Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Water Depletion Scare

Groundwater Depletion Is Detected From Space 

IRVINE, Calif. — Scientists have been using small variations in the Earth’s gravity to identify trouble spots around the globe where people are making unsustainable demands on groundwater, one of the planet’s main sources of fresh water.
They found problems in places as disparate as North Africa, northern India, northeastern China and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley in California, heartland of that state’s $30 billion agricultural industry.
Jay S. Famiglietti, director of the University of California’s Center for Hydrologic Modeling here, said the center’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, known as Grace, relies on the interplay of two nine-year-old twin satellites that monitor each other while orbiting the Earth, thereby producing some of the most precise data ever on the planet’s gravitational variations. The results are redefining the field of hydrology, which itself has grown more critical as climate change and population growth draw down the world’s fresh water supplies.
Grace sees “all of the change in ice, all of the change in snow and water storage, all of the surface water, all of the soil moisture, all of the groundwater,” Dr. Famiglietti explained.
Yet even as the data signal looming shortages, policy makers have been relatively wary of embracing the findings. California water managers, for example, have been somewhat skeptical of a recent finding by Dr. Famiglietti that from October 2003 to March 2010, aquifers under the state’s Central Valley were drawn down by 25 million acre-feet — almost enough to fill Lake Mead, the nation’s largest reservoir.
Greg Zlotnick, a board member of the Association of California Water Agencies, said that the managers feared that the data could be marshaled to someone else’s advantage in California’s tug of war over scarce water supplies.
“There’s a lot of paranoia about policy wonks saying, ‘We’ve got to regulate the heck out of you,’ ” he said.
There are other sensitivities in arid regions around the world where groundwater basins are often shared by unfriendly neighbors — India and Pakistan, Tunisia and Libya or Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinian territories — that are prone to suspecting one another of excessive use of this shared resource.
Water politics was hardly on Dr. Famiglietti’s mind when he first heard about Grace. In 1992, applying for a job at the University of Texas, he was interviewed by Clark R. Wilson, a geophysicist there who described a planned experiment to measure variations in Earth’s gravitational field.
“I walked into his office and he pulled out a piece of paper saying: I’m trying to figure out how distribution of water makes the Earth wobble,” said Dr. Famiglietti. “This was 1992. I was blown away. I instantly fell in love with the guy. I said, ‘This is unbelievable, this is amazing, it opens up this whole area.’ ”
Back then the Grace experiment was still waiting in a queue of NASA projects. But he and Matt Rodell, a Ph.D. candidate under his supervision, threw themselves into investigating whether Grace would work, a so-called “proof of concept” exercise which turned out to show that Grace data were reliable and could support groundwater studies.
“It was a wide-open field we came into,” said Dr. Rodell, now a researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “We were like kids in a candy store. There was so much to be done.”
When Grace was conceived by a group of scientists led by Byron D. Tapley, the director of the Center for Space Research at the University of Texas, it was the darling of geodesists, who study variations in the Earth’s size, shape and rotational axis. Climate scientists also were keenly interested in using it to study melting of ice sheets, but hydrologists paid scant attention at first.
But, Dr. Wilson recalled, “Jay jumped on the problem.”
Ten years later, the two satellites were launched from the Russian space facility at Plesetsk on the back of a used intercontinental ballistic missile in a collaboration between NASA and the German Aerospace Center and began streaming the gravity data back to Earth.
Acquiring the data for general research purposes would have been impossible before the end of the cold war because maps indicating the normal wiggles in Earth’s gravitational field were used for targeting long-range missiles and were therefore classified.
For decades, groundwater measurements in the United States had been made from points on the Earth’s surface — by taking real-time soundings at 1,383 of the United States Geological Survey’s observation wells and daily readings at 5,908 others. Those readings are supplemented by measuring water levels in hundreds of thousands of other wells, trenches and excavations.
The two satellites, each the size of a small car, travel in polar orbits about 135 miles apart. Each bombards the other with microwaves calibrating the distance between them down to intervals of less than the width of a human hair.
If the mass below the path of the leading satellite increases — because, say, the lower Mississippi basin is waterlogged — that satellite speeds up, and the distance between the two grows. Then the mass tugs on both, and the distance shortens. It increases again as the forward satellite moves out of range while the trailing satellite is held back.
The measurements of the distance between the craft translate to a measurement of surface mass in any given region. The data is beautifully simple, Dr. Famiglietti said. From one moment to the next, “it gives you just one number,” he said. “It’s like getting on a scale.”
Separating groundwater from other kinds of moisture affecting gravity requires a little calculation and the inclusion of information on precipitation and surface runoff obtained from surface studies or computer models.
Grace data, like the information in a corresponding visual image, has its limits. Gravitational data gets sparser as the area examined gets smaller, and in areas smaller than 75,000 square miles it gets more difficult to reach conclusions about groundwater supplies. Most aquifers are far smaller than that — California’s 22,000-square-mile Central Valley overlies several different groundwater basins, for example.
Dr. Famiglietti was able to calculate the overall drawdown of groundwater and to indicate that the problem was most severe in the southern region around the city of Tulare, for example, but the data was far too sparse to make statements about, say, the Kings River Water Conservation District, which measures about 1,875 square miles.
Grace “gives a large picture,” said Felix Landerer, a hydrologist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, whereas a water manager has a couple of wells to monitor in a given district. “It’s difficult and not intuitive and not straightforward to bring these things together.”
In other areas of the world, like northern India, the novelty of the gravitational measurements — and perhaps the story they tell — has led to pushback, scientists say.
“It is odd, if you’re a hydrologist, especially a traditional hydrologist, to imagine a satellite up in the air that determines groundwater” supply levels, said John Wahr, a geophysicist at the University of Colorado.
Like Dr. Famiglietti and Dr. Rodell, Dr. Wahr and his colleague Sean Swenson faced opposition for a study on aquifer depletion in northern India. As Dr. Swenson explained, “When in a place like India you say, ‘We’re doing something that is unsustainable and needs to change,’ well, people resist change. Change is expensive.”
While Dr. Famiglietti says he wants no part of water politics, he acknowledged that this might be hard to avoid, given that his role is to make sure the best data about groundwater is available, harvesting and disseminating all of the information he can about the Earth’s water supply as aquifers dry up and shortages loom.
“Look, water has been a resource that has been plentiful,” he said. “But now we’ve got climate change, we’ve got population growth, we’ve got widespread groundwater contamination, we’ve got satellites showing us we are depleting some of this stuff.
“I think we’ve taken it for granted, and we are probably not able to do that any more.”

Source: New York Times - Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Children - Babies Caught In Between

"The baby's coming next week." My Son reminded Me few days ago.

"Temporary only." I counter-reminding him as per our agreement.

The baby is being looked after by her grandmother.
But since her grandfather is sick and now, bedridden, the elderly woman's hands are full.
I agree for the baby to be temporarily placed here while the mother is at work - before a permanent baby-sitter is found. 

"No, the grandmother now has to work already. They have no money for medication."

"But You already know I'm going KL Friday." I reminded Him.

"Bring baby along." My Son insisted.

"Many weddings in Singapore this June holiday." A good excuse I supposed.

"Make passport for her then."  

"Where's the father?"

"Run away." 
 I stopped there and then, thinking of the young mother, now single-handedly, has to juggle her role as a mother and a bread-winner.

Out of desperation, she contacted My Son months ago, who was her ex-colleague.
We stay not too faraway from her mother.
He, in turn, asked My help.

Honestly, I had forgotten how to look after small babies.
She will be one-year old next month.
I called around, looking for someone who can baby-sit, but found none.

Yesterday, I looked for a baby-sitter again.
But instead, this lady pleaded Me to help looking after the infant Myself.
She had seen too many cases of neglect and non-appropriate words usage, used by baby-sitters and their families to infants who are learning to communicate.

Her granddaughter was abused, by non other than a registered nursery in PJ.
When her daughter (the small girl's mother), brought to the attention of the nursery owner, the teenager child-minder denied her doing.

Instead, she accused her colleague of doing it.

The less than two-year-old girl's head was full of blood stains marked by repeatedly hit with a comb.
When it was said that a police report will be made, the first girl, the nursery owner's niece, ran away.
She did not report for work until today.

A police report was still made, not to apprehend the teenager, but just to make sure that no such incident will ever be repeated again.
The girl and her sibling are still there, at the same nursery.
No other nearer place to place them while the mother is at work.

******      ******      ******

I attended a 'hair-shaving ceremony', to not one, but three babies, all cousins.  
"Cukur rambut" at the same time yesterday.

After the ceremony ended, I stayed longer, waiting for My Husband who was still driving from Pasir Gudang to Bukit Tiram.

While waiting, I realised that one of the baby was attended by only the young and handsome father.
The other two babies, both parents attended to their bundle of joy.

