Discovering the Delights of Tanjong Jara in Dungun, Terengganu, Malaysia

Ensconced in Lush Greenery, Tranquil Surroundings and the Zen-like atmosphere of a Semi Rustic, Rural Landscape

Sometime last year, my wife Patricia purchased a 2 night 3-day promotional package from our friendly travel and tour agency, AF Travel. We had intended to go to the YTL luxury resort sometime in early November last year.

However the weather conditions then and the almost daily rains forced us to postpone the drive to Dungun. This state lies on the east coast of peninsula Malaysia and almost 95 percent of its inhabitants are Malays.

We decided to make the leisurely drive to Dungun a two-part journey. Part One was the drive to Kuantan, in Pahang state. Part Two was the drive to Dungun after we had a good night’s sleep at the Vistana Hotel in Kuantan.

Prior to this drive to Kuantan, I had driven to that city on a couple of occasions. It was always a tedious and tiring journey with many trucks and buses clogging the two-lane old highway. This, in turn, slowed traffic considerably as we had to contend with a number of winding trails and uphill climbs. One had to be alert at all times.

Super East Coast Highway

On this occasion, I was somewhat surprised to see a relatively brand new East Coast Highway all the way to Kuantan and even if we so wished to Dungun. We stuck to our plan and made the pleasant drive to Kuantan in my comfortable, sturdy, eighteen-year old, well maintained Toyota Camry. The drive took about three hours in all, including making two brief pit stops for comfort along the way.

The East Coast Highway seems well constructed and we also noticed that the rest stop areas were much better looking, clean and well maintained compared to the ones on the North-South Highway. The other noticeable fact was that there was much less traffic on the way to Dungun from Kuantan and also from Dungun to Karak.

From Kuantan to Dungun there were just a few cars and almost no trucks on the road. From Dungun to Karak too, there was exceptionally light traffic. In short, you could be forgiven for thinking, even if momentarily, that you were the ‘ king of the road ‘.

Kuantan was a Revelation

While in Kuantan, we decided to check out the town in order to get a feel for the place. Kudos to the town’s civic authorities because Kuantan seems a well-planned town, spaced out and it has some excellent directional signs all over the town. This made it easier for us to move around the town with confidence.

Some interesting observations from a city dweller: shops close around 6 pm and there seem to be ample parking spaces. What a surprise. How refreshingly convenient!

People are friendly, kind and helpful. Someone recommended we try a well known western restaurant called La Casa. We found the place easily but were disappointed that the place seemed deserted. This was on a Saturday evening! So much for it being a happening place.

Tanjong Jara Resort

This luxury resort started life as a Terengganu Development Corporation resort. Over time, it changed hands and is today one of the jewels in the YTL luxury collection of top resorts.

The resort is situated a short distance from the estuary of the lovely, clean, beautiful, free-flowing green Dungun River ( aka Sungai Dungun ). This is in stark contrast to that muddy, dirty Klang River in Kuala Lumpur.

Aga Khan Award Winner

The sprawling resort occupies a 17-hectare site of undulating semi-rustic landscape facing the South China Sea. I understand that the basic design motif of the building was replicated from the grand and beautiful 17th-century palaces ( istanas ). These were elegantly crafted wooden palaces of the Malay sultans.

For the courage, the determination and the foresight to discover, successfully adapt and develop an otherwise rapidly disappearing form of traditional architecture and craft, the Tanjong Jara Resort was deservingly recognised internationally and applauded by the jurors of the prestigious Aga Khan Award.

One of the Best Beaches in Malaysia

The resort is blessed with a truly wonderful beach with shimmering light brown sands glistening in the hot noonday sun. This scene was contrasted against a dazzling blue-green South China Sea.

I have only noticed such a truly lovely sight once outside my Accra Hotel room by the beach in Barbados.

The only difference with the famed beaches of Phuket and Bali is that while those beaches are lined for miles by deck chairs and people relaxing on them, this beach was practically deserted!

