Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Choicest Rotten Meat (2)

Sex Business Is Booming In Singapore      
By Philip Lim 

SINGAPORE, Friday 4 March 2011 (AFP) - Standing outside a harmless-looking two-storey terrace house, a middle-aged man with a balding pate and wispy white goatee greets people walking by with a constant refrain.

"You want to see my girl? Come in, come in!" he exhorts every man in sight, pointing to skimpily-clad Asian prostitutes waiting in a softly-lit sitting room along a back street in Geylang, Singapore's red-light district.
The tout says more than 50 customers patronise his business daily.

"Our customers are international, anybody can come as long as they can pay," he says, brushing aside a reporter's suggestion that the police might not approve of his operation.

"We're legal!" he scoffs loudly.

Despite its prudish reputation -- the government still bans magazines like Playboy and Penthouse -- Singapore allows prostitution to thrive in strictly designated areas, and Geylang is the largest and most famous.

Brothels operating out of houses -- one calls itself "Heaven on Earth" -- operate in the district alongside budget hotels, sidewalk cafes, community associations and even Buddhist temples.

Despite the presence of legal prostitution, foreign women on short-term visitor passes also ply their trade on the streets and lanes of Geylang, and there seems to be enough business for everyone.

More than a fifth of the island state's population of five million are foreigners, the majority of them blue-collar and manual workers.

And one million tourists a month now visit Singapore thanks to a booming casino industry.
The local sex trade came under the spotlight in June last year when the US State Department downgraded Singapore in its Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report.

The report said some women from China, the Philippines and Thailand were tricked into coming to the city-state with promises of legitimate employment and then coerced into the sex trade after arrival.

Singapore authorities issued an indignant reply, saying their efforts to curb trafficking had not slackened and asking the US government to look at its own immigration record before commenting on other countries' situations.

In Geylang's licensed brothels, customers pay an average of Sg$50 ($38) for sex inside cramped cubicles, according to operators who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Their primary customers are the masses of testosterone-driven guest workers from China, Bangladesh and Southeast Asia.

Business is best on weekends when hordes of foreign men on their day off throng its narrow lanes looking for fun.

Like other businesses in Singapore, the sex trade has clear rules.

Brothels can only hire Malaysian, Thai and Chinese girls between the ages of 21 and 27, said one tout.

Prostitutes are also required to make customers wear condoms and report for monthly medical check-ups, he added.

Streetwalker Dan Dan, a Beijing native who refused to disclose her real name, said an increased presence of plainclothes police was deterring customers from taking up her 100-dollar "guaranteed good" service.

Foreign women like Dan Dan who work freelance in the sex trade and bring customers to motel rooms cannot be arrested unless they are caught offering their services out in the street, or violate immigration and other laws.

For a first offence, Dan Dan faces a fine of up to Sg$1,000 if she is caught soliciting in public, with subsequent convictions carrying higher fines and potential jail terms.

But Dan Dan, who has been working Geylang's alleys since she came to Singapore three months ago, said she was willing to brave the consequences.

"The money's good on busy days," she said.

Local women's rights activist Braema Mathi advocates protection of prostitutes in Singapore and closer regulation of the industry.

"All we want is for the women to be protected and not judge them for the work that they have decided to take on," she told AFP.

"We believe that one of the better ways to protect women is to ensure that they work in licensed brothels, where there is a fee structure and condoms," Mathi added.

"This way the women can be protected from exploitation and from succumbing to diseases."

With a regulated sex industry, Singapore authorities can turn their attention to women forced into prostitution, she said.

"We see more women in the trade and definitely not all of them are willing."

Source: My SinChew - March 4, 2011


The Brothel in Singapore: Karin's True Story of Slavery 
by Amanda Kloer

Traffickers lure victims in a number of ways, but one common technique is to promise a job opportunity, often abroad.  Sometimes, that job turns out to be slavery in the industry the promised job was in, and sometimes that job is forced prostitution.  This is the story of Karin, from the U.S. Department of State Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.
Karin, a young mother of two, was looking for a job in Sri Lanka when a man befriended her and convinced her that she could land a better job in Singapore as a waitress. He arranged and paid for her travel. A Sri Lankan woman met Karin upon arrival in Singapore, confiscated her passport, and took her to a hotel. The woman made it clear that Karin had to submit to prostitution to pay back the money it cost for her to be flown into Singapore. Karin was taken to an open space for sale in the sex market where she joined women from Indonesia, Thailand, India, and China to be inspected and purchased by men from Pakistan, India, China, Indonesia, and Africa. The men would take the women to nearby hotels and rape them. Karin was forced to have sex with an average of 15 men a day. She developed a serious illness and three months after her arrival was arrested by the Singaporean police during a raid on the brothel. She was deported to Sri Lanka.
Sadly, not many stories of trafficking end happily, or even with the victim getting needed services.  Karin's story illustrates the vast work which needs to still be done.

Source: - April 1, 2009

The Choicest Rotten Meat

سُبْحَانَ الَّذِي أَسْرَى بِعَبْدِهِ لَيْلاً مِّنَ الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ إِلَى الْمَسْجِدِ الأَقْصَى الَّذِي بَارَكْنَا حَوْلَهُ لِنُرِيَهُ مِنْ آيَاتِنَا إِنَّهُ هُوَ السَّمِيعُ البَصِيرُ 

"GLORY be to GOD Who made HIS Servant to go by night from the Sacred mosque (Mecca) 
to the Farthest Mosque (Jerusalem) 
Of which 
We have Blessed the Precincts, 
so that We may show to Him some of Our Signs; 
surely HE is the Hearing, the Seeing." 

Al-Qur'an - Surah Al-Isra': 1 


Prophet Muhammad sollallaahu 'alaihi wasallam was ascending the sky with Gabriel 'alaihis salam during Isra' Mi'raj (yesterday was Rejab 27).

He s.a.w. saw those, although in front of them were excellent meats in pots, they chose the putrid and foul ones.
They would eat from the foul and rotten meat, and would not touch the good meat.
Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. asked Gabriel a.s., 

"What is this, O Jibril?"

to which he replied, 

"These are the men from Your community. 
They have excellent, lawful wife at home, but chose unlawful women to spend their nights with.

And the women would leave their excellent, lawful husband, to go and spend their nights with foul men."


Marriage and family life are protected by very strong rules, because every goodness comes through marriage.

"And among HIS Signs is this, 
that HE created you (Adam) from dust,
and then (Hawa' [Eve] from Adam's rib, 
and then his offspring from the semen, and), 
- behold you are human beings scattered!
And among HIS Signs is this, 
that HE created for you wives from among yourselves, 
that you may find repose in them, 
and HE has put between you affection and mercy. 
Verily, in that are indeed signs for a people who reflect. 
And among HIS Signs 
is the creation of the heavens and the earth, 
and the difference of your languages and colours. 
in that are indeed signs for men of sound knowledge." 
Al-Qur'an Surah Ar-Ruum 20 - 22 


Family is the foundation of society.

The peace and security offered by a stable family unit is greatly valued, and seen as essential for the spiritual growth of its members.

Children are priceless treasures.
Living in a harmonious family, they rarely want to leave home before marriage.
Some chose to remain staying with their parents after marriage.

A Muslim girl can never be forced to marry against her will, but her parents can suggest suitable men.
Female, weather single or married, is an individual in her own right.
A marriage dowry is given by the groom to the bride for her own personal use.

She keeps her own family name rather than taking her husband's.

Prophet Muhammad sollallaahu 'alaihi wasallam had said, 

"The most perfect in faith amongst believers 
is he who is best in manner and kindest to his wife."

A Muslim marriage is not a 'sacrament', but just a simple, legal agreement but which is often made complicated by tradition.

Divorce, although not forbidden, is only taken as the last resort as, 

"Enter upon matrimony. but do not divorce your wives, since divorce shakes the very Throne Of GOD."

Yes, divorce between husband and wife shakes the 'Arasy'.
'Arasy is ALLAH S.W.T.'s 'Throne'.

Divorce really, really anger the Creator.
If not, why thus the 'Arasy' is shaken?


The satan Daasim stations itself at doorways.
Whose house upon entry is without salam, Daasim's duty is to cause conflict between household members - men, wives and families.