One of the relative realised My attention to the lonely and quiet father.
Before I could ask, the relative said, "He's divorced now."

Before I realised, tears were filling My eyes.
I attended his grand wedding just a year or less than two-years ago.
The joyous occasion, the spread of food, sure the very big amount of expenditure spent, to make the solemn marriage occasion, a memorable one.

It is still fresh too, in My mind.
Do not tell me, it has diminished, as good as dead, in the matching couple's memory.

Both have their looks, well-educated and good career.
Both used to be promising people with promising future.
What really goes wrong with them, with the current society?

These small babies are often denied their right of having both parents at their sides.
Their parents can choose their spouses, but these babies cannot choose their parents.
Their parents are not replaceable.
So, there is no replacement for both their mother and father.

These babies are surely not in the position to shoulder whatever their parents disagree.
Neither can they be made to suffer in doings they do not.

Seeing crumbling marriages with their families disintegrated around Me, is really disturbing.
The number of divorces is really alarming.

I remember reading, where Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Dr Mashitah Ibrahim said, statistics by the Malaysian Department of Islamic Development (Jakim), showed that the divorce rate among married Muslim couples was one every 15 minutes in 2009.

Now, the number of Syariah Court judges is sufficient, but their case load grows by... the 15 minutes.

******      ******      ******

A Message by George Carlin:

The paradox of our time in history is that
we have taller buildings but shorter tempers,
wider Freeways, but narrower viewpoints.
We spend more, but have less,
we buy more, but enjoy less.
We have bigger houses and smaller families,
more conveniences, but less time.
We have more degrees but less sense,
more knowledge, but less judgment,
more experts, yet more problems,
more medicine, but less wellness.

We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little,
drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up to O tired, read too little,
watch TV too much, and pray too seldom.

We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values.
We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.

We've learned how to make a living, but not a life.
We've added years to life not life to years.
We've been all the way to the moon and back,
but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor.
We conquered outer space but not inner space.
We've done larger things, but not better things.

We've cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul.
We've conquered the atom, but not our prejudice.
We write more, but learn less.
We plan more, but accomplish less.
We've learned to rush, but not to wait.
We build more computers to hold more information,
to produce more copies than ever,
but we communicate less and less.

These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion,
big men and small character,
steep profits and shallow relationships.
These are the days of two incomes but more divorce,
fancier houses, but broken homes.
These are days of quick trips,
disposable diapers,
throwaway morality, one night stands,
overweight bodies,
and pills that do everything from cheer,
to quiet,
to kill.
It is a time when there is much in the showroom window
and nothing in the stockroom.
A time when technology can bring this letter to you,
and a time when you can choose either to share this insight,
or to just hit delete...

spend some time with your loved ones,
they are not going to be around forever.

say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe,
that little person soon will grow up
and leave your side.

to give a warm hug to the one next to you,
that is the only treasure you can give with your heart
and it doesn't cost a cent.

to say, "I love you" to your partner
and your loved ones,
but most of all mean it.
A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt
when it comes from deep inside of you.

to hold hands
and cherish the moment
for someday
that person will not be there again.

Give time to love,
give time to speak!
And give time to share
the precious thoughts in your mind.


Life is not measured
by the number of breaths we take,
by the moments that take our breath away.

George Carlin.

Source: The Hive Mod Bee - Thursday, November 1, 2007

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Maid - When They Are No Different From Other Family Members

I had never seen Suri*'s eyes as red as yesterday morning while at Changi Airport.

She was sending My Niece off to Beijing.
Her parent was already there since last week and since school is close for 4 weeks, the whole family reunited.

Suri, for the time being, will be in Singapore.
She is still waiting for her result.

At the same time, My Younger Sister is looking around for Suri to be enrolled in local university.
She sees into her study.
My Elder Sister's Daughter too, chipped into Suri's education, guiding her A-Math.

And Suri herself, the three of them, are all confident of getting her enrolled in university.
After all, she had always came out first in a class of 30 students, all housemaids.
Suri herself very well knew, she will be a graduate, one fine day.

Just hoping she can continue working with the family and furthering her education in Beijing.
She was together with them in Beijing during the March holiday which I had blogged earlier.

When teary-eyed Suri left Terminal One before My Niece checked-in, the memory of the late Puji which I shared here, flashed back at that moment.
Not only Suri left the airport crying, but My Niece too, red eyed with blank stares as Suri walked away.

But since the 6-year old Girl knew She will be together with Her Parent, so She stay-put at Her sitting place.
Otherwise, She will run straight into the bibik's arms.
These two-weeks is going to be the longest time My Niece is away from Suri.

Previously, after her two years was up, and she was asked to return home, she refused.
Then when My Sister went to Australia during her third year, she could not follow.
She still had two more papers to sit for her examination.
That was when she decided to make a short return home to Demak.

Again, that reminded Me of a Filipino maid Hilda Estopasi Xavier, who stood by her employer when the husband died of heart attack.
She did not mind her employer has no money to pay her salary.
She just wanted her to employer to pay the Singapore government her levy.
All because of the three young children whom she was attached to.

It reminded me yet of another maid, who offered to help out with her employer's daughter-in-law, a person I know, of financial difficulties.
The maid would wake up very early to prepare breakfast 'Nasi Lemak', to be sold by the children.

The maid was employed by the working mother-in-law, as her son was in jail.
The elderly lady paid the maid's salary and government's levy of S$265.
She took full responsibility of her son's absence from the family, so that her daughter-in-law can go out to work to pay for the housing and the five children's education.


That's so much about Suri, and more in the previous postings.
She has great concern for everybody.

She was never without home-cooked food for mothers waiting for their children whenever she waited for My Niece to finish Her "Iqra'" class.


"Ummie, rasa,"
as she shoved me the curried pickled gooseberry, "acar cermai" when I was at My Sister's place, when My Mother was there. 

"Bawa balik Johor."
She showed me the big quantity that she had cooked earlier.

I tasted one, and declined her offer.
It will be left untouched at My house.

I was curious seeing the big amount of gooseberry in the pot.
She claimed as most of her SMA classmates were working for mostly expatriates and some Chinese (she is the only person with a Malay family), none of them ever knew that the fruit exists in Singapore.

When she was at My house last April, she did not forget her Business Study classmates too.
I was having a feast then, and she packed food for her friends.
The class was about to end, so they wrapped it by having potluck the next day.
The class was conducted by staff of a well known Indonesian cosmetic line.
The students are all housemaids.

Suri had wanted Me to attend her farewell gathering at one of the hotel along Orchard Road.
She was proud of her booth that she set up and had been talking about it for days.
Unfortunately, I could not leave Nora* with My Mother alone at My house, as she was still new to the environment.
Though Nora* is with My Mother now, Suri still never forget to prepare what My Mother likes best.


Before, there's just Suri.
But now, Nora has become family members too.

She used to ask Me,
"Bu, kenapa harus tunggu empat bulan baru Bapak ambil saya?"

I have no answer to it.
And I am not the person who harp and regret on past incidence.
Whatever happened, there must be lesson for us to learn.

Nora was reluctant to work abroad, if not for her failed crop.
She was half-hearted to go to Singapore, as she had never heard of Muslims in Singapore.
And she was half-hearted to go to Malaysia too, thinking of the salary.
She definitely did not want to return to Saudi, too faraway.
But when she was told that there are Muslims in Singapore, she prayed hard that, Singapore Muslims have the same believe as she does.

Maybe, just maybe, although she was confused when she was returned to the maid agency which I had blogged earlier, GOD wants to show her that not all employers are the same as the one she had earlier worked for.

Nora is a person who makes religion her way of life.
She covered herself.

She put on the smallest headscarf she could find, just to cover her hair, much to her previous employer's dislike. 

"Singapore is no Saudi. So, don't cover yourself."

The employer used to remind her whenever she covered her hair when there were adult males at home.
But she still covered herself in that four months, refusing to let go the small scarf when her employer's husband or her father-in-law was around.

Nora performed her Zohor at 5pm, and Maghrib at 12midnight.
Midnight was when her work ended, for the day.
Luckily she had her employer's mother-in-law who stood by her.

Occasionally, from My Brother's house, Nora will call the elderly lady to inform of her well being.
Nevertheless, she thanked her 4-months Singapore employer for opening her eyes to the other side of being Muslim and being Singaporean.
Not all Muslims are tattooless, and some Muslims are clothed the minimal possible.


Nora had always told Me that she pray for Paradise for her former Saudi employer and her family.

She said, although the woman is one very beautiful woman on earth, she had never looked down on anybody.

Even when Nora intended to give some rice to her then one floor neighbour friend, as the employer is said to be a non-rice eater, her employer insisted that the neighbour's maid is very well taken care of, just like her.
The employer has had never bad thinking of others.

