. and tour operators and guides would have had an influx of customers. On a more long term basis, together with the festival, Jaffna has


Parai Mela Koothu (Mulliyawalai, Mullaithivu District, Sri Lanka) Students of Sivananda Vidyalayam from Batticaloa performing “Villuppaatu”

been featured in numerous magazines, newspaper articles, websites, etc both locally and internationally, and this would yet again bring Jaffna back into the tourism forum in terms of awareness.

FOMSO FORUM: How would you improve on this festival the next time around in 2015? KAUSHALYA: We are constantly trying to upgrade and re-invent the festival in order to showcase more musicians, culture and tradition. This year’s festival

expanded its musical horizons. We also look to keeping with the context and circumstances of the time.  FOMSO FORUM: The Galle Music Festival, last held in 2012, is the sister musical

festival. Do these festivals help in fostering greater mutual understanding and harmony between the Sinhalese and Tamil communities in Sri Lanka? K A U S H A LYA : Ye s , We believe so. FF

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FOMSO HINDUISM CLASSES

Hinduism: aief

Br ction u d o r t In

A

synopsis of the first lecture delivered by Dr K.Thilagawathi for the FOMSO organized Hinduism classes

Dr K. Thilagawathi delivering her lecture (left) Prof R. Rajeswaran, the organiser (right)

Class in session

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FOMSO FORUM SEPTEMBER 2013

Dr K.Thilagawathi started her lecture by explaining what religion is and the Tamil concept of ‘samayam’ – the Tamil root word being ‘samai’ or to work, and thus ‘samayam’ means the spiritual nourishment of the mind to facilitate the soul’s spiritual journey towards salvation. Dr K.Thilagawathi then explained the historical background of Hinduism, a religion which has no founder and with very old deep scriptures, including the Vedas. The principles and teachings of Hinduism is intended to guide each one of us to ‘live a respectable, selfless, generous, kind and virtuous life inspired by faith in God, religious values and love’. The Tamils are mainly Saivites and are guided by 12 Thimurais, 14 philosophical

treatises and the anthology of devotional verses (Naalaayira Dhivya Pirabantham). Saivites believe in three eternal beings, namely God (Siva), the Souls (ie us) and the innate matter of the world. The souls are bound by the 3 aspects of bondage, namely ego, delusion and deeds. The four steps that Saivism guides souls towards God-consciousness is through ‘Sariyai’ (service to God and souls), ‘Kiriyai” (poojas and the chanting of mantras), ‘Yogam’ (meditation) and ‘Nyaanam’ (spiritual wisdom through spiritual contemplation). FF Editor’s Note: The full set of the lecture notes can be obtained from Prof R. Rajeswaran, the Chairperson of FOMSO’s Education Bureau. Further synopsis of selected lectures will be featured in future issues of FOMSO FORUM.


LEGAL

AWARENESS FOR

I

CONDOMINIUM OWNERS & RESIDENTS ON NEW STRATA MANAGEMENT BILL 2012

n the January 2013 issue of the FOMSO FORUM, Jeyakuhan, a lawyer, explained the new Strata Management Bill 2012. Jeyakuhan who specializes in property matters, now responds to several questions from readers.

Question 1: If the management corporation run by the condominium developer does not properly maintain the common facilities, can owners withhold the monthly service fee? There cannot be any withholding of the monthly service fee as it is a statutory payment. The recourse against the developer for not properly maintaining the common facilities will lie to the Strata Title Board. If the Board has failed to take any satisfactory action to bring about the desired effect, then the next recourse may lie to the High Court for an order compelling the developer to do so. Question 2: In a mixed development that includes shops, commercial and residential units, there are conflicts between the different owners. How can such conflicts be resolved? If the conflicts referred to are with regard to the common property, these have to be resolved within the Joint Management Committee (JMC) of the Management Corporation or the Joint Management Body, as the case may be. The JMC has power under the Acts to deal with the common property. Any conflict that cannot be resolved will have to be referred to the Strata Title Board or the Commissioner of Buildings, as the case may be. If this avenue has been exhausted without any solution, then only may the matter be referred to the courts.

Question 3(a): How different is the Strata Management Tribunal as compared to the Consumer Tribunal established under the Consumer Protection Act?