I guess the visitors were being cautious because swimming in those open waters may be too much of a risk. This is because weather, wind and water conditions can change rapidly.

Nice Mix of Trees and Shrubs

I believe that some serious thinking must have taken place to determine the type of trees and shrubs chosen for the resort. I liked the way the various trees and shrubs were planted all over the resort. It was as though an inspired artist had planned this in minute detail.

I was suitably impressed to see the following trees on the grounds: Angsana, Flame of the Forest, smaller varieties of coconut trees, red palms, royal palms and the majestic Ketapang tree.

Thrown in between all these trees were a variety of interesting shrubs including the mighty Mengkuang. There are also many Bougainvillea plants adding much colour and variety to the landscape. I detected examples of the colourful plant with flowers in pink, magenta, red, purple and orange.

Facilities at the Resort

  1. Restaurants

The place boasts three restaurants i.e. Di Atas ( for breakfast and dinner only ) and The Nelayan ( for lunch ). There is also another place which we decided to skip.

The dishes prepared here are basically Malay, mainly Terengganu cuisine. On arrival for breakfast, you can choose to sit anywhere unless a group has made a booking for its members. For dinner, you are given time to look at a food list – no, not menu but food list to look at the choices and then decide.

You are later approached by one of two resident, friendly and knowledgeable ladies. They are known as the Walking and Talking Chefs – one is called Chef Ann and the other is Chef Maz. Their job is to meet you, discover what catches your fancy in terms of food choices and then make recommendations on styles of Malay cooking.

We were lucky to get Chef Maz who is a genuine ambassador for the resort. Maz was friendly, patient and accommodating. We enjoyed the Malay cuisine especially their famous Nasi Dagang for breakfast.

  1. Mini Istana

The chalet – no, not chalet but mini istana  – that was allocated to us was an impressive structure. It has loads of solid wood on the outside as well as polished timber flooring and even our ceiling was surrounded by lovely wooden panels.

The front section of the mini istana contained twin beds ( very narrow ones ), two writing desks for him and her and even a day bed! The housekeeping staff did put on a mosquito coil each night just as a precaution.

The back section of the mini istana contained twin sinks and facing the sinks a decent sized gleaming bathtub. On both sides of the bathtub, in properly enclosed areas, are a toilet bowl and a shower cubicle. It was a truly majestic experience.

Range of Activities

For guests who need to engage in some activity, there is a range of activities to choose from. There is guided jungle trekking, two tennis courts, two swimming pools, a gym and a spa that focuses on traditional Malay massages.

For those into eco-adventures and day trips, these can be arranged. Diving and other water-related activities are also available. There is, after all, another fascinating world beneath the waves. There are opportunities for outdoor games like Top Spinning, Volleyball and Sepak Takraw.

There are also opportunities to accompany the chef for a visit to the wet market and also a chance to catch a cooking demonstration.  You cannot, however, partake in only one activity – you need to register for both as a package deal! And the cost: RM 270 per person and it is on if there are a minimum of two participants. My wife was only interested in the visit to the wet market. So she opted out of this activity.

She was not disappointed however because I quickly and gallantly volunteered to drive her to the market. We spent about half an hour there and ended up buying some lovely keropok lekor and salt fish. The wet market was a mere ten-minute drive over the scenic bridge that spans the Dungun River.

Quick Facts on Dungun

We also decided to have a quick look around the town. The town has a population of 156,000 inhabitants and there is extremely light traffic in town. It was easy to drive around.

Some parts of the old town near the jetty still retain the old shop houses featuring half brick and half wooden buildings.

And unlike many nut cases in Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya who like to zoom around recklessly on their motorbikes, the residents here are more sensible.  Their motorbikes are used as a means of transport.

There are also opportunities to go bicycling around the place with a guide but there must be a minimum of two participants. And the cost is RM 55 per person. There are even trips organised to see elephants near Lake Kenyir which is a good two-hour drive away. The cost of most activities is unexpectedly quite high.