Communication breakdown is common issue about runaway maid whom I had encountered and shared here while waiting for a bus to MRT.

Misunderstanding often led to frustration and led to abuse, which I had blogged about of many incidences in this blog.
Again, not to about shaming others and My own religion, but that's reality in life.
When I showed Nora about happenings to Indonesian maids in Saudi in this blog, that's the first time she knew more of it, not only about bad employers, but bad maids too.

Same as all the above maids, Nora faced communication difficulties too, during her first few months in Saudi.
But her excellent employer asked her to take her time, as she herself has to learn Nora's language too.

Nora was never lonely in Saudi.
Her employer's mother lives next door.
Come weekends, the married children of the elderly mother will usually gather at her place, all bringing their maids, all happened to be Indonesian, and all from Java island.
Or, Nora would accompany her teacher employer to frequent wedding invitations, which maids, mostly Indonesian, will tag along.
She had performed her Umrah and Haj, all paid by the excellent Saudi employer. 

When the employer intended to move to their 3-storey bungalow, Nora was informed.
That was when she decided to return home after her 4-year stint with the only employer.
The employer asked her to choose another Indonesian maid to accompany her and to lighten her workload.

After the chosen one was briefed by Nora, she insisted on going home.

To make her stay, the employer negotiate hard with her, to which she replied,
"She will not be able to use the salary she earned, to send home to feed her family, if she worked half-heartedly. 
The money will not be  blessed, can be considered "haram" too, for doing things without sincerity.
There are effects we knew not, if the employer's family will not be sincerely looked after."
Nora was then quickly sent home to Surabaya.

The other day, My Eldest Sister said, She had never seen more beautiful Qur'an than the one She saw Nora was reading.
I shared the same view as Her too.
Maghrib to Isya' is her reading time, as what My Mother does everyday.

And yes, Nora said, the Quran is a gift by a niece of her Saudi employer before she depart home.  


"Bu, piala siapa punya?" 
Nora asked as she cleaned and arranged the many trophies.

"Kesemuanya anak saya. Kenapa?"
I was curious.

"Kalau punya orang yang dulu, saya tak mau bersihkan. Tak enak."
That is Nora.

I had just moved to a new place last April.
The former owner had left many still new and untouched belongings.
The house had been empty for a few years, only occupied when many relatives of theirs from Northern Malaysia whenever they dropped by.

The owner maintain the house in good condition, with cleaner dropped by to clean the house every month.
They had asked us to move in early, the moment My Husband and I said We intended to purchase the house from them, some time in July last year, so that they knew their house will still be looked after.
The husband had even promised to send over pots of flowers to be planted around the house.
But the house has already no less than 30 potted plants around the place. 
The couple have great affection for the house.

But no papers had been signed, not even any monies had been paid, so not too nice for us to move too early.


I was surprised at Nora's question.
But soon realised when she told Me she knew of people bought trophies to be decorated at home, for pride.
What ??? 

"Betul Bu. banyak dikampung seperti itu."


Nora had mentioned rose guava to My Elder Sister.

But when My Elder Sister bought for her at RM6.00 per kilo, she stopped her from buying for her again.

"Jangan beli lagi, Bu. Mahal. Ini kan buah belakang rumah."

"Cuba tengok, apa ada belakang flat Nyai. Mana ada pokok jambu. Rumah orang adalah," 
as My Elder Sister pointed to the kitchen window.

Nora laughed at herself.
She is in Singapore, not Surabaya.
The guava was tasteless to her.

When I happened to get for her not sooo fresh guava at RM2.80 per kilo, reminded her to eat all of it, and not to leave any, she thanked Me because upon tasting, she said, that's how guava should taste.
I could not figure what she meant.

Last week, I showed Nora the way to Sheng Shiong at Bedok.

"Bu, tak mau beli. Mahal. Cuma 4 dollar saja diGeylang."

"Kalau mahal, belikan Nyai aje."
True enough, she took just two of the big Yellowtail Scad or "Selar Hijau" for My Mother.

"Mahal Bu. 40 sen."

"OK. Kalau mahal, beli soya, bikin tempe sendiri."
She quickly took only 2 of the fermented soya cake.

I told her, if everybody wants things cheaply, then there will be no nearby amenities.
We take it that the excess we pay is the price of convenience and great saving on time and transportation.

Before we headed home, she was adamant to change the rice grain that My Brother bought, for My Mother's sake. 
But when I asked her to get her choice of food, she said, she eats what My Mother eats.
Do not have to waste so much money.
But one thing she cannot escape is munching away NTUC carrots as her snack.
I bought for her too from Giant when she was at My house, but she said it tasted different.
She did not touch any.


My Mother had wanted to follow Me home when we returned from the airport, after sending off My Niece.

But I need My Husband to drive them to JB.

Upon hearing that, I could see Nora smiling and her eyes sparkled as she reminded Me, 
"Suruh Abi ambil kami cepat sedikit."

That reminded Me of her when she laughed very heartily.
After eight months since she left her hometown in August 2010, finally she get the opportunity to step on real soil.
The earth under her feet, the sky above her head.
Not other person's roof below and on top of her.

She thanked GOD for giving her opportunity to rake away dried leaves.
Being a farmer's daughter, she was happy in getting herself close to mother earth, touching the soil with her bare hands.
She did not mind getting them dirty.

Always choosing "ciku" of the day, My Mother's favorite fruit.


And Nora really wanted the roses at My house to bloom just like her grandmother's, atop Kelud Mountain in Surabaya.  

Friday, May 27, 2011

Keeping Johor Bahru Clean (3)

Toilet Demolished

JOHOR BARU: A newly built public toilet located along the Jalan Skudai stretch near Pantai Lido was demolished by the Johor Baru City Council (MBJB) within 24-hours after the structure was completed.
The public toilet, costing thousands of ringgit, was completed on Thursday but was demolished the next day.
Gone: An excavator demolishing a newly completed public toilet located along Jalan Skudai in Johor Baru recently.
According to sources from MBJB, the city council had nothing to do with the construction of the public toilet as it was a project under the Iskandar Malaysia Regional Development Authority (Irda).
“The public toilet is part of Iskandar Malaysia’s coastal highway project and previously there was a public toilet in that area but it was demolished for the road widening project.
The stretch is a well-known place for the public and couples to loiter especially at night to enjoy the sea breeze and also for relaxation.

Source: The Star - Thursday, May 26, 2011

***Purely public interest to built and to demolish?

Luckily I'm no regular public toilet user.
Or if I were to use it, its either side of both Checkpoints, in Singapore or JB.

Another thing, travelling westwards to KL upwards I can have peace of mind. 
Public amenities are well maintained along PLUS roads.

It's an issues again, when going to Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan. 
Again, it's the toilet issue for me. 
More or less, similar situation as below:  

Pathetic Sight Of Sri Lalang, Mersing Public Toilets 
by Steven Chen

Picnickers visiting the Sri Lalang beach in Mersing felt ashamed to see the pathetic conditions of the public toilets there.
From the assessment made by Komunitikini, the damaged public toilets amenities have been left untouched for a long period of time.
Broken toilet bowls flooded with human wastes, water pipes leaking , drainage system choked with rubbish and the nauseating scent are just too unbearable for any picnickers.
One visitor to the area, Halimanton Abdullah, 17, said that she is not blaming anyone but just wanted the relevant authority to resolve the problem immediately.
She hoped that the relevant authority will rebuild the drainage system and the public toilets immediately as Mersing is a widely known as a tourist attraction area and the dismayed conditions of the public amenities is very damaging to the image of the town.
Eighteen years old Nazarudin Zainudin shared the same opinion and stronly urged the relevant authority to rebuild the public amenities without further delay.
Meanwhile, the secretary for the Mersing district council, Mohd. Johari Tarmizi said that the council is aware of the problem and the council is in the process of appointing a contractor to repair the damaged amenities soon.