They are completely different from the powers bestowed to the type of matters that may be referred to them. The former (when eventually gazetted) is to resolve conflicts pertaining to stratified properties whilst the latter is for claims pertaining to non-property related matters such as moveable items (goods) and services for the consumers personal use which is generally for domestic or household purposes. (b): As an individual condominium owner, can one seek redress from both these tribunals simultaneously? Both are different avenues of recourse. An individual condominium owner will need to address their grievance with the Strata Management Tribunal (when eventually gazetted). Question 4: By law, how much of the monthly service charges paid by owners must be set aside in a fund for long term maintenance, for example, for the lifts, painting the exterior and other common areas, etc? Where there is a Joint Management Body (JMB), this contribution falls under the sinking fund, which means the JMB will determine the amount of contribution. On the other hand, where it is a Management Corporation (MC), this contribution falls under the special account, which means the MC will determine the amount of contribution.

Question 5: If the majority of condominium owners in a project do not promptly pay the monthly service charge, how are the rights for good maintenance achieved, particularly for the minority who pay promptly?

There are no particular rights for the minority in such a situation. Good maintenance can only be achieved by good governance. The use of an efficient managing agent who follows up closely with the collection of maintenance charges, will help to reduce the number of delinquent contributors as well as minimize late payment. For the hardcore and repeatedly delinquent contributors, it is best to take the legal action route to bring about a just result. Question 6: If one rents a condominium and the tenant does not pay the rental, can the owner ask the management corporation to seal the premises, in order to evict the tenant? There is no such right granted under the pertinent laws. The Management Corporation is tasked with managing the common property and not the individually owned units. Question 7: Can an individual condominium owner sue the management corporation for failure to properly maintain the common facilities - for example, for frequent breakdowns of the lifts? Yes, the Management Corporation (MC) may be taken to task as it is a body corporate and can be sued in it’s name. However, the cause of action must be well established as the MC is only able to operate to the best of it’s ability. In other

words, the lack of funds to carry out such maintenance and upkeep, if not attributable to the fault of the MC, would be a valid defence to a claim against it. Question 8: If a condominium owner suffers losses arising from a ‘breakin’ or theft, can he/she sue the management corporation for the losses suffered as it had failed in its duty to provide good security?

Usually, service providers such as security guards service providers would have service provider agreements with the Management Corporation (MC). It would be prudent to obtain a copy of such an agreement to see if the losses are covered under any form of insurance or what are the respective liabilities of the MC and the service provider in the event of such losses occurring. If it cannot be settled at this stage, then legal action can be taken against the MC, as opposed to bringing a legal suit against the service provider, as there is no privity of contract between the owner of the condominium and the service provider. It is for the MC to then join the service provider to the suit to indemnify the MC against the losses claimed against it. On the other hand, the service provider can also be named in the suit for an alternative claim under the tort of negligence. FF NOTE: “While every effort has been taken to answer the queries as accurately as possible, the readers are advised to obtain independent legal advice. The answers herein are intended to provide a general guide on the subject matter of the query. All opinions and observations expressed are that of the author’s own and in no circumstance shall be construed as advice.”

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PERSONAL FINANCES

PRIVATE RETIREMENT SCHEME (PRS) T

he government launched the Private Retirement Scheme (PRS) to widen employees’ options to save for retirement. But how is PRS different from the Employee Provident Fund (EPF), and where does it fit into the picture?

private retirement plans are already driving the market in other countries. An example is the 401(k) that is a type of retirement savings account popular in the United States. The 401(k) allows employees to make tax-deferred contributions to their retirement fund.

Saving for a comfortable retirement is not an easy task. Earlier reports have noted that even with forced savings made through our monthly EPF contributions, a comfortable life after retirement is not assured. Thus, the launch of the PRS by the government in early 2012 should come as music to the ears of those looking for options to expand their retirement nest egg.

What is PRS?

While PRS may be a relatively new product in Malaysia,

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PRS is a voluntary long term investment scheme to help individuals accumulate savings for their retirement. Each scheme will include a range of retirement funds that individuals may choose from to contribute into. The government launched the voluntary PRS in July 2012 with an initial set of 24 funds that will be offered by eight PRS providers approved by the

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Securities Commission. These providers, including Public Mutual, will function as fund managers of the schemes’ investment portfolio. As it is a voluntary scheme, there is no fixed amount or intervals for an individual’s contributions into his or her PRS account. The PRS is a structured and effective avenue to accumulate retirement funds because it gives people the opportunity to adjust their contributions to reflect their own financial situation and tastes. The PRS is meant to complement the mandatory contributions made to EPF. PRS providers stress that PRS should be seen as a retirement fund that is ‘on top’ of EPF, and not ‘instead of’ EPF. This will enable employees to set aside more money for their retirement.

Similar to the EPF, the PRS account structure is split into two accounts. There is an account A where 70% of contributions will go into. The balance in account A can only be withdrawn upon member reaches the official retirement age or leaves the country permanently or upon death. The remaining 30% of contributions will go into account B which is more flexible. The balance in account B can either be left to accumulate or the individual can decide to withdraw any amount up to the balance in account B once a year, subject to a tax penalty.