Those who were and are caught offguard, Daasim triumph when it leads to violence and it won trophy when it results divorces between couples.

Then there is 'Awar, who encourages adultery.


A close friend do not see any wrong in his adulterous way.
He admitted frankly, he has to lead that kind of life, to complete his living.

The wife had encouraged another marriage for him.
But, relationship outside marriage is a thrill beyond expression.
Just like food, he craves varieties!

Why is that so?
The wife had often dream of their home being barged into.
Often she would sense a woman loitering around the lift-landing, or nearer home, at the gate.
Other time, her daughter just tell the mother there's someone near the shoe rack.

The wife did mention what she saw and sense to the husband, but he just refuse any changes made to his life.

When asked to go for counselling, he said, he knows more than the wife knew not. 

“Do as You please in this world, Oh Muhammad, 
But remember, 
You will be accountable for all that You do. 

And live as You please in this world, Oh Muhammad, 
But remember, 
One day, You will taste death. 

And love whom You please in Your life, Oh Muhammad, 
But remember, 
One day, You will part with Your loved one in death.” 
Jibrail a.s. said to the Prophet s.a.w.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Another Phase Of 'Living'

The excavator suddenly stopped when it hit a hard surface.

The road widening project had to be stopped for a few days because the heavy machinery operator was 'suddenly sick and had to be cured'.

The hard object that was hit was a wood that used to cover the body.
Excavation of the graveyard site brought to a halt.

A grandfather claimed the uncorrupted body in the affected grave belonged to his teacher who taught Al-Qur'an reading when he was small.


Nora*, who is currently staying with My Mother, asked if I believe her above story that happened around her area.

She then asked My opinion about her Indonesia's fourth president Gus Dur, to which I replied, since the man is already dead, he is not telling lies to have showed 'himself', unlike us, living beings.
How a person lived his life shows in his death too.

Heavy rain in February this year, had caused earth that covered his dead body to wash away.

His kafan, the white shroud, was exposed, still white as it was, and his whole body still remained intact, although he passed away last December 30, 2009.


Four months before Gus Dur's death, Jakarta was abuzz when it was found August 2, deceased Haji Abdullah Mukminin, a Tangerang, Jakarta resident, his face is as usual.
His body still remain intact, although his hair had whitened.

Even though the area of Batu Ceper, where the body was buried, is known to be swampy, the white cloth that covered his body is as was first buried, but with slight dirt.

There is no indication of decaying or insect bite to the camphor wood that covered the body for 26 years.


In 2007, the place was needed by Tangerang authority for road widening of Jalan Benda, Juru Mudi, and Batu Ceper, along Cianjane River, leading right up to Soekarno Hatta International Airport.

Nothing could be done to An-Najat Musolla and Haji Abdullah Mukminin gravesite, except both places have had to give way.

But work in Batu Ceper, supposed to be in January 2009, was only carried out in August.

Even before the relocation of the body, heavy machineries had been unable to function.
There was delay in the demolishing work on the musola, the praying area, and the relocation of Haji Abdullah Mukminin's body.

Excavators had repeatedly broken down.

Contractors had no other choice except to sit down to seek agreement from the deceased family members.

The praying area, on wakaf land, if brought down, surely will be missed by Haji Abdullah's family, as it was built by Haji Abdullah since the 50s.
The neighbourhood really wanted a place to pray.

The musolla had several times, its area was  extended and reconstructed.
The land, priced at Rp 500,000 / metre, excluding properties on it, but the family of Haji Abdullah refused compensation.

Instead, the family requested authority to rebuilt a new musolla at nearby Juru Mudi area, for locals still be able to perform their prayers.

And, An-Najat Musolla, could only be brought down using hammer and crowbar.
Strictly no heavy machinery allowed.

The cost of relocation of Haji Abdullah's body, however, was borne by his family although authority offered in footing the bill.


The deceased third son, Achmad Fathi, had several times observed relocation of bodies at Karet Bivak Cemetery, in Central Jakarta.

Hence he followed the normal preparation for his father, three containers of water, meant for washing whatever remains of bones of the father before relocation, and nine pieces of woodcuts 70 cm x 30 cm, meant for the bones' segregation.

But the preparation was not used, as his father, born December 16, 1919, buried Oktober 22, 1983, found August 2, 2009, was not only as if just being buried, but gave out aromatic atmosphere all around.

A loud ALLAAHU Akbar was simultaneously exclaimed by those witnessing HIS Greatness.


Suddenly there was a very big crowd gathered at the scene while work was going on.

Thousands gathered at the scene.
From where all these people came from?

No information was given to outsiders, not even the deceased students, as it was supposed to be strictly a family affair, with no more than 20 family members.

The sudden crowd had led to an unusual traffic jam, up to five kilometres away.

The body is now laid to rest in-front of son, Achmad Fathi's house, just 15 metres away from the previous location, with remains of two other family members, wife Maswani who passed away in 1980, and their second son, M Syurur.

The burial site will be extended as there are now, more people came to pay their visit.
The number kept increasing after the news of Haji Abdullah travelled further.


It was in the badminton court size An-Najat Musolla that Haji Abdullah taught his students since the 50s.

He spent his living days learning and teaching.

After five years learning from his teacher, Kiai Mursan, the teacher urged him to go to Mecca, where he later spent seven years studying in Darul Ulum.

His teacher in Mecca, Syekh Yasin, from Padang in West Sumatera, then requested him to return to Indonesia, to start educating society, especially in his area, Batu Ceper, Tangerang.
It was around the time of the Second World War, 1939 to 1945.

Haji Abdullah shared his knowledge from within the compound of his house, in informal meetings, unlike the pesantren ways of today.

Class in An-Najat would start after Magrib till 9pm.
Students would normally spent their nights in the musolla.
Not only spiritual learning, students were also taught about farming in the day.


Then in 1973, Haji Abdullah was requested to head Tangerang's religious court.

Although a Syari'ah court judge, he still rode his bicycle to his working place, 10 km away.

Haji Abdullah passed away in Oktober 22, 1983, due to  kidney failure.

He was buried behind the An-Najat Musolla, as requested.

Although he had built Madrasah Ibtidaiyah Islahuddiniyah in the 70s, but it was the An-Najat Musolla that he was fond of, the beginning of his preaching world.

He then built Al Taqwa and Teachers Foundation, not far from his house.                                                                    
The school is still brimming with students until today.

Al Faatihah

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Pusara Abadi, The Forever Cemetery

A day after "Not Just 'Imam Muda' But Eternal Leader" was published here, my eldest sister called to say my mother wanted to visit Ustaz Taha's graveyard.

Ustaz appeared in my mother's sleep and showed her, his very big white house he is currently in.

Did Ustaz know I mentioned him?
GOD Knows Best.

So on Tuesday, we were at Pusara Abadi, the forever cemetery, at Jalan Bahar in Choa Chu Kang.

On the way there, I was told that the wife of Ustaz Osman Jantan, Ustazah Chik Syed Othman, had just passed away the day before.
Her husband, the late Ustaz Osman Jantan passed away just 2 weeks ago, June 7, at age 74.

I had never used his family's travel service, Hahnemann Travel and Tour, but my father, after his retirement, had several times travel to Mecca with ustaz.
Even my younger brother used Hahnemann's service for His musafir Haj.

I take this opportunity to mention my heartfelt thanks to the late Ustaz Osman Jantan.

His knowledge is blessed and passed on, as I had been using his history book, 'Kisah Khalifah-Khalifah Rasyidin' almost twenty years for my Sunday class. 

I had tried changes to other books, followed the IRK (Islamic Religious Knowledge) syllabus, but found the book by Ustaz Osman Jantan was easily understood by students. 

Not forgetting Ustaz Ahmad Sonhaji Mohamad, who passed away last year, August 12. 
His book, 'Mari Sembahyang', I had been using since small, and used it for the Sunday class too. 

Both men's writings are indeed valuable to the young generation. 

The Prophet Muhammad sollallaahu 'alaihi wasallam taught that 
three things continue to benefit a (believing) person even after death: 

*charity - which he had given (which continues to benefit others), 

*beneficial knowledge - which he had left behind (authored or taught), and 

*supplication (du'a) - on his behalf by a righteous child. 
- Narrated by Sahih Muslim  


Before we went to Ustaz Taha's place, we visited my father's.