Source: Komuniti Kini - March 17, 2011

***The above pathetic state reminds me of enforcement way many, many, many years ago read in NST  2003. 

Stiff Fines Soon For Not Flushing Public Toilets
Shahrum Sayuthi

JOHOR BARU, Aug 13: Failure to flush public toilets could mean a fine of RM1,000 under a new ruling to be enforced in Johor soon.
State Executive Councillor Datuk Jimmy Low Boon Hong said the penalty would be provided for under the Public Toilet By-law (Municipal/District Council) 2003.
The by-law, which was approved during the Johor Executive Council meeting chaired by Menteri Besar Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman here today, is now awaiting endorsement by all 16 local authorities in the State.
"Once adopted by the various city, municipal and district councils, it will become effective immediately," said Low.
The ruling, which also provides for a RM1,000 fine for shop and restaurant owners with dirty toilets, makes Johor the first in the country to introduce such tough legislation. It also comes on the heels of the National Clean Toilet Campaign 2003 which was launched here last month. Following the event, the State Government formed "flying squads" comprising officials from local authorities and the Health Department to check on the cleanliness of public toilets.
Low, who heads the State Local Government Committee, said the by-law would be strictly enforced by local authorities as part of the Johor Government's drive to keep public toilets clean.
"The instruction to the local authorities is clear. They have to be serious in enforcing this by-law and make no exception against any offender," he told reporters after the State Exco meeting here today.
The by-law also provides for a maximum fine of RM1,000 for those who do not turn off the tap, damage facilities, draw graffiti or act indecently while using public toilets.
Low said copies of the bylaw with the stipulated penalties for the offences would be prominently displayed at all public toilets.
Low said the State Government had also instructed the local authorities to upgrade public toilets under their jurisdiction by fitting them with the more reliable "push button" flush systems.
He said the conventional individual flush tank system currently used at most public toilets was too prone to damage and harder to maintain.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Keeping Johor Bahru Clean (2)

Free Garbage Bin For All When Act 672 Comes Into Effect 
by MK Ong on 24 May, 2011

Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Corporation will be distributing some 3.5 millions garbage bins for free to all residential houses and business premises in Peninsula Malaysia to enable the government to manage the solid waste management more effectively.

Chief Executive Officer, Zaini Md Nor said, each of the garbage bins will be serial-numbered to ensure that the garbage bin will be taken care of to last a minimum of seven years.
“The one hundred and twenty litres capacity garbage bin will be for the residential houses and the two hundred and forty litres one will be for the business premises and restaurants”, he said after the official launching of “The  Transformation of the Nation Solid Waste Management After Act 672″ , seminar here, yesterday.
Meanwhile,  Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Corporation will also set up a solid waste management tribunal to allow the public and contractors to forward their dissatisfaction and grievances related to the solid waste management issues, he added.
He said, the proposal to set up the tribunal will follow suit once the Solid Waste and Urban Cleansing Management  2007 Act 672 is implemented.
“If there are any complaints and reports from the consumers and contractors who are unhappy with solid waste management matters can refer them to the tribunal”, he said.
He said after the Solid Waste and Urban Cleansing Management  2007 Act 672 comes into effect, the work flow will be more systematic.
The one day seminar was attended by some two hundred contractors organised by Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Corporation with the objective of allowing the contractors to fully understand the full implications of the privatisation exercise when Solid Waste and Urban Cleansing Management  2007 Act 672 comes in to effect. 

In order to better manage these operators and to regulate the tripartite relationship between the Federal Government, private operators and the Local Authorities, it has been proposed that the federal legislation be passed in the form of the Solid Waste Management Act.
There are two Solid Waste Management Act has been enacted in Malaysia in which Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Management Act 2007 (Act 672) and Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Management Act 2007 (Act 673)
It appears that should these initiatives proceed to full implementation, Malaysia would be setting a precedent in the world community.
No other country has "federalized" soli waste management nor has privatization been undertaken at the federal level with a specified limited number of operators for the country.

MK Ong
is a Citizen Journalist trained by Citizen Journalists Malaysia

Restoring The Dignity Of Segget River With RM200mil
by Steven Chen on 12 Feb, 2011

Imagine: Tourists in white gondolas cruising down the Segget River, alongside Jalan Wong Ah Fook, where they disembark for a walk along the crystal clear waters, with a magnificent view of Johor Bahru town against the backdrop of Singapore’s CIQ in the distance.
This might be far-fetched, looking at the current state of the infamous Segget River which runs through downtown Johor Bahru, and the pedestrian walkway known as Legaran Segget.
Prior to the existence of Legaran Segget, one could mistake this river for an extra-large monsoon drain, its rat-infested water exuding an unbearable stench.
However, despite its murky waters, the Segget River has been a huge icon for Johoreans since the 1800s. Just as how Klang River was central in the development of Kuala Lumpur, Segget River has largely made the surroundings of Jalan Wong Ah Fook and Johor Bahru what it is today.
Conveniently, the Johor Bahru City Council took an easy way out by sweeping the problem under the carpet.
Backed by RM6 million and an ill-conceived redevelopment plan, the river was covered and some meaningless structures with water fountains erected on top of it.
The whole idea of the redevelopment by Johor Bahru City Council was to mitigate the unbearable stench from the river.
However, in the process of covering up, the contribution of Segget River to the development and heritage of Johor Bahru were simply overlooked.
The Segget River was once the passage for small traders to the Tanjung Puteri (Johor Bahru’s old name). The traders in the area took the opportunity to trade with the passing ships and economic activity around Segget River flourished, it eventually becoming a village known as Kampung Wong Ah Fook.
Kampung Wong Ah Fook today is known as just Jalan Wong Ah Fook.
In May 2010, Prime Minister Najib Razak, during his visit to Johor Bahru for the Iskandar Regional Development Authority’s (IRDA) briefing on the Johor Bahru City Renewal Plan, had envisioned the Segget River as a new tourist attraction, not unlike Venice.
Najib had compared it with Cheonggyecheon River in Seoul, South Korea which was closed due to heavy pollution, until the 5km river’s rehabilitatation three years later to become the most popular recreation site in Seoul.
To help kick-start the Segget River restoration project, Najib had announced a RM200 million allocation to open and clean up the river.

According to Johor Menteri Besar, Abdul Ghani Othman, the river will be re-opened and built as a double-deck river, with the upper deck channeling clean water and the lower deck channeling treated sewage to the Tebrau Straits (presumably after treatment).
Since then, the Johor Bahru City Council has taken initiative to release a large amount of ‘friendly’ bacteria into the murky river to improve its water quality. The result so far has been positive and the prospect of re-opening the river is brighter than ever.
The vision of having gondolas plying the entire Johor Bahru downtown through Segget River might a reality but only with implementation of the project, and if a proper public awareness campaign can be done. The glory of Segget River can be restored and it will mark a milestone in heritage and environmental conservation.

Steven Chen
is the current Citizen Journalists Malaysia's Johor Chapter Head. Apart from his undying love of Bee Gees, his other love is to help make Johor Bahru a better place to live.
Both Sources: Komuniti Kini

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Maid - Unholy Acts In The Holiest Place (13)

Daring Escape (3)

Al-Jazirah newspaper reported, on May 18, police arrested and questioned three Indonesians, following the discovery of a body of an Indonesian maid near a wedding hall in Al-Naseem district a week earlier.

The woman had called the police before her death.
They traced the call made by the Indonesian maid in her 30s.

She was trying to escape from her sponsor by climbing down through the window of a third floor apartment.
The woman fell and suffered serious head injuries.

Three Indonesian men then took her home where she died.
The men panicked, and they then dumped her body near the wedding hall.


(Okaz photo)
Another Indonesian housemaid had her life shortened in the first Thursday on December 2010.
She met death from a fall through the window of a third-floor apartment in Jeddah’s Al-Safa District.

Owner of the apartment told Okaz/ Saudi Gazette the housemaid had escaped from her original sponsor in Hail.
The maid absconded from her employer in the northwestern town of Hail.
She then worked for the owner of the apartment in Jeddah.

She tried to escape when she learned that her former employer had traced her whereabout.
He was on his way to fetch her home.
The maid’s sponsor had earlier contacted the owner of the apartment in Hail, asking him to hold to her while waiting for his arrival.

But the maid upon learning her original sponsor would come and get her, she tried escaping from him using a rope made from knotted clothes.
She fell to the ground and instantly died.

The operations room of a police station in Northern Jeddah received a report about the incident.
Police found the woman’s body lying in a pool of blood.
The body was then transferred to the Forensic Medicine Administration to determine other injuries other than those caused by the fall.

An official letter will then be sent to her country’s consulate in preparation for her burial.


A 29-year-old Indonesian maid was only into her third month with her sponsor before she decided to jump from the employer's third floor home in the Al-Kakiya district of Makkah last December 23.

She was trying to escape to work illegally elsewhere but ended up in intensive care unit suffering from fractured bones and internal bleeding.


A driver offered a man of recruiting a new maid through illegal channel after his helper disappeared several week earlier.

But the man began to suspect the driver's activities.
The driver was under his observation.
To his surprise, he saw his former maid enter the drivers premises opposite his own home.

Okaz/SG reported the driver confessed to police that he had tempted the man's housemaid away from her employer.
She was promised better and more lucrative work.

The driver was then under detention for helping her to flee and for giving her shelter.
The woman was arrested in the last week of August.