Benefits of PRS Fund managers note Malaysians need to

that start


maximising all available avenues to save and invest for their retirement. And given the shortfall one would face upon retirement with just their savings through EPF, the PRS can serve as another option for retirement funds to better prepare Malaysians for their golden years. Additionally, employees have the option to choose their own PRS provider that they are comfortable with and can decide on which PRS fund to contribute into. Employees have the option to change their PRS provider after one year if the investment does not meet their objectives. The government has also been promoting the use of PRS as a talent retention tool. This means that employers are encouraged to offer a certain amount of contribution to the employees’

retirement fund on a voluntary basis after a period of service, translating to additional funds for an employee’s retirement. Employers who made contributions to the PRS on behalf of the employees are allowed to claim a tax deduction against their business income on the contribution made up to 19% of the employee’s remuneration (together with any other approved scheme such as PRS). In addition, the government is encouraging people to take advantage of the PRS by introducing a tax relief of up to RM3,000 a year which spells current savings for most people. Income distributed from the PRS funds to members will also be exempted from Malaysian income tax.

Thread with care As with all kinds of investment and savings fund, it is necessary to be cautious and aware of the risks involved. Read the fine prints in the disclosure documents and don’t be afraid to ask questions to fully understand the products you are contributing into. After all, the returns are for your future. Find out all the necessary fees that you may need to pay either upfront or in future. For example, there is a tax penalty of 8% on the amount withdrawn prior to retirement, and the said penalty will be deducted before the balance is credited to the member’s account. Also, get to know the underlying investments for the funds you are contributing into, and make sure you are comfortable with the risk levels. You can select to contribute under the (a) default

option where your contributions will be automatically allocated to the PRS fund that corresponds to your age, or (b) non-default option where you can actively select one or more PRS funds which suit your investment objectives. At the end of the day, PRS gives you the options to choose what you want, so make good use of that choice. FF

This article is extracted with permission from Calibre Magazine. If you wish to know more about PRS scheme, you can contact Mr Ramachandran at nsrc@pd.jaring.my. Mr Ramachandran is a Private Retirement Scheme Consultant (FIMM PRC No: P-009-0-02205) and a Certified Member of Financial Planning Association Malaysia (CPF No: C004251)

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THE SRI LANKAN COOKBOOK

Pol Sambol (Coconut Sambal) Ingredients 2-3 curry leaves (chopped) 3 teaspoon chilli powder 1 teaspoon chilli flakes 3-4 teaspoon lime juice Salt to taste

1 teaspoon crushed maldive fish Half a tomato (chopped) 6 oz. scraped coconut 2 oz onions (chopped) 1 clove garlic (chopped) 1-2 green chillies (chopped)

Method Mix all the ingredients together, as shown in the picture

Chicken Black Pepper Curry Ingredients 1 lb chicken breast (cut into small pieces) 1 large tomato (sliced in half) 2 banana peppers or green bell pepper (sliced) 1 large onion (sliced) 2 cloves garlic (chopped) Ginger (chopped) Pandan leaves

Curry leaves 1 inch stick of cinnamon Black pepper (slightly crushed) Turmeric powder Tamarind Salt to taste Cooking oil

Method 1. Fry the onion, garlic, ginger, pandan leaves, curry leaves and cinnamon in cooking oil. 2. Throw in the tomato, banana pepper or

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FOMSO FORUM SEPTEMBER 2013

green bell pepper, turmeric powder and tamarind. 3. Throw in the chicken, black pepper and salt to taste.

4. Leave for about 25 to 30 minutes till the chicken is cooked. Recipes contributed by Gordon Varuna Piyadasa, President of the Malaysian Sinhalese Association


by Siva Ahnantham

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

SOCIAL MEDIA AS AN

ALTERNATIVE

MARKETING TOOL

S

ocial Media Marketing generally refers to using online services for relationship selling – selling based on developing rapport with customers. Social Media services make innovative use of new online technologies to accomplish the familiar communication and marketing goals of this form of selling. They do this by utilizing different types of social media services like social-content (blogs), social networking (Facebook ,Twitter,Linkedin,MySpace), social bookmarking services (StumbleUpon) & social news services (Digg & Reddit).

This creates a platform that is easily accessible to anyone with Internet access, and increased communication for organizations. It fosters brand awareness and often improves customer service. The most significant difference social media has from traditional marketing channels is that the results from it often happen more circuitously than they do in direct advertising. An example would be a potential customer reads a tweet or Facebook posting, sees a status update, clicks a link to your company website, and then eventually purchases a product - but this

action might occur at a much later date. This realization makes measurement more challenging, but it is absolutely possible using today’s solutions. This can be accomplished not only through laptops & PCs, but via smart phones and tablets.