My eldest sister asked Putra, the man who cleaned around my father's area, to plant a basil tree on the grave.

We then proceeded to visit Ustaz Taha.

True enough, his resting place is white all around, with basil tree on it.
I was told even on his wife's grave site, Ustazah Enon, who is at the same block as my father, there is also a basil tree.

We had a hard time locating my younger sister, who passed away on November 2003, 16th Ramadhan.
Her grave is somewhere beside the last year's relocation of those from nearby Pusara Aman.

Since she has more neighbours now, we asked Putra's assistance to help locating her place as we will be there again, GOD willing, tomorrow.

Although at the same block with my sister, we had to miss out Ustaz Syed Abdillah Ahmad AlJufri, who passed away January 4, 2003, as it was almost noon, and we have had more sites to go.

It is Ustaz Syed Abdillah's reminder that I hold on strongly until today, to recite the last two verses of Surah Al-Baqarah, whenever we are unable to finish the Qur'an.  

The Messenger Muhammad (sollallaahu 'alaihi wasallam)
believes in what has been sent down to Him from His LORD, 
and (so do) the believers. 
Each one believes in ALLAH, 
HIS Angels, HIS Books, and HIS Messengers. 
They say, 
"We make no distinction between one another 
of HIS Messengers" 
- and they say, "We hear, and we obey. 
(We seek) 
YOUR Forgiveness, our LORD, and to YOU is the return (of all)." 

ALLAH burdens not a person beyond his scope. 
He gets reward for that (good) which he has earned, 
and he is punished for that (evil) which he has earned. 
"Our LORD! 
Punish us not if we forget or fall into error, 
our LORD! 
Lay not on us a burden like that which YOU did lay on those before us; 
our LORD! 
Put not on us a burden greater than we have strength to bear. 
Pardon us and grant us Forgiveness. 
Have Mercy on us. 
YOU are our Protector, and give us victory over the disbelieving people." 
- Al-Qur'an Surah Al-Baqarah (The Cow) 285 - 286


Ustaz Syed Abdillah was once asked his daily surah, to which he replied was Surah Al-Faatihah, Aayatul Qursi and Surah Al-Ikhlas all recited seven times every dawn and dusk.


Around two years after Ustaz Abdillah's passing away, I was talking to a man who is still working part-time, supervising grave diggers, to share with Me, of his most memorable episode while working at the cemetery plot.

Seeing fleeing corpses just after burial with burnt and tattered clothes is a normal sight to him. 
Some fled with raging red fire burning ferociously behind them.

But there was once, even after several alterations made, the grave was always very much bigger than the normal size.
After more exhausted but failed trials, nothing they can do about what GOD wanted it to be.

They finally left the ample site as it was, as the spacious grave belonged to none other than Ustaz Syed Abdillah Ahmad AlJufri.

Even during the jenazah prayer, 5,000 attendees were at the Sultan Mosque.

Though the great teacher had left us eight years ago, but his teaching "here, about the importance of daily prayer" lives on...


While Putra was cleaning my grandmother's site, I asked him to share with me of a site which turned him on.

Yes, it is a site in Block 16, where he usually hear from far, a woman reciting versus from Al-Qur'an.
But he is not too sure in which grave site she really is, although there is luminous light glowing from faraway.

It reminded me of my eldest sister, who was shown a site where a woman, Raja Zubaidah, was buried.

Ayer Gemuruh Cemetery was near Changi, where fishermen in the early 60s and I think the 70s, passed by, on their way to the sea.
It was a usual before dawn hearing of Al-Qur'an recitation from where Raja Zubaidah was buried.
Her body was said to be sleep-like when exhumed.

My eldest brother was at Ayer Gemuruh Cemetery too, when these 'people' were to be relocated around the late 70s or early 80s.
One of the corpses, said to be a rich a woman, had her hair and fingernails entwined her 'body'...

My mother, when she was around 6 or 7 years old, (pre-Japanese occupation, I guess) used to see 'a man sleeping, not dead, in his not covered grave' at Bukit Larangan, Fort Canning Hill.

The 'sleeping man', she claimed, is Sultan Raja Iskandar Shah.
Parameswara? before became a Muslim?.

I had several times went up Fort Canning when I went to the National Library during my schooling days in the 70s, but never did I see 'a sleeping man'.

Even now, several times when weddings took place at Fort Canning Hill, I never missed going to the site.
Maybe one of these days, I'll see 'the sleeping man'?
GOD willing.


My eldest sister wanted basil tree to be planted at my grandmother's site.

Why basil? I asked My Mother.
It is because, she said, basil or selasih is not called selasih to Javanese, its selawat.

But basil is also used in funeral rites and planted on graves in many different cultures.
I'll do my own search till then.


In the mean time, I am still thinking of Siput binti Dolah.

Despite always being portrayed as a cruel woman, Siput binti Dolah, or Siput Sarawak, mother of the famous Anita Sarawak, must be a very good woman at heart during her living days.

Her grave site is just 3 plots away from Ustaz Taha.
Being a very close neighbour to Ustaz Taha, Allahyarhamah Siput binti Dolah is sure guaranteed Ustaz's syafa'ah, his intercession...

My day will come too, for sure.
But can I choose my closest neighbour?


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Of MACS And A Surprising Immigration Officer

"...Tolong tengok autogate MACS, autogate MACS, rosak."

A female immigration officer was calling for s.o.s. at the other end of the line at about 8.30 Tuesday morning, two days ago.
I could not believe what I heard and what I saw as My passport was being verified by another officer sitting at her post in-front of the caller within the working booth.

Then when I looked over at the mentioned autogate, GOD, at least one of the three white elephant autogates at that special lanes set up for MACS holders was finally in operation again.
Wasn't that fantastic?
Two positive incidences in the early morning sure is a good sigh ahead as I was on My way to visit the late Ustaz Taha's graveyard.


The development of Iskandar region led to another development, the Malaysian Automated Clearance System (MACS), developed to cater fast-track immigration clearance for investors.

The system was finally open to all residents from the Island Republic sometime in April 2009, who had earlier been issued with the relevant long term immigration pass and frequent travellers within Malaysia and Singapore.

Authority hopes MACS helps to enhance border integrity with the utilisation of the combination of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) and biometric verification technology.
The authority was confident that this would ease the congestion at both Customs, Immigration and Quarantine in Bukit Chagar and the Second Link.

Thus 100,000 stickers that costs each applicant RM30 for a yearly fee was already prepared for those who were interested in using the MACS.

Even if more Singaporeans apply for the sticker embedded with a RFID chip, clearance at the check point will definitely still flowing smoothly.
It will still expedite clearance at the checkpoints.

Long queues are norm at the checkpoints but timing is crucial for frequent Causeway and 2nd Link daily travellers.

Buntings were put up at strategic locations around the CIQ Bukit Chagar to spread information relating to the system to ensure that more people were aware of the facility.

I was approached and adviced many, many times to take up for it by the immigration officers on duty.

Yes, others, and immigration officers too, wonder although I had already put up in JB close to 30 years, never even once had I applied for permanent residency.
Until today, I do not see the need to apply for it.
But yes, I renew my RM90 Social Visit Pass yearly.

After a few more advise from the immigration officers, I know could not be too stubborn, so the long process of getting one began.
When MACS was first introduced to ordinary frequent travellers, application was only via online.

After several days of failed attempts, I went to see the processing officer at the MACS One Stop Center at the CIQ building in Bukit Chagar, only to be told that the url shown was wrongly printed.

After being provided with the new ones, I was told to apply online again.
Again I could not access the website, as the internet connection and loading was really bad.

For the third time I was told to apply online.
When I told the officer that I almost gave up, then one of them decided to do it on My behalf.
So, I am one of the MACS holder too, since August 2009.

I realised while waiting for My application to be approved, there were many applications from mainland China too.

Honestly, it is good for frequent travellers to apply for MACS, as there will be no more white cards to be filled.
Passport usage will be prolonged too as there is no more entrance and stamp needed.

MACS was supposed to be just touch and go through the checkpoint.