Maid Leads Police To Liquor Den 

RIYADH: The arrest of a runaway housemaid led Riyadh police on Monday to a gang of criminals who were distilling liquor in Riyadh’s Sultana district.
The woman was stopped by police and questioned about her legal status.
They learned that she was a runaway maid who fled her sponsor five months ago.
According to police, the maid then fell prey to a group of men who had offered her a job with benefits, including an annual home-visit plane ticket.
But instead of employing her as a maid, the gang sexually exploited the woman.
“I had no choice except to give in for their pleasure since they threatened to take me to the police if I disagreed,” the maid is alleged to have told the police.
The maid led police to the location where they found six barrels of liquor, three small gas cylinders and three single burner cooker — all equipment used to distill fermented liquid into spirits.
The woman and an unreported number of men involved in the gang were detained.

Source: Arab News - April 29, 2010


Christine, a 26-year-old woman from Kenya.arrived in Saudi Arabia in 2009 at Jeddah’s international airport.

She obtained her work visa at the Saudi embassy in Nairobi, where she was promised a job as a children’s English teacher.
She arrived with seven other women, all in the same situation as she was.
Her "sponsor" came to pick her up at the airport.
He was accompanied by his wife and mother-in-law.
They told her that, for the time being, she would be teaching English to their own children.
But she quickly realised that she had been tricked.
Instead of taking her to their home, she went to the home of friends of theirs, where several Kenyans were already working as maids.
There, they removed her passport and cell phone (all her contact numbers in it), saying they would be returned the day she return home.
Then she was sent to work in the sponsor's mother-in-law’s home.
There, she met another Kenyan woman who had been working as a maid for two months.
She warned Christine of what lay ahead.
One month later, she was sent back to her main employer’s home.
There began a truly horrible period that lasted around four months.
She slept in a tiny, cramped room with a thin, hard mattress on the floor.
She had to ask for permission to eat.
She worked like crazy, doing all of the housework, from ten in the morning to five or six the next morning non-stop.
She wasn’t allowed to call home for two months.
When she finally did, she learned that her father was very ill and had been hospitalised.
She asked her employer – to whom she was not supposed to be allowed to talk to – if he could pay her salary so that she could return home to see her father.
She hadn’t been paid anything so far – her monthly salary was supposed to be of SR800.
But the employer and his wife refused, going so far as to tell her that, even if her father did pass away, it wouldn’t be too serious!
That’s when she understood that her only chance would be to run away.
Once out of the house, she took a taxi that brought her to the Guinean consulate.
She had a lot of trouble getting officials there to understand what was going, given that she only speak English. She finally ended up waiting for two months in the consulate’s courtyard.
Finally, she met Mohamed, 27, born in Africa but lives in Saudi Arabia...

Continue reading ....:


The Maid - Unholy Acts In The Holiest Place (12)

Daring Escape (2)

Runaway Filipino Maid Claims She Was Raped  

RIYADH: A Filipino runaway staying in a villa some 250 km north of Riyadh has sought the assistance of the Philippine Embassy to get home, according to Vice Consul Roussel R. Reyes, Philippine Embassy officer–in-charge.
“The maid told us that she wanted to be with her two kids in the Philippines because she missed them,” he told Arab News on Wednesday.
He said that as soon as the staff of the embassy's Assistance to Nationals Section locate the villa where the maid and six other runaway maids are staying a team would be dispatched to ensure she is rescued.
The case of the maid, whose name is not being published to protect her privacy, was referred to the embassy after Arab News learned on Tuesday night that she wanted to go home.
Arab News contacted the maid after being notified of her situation by a community leader in Dammam.
The woman came to the Kingdom as a caregiver, but ended up as a maid earning SR800 a month.
Twelve days into this job, the sponsor returned her to the placement agency.
“My employer saw that working as maid, my nose was bleeding,” she said.
The agency was able to look for a job for her but worked for only 24 days because she claims her employer raped her.
“That was on Sept. 21, and on the same day I escaped and reported (the incident) to the agency, which did nothing when I complained that I was raped.
Eventually the agency got another job for me,” she said.
The six other maids do not want to be taken by the embassy because they are employed and do not want to return home.
“This is a simple case of human trafficking,” said a case officer at the Philippine Embassy.
“The six others do not want to go home because they are working.
Someone fetches them from their villa in the morning and brings them back in the evening.”
The officer said he suspected the person in charge of the maids has told the six maids who do not want to return home that if the embassy comes to rescue the maid they might also be taken in.
“This is something the six others don't like because they are working to earn,” he said.
“They don't want to go home yet.
That's also the reason why they asked Leonora (the pseudonym for the maid who wants to be rescued) to leave their accommodation.”
The officer pointed out that there are labor recruiting agencies that are accredited by the Saudi government but not by the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO).
Only POLO-accredited agencies can be directly ordered to assist maids in their care.
“The embassy does not have any control over agencies (not accredited by POLO),” said the officer.

Source: Arab News - January 13, 2011


Philippines Embassy narrowed its search for distress Leonora.

A text message was sent to them indicating the location of the villa, about two kilometers from Majmaa in Riyadh, about 250 km from Riyadh. 

The Pakistani men who looked after them did not allow her to venture out alone. 
Leonora was also scared to leave the villa and walk toward the city because she did not have an iqama or passport.

She claimed that she was asked by the six other runaway maids to leave the villa.
They were afraid that the embassy would also take them if and when the embassy rescues Leonora.

They did not want to go back to Philippines yet as they still want to continue working to earn.

****** ****** ******  

Another Run-Away Maid Seeks Embassy Help

RIYADH: A second maid of seven being housed illegally by a Pakistani man to be outsourced in the black labor market near Majmaa, Riyadh province, says she would like to return home.
“We are trying to locate the exact location of the villa where Ofie (not her real name), Leonora (not her real name) and five other maids are staying,” Philippine Embassy Charge dAffaires Ezzedin H. Tago told Arab News on Thursday.
The exact location of the villa where the women are illegally residing is unknown.
The house is believed to be located within two kilometers from Majmaa.
Leonora, who claims she was raped by her sponsor and later fled after he placement agency didnt respond to her complaint, has been trying to seek help from the Philippine Embassy to return home.
Meanwhile, the other six women residing at the villa have been urging Leonora to leave because they dont want to be discovered and deported.
Now one of those six women has reportedly come out saying she would also like to be repatriated.
Tago said that if and when the exact location of the villa can be ascertained, the embassy would rescue Ofie and Leonora in coordination with the local police.
The women do not have a clear idea of their precise location.
Talking to Arab News by phone Ofie said that she was working as a house cook and escaped from employer on Aug. 10.
“Before I went on vacation last year, my employer, a doctor working at the Security Forces Hospital, promised to increase my monthly salary from SR1,000 to SR1,200,” she said.
“But when I came back, his wife, who is a teacher, was giving me the same salary of SR1,000 she told me not to tell her husband about it.”
She added that the situation became worse when her employer hired another domestic worker, an Eritrean, with a salary of SR1,500.
“The Eritrean started giving orders to me and when I did not follow her she complained to the employers wife, saying that I did not want to work,” Ofie said.
Ofie said that she was being asked to work outside the kitchen.
“I told her that I had been hired mainly to cook food and do nothing else.
Besides, I wake up at 5 a.m. and she at 11 a.m.
She should have been be doing the things was asking me to do,” she said.
The circumstances took a turn for the worse when the Eritrean complained about Ofies work, angering the wife.
Ofie said she then contacted a Filipino beautician (who has since returned to the Philippines) and they agreed to leave their employers.
“Through another contact, we were able to reach the villa where were staying now.
Its also here where I met Leonora and the other maids who dont want to go home yet because they still want to work,” she said.
She said that she did not have money but if the embassy could bear the costs of her repatriation, shed like to go back to the Philippines to rejoin her family in Ifugao province north of Manila.
Ofie and her husband have three children.
The women work illegally and are being managed by a Pakistani man who could face jail time for housing and contracting workers who have fled their sponsors and now have illegal status in the Kingdom.

Source: A1 Saudi Arabia - January 21, 2011


In the mean time, Leonora ventured out with an Indian woman and a Pakistani driver named Arshad.
They left the villa in Majmaa. 

Arshad was supposed to drop her at Diriyah, at a supermarket along Exit 10 in Riyadh. 
From there, she would call the embassy requesting someone to pick and brought her to Bahay Kalinga, BK, a temporary shelter for runaway maids run by members of the Filipino community. 
But the last call she made to the embassy  was to inform of being taken to the police station.

Embassy officials would seek the help of local authorities in Riyadh and Majmaa to find the Indian woman and Arshad, who might be involved in human trafficking.