Popular Social Media Tools Social networking is the most popular online activity worldwide. Social networking now reaches over 90% of the world’s internet population. The 5 most popular social networking websites are:

Facebook – 1 billion users Twitter – 300 million users LinkedIn – 150 million users Pinterest – 100 million users MySpace – 90 million users Social media usage is set to rise everywhere over the next couple of years, but growth will continue to be far higher in emerging markets, as Internet penetration and more sophisticated forms of online engagement continue to catch up with those in more established markets. In 2013, India and Indonesia are expected to see the biggest growth at 37.9 % and 28.8 % respectively.

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INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

Another emerging trend is the rate of growth in mobile usage using smartphones and tablets, which will exceed the growth through personal computers in the foreseeable future. Many experts have marked 2015 as the year when mobile search and online activity will overtake overall static usage worldwide.

Social Media’s Impact on Global Marketing Trends According to a recent survey conducted by the American Marketing Association (AMA) in November 2012, marketers say they are shifting focus away from traditional media such as Newspapers, Consumer and Trade Magazines, Radio and TV. Instead, these marketers are looking more at various digital channels this year specifically, at mobile channels.

Benefits of Social Media Marketing The main benefit is that you don’t have to fork out any cash for most social media services. However, most services require a significant investment of time to initiate and maintain a social media marketing campaign. As you can see from the above statistics, the audience for social media is huge. But the challenge is casting a wide net to catch the right prospects and customers. Basic marketing focuses on the need for branding, name recognition, visibility, presence, or top of mind awareness. Social media

Advertising – Nanosite Ad Unit, Vibrant Media, Sponsored Tweets, Facebook Custom Publishing – Custom Social Media Projects – Hearst

Monetizing Social Media

Social Media’s popularity continues to grow, connecting people with just about everything they watch and buy. In the United States, over 70% of active online adult social networkers shop online. 53 % of active adult social networkers follow a brand. Across a snapshot of 10 major global markets, social networks and blogs reach over 75% of active Internet users. Malaysians, get ready for the Social Media revolution! FF

Media companies are now using social media to bring in additional digital revenue mainly from: Games – Social games like FarmVille, Esquire and PopSugar Commerce – Digital Coupons from Groupon, BestVendor and Boston.com

Siva Ahnantham is the Managing Partner of Absolute Consult, a company providing IT Consulting services to organizations in South East Asia. He is an IT expert with over 32 years experience in the field. www.absoluteconsultgroup.com

Asked the top area they think will be most in demand, respondents pointed to social media marketing (25%) as the main focus. Respondents also see social media marketing as the hottest job in the next 2-3 years. In another study by Optify, titled ‘2012 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report’ that examined 62 million visits, 215 million pageviews and 350,000 leads from more than 600 small and medium size B2B websites, Facebook was the dominant driver of site visits at 54%. Twitter and LInkedin followed with 32% and 14% respectively. But, when it came to leads, Twitter was by far the most important social media source, generating 82% share of leads, compared to just 9% each for Facebook and Linkedin. Twitter not only was the best for generating leads, but it also showed the highest conversion rates.

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services of almost every type are excellent ways to build your brand. Social media works for branding as long as you get your name in front of the right people.

FOMSO FORUM SEPTEMBER 2013


by K. Neelambika

YOUTH & PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT

PUBL C SPEAK NG C

The Toastmaster’s Experience

ommunication is an integral part of our lives. We use it every single day, and in all and every aspect of our life, be it at work, at social events or at home. To be an effective individual, it is essential for you to communicate effectively. The Toastmasters Club provide an excellent avenue to

learn and improve your public speaking skills.

About the organisation Founded in 1924 by Dr Ralph Smedley, Toastmasters International is a public speaking and leadership organisation,

based in the United States. Currently, there are more than 13,500 clubs all over the world. There are different types of clubs based on membership. Community clubs are open to anyone who is 18 years and above. Company clubs are restricted to employees of that company, and are closed to the public. The others are in-house

clubs and clubs in colleges and universities. Some of the community clubs charge a door fee per meeting, to cover the costs of the venue and refreshments. Upon joining as a new member, the one-off new member fee is RM88. The semi-annual membership fee is RM180. As a new member, you

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will receive a New Member Kit, which contains the Competent Communication Manual and Competent Leadership Manual, from Toastmasters International. You will also receive their monthly magazine, ‘The Toastmaster’, which contains many useful articles and information.