The fast-track facilitation system was supposed to take less than three seconds of users' time to get through the immigration checks.
Users just has to swipe the passport onto a scanner before placing his thumb onto a reader to pass through special entry and exit MACS lanes.

If what was earlier informed, gazetted and printed out was the truth and the truth is honoured, MACS holders are supposed to benefit faster immigration autogate processing.

Alas, at any given time, since the first day I became the user, not all the three autogates were in operation.
But that's quite ok if I trade-in the hassle of no more white cards to be filled.

At least there was one scanner in operation, although it was always the guessing game, guessing which one of the three was usable, as there was never an indication or any notes in place that the autogate or the scanner was down.

Everytime I travelled by Myself, I had to make a wild search for the functioning scanner as officers were never helpful, even if their working station was just beside the all the time down, down, down the special 3 lanes for MACS holders.

There were many times I approached them asking about the 'all the time' down autogates and scanners, to which their reply were usually,  

'dia memang macam gitu.'
So it was like that all the time!!!

But the bunting to remind MACS holders to go to lane 18 was never removed elsewhere although the lanes were never in use for more than a year.

I went back queuing at lanes meant for white card users, sans the white card.
And the officers on duty never once asked why not passed through the designated lanes after all the money spent for the installation of the necessary infrastructure with thumbprint readers.

I wonder if the two companies assigned to administer the autogates are still operational, as  

“Dua syarikat berkenaan adalah Hi-Tech Padu Berhad yang bertanggungjawab dalam kerja penyelenggaraan dan Iris Corporation Bhd. yang mereka perisian sistem itu sudah berjanji untuk melaksanakan tugas mereka dengan baik.
“Malah, mereka juga menyatakan kesanggupan ditamatkan kontrak sekiranya berlaku sebarang masalah pada sistem itu.”

quoted from Utusan, March 3, 2010.

The two companies were given three months for upgrading the country's 125 autogates, including Johor Bahru.


Even after it was reported in Utusan in April 5, 2010 that the number of autogates were added to the already existed at the CIQ building in Bukit Chagar, the MACS autogates remained indifferent. 

"Lapangan Terbang Antarabangsa Changi, Singapura telah dipilih sebagai lapangan terbang terbaik dunia tetapi mereka kalah kepada kita dari segi Jabatan Imigresen.
"Kejayaan ini merupakan hasil usaha berterusan Jabatan Imigresen untuk memberi perkhidmatan terbaik kepada setiap pengguna,"

Well said.


MACS Di Tambak Johor Gagal?
Bangga melalui CIQ Sultan Iskandar yang baru walaupun sudah kelihatan ada kerosakan yang berlaku; jalan berlubang, jalan tidak rata, palang keluli kaunter sudah rebah.
Dari atas jambatan bengkok yang saya banggakan itu sudah kelihatan lampu kereta dari arah Woodlands, sepanjang tambak hingga ke CIQ kita, sangkut tidak bergerak.
Kenapa ia berlaku? Sepatutnya dengan kemudahan berbilion ringgit menggunakan wang rakyat, perkara ini perlu dielakkan.
Ini adalah imej negara, pintu masuk dari selatan yang berjiran dengan negara maju sepatutnya mesti sangat efisien dalam urusannya.
Pagi Sabtu esoknya pukul 6, saya berbual dengan isteri sebelum balik ke Johor Bahru. Saya ceritakan kesesakan yang berlaku malam tadi.
Kata isteri saya, masalahnya ialah kerana ramai yang tidak menggunakan Sistem Kawalan Automasi Keluar Masuk Malaysia (MACS). Isteri saya biasanya menaiki bas ke Johor Bahru, dia diperlukan mengimbas dua jari telunjuk untuk masuk ke Malaysia, perlu tunggu pelekat dicetak dan ditampal pada pasport, itulah punca sesak di tambak dan CIQ Malaysia.
Pagi itu saya mengalami sendiri keadaan ini, berderet kereta di kaunter pemeriksaan. Kelihatan ramai pelawat keluar dari kereta berpendaftaran Singapura untuk mengimbas jari telunjuk mereka, sesak lagi.
Bayangkan jika satu MPV memuatkan tujuh orang (itu yang belum kapasiti 12 orang dan kebanyakan warga Singapura menggunakan MPV), semua kena keluar untuk imbas jari mereka di kaunter yang direka bentuk untuk laluan kereta sahaja.
Bayangkan masa yang diperlukan untuk urusan ini. Betul-betul lambat, rimas dan melecehkan.
Persoalannya? Adakah mereka yang bertanggungjawab dalam mengendalikan sistem ini tidak nampak, ambil ringan dan tidak berfikir dengan fikiran yang logik betapa sistem yang tidak relevan ini semakin membuat Tambak Johor sesak teruk, (walaupun dicanangkan ia hanya mengambil masa 1 minit 20 saat bagi seorang pelawat) mereka seharusnya boleh berfikir kerana mereka bekerja di situ setiap hari.
Tiadakah pegawai peringkat tinggi yang terlibat dapat memberi maklum balas dengan keadaan ini.
Mereka seharusnya tahu, ini adalah laluan pemeriksaan Malaysia-Singapura, dengan pelawat dan trafik kenderaan berpuluh ribu sehari, keadaan pasti berbeza dengan mana-mana CIQ yang lain.
Sepatutnya sistem ini semakin membantu walaupun dikhabarkan sistem ini sangat bagus.
Bagus kalau lambat dan tidak relevan tidak berguna juga.
Itulah yang sepatutnya difikirkan sebelum sistem ini dibeli dan digunakan.
Dipendekkan cerita. Pada saya sebagai pemerhati dan isteri sebagai pelawat, sistem ini adalah gagal dalam memudahkan urusan serta menjadi kritikan sinis dan gelak para pelawat.
Paling yang tidak digemari ia menjejaskan imej negara, itu yang pasti.

Source: Utusan - June 7, 2011


Although the writer above drove his car, and I travelled on public transport, but that was the level of frustration one can have, after billions spent.

Technology and infrastructures already in place were not only fully utilised, not only under used, but not used and not appreciated at all.

Luckily for the recently introduced scanner system, rectification was quick.
Just given the extra extension to the biometric scanners, congestion had been cut, and no more? holding snaking traffic.

****** ****** ******

After alighting from the bus from Singapore, I swerved to the extreme right from the escalator.
I walked straight to the MACS lanes, eager to use the 'reusable at last' scanners when I reached CIQ Bukit Chagar, but had forgotten for a while the way to do it.

After was shown the way to scan My passport by a man, I asked him since when the autogates and the scanners were operational.
He said it was just recently after the much brouhaha at the CIQ.

So, there is always a blessing in disguise.

But he assured Me, things will repeat itself, it's a cycle, a normal cycle.

But I hope lesson has been learnt, and everybody concerned, learnt it well.

Although there were some 12.7 million Singaporeans visited Malaysia last year, with 330,000 day trippers, the 100,000 MACS stickers are yet to be taken up.

To the female immigration officer whom I should have noted down her name, but too shocked seeing her initiative for calling the maintenance, your effort is acknowledged here.

Your calling s.o.s. is much appreciated, and a very BIG THANK YOU for doing your job!  

Monday, June 20, 2011

What's Up, Doc?

26-year-old Mohd Noor Azam Mohd Nazri, of Taman Bunga Raya first went missing on May 3 after a red tudung-clad woman tapped him on his forehead inside a lift in Sultanah Bahiyah Hospital in Alor Setar at 6.30am.

The trainee doctor found himself at the Sungai Petani City Square shopping complex two days later.
His mobile phone and RM500 were missing.

As he was walking to the hospital car park on May 12, the same woman was believed to approach him again.
This time, he found himself at the Kuala Kedah jetty two days later.
He lost his watch and RM300.

After the young doctor went missing on two occasions after being tapped on his forehead by a mysterious young woman clad in a red tudung, he went missing for the third time.
His mother, Natrah Shaari believed that the same woman was behind it.

Dr Mohd Noor Azam turned up for work at the Sultanah Bahiyah Hospital in Kedah on that Tuesday, May 16.
But when his father, Mohd Nazri Wan Senik, came to fetch him in the evening, he was nowhere to be found.

The father tried to contact him but his calls went unanswered.

The father then went to the ward where he was normally on duty but was told that he had not turned up for work that day.