Ideal Resort for Targeted Travellers

We did not see the need to engage in any organised activity throughout our brief stay. Walking to and from the beach or a restaurant was activity which led to some effort. This activated the sweat glands in our bodies and soon we were drenched. The walks were long and on paved walkways which were not always flat and easy to walk on. One has to be alert and wear the right kind of shoes.

Moreover, I also understand that for more than a month before our arrival, the whole place had not received any rainfall – one of the effects of climate change. None of the restaurants had an air-conditioned section. Dining at the Nelayan Restaurant however was an enjoyable experience because of the constant cool breezes from the South China Sea. This is truly resort living at its best.

Even at Di Atas Restaurant, although we had ceiling fans, I had to request for a stand fan to cool me down. I also noticed a few others making such requests. One of the attractions ( or curses if you like ) of Di Atas Restaurant is that there are four resident peacocks presiding over the place. At odd times these proud birds make loud, irritating sounds which, after a while, can be quite unnerving.

Active and sports-minded Malaysians who do not mind the heat and humidity and others from cold climes will find this resort a unique and unforgettable experience. In addition, the employees at this resort do actually make a huge effort to please.

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Social Ills Need To Be Tackled On A Community Based Approach

 With sensitivity, compassion and empathy

Regular reports and news items in the print media highlight a troubling range of social ills affecting our society.

These social ills seem to rise in frequency and are a disturbing, nationwide phenomenon that apparently keeps pace with rapid urban development taking place all over the country.

Baby dumping, promiscuity, extreme forms of violence against third parties i.e. wives, girlfriends and motorists, bullying / ragging in schools, colleges, universities and military establishments, as well as unbridled rage, uncouth, crude and aggressive language on social media, are just a few of the social ills bedevilling our nation.

In the case of the baby dumping phenomenon, for instance, it is very important to remember that the unfortunate young woman involved isn’t the only party to be blamed. Little attention, if any, has been focused on the man involved. This approach is patently unfair and unjust. If it wants this baby dumping problem to be reduced or solved, our society has to adjust its attitude to the reality.

Suspend Judgement in These Matters

For a start, I would like to appeal to all the parties concerned that can play a positive and helpful role, to first suspend judgement in these matters.

If the parties concerned would like to be effective and in turn be welcomed by the aggrieved individuals, they should get off their high horses and stop issuing silly, sanctimonious statements. It is no wonder therefore that these young women resort to this desperate measure.

In trying to resolve these issues plaguing our society, we should guard against our approaches taking on political or religious overtones!

Local politicians, village heads, school principals and religious leaders, for instance, should focus on playing a caring, positive and enabling role in these matters. They can do this by first being sensitive, kind, compassionate and sincere in their efforts. Deal with the issue in an even-handed manner. Do not focus on apportioning blame because it is much too late in the day for that.

Try A Community-Based Approach

To expect social workers, however professional they may be, to solve these problems in isolation is a stretch too far.  Neither is it possible for well-intentioned officials from residents’ associations, rukun tetangga ( community policing ) sectors or even community service clubs to solve these problems on their own.

As these are a community-related issue(s), these should, therefore, be addressed and resolved via a community-based approach. In trying to resolve these issues plaguing our society, we should guard against our approaches taking on political or religious overtones!  These would be, I dare say, counter-productive.

Diploma in Social Work

I was, therefore, pleasantly surprised and encouraged to recently learn that the Malaysian Association of Social Workers will be launching its 2nd intake for the Diploma in Social Work at a leading college in KL sometime soon.

This practice-based programme is meant for working adults who aspire to obtain entry into professional social work practice at diploma level. I understand that successful completion of this diploma can then lead on to a degree level qualification if the candidate so wishes.

However, being a bona fide professional social worker who takes pride in his/her work will appeal to those who care to make a huge difference to the community.