What are meetings like? Meetings are generally held once a fortnight, and run for about two hours. It is conducted in a structured manner and divided into three segments. Before the start of the meeting, the ‘Sergeant at Arms’ takes on the role of welcoming members and guests to the meeting. He also handles the registration, arranges for refreshments and calls the meeting to order. The meeting then gets underway with the opening address by the President of the club, followed by the Master of Ceremony, known as the ‘Toastmaster of the Evening’, providing information on the organisation, updates on club activities and introduction of the various role players. The ‘Invocator’ takes to the floor with inspiring messages to lift up the audience. The first segment of the meeting is the impromptu speaking session. The ‘Table Topics Master’ throws topics to the floor to get the members to quickly think and speak on their feet. Members speak on a given topic within an allocated time of one to two minutes. Next the ‘Humour Master’ enlivens the audience with jokes or amusing anecdotes. After a short break, the second segment of the meeting resumes with the prepared speech assignments. Here members will present their prepared speeches. The speeches are based on themes

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outlined in the Competent Communication Manual. The ten speech projects in the manual are designed to develop one’s speaking skills, gradually, one step at a time, by learning from the previous project. You will learn, among others, to prepare and organise a speech, the techniques of speaking involving the use of body language, facial expressions, voice in terms of intonation, and eye contact, overcoming your fear and controlling nervousness, and carrying yourself to speak confidently and convincingly.

At the end of every speech, you will receive verbal and written constructive feedback from an evaluator who is a senior fellow member. In this way, you get to build up your speaking skills over the course of the ten speeches, and become a more effective speaker. Once you have completed your tenth speech, you will receive your Competent Communicator Award from Toastmasters International. The final segment is the evaluation session, with members in the role as various evaluators. The ‘Table Topics Evaluator’ gives evaluation on the table topics speakers with regards to their delivery, i.e., gestures, vocal variety and eye contact. This is followed by evaluation of the prepared speeches. The ‘Language Evaluator’ comments on the

FOMSO FORUM SEPTEMBER 2013

use of English, such as grammar, during the course of the meeting. The ‘Ah Counter’ presents his report on the pause fillers, such as ah, um, er, you know, used by members during the meeting. During my tenure as a member of the Speecom Toastmasters Club, the club adopted the practice of fining members 10 cents for every such sound uttered, to serve as a deterrent. The ‘Time Keeper’ who keeps track of time, informs the audience the time taken by each role player and the speakers. Finally the ‘General Evaluator’ wraps up this segment by presenting his views on the

conduct of the meeting, and provides feedback for improving the quality of future meetings. The meeting concludes with the presentation of awards for Best Speaker, Best Table Topic Speaker and Best Evaluator.

A ‘learning laboratory’ As you can see, the meetings are considered a ‘learning laboratory’ in many ways. You get to learn through observation, from the speeches delivered by fellow members. You learn and improve your public speaking skills by participating in preparing and delivering the speeches in a progressive manner. The immediate feedback provided refines your speaking skills. In

the Table Topics session, you learn to articulate and present your thoughts in a clear and organised manner. Through the various role plays, you get to improve your ability to listen and practise communication and public speaking skills. All this is done within a supportive as well as a positive and stimulating learning environment. Not only that, this selfenrichment programme is conducted within a warm and friendly atmosphere with lots of camaraderie. Toastmasters share a common bond to improve their communication skills and helping others to do the same. A new member is not left to fend for himself as he is immediately assigned a mentor. The mentor provides guidance and helps the member to become quickly familiar with the club, through understanding and participation in the club’s programmes. There are other resources available to the members, such as the many educational materials prepared by professionals on speaking and communication skills available from Toastmasters International. It is imperative for members to participate actively in the club’s meetings to gain the benefits and the full value from their membership. There are ample opportunities for personal growth and development in the club. As a former Toastmaster, I have definitely benefitted tremendously in terms of building my confidence in speaking before an audience in public. To find out more aboutToastmasters and to find a club near you, you can visit their website, www. toastmasters.org. FF


BOOKS & WRITERS

by M. Vickneswaran

Book Review

My Life and Times. A Memoir by Tan Sri Dato (Dr) Ramon Navaratnam ‘true’ account that is accurate, complete and fair. Then there is the delicacies of selfpresentation, and that of the ‘others’ who had shared parts in one’s journeys and experiences, with the attendant care not to steal the thunder from anyone’s sails. Only then would clarity dawn to nourish commentaries and interpretations. Ultimately, the greater the personalization, the more enticing the memoir is.