The father was very sure that when he sent him to work earlier that day, the son was fully attired as a houseman.
He had no idea that the son did not report for duty that day.

The Moscow Medical Academy graduate is on a year of housemanship at the hospital since October last year.

Mother of Noor Azam lodged a report at the Kubang Pasu police headquarters.
She was worried that something bad might have happened to him.
She claimed him as a good son.

The doctor was found 26 days later, after security guards at a supermarket in Kuantan, Pahang, caught him for failing to pay his bill.

Dr Mohd Noor Azam Mohd Nazri who went missing from his home in northern Malaysia peninsula Kedah for almost a month, claimed that he had been hypnotised by the mysterious girl in a red tudung before the incident.
He said the same girl had also been responsible for his past two disappearances.
Safe and sound: Dr Mohd Noor is glad to be home with his parents Mohd Nazri Wan Senik and Natrah Shaariat. – Bernama
Dr Mohd Noor remembered the girl's promise to release him on Saturday, June 11, which was the day he was to get engaged.

He was found after security guards at a supermarket in Pahang caught him for failing to pay his food he had had.

When both parents met their son at the Kuantan police station, he was wearing clothes belonging to someone else.

He was carrying a bag which was not his, too.
The doctor was carrying a bag containing, among others, a toothbrush, a comb and hair oil when he was found.

He expressed shock when told that he had been missing for almost a month.

He just heard voices instructing him and he thought he had been missing for four days only.

He arrived to to his senses only after he was stopped by the security guards at the shopping complex in Kuantan.

The 26-year-old claimed to have been approached by the girl, but had no other recollection of what happened to him.
He did not even know how he arrived in Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang.

He just heard voices of instruction.
All he could remember was a familiar voice as he heard before.

His parents were informed that the son had withdrawn money from an ATM machine in Kuantan.

Let These 'Ah Long' Do Their Work

Loan Sharks Listen To Man’s Wife

GEORGE TOWN: A group of loan sharks, in a rare show of diplomacy, sat down with the wife of a man who had borrowed money from them and listened to her side of the story.

The woman, a marketing and sales executive, who only wanted to be known as Lim, said the men were not aggressive towards her and only said they would wait for her husband to return after learning he was not in the country.

She said the loan sharks who came to her apartment in Tanjung Bungah had actually shown some empathy, unlike others she had read about who use ruthless means to get their money back.

Lim, 37, said her husband left her a note on March 1 to say he was leaving for China to start a business there to settle his debts.

She said the Ah Long had told her that her husband had borrowed RM14,000 from them.

She learnt that her husband had initially borrowed RM30,000 from the same people but the amount was settled by his parents.

“I was surprised they understood my situation and told me they would wait for him (Lim's husband) to come back,” she said at a press conference at the MCA public complaints bureau here yesterday.

“All I want is for my husband to return to pay off the debts and the housing loan payments that had not been paid since last October,” she said, adding the apartment was about to be sealed off by the bank.

The bureau's deputy chief Lim Thoon Deong said Lim's husband told him that he needed more time to save up enough money to pay off the debts.

Source: The Star - June 17, 2011


For every RM10,000 that My 2 doors away neighbour Laila* borrowed, before she get the money, RM3,000 will be straight away deducted.
With registration fee of RM25.00, Laila will only receive RM6, 975.

With that capital, Laila rolled to finance her evening food business, and feeding her family.
Every night after closing shop, the money lender will collect some money until the capital of RM10,000 was paid.
The RM3,000 earlier deducted was for the loan interest.

I was initially shocked when Laila detailed me her loan.
Two families sat together discussing ways for them to save on Ah Long interest.

Since the husband had promised to turn over a new leaf, and we wanted the family to save the RM3,000, we came up with fresh capital hoping that their food business, since starting afresh with interest-free capital, will bring greater fortune to the family.

The husband was initially ok, kept his promise, woke up early to go to the market.
Thus they were able to leave their house at 3pm, selling their arrays of dinner varieties of fish, meat, vegetables and their speciality, Laksa Kedah, earlier than usual at Sentosa.
They wrapped up early too, already home before midnight.

Laila had regular customers, mostly Chinese, as she cooked to their likings.
Occasionally I dropped by her working place early, just to see her customers already waiting for her to arrange the cooked food.
She had no problem having her cooking soldout every night.

Things went well initially, and Laila managed to put aside some money with Me when she made part-payment of the capital.
She knew business can flourish to the next level, if her husband manage the time well.

But when good money was rolling in, Laila was ashamed to tell Me that her husband bet more money in his 4D.
Things came back to square when rain never seem to stop and their customers were restricted to eat only at the 5foot way of rows of closed shops, not on closed car park.

Those were the days when she saw money depleting fast.
Even her saving with Me which she intended for her yearly trip up north to Kedah that usually cost her RM3,000 with 7 children tagging along, to visit her in-laws were taken too.

Big brother, Ah Long, came back into the picture.
Unlike the red paint splasher we used to read on papers, these Ah Long would sit and advice Laila on how to keep her family intact.

Yes, these Ah Long are intimidating people, but only to Laila's husband, to make him realise his duty as the head of his family.
He would use harsh words, showed his gangster way in front of Laila's husband and full of threat towards him.

But other than that, the Ah Long would bring gift of health tonic and food for My elderly neighbour, whose house the money lender would occasionally visit.
It was from where he observed that Laila's husband ran his duty.
Funny it may seem, but some men just prefer brutality than compassion.

It was after one of those 'Aidilfitri break some years ago.
After another fresh RM10,000 loan had just been made, Laila's husband sold the house and uprooted his family to Kedah.
The Ah Long was surprised at the silent move, the husband short term thinking for easily giving up good business premise and crowd of customers. 
Regular customers (My Family too), really miss Laila's cooking.

The Ah Long managed to track them, that sent shivers to Laila's husband, who had since become a lorry driver.
The Ah Long reminded the husband that if ever he heard that Laila had difficulties feeding her children because of the husband being lazy, he will not think twice to send men to chop his (Laila's husband) legs off.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Singaporeans In Johor Bahru (2)

Immigration Must Justify Nude Squat Incident

I WRITE in response to the recent “nude squat” incident involving two Singaporean ladies.
As a female, I would like to express my outrage.

I think that it is important for the Home Ministry to answer what the ladies did to deserve such treatment from Malaysian Immigration.

From my own experience, Johor Immigration officers do “skip” checking the passports of those who go through Malaysian Immigration (in or out) by car.

The officers would just ask “Malaysia”? I nod my head and they let me through without checking my passport.

I had experienced this several times while travelling in a Malaysian registered car.

This means that anyone in a Malaysian registered vehicle can run the possibility of going through Immigration check without a valid entry/exit stamp.

In the case of the two Singaporeans, it could possibly be the error of both the women and Malaysian Immigration for failing to ensure that the passports were stamped.

Nevertheless, I do not think that this warrants degrading them, unless the Immigration Department can justify it.

As a Malaysian working in Singapore, I find it embarrassing to defend my own country over such acts.

I have been treated with respect by Singapore Immigration all this time.
I hope that foreigners who come into Malaysia are as well treated. 


Source: The Star - Friday, June 17, 2011 


Immigration director-general Datuk Alias Ahmad said they will be looking into how we can improve on the current standard operating procedures if needed.

Meanwhile, the women would submit their written statements to the Singapore Foreign Ministry (MFA).
MFA would then hand over the statements to the Malaysian High Commission.
The ministry hope this will help the Malaysian investigators come to a quick conclusion.
They will closely monitor the outcome of the official investigation.

Chang, a manager in an insurance company, said she would take legal action, though she had not met a lawyer.
She had been driven to Johor Bahru by her friend, Lim, a property agent, at about 1.30am.

However, Lim said she would let the matter rest after making a formal complaint.
If she wants to sue, she will have to enter Malaysia to go for the hearing, but she does not want to step into Malaysia anymore.

Lim had been driven there before by friends.
But on that fateful early morning, she was driving her new Nissan Latio for the first time into Malaysia, and went through an unmanned immigration lane.

The ladies had unknowingly driven right through the immigration check point when they did not find officials manning the booth, while the gantry was left wide open and showing a green light.
Lim failed to get both their passports stamped by immigration officials.
They made a U-turn on the Causeway to admit their mistake to the officials.