Case Officer To Visit Filipino Maids In Prison

RIYADH: A Philippine Embassy case officer will visit a womens prison in Riyadhs Malaz district on Wednesday to talk to two Filipino maids arrested on suspicion of being runaways.
He will hope to speak to Leonora and Ofie (not their real names) regarding the circumstances surrounding their arrest by the police.
“The embassy has requested for a permit to visit Nisa prison in Malaz district so that I can talk to the two runaway maids whom the police arrested,” the officer handling the two maids case told Arab News on Monday.
The case officer made the statement after police called the embassy to say that they could not get any information from Leonora and Ofie regarding their case.
They had run away from their sponsors in Riyadh to Majmaa, but then decided to return to the capital.
The following day, the two maids were arrested by the police in a villa in Diriya with three Indian nationals.
“The police said that after giving few personal details such as their names, Leonora and Ofie clammed up when asked about their sponsors.
Its probable that they are trying not to unnecessarily incriminate others who might be involved in their case,” the case officer said. Leonora had given her name as Kristine Ali Noor.
“Much has been known about Leonora, whose case had also been reported by other newspapers catering for overseas Filipinos, but not Ofie.
Unlike Leonora, we dont even know her real name, which part of the country she comes from, if she has a family or not, and details of the Philippine agency that processed her papers for deployment to Saudi Arabia,” he said.
One newspaper published from Bahrain carried a story on Leonora, giving her name as Leonor.
Earlier, Leonora told Arab News that she arrived in the Kingdom in the middle of 2010 to work as a caregiver, but ended up working as a maid.
When she complained, her employers wife took her to the local agency that deployed her.
The agency placed her with another employer who allegedly raped her.
“Because of the incident, I escaped and went to the agency, which did nothing regarding my complaint,” she said.
The agency eventually looked for another employer, but as things were getting worse for Leonora, she escaped.
She and Ofie were helped by a Filipino woman to go to Majma.
Their helper has since gone back to the Philippines.

Source: A1 Saudi Arabia - February 15, 2011


Stranded Filipino Maids To Be Repatriated  

RIYADH: The Philippine Embassy announced on Monday that two Filipino housemaids caught with three Indian nationals in a villa in Diriyah in February would soon be repatriated to the Philippines.
Leonora and Ofie (not their real names) are still being held at a women’s jail in the Malaz district in Riyadh.
“Leonora’s documents are now being prepared.
Then it will be sent to the governor’s office for approval.
After that, a plane ticket will be issued,” an embassy official told Arab News on Monday.
He added that Ofie’s travel documents had been processed earlier and a plane ticket would also be issued to her.
“A plane ticket is normally issued by the Saudi government.
Otherwise, the embassy will provide it,” he added.
He also said that Leonora, who was imprisoned in February, had been sentenced to four months in prison and 70 lashes.
Her prison term ends next week.
He added that Ofie’s travel documents had been issued earlier because she did not receive a custodial sentence.
“Maybe it was because she was able to convince police authorities that she was merely a victim and not doing anything wrong,” the official said, adding that Leonora was unhappy that she had been jailed instead.
In February, Arab News reported that Leonora and Ofie went missing after leaving their villa in Majma, some 250 km north of Riyadh.
They were already in Diriyah when Leonora allegedly called the embassy to say that they had been arrested by the police.
“It was not true that the police stopped them,” the embassy official said.
“The truth is, it was only Leonora who was dropped by a Pakistani driver in Diriyah.
Ofie, who was romantically linked with one of the three Indians, had earlier left Majma for Diriyah in Riyadh,” he said.
He added that it was obvious Leonora had asked the driver to drop her in Diriyah as per an earlier arrangement with Ofie.
The embassy official added that early one morning police caught them with the three Indians.
Ofie was reportedly drunk and shouting.
“The neighbors probably called and complained to the police.
The police responded and found out that Leonora, who gave her Muslim name as Kristine Ali Noor, and Ofie were with the three Indians,” he said.
Leonora had earlier told Arab News that she asked the driver to drop her in front of a supermarket.
The driver was also reportedly having an affair with one of five other Filipino runaway maids in Majma.
From the supermarket, she was supposed to call the embassy and ask officials to pick her up and take her to the Bahay Kalinga (BK), a government shelter where stranded Filipino women stay while awaiting repatriation to the Philippines.
Leonora, who had been separated from her husband before she left the Philippines for Saudi Arabia, comes from Baguio City north of Manila.
She has three kids who are being looked after by her mother.
Before coming to Saudi Arabia, she had worked in a gasoline station and a restaurant in Baguio City. Ofie, on the other hand, is from Ifugao.

Source: Arab News - May 3, 2011

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Maid - Unholy Acts In The Holiest Place (11)

Daring Escape

A newly arrived Asian housemaid, in her 20s, had a fall three days ago, from the third floor of a residential building in Alkhobar, eastern town of Damman, Saudi Arabia.

She made the run away attempt from the seventh floor apartment through a kitchen window.
She then clung to pipes stuck to the building and started to slide down.
Upon reaching the third floor, the pipes collapsed due to her weight and she hit the ground, where she met the fatal fall.
Arab News reported she was rushed to a hospital with serious injuries but later died at the hospital.


Another death fall befell on a housemaid in her 40s, in an attempt to flee her sponsor's house in Makkah.

She was trying to escape through sanitary pipes along with her personal belongings.
Okaz / Saudi Gazzette reported the “homesick” housemaid arrived in the Kingdom two months ago in March, only to find death the next month, in the second week of April.

The housemaid suffered multiple fractures of her arms and legs.
She suffered from brain hemorrhage too, which caused her death.


Early this year, January 12, Arabic language daily Almadina reported yet another Indonesian housemaid's death.

The female migrant worker sneaked through the bathroom’s window in an attempt to flee her employer.
She went up to the roof of the the fourth floor building in the central town of Makkah.
Once there, she found a rope, dangled it down to reach the ground.
She then tried to climb down using the rope, but lost her balance and plunged down.

The maid laid on the ground for nearly 15 minutes before she died.

She was found by residents who were leaving a mosque after prayers.


Photo: ist
PT Aji Ayahbunda Sejati (AAS), flew then 19-year old Armayeh binti Sanuri, from Teluk Lerang, Kuala Mandor, in the district of Kuala Mandor, Pontianak, West Kalimantan, to Saudi Arabia.

She started working for the family of Hasim Ahmad Ali Bader Saeni and Madam Hanan Hasim in Madinah on March 24, 2009.

Armayeh admitted of receiving almost daily abuse and mistreatment from her female employer since the third month into her job.

Wounds and pus on her head.

Her head was often stepped on.

She suffered infectious ears, and were almost torn-like.

She was poured hot water too.

She could bear no longer. 
She seized the opportunity to flee from her working place when the door was not locked.

With wounds all over, she fled on January 26 at 3.30pm.

A neighbour, another Saudi citizen, who happened to spot her critical plight, helped to rush her to Al Ansar Hospital in Madinah at 10pm.

The medical staff immediately called the Indonesian Consulate General.
The Indonesian Consulate has agreements with some Saudi hospitals to notify the embassy or consulate, should an Indonesian national be admitted.

Armayeh's serious condition led her hospital stay transferred to King Fahad Hospital in Jeddah.
She underwent plastic surgery performed by team from King Abdullah Hospital at 1am.
She is currently, still receiving treatment.

Her female employer, Madam Hanan Hasin had been arrested.
Before the arrest was made, her employer visited Armayeh at the hospital.
The girl was offered SR18,000 (Rp 52.9 million) for her change of statement.
The offer was flatly turned down.

Although her salary is SR800 per month, she had just sent home SR6.000 Riyal (Rp 14,3 million) to her parents, during her 23 months stint in the Kingdom.

PT Aji Ayahbunda Sejati (AAS), who made Armayeh's presence possible in Saudi Arabia, bear full responsibility of the girl's welfare.

Her family was provided initial financial assistance of Rp 25 million (SR10,500), with insurance of Rp 100 million yet to receive.

PT Aji Ayah Bunda Sejati brought the parents of now 20-year old Armayeh binti Sanuri, to Saudi Arabia to see first hand of their daughter's condition.
The company provides their needs while in Saudi.