Young eager school leavers too can also sign up.  Malaysia, I understand, needs more professional social workers.

Essential Qualities of a Professional Social Work

Being a professional social worker, operating at best practice level, is a demanding career. It does not have the prestige, glamour or rewards of high paying and in-demand jobs.

However, being a bona fide professional social worker who takes pride in his/her work will appeal to those who care to make a huge difference to the community. The job calls for certain qualities i.e. intelligence, problem-solving abilities,  dual or triple language communication skills, patience, understanding, empathy and a real desire to contribute to society’s well being.

It is, therefore, in my opinion not just a job but a serious calling.

Let us, therefore, collectively, extend a community based helping hand to these unheralded, professional social workers as they grapple with the problems facing our nation.

We can do no less.

A Leader’s Prayer

Gary Hooser, a former senator and council member from Hawaii was recently given the honour to offer words of ‘ reflection and contemplation ‘ to the Hawaii State Senate.

He spoke briefly and talked about leadership taking many forms.

He encouraged his audience to think about the path of servant leadership.

Gary Hooser followed his brief remarks by reading:

A Leader’s Prayer’
( There is no known attribution for this prayer)

Leadership is hard to define.
Let us be the ones to define it in justice.

Leadership is like a handful of water.
Let us be the people to share it with those that thirst.

Leadership is not about watching and correcting.
Let us remember it is about listening, connecting and acting.

Leadership is not about telling people what to do.
Leadership is about finding out what people want
and then helping them and empowering them to achieve that.

Leadership is less about the love of power
and more about the power of love.

As we continue to move down the path of leadership,
let us learn from and follow in the footsteps of those
servant-leaders that have gone before us.

Let our greatest passion be compassion.
Our greatest strength love.
Our greatest victory the reward of peace.

In leading, let us never fail to follow.
In loving, let us never fail.

This prayer is certainly worthy of reflection and deep contemplation.
( this prayer first appeared in freecatholic808 – 4 February 2018 )

Penang remains a favourite holiday destination for many

Malaysians and Foreigners Alike

I recently returned from yet another holiday spent in Penang, that glorious tropical island. Surprisingly even after numerous family holidays spent along the beaches of Penang, especially the famed Batu Ferringhi beach, my entire family are still enamoured by the island’s many charms.

Looking back over the last sixty years or so, I can still remember my first experience of Penang. It was way back in the early fifties when my late father, Victor Morais was the editor of a newspaper in Ipoh, Perak called the Malaya Tribune. My parents took us for a holiday to Penang in a brand new Austin A40 motor car.

I remember vividly that we stayed for a few days at a then prominent and well patronised two-storey hotel with the quaint name, Springtide Hotel. This hotel was situated along the then famous Tanjong Bungah beach. Today, that beach plays second fiddle to Batu Ferringhi beach.

Springtide Hotel Beckons

Springtide Hotel was unlike our modern hill rise hotels and resorts. It was basically a two-storey bungalow that was converted into a small hotel. It was patronised mostly by British civil servants, planters and tin miners. Most locals then chose to stay with relatives or friends when on holidays because it was much too costly to check into a hotel in those days.

The hotel was able to serve both western as well as Chinese dishes. We normally had a western breakfast of toast, butter /jam, scrambled or half boiled eggs and occasionally some sausages. For our lunch, it was the all-time favourite of nasi goreng ( fried rice ) or sometimes fried seafood noodles, Cantonese style.

The rooms had ceiling fans to cool us and I think we also had nets over the beds to keep out the pesky mosquitoes. It was a different time and a different era but it nevertheless remains a wonderful, cherished memory.

Impressive Park Royal Hotel

On this visit, we took four rooms at the 300 plus rooms, Park Royal Hotel, a 5-star property located along Batu Ferringhi beach. My two daughters and their families had a room each as well as my son. My wife and I took the last room.