Their nightmare began when they were handcuffed for not having their passports checked at the Causeway.
Immigration officers detained them for several hours at the checkpoint.

They were later brought to the Pekan Nenas detention centre where there were about 50 other people, mostly Filipinos and Indonesians.
They were thrown behind bars, pending investigations to their case.
They were also threatened with a RM$10,000 fine and told to strip off clothings and performed 10 squats after a full body check.

The horror saga ended 48 hours later when they were released after the Deputy Public Prosecutor in charge of the case decided that they should be deported.
They were eventually let off to return to Singapore at 5pm with a stern warning and made to sign a document in Malay that they did not understand.

Superintendent Nazri of the Johor Immigration Authorities said conducting body search sometimes requires detainees to remove their clothing for thorough checks.
They are sometimes strip-searched but squats are not standard procedure.

He added that the Johor Immigration had completed its investigations and has already submitted a report to its headquarters.


Block Off Unmanned Immigration Lanes

I REFER to the the recent incident involving two Singaporean women who drove to Johor Baru recently for supper and were detained overnight by Malaysian immigration officers (“Arrests of Singaporeans done according to law” – The Star, June 15).

Apparently, at the Malaysian immigration side of the Causeway, they drove into a lane that was not manned.

“There wasn’t anyone at the station and the green light was on,” reported one of the women. “I pressed the intercom and couldn’t hear anything because of the static, so I just continued driving when the barrier opened.”

As a frequent traveller on the Causeway, the above scenario is totally palpable as unmanned booths are not gated off nor are the Touch n Go pads deactivated. This allows the barriers to go up once tapped to pay the toll.

It totally defeats all additional security measures currently imposed especially in regards to biometric scanning when this blatantly evident loophole allows any person to circumvent the system.

I have noticed many Malaysian drivers driving through in the same manner as their passports need not be stamped.

On most occasions, only visual inspections of Malaysian passports are done upon entry/exit. As no information is recorded, authorities would not be able to tell if a person has bypassed the normal immigration procedures.

In contrast, the Singaporean authorities block off any immigration booth that is unmanned to avoid such happenings. The toll card readers are also deactivated as they are incorporated into the single immigration booth.

The immigration officer also ensures that the toll is paid and handles any problem/discrepancies with the cardreaders. This actually saves on manpower cost as well as enhancing security.

The immigration officer himself activates the lifting of the security barrier and it does not lift automatically even if the toll is paid. This is unlike the Touch n Go pads at the Johor checkpoint which, it seems, are virtually activated all the time.

I hope this security loophole will be plugged to ensure that our borders are well secured as well as to prevent any genuine visitor from inadvertently being caught on the wrong side of the law by their carelessness or ignorance. 

Johor Baru.

Source: The Star - Thursday, June 16, 2011

Singaporeans In Johor Bahru

Let Suhakam Head Nude Squat Probe 
Patrick Lee 

In another development, two Immigration officials in Johor have been temporarily suspended pending an inquiry into the incident.
KUALA LUMPUR: An inquiry into the Singaporean nude squats should be chaired by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam).

In a letter to Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, three MPs said the inquiry should also comprise Bar Council representatives and MPs, as opposed only to departments under the control of the Home Ministry.

The letter was inked by Independent Tawau MP Chua Soon Bui, DAP-Kota Melaka MP Sim Tong Him and DAP-Batu Gajah MP Fong Po Kuan.

“We have come up with this suggestion because we are of the opinion that the accusation involving these two women is very serious.

“An inquiry comprising Suhakam representatives, Bar Council and MPs will give the public confidence that the investigation is free, fair, transparent and without favour,” they said.

Such an investigation, the MPs added, would maintain good relations between Malaysia and Singapore.

According to a report by the Singapore Straits Times, two Singaporean women in Johor Baru were interrogated by Immigration Department officers before being thrown behind bars.

The duo were then allegedly stripped and forced to perform nude squats. They had since returned to Singapore and vowed never to return to Malaysia.

Following this, the Home Ministry launched an inquiry comprising immigration officials, the police and prison authorities.

According to Bernama, the inquiry would be chaired by the Immigration Department Deputy Director-General Raja Mohd Raja Ismail.

Sim however felt that the decision to appoint Raja Mohd as the head did not reflect the seriousness of the situation.

“This is a serious matter. This not only affects bilateral relations between Malaysia and Singapore, but we have to show to the world that we have intergrity,” he said.

While he thanked Hishammuddin for taking action, Sim however said that a “low-level committee” headed by Raja Mohd was not enough.

The MPs also felt that Immigration Director-General Alias Ahmad’s earlier statement had compromised the upcoming inquiry.

According to a news report, Alias said that a full body check was part of the immigration detention depot’s standing operating procedure. 

Two officers suspended

Meanwhile in another development, Alias revealed today that two Immigration officials in Johor have been temporarily suspended pending an inquiry into the nude squat incident.

A report in the Star stated that the decision was made by the inquiry committee.

“Investigations into the incident started on Thursday and will continue for the next one week,” he was quoted as saying.

He added that the officers have been temporarily suspended until they determine whether the incident was true or not.

“Other than that, we will also be looking on how we can improve on the current standard operating procedures if needed,” he said.

Source: Free Malaysia Today - June 17, 2011


Arrest Of Singaporean Women At Johor Bahru Lawful

The arrests of two Singaporean women at the Sultan Iskandar Immigration check-point in Johor Baharu on June 9 was done according to the law, said Immigration director-general, Alias Ahmad.

He said the women were detained under Section 6(3) of the Immigration Act for attempting to exit the country illegally.

“They were detained by immigration officers on duty at the check-out counter for not having any visit pass or valid entry stamp on their passports,” he said this in a statement today.

He was responding to a posting in MalaysiaKini.Com today which quoted a report by Singapore daily, Lianhe ZaoBao, as saying that the detention of the two women was unlawful.

Alias said that the claim by the two women that there was no supervising officers at the check-in counter to stamp their passports when they came into the country the same day, was not true.

Their passports showed that they had previously entered the country on July 31 2010 and April 6 2010, respectively, he added.

Alias said the investigation papers on the case were referred to the public prosecutor’ office which ordered their deportation the same day. - Bernama

Source: Komuniti Kini - Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Illegal Entry
Translated by Soong Phui Jee

The Immigration's attitude deserves recognition as it has carried out an investigation over the nude squat incident involving two Singaporean women.

Immigration director-general Datuk Alias Ahmad said that the arrests of the two Singaporean women were done according to the law as they had entered the country illegally.

It is indeed true.

Even the women had admitted that they had entered the country without getting their passports stamped. Undoubtedly, it was an legitimate detention since they had entered the country illegally.

However, it is not the point. The immigration investigation has actually missed two important parts.
  1. Under what kind of circumstances did the women enter the country illegally?
  2. Is nude squat legitimate and necessary?
The first question is indeed more important than the second.

I mean, illegal entry is a serious offence. It might be a problem and responsibility of the women or the Immigration.

For example, the women did not sneak into Johor Baru neither by digging a secret tunnel nor swimming across the Strait of Johor.

If they deliberately entered the country illegally, they should not only be detained, but must be prosecuted.

According to the women, they had accidentally entered Johor Baru without getting their passports stamped by driving through an unmanned immigration lane as they thought the biometric fingerprint scanning system has started been implemented.

However, they felt wrong half an hour later and decided to turn back and admit their mistake to officials. Only then, they realised that they had actually entered the country illegally.

It is weird to have an unmanned immigration lane. Moreover, isn't it absurd since the Malaysia-Singapore border is only about a hundred meter long instead of over a thousand miles like the US-Mexico border?

Of course, we must not blindly listen to only what the women said. Therefore, the Immigration must investigate into the incident properly and find out whether they were telling the truth.

The investigation should not be a difficult task. The immigration checkpoints should have a closed circuit television (CCTV) recorders and all they need to do is just replay the tapes.

Or, if the women entered by force, they should have activated the security alarm. There should be a record of it.

Since the Immigration checkpoints play an important role in guarding the country, not only the alarm should be activated, but a heavily armed force, a group of police officers and a helicopter should also be alarmed. They should rushed out and surround the intruders to defend our sacred territory.