M

emoirists are a great boon to historians for they record, for posterity, their lived lives that illuminate not only their respective journeys, but also the intersections with momentous events that occurred during their respective eras. Writing a memoir is no mean task, often written after retirement and tend to be more profound as compared to the narratives of published diaries. A memoirist’s task is heavy, with the need for careful compilation that straddle an extended timeline, and the self-processes of introspections and reflections for the sense making of all that had transpired, and why and how events took their recorded turns. Perspectives must be cultivated for the rendering of a

Tan Sri Dato (Dr) Ramon Navaratnam’s memoir features all the aforesaid hallmarks in great measure for it’s a polished and fascinating account. Tan Sri had chronicled a long time span of seven decades. He had masterfully intertwined his own personal history with that of the nation. His era coincided with the modern history of Malaysia, from that of a British colony, the Japanese occupation during World War Two, the nascent Malaysia and its split with Singapore, the aftermath of May 13, and its aspirations to be a modern developed country that has staked its claim on the world stage. Tan Sri’s many stories delivered through 48 vignettes provide amazing insider insights not only of him as a person, but also on how the country was governed. Tan Sri’s civil service career had substantially been at the Treasury, at the pulse of government, for he and his colleagues determined policy, the annual Budgets and the consequent socio-economic

thrust that had shaped Malaysia to become the success that she is today. Tan Sri recollects his experiences with the many Ministers, Deputy Ministers and senior civil servants he had worked with; it’s the ‘Who’s Who’ of Malaysia’s first half century! Its fascinating to read about their various motivations, characters and personal working styles. Tan Sri is perhaps reticent in discussing his own role in the making of the country’s history with the proprietary of a faithful civil servant. The reader invariably gets the impression that he knows a lot more and had done a lot more, which he had elected to keep off-print. There is the odd hint though, like the measures that he had taken to ensure that Tun Tan Siew Sin, the then Minister of Finance, was made aware of and become fully appraised of the implications of the New Economic Policy (NEP). One can’t help contemplating the alternative scenario and consequences if Tan Sri had not taken this bold step to moderate the NEP that must have surely entailed risks to his career. Upon retirement from the civil service, Tun Daim had appointed him as the Chief Executive Officer of Bank Buruh. Tan Sri’s account of his revamping of this institution aids one to appreciate the mammoth challenges of the current economic transformation programmes. Subsequent to the deep recession precipitated by the 1997 currency crisis,

Tan Sri turned his intellect to discuss, analyse and provide prognosis to the several economic and socio-political issues that plagued the nation’s economic management. Tan Sri had authored seven critically acclaimed books between 1997 to 2004, during his tenure as a Director of ASLI. As his memoirs indicate, Tan Sri had achieved much and had served in numerous posts, in government, the corporate sector and in NGOs. However, as a man, Tan Sri had never permitted his successful career to get the better of him, and he had remained steadfast to his values and stringent moral code. Tan Sri had always been motivated by his duty to God, to the country and to his family and community. Tan Sri’s ‘My Life and Times. A Memoir’ is highly recommended to every discerning reader. FF

This memoir was published in 2005 by Pelanduk Publications (M) Sdn Bhd

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THE GLOBETROTTERS

by K. Neelambika

A

Dayin

Istanbul Sultan Ahmed Mosque

Courtyard surrounded by a continuous colonnade

I

stanbul founded around 660 BC, is undoubtedly one of the most enchanting cities in the world. Istanbul has served as the capital of four empires - the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Latin Empire and the Islamic Ottoman Empire. It is the only city in the world that has been the capital of both a Christian and Islamic Empire. For sixteen centuries, the history and architecture of the city was shaped by these civilizations. In 2010, it was honoured as a European Capital of Culture. This is my personal recommendation for spending a marvellous day in this splendid city.

Massive circular columns that support the main dome

MORNING

Sultan Ahmed Mosque The Sultan Ahmed mosque is located in the old city of Sultanahmet, named after the Ottoman Sultan Ahmet I, who commissioned its construction. The mosque was built from 1609

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Stained glass windows that admit natural light

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to 1616 on the site of the palace of the Byzantine emperors by the architect, Mehmet Aga. This beautiful mosque is popularly referred to as the Blue Mosque, as its interior is decorated with

more than 20,000 handmade Iznik blue ceramic tiles. These immaculate tiles are designed as various flower motifs such as tulips, carnations, lilies and roses. The more than 200


was the only one permitted to enter the court of the mosque on horseback. Each time he rode into the court, the sultan had to lower his head to avoid getting hit by the hanging chain. The chain was placed there as a symbolic gesture to ensure the humility of the ruler when visiting the home of the Divine Almighty. Some of the many lamps that light up the main chamber

stained glass windows admit natural light. The many lamps as well as chandeliers inside the mosque also light up the vast main chamber. Ostrich eggs used to be placed on the chandeliers to keep away spiders in order to avoid the formation of cobwebs. The floors are covered with carpets. On the walls

are tablets inscribed with the names of the caliphs and verses from the Quran. A spacious courtyard is surrounded by a continuous colonnade. A heavy iron chain hangs in the upper part of the court entrance on the western side. During his reign, the sultan