As luck would have it, the hotel had just completed a refurbishment exercise. A few years ago, we had stayed at the Park Royal Hotel during another holiday. So it was great to see the hotel looking spick and span and the lobby lounge itself was totally transformed into a modern and spacious lounge. A three-piece band comprising two young female singers and a male musician belted out lively songs during the evenings to entertain the guests in the lobby.

The buffet breakfast at the Cinnamon Asian Restaurant was pretty impressive and there was something for everyone’s taste. There are western, Chinese and even Indian dishes on offer. The waiters and waitresses at this restaurant were on the ball and were quick to attend to our requests with a smile.

The hotel has a large, well-maintained garden with many medium-sized coconut palm trees offering guests lying on deck chairs plenty of shade as cool breezes from the sea blew in periodically. However, it was disappointing to note that a few of the deck chairs were broken! The hotel also has two swimming pools, one with a slide which young children seemed to enjoy. There is also a tennis court and two table tennis tables for those looking for some light and fun work out.

Wall Paintings Adorn Some Buildings

One of the unique attractions in Penang, over the last ten years or so, are the many wall paintings of local scenes, especially children at play, that adorn some buildings in George Town. This trend in Street Art was started by a then little known Lithuanian artist named Ernest Zacharevic.

His paintings are regarded by many as funny, captivating, fascinating and certainly open to interpretation by individual viewers. Later on, a few other foreign street artists added to this effort to make the city even more interesting.

Penang, I suspect, believes in re-inventing itself from time to time and that makes it doubly attractive to visitors. No wonder, it is often referred to as the Pearl of the Orient! And shine the pearl does quite beautifully.

Amazing Penang Hill Railway

A must do for any visitor to the island, with time to spare, is to take a leisurely trip up Penang Hill. The Penang Hill Railway first started operations in 1923. It was then a two section railway. In 2010, a major overhaul was undertaken to improve the level and comfort of service.

In the sixties, when I first travelled up the hill, it was on a wooden train that took about half an hour to reach the top. The trains then had no air-conditioned carriages. After the overhaul, the new funicular trains, one section railway, were smarter looking and  Swiss made, I think. They were much faster but still afforded us lovely, breathtaking views of the hill as we ascended and descended. The new trains are air-conditioned and the one-way journey now takes a mere eight minutes.

Some Suggested Activities on the Hilltop

What do you do when you reach the top?

There are a few options. I have been up the hill thrice in the last seven years. My wife and I always take a ride around the hill in an eco-friendly electric tram that seats maybe four to six passengers.

The half-hour drive around the hill is a most pleasant and enjoyable experience. During the slow drive you pass under a canopy of tall trees affording much shade and you can feel the cool and refreshing air. You can also get fantastic views of George Town from different vantage points along the route. One can also go for leisurely walks or even rent a bicycle and go for a ride if one is so inclined.

To cap the day off before you descend, you can stop by David Brown’s Restaurant for Afternoon English Tea. But do be warned, this place is expensive. There is also a cheaper option, a food court, for those just looking for a drink and some bites.

Exotic Array of Hawker Food

Visitors to the island, who enjoy indulging in exquisite hawker food, can do no better than visiting and dining at some of the world famous hawker stalls in George Town, Penang. I do remember reading about Penang being listed as one of the 10 Best Hawker Food Destinations in the World some time ago.

Then recently, the famous TV personality cum travelling chef, Anthony Bourdain reported that he was going to include some of these Penang hawker foods in a new place that he was going to open in New York. This is true global recognition indeed.

Some Hawker Food Favourites

What are some of these famous hawker foods?

Char Kway Teow, Loh Bah, Hokkien Mee ( Prawn Mee ) and not to be confused with another dish with the same name in Kuala Lumpur called Hokkien Mee. This is noodles cooked over a very hot wok and with the generous use of dark soy sauce. Another winner in Penang is Nasi Kandar. I once attempted this dish in George Town but decided against it after I noticed rats scurrying around the place. This was at one of the more famous outlets!