However, please don't tell us that there is no CCTV recorder at the immigration checkpoints, nor a security system, not to mention armed forces, police officers and a helicopter.

Is Malaysia so lagging behind? Isn't the checkpoints have just been renovated?

At least, if we follow the standard of 50 years ago, there should be Immigration officers performing their duties at the immigration lanes, right?

The women had indeed entered the country illegally, been detained and asked to perform nude squats. But how about the management of the immigration and accountability of the officers?

Source: My Sin Chew - June 17, 2011

My (Dr Amir Farid Isahak) Sister’s Cancer

The writer recounts how his sister struggled with breast cancer before succumbing to the disease.

THIS is not just another sad cancer story, but the story of the struggles my own sister, Ilani Isahak, went through, fighting her breast cancer for three years until she succumbed to the disease in February this year.
I had written a tribute to her (see, in which I extolled her service to the community and nation, especially her dedication in promoting interfaith harmony.
She died soon after successfully establishing the national interfaith committee, a task entrusted to her by the Cabinet.

Today, I shall focus on the health/medical aspect of her story.
I hope that by sharing her experience, many other women can be helped, not only to fight the cancer, but more importantly, to take steps to detect breast cancer early if it occurs.
There are also lessons that all others can learn.

It would be good if we can also advise women on how to avoid getting breast cancer, but unfortunately, apart from prophylactic mastectomy (ie removal of normal breasts) in high risk women with known mutations of the breast cancer genes, there are no other proven methods of preventing breast cancer.
Learn how to do a breast self examination, and get every breast lump checked by a doctor.
There are known factors that can modify the risk of getting breast cancer.
Studies have shown that obesity (especially post-menopausal weight gain), lack of exercise, late menopause, and HRT (exceeding five years) increase breast cancer risk.

A diet rich in of soy isoflavones (eg genistein, which is known to have anti-breast cancer effects), reduces breast cancer risk.
A nutrient-dense diet made of fruits, veggies, legumes, grains and nuts reduces the risk of all cancers. 

Get every breast lump checked

My sister had Stage 3B (ie advanced) breast cancer at the time of diagnosis.
Some years back, she had a breast lump that caused much anxiety, but turned out to be benign.

So this time, when she noticed another lump on her right breast, she made the mistake of not worrying about it.
She was also wrongly assured by a Traditional Chinese Medicine sinseh, whom she had she trusted over the years, that it was not cancerous, and he had given some treatment to shrink the lump.

It was only when the lump got bigger and became painful that she confided in me.
An examination revealed an obvious lump adherent to the surrounding tissues, which was not a good sign.
I immediately sent her for mammogram, and to the breast surgeon.

Lesson #1 – Every breast lump is cancerous until proven otherwise.
While most lumps are benign, you should seek expert assessment before deciding so.

Although I am supportive of the complementary practitioners’ role in healthcare, there are situations where you should always seek medical confirmation for diagnosis, as in this case.
The doctors will examine and do ultrasound or x-ray mammogram (which detect the physical or morphological changes).

Other available methods include thermography, electrical impedance tomography and laser mammogram (which detect the functional changes caused by cancerous cells).
If necessary, a biopsy will be done. 

Nutrition support is important

Her mammogram was consistent with breast cancer, and biopsy confirmed infiltrating ductal carcinoma.
After much discussion with the family, she decided to follow her doctors’ advice, as well as embark on a nutritional programme.
She had a modified mastectomy, followed by radiotherapy, and six courses of chemotherapy.

She was very disciplined with her nutrition – she reduced meat intake and consumed lots of freshly-made fruit juices.
She also tried several natural remedies that were claimed to be anti-cancer (eg lemon grass), and consumed various nutritional supplements.

So despite the cancer, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy, until the last one month, she actually looked much healthier than she had been in the previous 20 years.
She slimmed down to her ideal weight, had better complexion, and was energetic (until the last six months when the cancer went to her lungs).
She was so well externally that many were surprised how she coped so well with the cancer and chemo.

Lesson #2 – if you have cancer, take care of your nutritional needs.
The body needs nutrients to fight the cancer, and to fight the side-effects of the cancer treatments.
Many cancer patients die of cachexia (extreme malnutrition). 

Recurrent cancers are recalcitrant

But what many probably didn’t know was that she still lost her hair, and her fingernails were blackened after the repeated chemo sessions.
Soon after the initial six courses of chemo and one year of the “smart” drug ended, the cancer came back.

The extremely expensive “smart” drug she was given was trastuzumab, which is a monoclonal antibody that targets the HER2 receptors on the breast cancer cells.

So her oncologist put her again on chemo, plus the “smart” cancer drugs.
But this time, these didn’t work.
A re-examination of her cancer cells then showed that she was not a good candidate for trastuzumab.
The first report had been inaccurate.

Other drugs were then tried, and there was some response, but internally the cancer was encroaching into her rib cage, and onto the lining of the lungs (pleura).

The other drugs she was given included bevacizumab, which is also a monoclonal antibody that prevents new blood vessel formation (anti-angiogenesis), thus preventing new cancer growth.

Back in July 2010, the US FDA had evidence that bevacizumab was not suitable for breast cancer.
In December 2010, the US FDA officially revoked its approval for the use of bevacizumab for breast cancer, saying that it is neither safe nor effective in breast cancer patients.
The available data shows that bevacizumab neither prolonged overall survival nor slowed disease progression sufficiently to outweigh the risk it presents to breast cancer patients.

Lesson #3 – If the cancer patient is not cured after the first course of chemo, she is unlikely to be cured at all.
Cancer cells which are resistant to the first chemo are most likely resistant to further chemo.
Although each subsequent chemo may drastically reduce the number of cancer cells, the tough resistant ones will multiply and manifest their presence soon enough.

Lesson #4 – Before agreeing to expensive drugs, be sure that the lab reports are accurate, and be sure that the drugs are safe and effective as claimed. 

Rapid deterioration of end-stage cancer

Until the last six months of her life, my sister was relatively well, which means she had about two years of reasonably “good quality” life.
Then she started to have chronic coughs.

At first, she still managed to do her normal chores, but she gradually deteriorated, and became breathless easily.
A pleural effusion (fluid in the space covering the lungs) was diagnosed, but the first attempt to drain the fluid failed to relieve her symptoms.

At this time, the family considered bringing her to China to try the latest treatments being done there, as the doctors here could not do anything more to treat her cancer.
Doctors in China are allowed to give treatments which are considered experimental elsewhere, and therefore not available to the public.

Unfortunately, while the planning was being done, her condition got really bad.
Exactly one month before her death, she had to be admitted to the hospital, and had permanent drainage tubes inserted into both sides of the rib cage, and she required the oxygen mask continuously.
The doctors also decided that she could have palliative care only, with no further active treatment.
After one whole month of suffering, she died.

My sister died because the cancer spread to a vital organ – her lungs.
There was copious pleural effusion that repeated and even continuous drainage could not solve.
The effusion meant that her lungs gradually collapsed.

With the reduced oxygen supply, the heart had to work harder, and soon it also succumbed.
Although there were discussions to attempt surgery to seal the pleural cavity (thus preventing the formation of the effusion), by that time, her poor general condition made any major surgery unsafe.

Lesson #5 – If you plan to have treatment overseas, do so when you are still reasonably well, because there will be the added problems of being fit for long-distance travel, and having adequate assistance in a foreign land. 

What about complementary therapy?

Some people asked me why I allowed my own sister to undergo chemo, when I am so critical of it?
The answer is that I never interfere with a patient’s decision.
I only remind them of the facts I know, and that while some cancer patients have recovered through various types of nutritional and complementary therapies, the latter lack sufficient scientific evidence, while chemotherapy is backed by many scientific studies.

What is important is that whatever their decision, they need adequate nutritional support to survive the cancer, and to withstand the chemo.

What about nutritional therapy – since I had written about certain nutritional therapies that had helped some cases?
Well, cancer nutritional therapies are also expensive, and are usually taken by patients who refuse chemo, or only after they have completed chemo (some oncologists also dissuade them from having concurrent therapy as the nutritional therapy may interfere with the chemo).