From Frying Pan To Fire Runaway Maids End Up In Harsher Conditions

JEDDAH: Housemaids who flee their sponsors due to bad working conditions to seek work in the black labor market often end up in a situation of jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.
In many cases they find themselves at the mercy of sleazy labor brokers who send them to work illegally in conditions that are little different from the legal situations, and often much worse. 
“They seize our IDs, lock us up in secluded rooms and make us live in very difficult conditions, which is no less than indentured servitude,” a maid told Arab News on condition she not be named.
Nuriyyah, an Indonesian maid who has been working for two years in Saudi Arabia, describes the situation she found herself in as “slavery” after being legally recruited and brought to the Kingdom. The wage she ended up receiving was not enough to feed her family back home.
“My sponsor often delayed my payment under the pretext that he had other pressing commitments,” she said. “I had no other choice but to flee.”
Nuriyyah said she lived in a small apartment after her escape with a large number of illegal housemaids who came for Haj or Umrah and overstayed their pilgrimage visas.  She said the man who ran the house essentially acted as an illegal-labor broker.
But what Nuriyyah discovered is that people who hire maids illegally often end up being worse than employers who seek workers through legal channels and at greater expense.  “The new employer and his wife used to beat and humiliate me all the time,” she said. “They also took my iqama. I served them for my food only.”
The maid says she has never been paid for her work. Eventually she fled her illegal employers. She ended up under the Sitteen Bridge, a congregation point for foreign laborers who have fled their sponsors in the hope they will be picked up by the police and deported.
Another Indonesian maid, who did not want to be named, said though she had been an adventurer all her life and would work hard to earn money, she had fears that she might fall victim to inhuman practices on the hands of her new employers.
“I now live in a small house with a large number of illegal African and Asian housemaids,” she said. “The brokers who distribute us among their customers do not care much for what will happen to us. They are only after money.”
She added that she was living in very difficult conditions in this house but her need for money would force her to continue.
The unidentified Indonesian housemaid said she witnessed her co-workers being beaten by merciless employers who know that illegal domestic servants are essentially hostages with few choices.
“Many housemaids had similar experiences but were finally able to make some money and go back home. In order to succeed, you have to take chances,” she said.
Commenting on the issue, spokesman for Jeddah police Col. Misfer Al-Juaid said many of the houses that accommodate runaway maids are found in the districts of Al-Bawadi, Ghulail and Kandara.
“We carry out weekly raids on such houses after identifying them,” he said. “We arrest the illegal residents, take their fingerprints before handing them over to the Passport Department for deportation.”
After these workers end up in the custody of Saudi immigration authorities, a long process for exit clearance takes place. Often these workers have no ID because their passports are with the employers from whom they fled. Saudi authorities must work with foreign missions to establish identities and check for criminal backgrounds before they can be sent home. 
Al-Juaid pointed out that an illegal worker can be exposed to more abuse than legal workers, because sponsors are aware that there is little recourse for reporting or challenging abusive situations. “The illegal housemaids bear all these inhuman treatment in order not to be caught by the passport police and sent back home,” he added.
The most common form of maid abuse is not paying salaries, followed by physical and sexual abuse. The Saudi authorities do not offer statistics of the number of abuse cases reported to them, but the problem is acute enough that labor rights activists and foreign missions – especially of Indonesia and the Philippines – maintain shelters for fleeing maids, especially women.
Supervisor of the National Society for Human Rights in Makkah province Hussain Al-Sharif described violence against housemaids as inhuman and un-Islamic.
“Just because they are paying them money, some employers will come to believe that they literally own their housemaids and they have the right to ask them to do anything,” he said.
Al-Sharif agreed with Al-Juaid, saying that illegal workers face a greater chance of being abused with impunity.
“Violence against housemaids, whether they are legal or illegal stayers, is inhuman and totally against Islam,” he added. “We completely reject such practices and deplore exploitation of any human being.”
Al-Sharif asked all employers to consider the pressing conditions that drove the housemaids to come all they way from their countries in the first place. The main reason is remittances, the money they can save up to send home to feed their children or other family members. Not paying a maid could mean a child back home goes without food, clothing or medicines.

Source: A1 Saudi Arabia - January 12, 2011

to be continued...

Monday, May 23, 2011

Keeping Johor Bahru Clean

JB City Councillor Slams SWM For Inefficiencies 
by Steven Chen on 20 May, 2011

SWM Environment Sdn. Bhd. (SWM) was slammed for failing to carry out its solid waste collection contractual obligations satisfactorily.
Johor Bahru city councillor, Yahya Jaafar ticked off SWM for not performing its cleaning and solid waste
collection as scheduled.

He quoted an incident in Majidee zone area where the wastes in that area were left piling up for two weeks at one time.
Residents in the said area and other areas within the city are certainly not happy and satisfied with the state of affairs of uncollected rubbish and waste incidences where they are forced to put up with the unpleasant sight and the nauseating stench.
Some residents have even resorted to open burning their wastes when the stench get unbearable.
Maimunah Muda, 58, who has been staying in the Kampong Melayu Majidee over the last 23 years said that wastes in her area are collected once in every five days instead of alternate day.
“It has been like that for the last two months and making our surroundings filthy and smelly”, she added.
Another resident, Fatimah Hussein, 60, said that she has to resort to burning the wastes as the waste bin has overflowed and waste stench gets unbearable .
Councillor Yahya said, he had reports stating that SWM rubbish trucks are having difficulties obtaining PUSPAKOM road worthiness certifications where eight out of ten trucks sent for inspections failed the tests.
He urged the state government to take necessary to resolve the problem and also look into the options of appointing more than one concessionaire in managing the city cleaning and solid waste collection services.
Meanwhile, SWM corporate communication officer, Shahrul Amir Abdul Rahman said that SWM did received complaints of uncollected solid wastes from residents in Kampong Melayu Majidee three days ago.
He admitted that fact that at times SWM do encounter problems of waste dump trucks breaking down but nonetheless SWM has always managed to send back-up trucks and teams to cover the affected areas.
“The public can lodge a complaint with SWM if the wastes in their area are not collected after three days”. he said when contacted by reporter.

SWM ENVIRONMENT SDN. BHD. (SWM), formerly known as Southern Waste Management Sdn Bhd was established in line with the Malaysian Government’s decision on the National Privatization of Solid Waste Management.
It was subsequently awarded the task of managing the storage, collection, transfer, haulage, intermediate processing and disposal of solid waste in the Southern Region of Peninsular Malaysia by the Economic Planning Unit of the Prime Minister’s Department on December 21, 1995.
In April 1996, SWM was directed by the Government of Malaysia to take over the solid waste management and public cleansing services from all Local Authorities within the SWM concession area (Johor, Melaka and Negeri Sembilan) on an interim basis.
SWM had progressively since 1997 taken over the management of solid waste and public cleansing from all the Local Authorities within its concession area.
It is a transition toward the implementation of the full privatization.
The concession will cover a period of 20 years and serve a population of 4 million people. 


Johor Bahru’s Rubbish Collection Controversy 
by Steven Chen on 20 Mar, 2011

SWM Environment
SWM Environment (SWM) Sdn Bhd has denied that its representative has asked shop owners in Taman Megah Ria, Masai, to pay RM150 for rubbish collection. This was conveyed by its head of communications, Sharul Amir Abdul Rahman, at a press conference here yesterday.
SWM is the main contractor appointed by the state government to manage solid waste collection and disposal in Johor.
Sharul said that the company immediately investigated the allegation after  it was reported in the media and found that the shop owners did not furnish proof of payment being made.
He added that there is no charge for any solid waste collection service provided by SWM provided that additional services are officially requested for, and made to any waste collection company registered and approved by the local authority.
According to procedure, all such payments must be acknowledged in the company’s official receipt or on an official letterhead. Sharul said that SWM will not hesitate to take strong action against of the company’s contractors who flout the rules.
SWM will also be discussing with the Johor Bahru City Council (MBJB) about payments for additional waste collection and disposal services, especially in commercial and industrial areas, as this involves the local council by-laws.
He also commented that the local council can fine any commercial premises that do not provide adequate solid waste bins.
Members of the public can call SWM hotline 1-800-222-800 or  go to swmresponz.swmsb.com for more information.  

Both Sources: Komuniti Kini 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Electricity-Free Living In Gadgets World

The Cancer Survivor Allergic To Modern Life: 
Mother Is So Sensitive To Electric Gadgets She has To live By Candlelight
By Andy Dolan

. Condition is so severe her neighbours can't even have Wi-Fi
. Problems began after chemotherapy for bowel cancer

She cannot watch television, listen to the radio or boil the kettle to make a cup of tea.
So severe is Janice Tunnicliffe's sensitivity to electricity that even neighbours have to stop using wireless internet.
The mother-of-two spends her evenings playing board games by candlelight, avoiding switching on lights or using freezers, computers and mobile phones.
Mood lighting: Janice and her husband Carl use candles at night as she says electromagnetic fields give her chest pains
Mood lighting: Janice and her husband Carl use candles at night as she says electromagnetic fields give her chest pains

Mrs Tunnicliffe, 55, claims a course of chemotherapy during treatment for cancer left her with a rare condition called electrosensitivity, which causes severe reactions to the electromagnetic fields given off by electrical appliances.
In the three years since she developed the illness, Mrs Tunnicliffe has suffered headaches, chest pains, nausea and tingling in her arms and legs whenever she is close to any device that emits electromagnetic fields.
Janice Tunnicliffe's hisband Carl spent £500 on the Transformer 28 but it has failed to alleviate her condition
Janice Tunnicliffe's husband Carl spent £500 on the Transformer 28 to block electro-magnetic signals but it has failed to alleviate her condition