The Blue Mosque is topped with domes. The main dome is supported by four massive circular columns that can be seen from the interior, together with eight secondary domes. The ceiling of the main dome is painted with Arabic patterns. There are six minarets. The mosque was once mired in controversy with its six minarets which equalled the El Haram Mosque surrounding the Kaaba

in Mecca. This matter was resolved when the architect was sent to Mecca to add another minaret to the El Haram mosque. Even as a popular tourist attraction, the mosque is still being used as a place of worship. It has the capacity for 10,000 worshippers. Its closed to non-worshippers for about half an hour during each of the five daily prayers. The mosque is situated in the heart of the bustling and crowded old city. Yet once inside, I felt a sense of calmness, even in the midst of the hordes of tourists who were milling about and busily taking photographs. Getting there: Tram stop - Sultanahmet Entry fee: No charge (Be prepared for the long entry line to get inside the mosque)

Hagia Sophia

Central ribbed dome over the nave

Hagia Sophia is one of Istanbul’s most iconic structures. It is also located in the old city of Sultanahmet. Known as Ayasofya in Turkish, it had once served as a church for 1,000 years. 500 years ago, the mosque was built over the church, and now it stands proudly as a museum of Turkey’s rich history. The Hagia Sophia was built in 325 AD by Constantine the Great. Constantine was the first Christian emperor

and the founder of the city of Constantinople, which he called the New Rome. The church was destroyed by fire in 404 AD. Emperor Theodosius II then had it rebuilt. This was also burned down in 532 AD. The current building is the third Church of the Holy Wisdom and was rebuilt by the orders of Emperor Justinian in 537 AD. It was the seat of the Patriarch of Constantinople and an Eastern Orthodox cathedral. It also served as a principal venue for church

councils and imperial ceremonies such as coronations. It is considered the epitome of Byzantine architecture. The walls and pillars are lined with marbles. The walls are also richly decorated in mosaic with figurative decorations. The images include the Virgin Mother, the infant Jesus, Christ, Orthodox saints, prophets, Church Fathers, emperors and empresses, historical figures connected with this church, such as

Patriarch Ignatius as well as some scenes from the gospel. Other parts of the church were adorned in a purely decorative style with geometric patterns. The nave is covered by a central ribbed dome, 31 meters in diameter and rises 55 metres above the floor and rests on an arcade of 40 arched windows. There are no supporting walls beneath the dome. The architects, Isidorus and Anthemius have ingeniously transferred the weight of the

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dome to the pillars using semidomes, arches and pendentives. Access to the upper galleries is provided by ramps, which is a traditional feature of Constantinopolitan church planning. Hagia Sophia was the largest cathedral for 1000 years until the Seville Cathedral in Spain was built. The Latin Christians occupied Constantinople between 1204 and 1261. During this period, the church was converted to a Roman Catholic cathedral. The Latin Christians ransacked the church and removed many materials which were taken to museums in the West. In 1261, the Byzantines recaptured Constantinople.

In 1453 when the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Mehmet II, conquered Constantinople, he rode into the church, and hours later, ordered it to be converted into a mosque. A minaret was built. Islamic features such as the mihrab which indicates the direction of Mecca, mimbar or pulpit where the Imam stands when he is delivering his sermon during Friday prayers or on holy days, provided for a semblance of a mosque out of the church. All the faces depicted in the church’s mosaics were covered in plaster as Islam prohibits figurative imagery. The bells, altar and sacrificial vessels were all removed. Over the centuries,

various additions and alterations were undertaken by successive sultans. Eight huge medallions bearing Islamic themes hang on the columns of the main dome. Hagia Sophia was closed to the public for four years since 1931. The founder of the Turkish Republic and the first President of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk transformed the mosque into a museum. The carpets were removed and the marble floor was revealed for the first time in centuries, while the white plaster covering many of the mosaics was removed. The museum opened its doors to visitors on 1st February 1935. It was

AFTERNOON

Cruise on the Bosphorus

Dolmabahce Palace

Take a boat trip on a leisurely 3 hours cruise on the sparkling blue waters of the Bosphorus. The Bosphorus is a saltwater strait that connects the Sea of Marmara with the Black Sea, and divides Istanbul into a European side and an Asian side. It stretches to 30km in length, while its width varies from 660 metres to 3km. Being strategically placed as