I have also been asked why didn’t I help her with qigong?
Actually she did learn qigong, but she was too busy to practise it enough to hope for recovery through it.
Those who recovered through qigong did so after intensive and consistent practice (my advice is to start with four hours a day if possible).
Even though recovery is not guaranteed, it is possible.

My only regret is that I didn’t have the opportunity to get her to try herbal medicine, as she was already trying so many things suggested by many people, and adding another therapy would certainly be overdoing it.

In conclusion, both conventional medicine and complementary therapies still do not have satisfactory answers for cancer.
For the sake of the cancer patients (and many more who will get cancer in future), both sides should work together.
A holistic, integrated approach is more likely to enable us to find the elusive solution.

With that in mind, I invite readers to attend the 1st Malaysian International Conference on Holistic Healing for Cancer, to be held in Petaling Jaya on June 18.
It is organised by Cansurvive, a non-profit organisation that provides guidance and support to cancer patients, their families and friends.
Admission is free, but you must pre-register.
Please go to for details. 

Dr Amir Farid Isahak is a medical specialist who practises holistic, aesthetic and anti-ageing medicine. 
He is a qigong master and founder of SuperQigong. 
For further information, e-mail
The views expressed are those of the writer and readers are advised to always consult expert advice before undertaking any changes to their lifestyles. 
The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to the content appearing in this column. 
The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.

Source: The Star - June 12, 2011

Friday, June 17, 2011

What Causes Cancer?


You can reduce your risks of getting cancer if you keep clear of avoidable cancer-triggering factors.

THE big “C” is the single most frightening condition that any woman can imagine in her lifetime.
Every woman wants to prevent it, and avoid ever having to hear the diagnosis from her doctor.

Before you can know how to prevent cancer, you have to know what causes it.
Cancer is a complex disease, as it is not a single condition, and does not have a simple black-and-white cause.

There are many different types of cancer, up to at least 200 types, because they can affect any organ or tissue in the body.
Then, each cancer has its own causes – not all are related, and some are very specific.

So, as you can see, it’s not as simple as putting the blame on one cause.
You need to understand the multifactorial nature of cancer in order to adopt holistic changes to your lifestyle that will help you reduce the risk of cancer. 

The big bad C

Cancer is essentially a disease of the cells, where individual cells become abnormal and multiply out of control.
Cancer can occur in any of the cells in the body, as everything in our body, including our organs, bones, muscles, skin and blood, is made up of millions of tiny cells.

If cancer occurs in the cells of the skin, then the person has skin cancer; if it is in the cells of the breast, then it is breast cancer.

Cancer starts from the genes of one abnormal cell.
In a normal cell, there are genes that control how the cell divides and multiplies – a cell becomes abnormal if those genes are damaged or mutated.
This causes the cell to start multiplying out of control, to form a cancerous (or malignant) tumour.
This tumour may form a lump or a patch of cells that can be seen on a scan.

Every person has a risk of developing cancer, simply because we are made up of cells.
There is nothing that can completely prevent cancers from developing because nature cannot be controlled.

However, there are certain biological, environmental and lifestyle risk factors that increase the likelihood of cell mutations.
These could range from cigarette smoke and asbestos, to certain viruses.

If you reduce these risk factors in your life, you would contribute towards dramatically diminishing the chances of getting cancer.
In other words, don’t give your cells a chance to go bad! 

Cancer triggers

We all know that smoking leads to lung cancer.
This is because cigarettes and cigarette smoke contain cancer-causing substances that are carcinogenic, like benzenes or ammonia.
These carcinogens, which turn cells cancerous, are one of the main causes of cancer.

The longer the duration, and the greater the amount of carcinogens that you are exposed to, the greater your risk of developing cancer.
The most commonly known carcinogens are tobacco smoke (causes cancer of the lung, mouth, throat, oesophagus, bladder and pancreas), asbestos (causes mesothelioma), and radiation from UV rays or radioactive materials.

Certain viruses and bacteria can also lead to cancer.
This doesn’t mean that you can “catch” a cancer the same way you catch a viral influenza.
What happens is that the virus or the bacteria causes cell mutations that lead to cancer.

The hepatitis B and C viruses can increase the risk of liver cancer, while the human papillomavirus (HPV) can lead to abnormalities in the cervical and genital cells that may become cancerous after several years.

There are vaccinations for hepatitis B and HPV, so that can protect yourself from these infections. Furthermore, women should have regular Pap smears to pick up any possible HPV infection and treat it early.

One type of bacteria known to play a role in cancer is Helicobacter pylori, which infects the stomach lining and eventually leads to inflammation and increased risk of cancer.  
H. pylori infection can be treated with antibiotics. 

Lifestyle factors

Some risk factors for cancer are beyond our control.
For instance, age increases the likelihood of cancer, but we cannot stop the hands of time from advancing.
You are more likely to develop cancer the older you get, because the mutations in the cells take a long time to develop and turn into cancerous cells.

When you are older, your body’s immune system is also weaker and less able to resist the development of abnormal cells or repair them.
This is the same reason that certain types of cancer are more likely in people with weakened immune systems, like organ transplant patients who take immunosuppressive medications, people living with HIV and AIDS, or those who have disorders that affect their immunity.

There has been a lot of debate in recent years about whether your diet and physical activity has an impact on cancer development.
Increasingly, scientists are starting to say “yes”, as research shows that certain foods have cancer-protective properties, while others can increase the risk of cancer.

Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that strengthen the body’s immune system and protect it from damage caused by age, the food we eat, and environmental factors.
All the different-coloured fruits and vegetables, such as green broccoli, orange carrots, red cabbage, blueberries and purple eggplant, contain unique compounds that may protect against cancer.

Eating at least five servings of colourful fruits and vegetables every day is the easiest form of defence against cancer and keeps the body generally healthy.

Eating too much of high-fat foods is thought to contribute to the risk of cancer, because it is most likely to cause obesity.
Along with lack of physical activity and overindulgence in alcohol, obesity has a strong link with certain types of cancers, such as colorectal cancer.

Some of my patients have read emails or heard claims that food additives and artificial sweeteners are carcinogenic.
These claims can cause a lot of unnecessary fear in people.
All ingredients in our food products are regulated by the Health Ministry, and these products would not be approved if they were shown to cause cancer.

If you are wary, you can reduce your intake of artificial sweeteners and processed foods, so that you consume mostly natural ingredients.
However, there is no need to be paranoid, as it would take huge amounts of any substance to cause serious harm – and it is rarely possible for a person to consume so much of any product or ingredient. 

Born with cancer?

Some of my patients have asked me whether they have “cancer genes”, because many of their close family members, like their mother, sisters, and aunts, have developed cancer.

Some people may be born with a genetic mutation in their cells that makes them “genetically predisposed” to developing cancer.
However, it doesn’t mean that they will definitely get cancer, just that they are at higher risk because they already have one of several mutations needed for cancer to develop.

One instance of genetic predisposition is the BRCA1 and BRCA2 breast cancer genes, where women who carry one of these genes may be at higher risk of developing breast cancer than women who do not have the gene.
These genes can be identified through genetic testing.

However, all this talk about genetic predisposition can be misleading.
Some women think that just because they have the genes, they are doomed to cancer.
Other women think that just because they do not have the genes, they will not get cancer, so they do not have to do breast self-examination or go for regular medical checkups.

Let me use BRCA as an example again.
Less than 5% of all breast cancer is due to the mutated BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene – which means at least 95% of breast cancer out there is caused by a multitude of other factors, some of which I have described above.

That is the most important take-home message for cancer prevention – there is not one single cause for cancer, but a combination of risk factors and triggers.
There are many things that have to happen before cancer can develop – for instance, whether you have the genetic make-up, have been exposed to carcinogens, how you eat and exercise, and the general state of your health, all of which will have to cause several genetic mutations before cancer develops.

The best advice I can give women is to live healthy, think positively, and always be in control by managing your health.
By reducing all of the risk factors listed above, you are giving your body a fighting chance to keep cancer at bay. 

Datuk Dr Nor Ashikin Mokhtar is a consultant obstetrician & gynaecologist (FRCOG, UK). 
For further information, visit 
The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. 
Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader’s own medical care. 
The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to the content appearing in this column. 
The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.

Source: The Star - Sunday, June 12, 2011