Her only relief came when a power cut struck her village of Wellow, Nottinghamshire.
The windows of her three-bedroom cottage are shielded by metallic insulation to deflect electromagnetic waves, and she spends weekends camping in the countryside with husband Carl, 43, to give her a 'complete break' from electrical signals.
She said: 'Wi-fi makes me feel like I have a clamp at the back of my head which is squeezing the life out of me.
'It's completely draining and a home hub can totally immorbalise me - I'm left unable to move my arms and legs.'
Mrs Tunnicliffe, a former accounts manager in the cosmetic industry, moved to the countryside from Nottingham after divorcing her first husband ten years ago.
She said her allergy developed three years ago following treatment for bowel cancer.
At the time, Carl, a contract manager, had just bought a photocopier, and the couple had installed their first wi-fi router.
Janice Tunnicliffe uses an electro magnetic field detector. She says modern technology makes her ill following chemotherapy
Janice Tunnicliffe uses an electro magnetic field detector. She says modern technology makes her ill following chemotherapy

Mrs Tunnicliffe said she noticed how much better she would feel when walking in the countryside, then quickly deteriorate again upon returning home. 
Bunker: Janice has covered bedroom windows in layers of foil
Bunker: Janice has covered bedroom windows in layers of foil in an attempt to make herself feel better

She also felt fine during a fortnight's holiday in Greece, only for her symptoms to come back on her return.
The couple became aware of electrosensitivity, or ES, when Carl began researching her symptoms on the internet.
Gradually, the couple removed electrical items such as their wi-fi hub, microwave, toaster and kettle from their home in an attempt to reduce her symptoms.  
Mrs Tunnicliffe said she learned to managed the condition by herself after she was shown little sympathy by her GP, and was refused NHS for treatment at a private hospital which specialises in electro-sensitivity.
While authority in countries such as Sweden and switzerland recognise the condition, the UK Health Protection agency says scientific tests have failed to establish a link between radio waves and ill health.
Many doctors believe the condition could be psychosomatic.
Graham Lamburn, from Powerwatch, an organisation which researches the effects of electromagnetic fields, said 3 to 4 per cent of the population report some susceptibility to ES, but few suffers to such a degree.
He added: 'This kind of case is rare, but certainly there have been some people who have had to give up their jobs because of ES.
'With wireless internet and mobile phones, we've got something here that no one really knows about and no one has considered it might be a problem.'
What she must avoid

In And Out Of The Immigration (2)

Your Face Could Soon Be Your Passport At Singapore's Checkpoints
by Monica Kotwani

SINGAPORE - Instead of being screened by immigration personnel, travellers at Singapore's checkpoints could be cleared in future by a facial recognition biometric system - which will allow entry into the country at record time.

Called the Flexi Immigration Clearance System, the project is the first of its kind in Singapore and will allow the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) to toggle between automated and manned immigration counters.

It will particularly benefit checkpoints that experience a high traffic, and the ICA plans to implement the technology at the coming International Cruise Terminal.

This is one of a number of infocomm projects the public sector is embarking on and the Government gave a preview yesterday of an estimated S$1.1 billion worth of tenders it will award to the industry this year.

The ultimate aim is to make infocomm technology a part of Singaporeans' everyday life - at home, at work and during travel.

For instance, centralised remote building technology will be called for to monitor the lighting, lifts and water pumps in public housing blocks.

Meanwhile, the Singapore Police Force plans to acquire systems to enhance road-safety enforcement such as a Digital Traffic Red-Light System and Digital Speed Enforcement Camera System.

The Home Affairs Ministry, Housing & Development Board and National Environment Agency (NEA) were just some of the agencies that presented their coming projects at the industry briefing organised by the Infocomm Development Authority.

Several projects look set to improve public engagement.

The NEA's use of real-time sensors in its Smart Environment System, which is estimated to cost between S$3 million and S$10 million, will leverage on crowd sourcing technologies so the public can submit environmental information, such as the weather, at their location. The NEA hopes to react and deal with environmental challenges as they occur.

The Ministry of Defence, it wants to offer better healthcare services to Mindef and Singapore Armed Forces personnel by streamlining business processes and integrating military healthcare records with national healthcare systems.

IDA chief executive Ronnie Tay said the overall outlook for the infocomm industry remains positive, with increased spending in IT and demand for infocomm services.

"The Singapore Government continues to invest in infocomm to drive productivity and innovation within the public sector," he said.

"This is a strong testament to the Government's commitment to continually improve the delivery of services and information to citizens and businesses, and the important role of infocomm in fostering economic growth in Singapore."

Last year, the Government awarded 647 infocomm contracts worth more than S$1.12 billion, excluding a one-off S$850 million invested in the Schools Standard ICT Operating Environment programme. Two-thirds of the contracts went to local companies.

Source: Today Online - Friday, May 20, 2011


Driving Into & Out Of Singapore 
Providing you a comfortable and convenient ride in free-flowing traffic

Before you decide to drive into and out of Singapore, there are a few basic things you need to know, depending on whether your vehicle is a foreign-registered one or registered in Singapore.

Foreign-registered vehicles
If you drive a foreign-registered vehicle, you have to acquire an Autopass Card (a vehicle entry permit) at either Woodlands or Tuas Checkpoint arrival zones before entering Singapore. It is an offence to drive into Singapore without an Autopass Card (a vehicle entry permit) for your foreign-registered vehicle.
For a foreign-registered commercial vehicle (like bus, taxi or goods vehicle), you only need to pay tolls using the Autopass Card, in addition to the relevant permit required for entry to Singapore.
Singapore-registered vehicles

If you drive a Singapore-registered vehicle, you have to pay tolls using the CashCard. Please note that using an Autopass Card that belongs to a foreign-registered vehicle is not allowed.
Only NETS CashCards (for local vehicles) and Autopass cards (for foreign vehicles) are currently accepted for payment at Woodlands and Tuas Checkpoints. 

Singapore Citizens, Permanent Residents, Student Pass Holders & Residents of Singapore 
Singapore citizens, permanent residents (regardless of their place of residence), student pass holders, long term social visit pass holder and residents of Singapore are NOT allowed to use or keep any foreign-registered vehicles in Singapore.


Any work pass holder, who is neither a Singapore Permanent Resident (SPR) nor a resident of Singapore, may drive a foreign-registered car and motorcycle in Singapore only if ALL these conditions are met:
he is the registered owner of the vehicle ;
he resides outside Singapore;
the vehicle is kept or used outside Singapore for a total period of 6 hours or more everyday ;
he has a valid insurance certificate and road tax for the use of the vehicle on Singapore roads ; and
the vehicle has an Autopass Card to validate its entry/exit at Woodlands and Tuas checkpoints and for payment of Vehicle Entry Permit/Toll charges.
Please note that a work pass holder who is also a SPR or resident of Singapore is not allowed to drive a foreign-registered vehicle in Singapore.

Visitors to Singapore 
Visitors driving into Singapore in foreign-registered vehicles must use the Autopass Card to make payment for their VEP fees and/or toll charges and/or ERP charges at either Tuas or Woodlands Checkpoint.
VEP fees are calculated on a daily basis. However, there is no VEP fee charged for Saturdays, Sundays and all Singapore Public Holidays.

Ten VEP-free days
From 1 June 2005, all drivers of foreign registered cars and motorcycles can drive into Singapore for a maximum of 10 days in each calendar year without having to pay VEP fees.
After the 10 VEP free days have been utilized, VEP fees for subsequent days are chargeable if you continue to use or drive your foreign-registered car or motorcycle during VEP operating hours.
Please note that toll charges still apply. Toll charges are calculated on a per trip basis. You have to pay toll charges on arrival and departure at Tuas Checkpoint but only on departure at Woodlands Checkpoint.

Fixed ERP Fee
For drivers of foreign-registered cars with no In-vehicle Unit (IU) in the car currently, you can choose not to install an IU. You can pay a fixed Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) fee if you use ERP-priced roads during ERP operating hours , if you do not have an IU in your car. Pls click here for more information on fixed ERP fee.
Here's a snapshot of some of the things you have to remember, depending on the type of vehicle you drive to enter Singapore:

Foreign-registered cars
and motorcycles
Foreign-registered buses, taxis and goods vehicles Singapore-registered
Use Autopass Card
Use Autopass Card Use CashCard
  • Please note that tolls are charged on both arrival and departure at Tuas Checkpoint and on departure only at Woodlands Checkpoint.

  • Pay entry tolls, where applicable, exit tolls, VEP fees, and/or ERP charges (if applicable) upon departure at both Tuas and Woodlands checkpoints.
  • Pay tolls where applicable on arrival and departure at Tuas Checkpoint and only on departure at Woodlands Checkpoint.

  • Please obtain the relevant permits before entering Singapore.
  • Pay tolls on arrival and departure at Tuas Checkpoint and only on departure at Woodlands Checkpoint.

Last Updated on 15/03/2011

Source: http://www.lta.gov.sg/motoring_matters/motoring_guide_overview.htm