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designated a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1985. I was in awe of the sheer majesty of its interior, the opulence of the decorations and the architectural splendour. The uncovered Christian mosaics provide a fascinating religious contrast with the Islamic themed medallions. Hagia Sophia has to be my personal favourite, alongside St Peter’s in the Vatican. Getting there: Tram stop - Sultanahmet Opening hours: 9.30 am to 4.30 pm, Tuesday through Sunday. Closed on Monday Entry fee: 25YTL (RM50; free with the use of a Museum Card), Audio guide: 15YTL (RM30) (Take note of the long entry line to purchase your entrance ticket)

Bosphorus Bridge

the only sea route between the oil-rich Black Sea and the Mediterranean, the Bosphorus is one of the busiest waterways in the world, with passing giant super tankers, cargo ships, cruise ships, ferries, fishing boats and yachts. The cruise offers magnificent views, and along the shores on both sides of the waterway,

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are various attractions of palaces, mansions, fortresses and villages. The majestic Dolmabahce Palace served as the residence of the Ottoman Sultans who moved here after abandoning the old Topkapi Palace. The Sultans used the palace until the fall of the Ottoman Empire. Following the creation of the Republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk used

the palace as a presidential residence. He spent the last days of his medical treatment in this palace and died here. Currently a museum, the palace is also used to hosts receptions and concerts in its grand halls. Lining the shores are luxurious Ottoman mansions known as yalıs. These were originally built by 19th century Ottoman


elites as summer homes. The boat also takes you under two giant suspension bridges - Bosphorus Bridge and Fatih Sultan Mehmet (Second Bosphorus Bridge). These bridges link Europe with Asia.

Getting there: Tram stop – Eminonu

You will also pass the imposing Rumeli Fortress. This was built by Sultan Mehmet II within a few months prior to his invasion of Constantinople, to allow him control over the sea traffic on the Bosphorus. The fortress now functions as a museum and an open-air theatre for various concerts at festivals during the summer months.

Location: Eminonu Pier Ticket: 20YTL (RM40) Rumeli Fortress

EVENING

Dinner & Orient Show at the Orient House The Dinner & Orient Show is a 3 hour programme consisting of belly dance, whirling dervish, Turkish folk dances and the Ottoman Janissary Band. I came to know about the Orient House through my conversation with the waiter at a family owned restaurant where I had my meals. It came highly recommended. As soon as you are seated, the waiter places a mini flag of your country on your table. This information is provided by the guests when making reservations. I was proud to have the Malaysian flag prominently displayed on my table. If you are not well versed with the countries represented by the various flags, help is on the way. The Master of Ceremonies begins the programme with an introduction of the guests and where they are from, and he makes reference to the venue being a mini United Nations. On my evening here, tourists came from India, Egypt, Kuwait, and even as far as Japan, as well as a tour group consisting of visitors from England, France, Switzerland and Germany.

Location: Tiyatro Caddesi No 27, Beyazit, Istanbul Getting there: Tram Stop - Beyazit Ticket: EUR100 (RM400) for a full course dinner; EUR50 (RM200) for snacks & drinks Advance reservations are required

Belly dancer

The highlight of the programme was the three belly dancers. Belly dance is known as ‘Oriental Dance’ in Turkey, meaning ‘Eastern Dance’. Dressed in sexy, revealing and colourful clothes, the dancers enthralled the audience, and excited the men with their sexy, evocative movements involving every part of the body. They danced expressively with passion oozing from their flesh. The repertoire also involved floor work and backbends, all done in playful uninhibition. A sufi dance was performed by a white-robed performer, known as ‘whirling dervish’. The sufi dance ritual is called a Sema, and the whirl is not

Whirling dervish

to self-induce a trance, but to reflect on the universal truth that everything in the existence revolves – electrons, moon, planets, galaxies, cycle of seasons, humans living by the circulation of blood in their bodies, and by the stages in our lives; we come from the earth and we return to it. The sema also represents the human being’s spiritual journey. The Ottoman Janissary Band performed military music using drums, horns and bells. The Janissaries were soldiers in the army of the Ottoman Empire and had their own military band, known as the Mehter. The Janissary Corp was formed in the 14th century.

Steeped in history, Istanbul is a bustling, lively and charming city. What amazed me about Istanbul is that the historical sites and heritage buildings are well- preserved. Even though the city has been modernized by the founder of the Republic of Turkey, the heritage sites have not been sacrificed in the name of development. Take the Hagia Sophia for instance. The church was not demolished to convert it into a mosque. The conversion resulted in a unique blend of Christianity and Islam. You will need at least five days to truly appreciate and take in its stunning beauty. FF

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Fomso Forum Vol 2