And finally, there is that famous Assam Laksa from Ayer Itam. However, this is now, in my opinion, not worth the effort. I happened to discover by chance, a very good Assam Laksa in a 5-star hotel, the E & O ( Eastern & Oriental ) once owned by the Sarkies brothers. I enjoyed this dish at Sarkies Corner ( quite misleading actually ) because the restaurant is huge. It also has an outdoor seating area facing the sea.

Reputation Built Over the Years

The international fame and reputation for Penang’s hawker food started way back in the seventies. This was when Adelaide and George Town became ‘ sister cities ‘ after the Prime Minister of South Australia, Don Dunstan and the Chief Minister of Penang, Dr Lim Chong Eu initiated this historic move.

This resulted in a Penang Week or Penang Fortnight in Adelaide on an annual basis. A number of the then well-known hawkers were sent on a mission to Adelaide to introduce the hawker foods and in the process to whet the appetites of South Australians.

This exchange programme… both ways incidentally went on for a number of years. I believe this Penang Week, forty plus years ago, paved the way for George Town’s current culinary fame.

Foreigners Who Visit Penang

Among the foreigners who choose to visit Penang, sometimes on a yearly basis for months at a time, are Germans, Brits, Russians and Australians. The Germans and the Russians choose to escape the cold winter months in sunny Penang.

The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) once had an airbase in Penang for a good number of years. Many of these visiting Australians were once stationed here while with the RAAF. Quite a number were also born in Penang. Mathew Radcliffe Ph.D, the author of the book published in Australia titled ‘ Kampong Australia – The RAAF at Butterworth  ‘ was born in Butterworth. He had served with the RAAF too.

These days many of the visitors are from the PRC. The citizens of this growing middle-class nation now have the money to spend on travel and the luxuries and they do travel extensively. According to some, they are also big spenders. They can sometimes be a little too loud too.

The Incredible Pull of the George Town Festival

I have sometimes visited Penang merely to attend some activities associated with the now famous George Town Festival. The George Town Festival or GTF is an annual month-long celebration of arts, culture, heritage and community. Some may remember that George Town was listed as a Unesco Heritage Site in 2008. GTF venues include historic mansions, landmark streets and arts-related sites like the Penang Performing Arts Centre.

The indefatigable and creative Joe Sidek is the festival director for the hugely successful GTF and he is also responsible for initiating two other fairly well-known festivals i.e. the Butterworth Fringe Festival and the Rainforest Festival.

From time to time, a one day Eurasian Fiesta is organised alongside the GTF and this fiesta is basically a heady mix of typical Eurasian food and music from well known Eurasian musicians and singers…… both past and present. The people behind this fiesta are James Rozzels and Kathleen Rodrigues.

I could go on but this should suffice for now. Penang is too big an attraction to be covered in a single blog post. Hopefully, this sharing has whetted your appetite to get to know this amazing island and its many delights.

 

Ghostwriters offer a real service

For individuals and organisations that have something important to say

Ghostwriting and ghost writers have been around for a long time. Ghostwriting is much more prevalent in the West than in other parts of the world. Why is this so? Many individuals want to leave something tangible behind. They want readers to know that they did not just pass through this life while on planet earth but did in fact make a contribution worth noting. As such, a book detailing their life and service or contribution is a good idea.

Who is a Ghostwriter?

Who exactly is a ghostwriter?  A ghostwriter is an individual of some considerable skill and competence in the field of writing. This individual is hired to author literary or journalistic works, especially articles, position papers, speeches and books. These efforts are then officially credited to another person.

A Professional Fee

A ghostwriter receives a professional fee for the job based on the time and effort spent on the job. To start with he receives a commissioning fee of say 20%, followed by another 30% at the half way stage and the final 50% on completion of the job. This is just a general guide.

I was once offered a ghostwriting job by a fairly well known and titled Malaysian business personality through an intermediary where it was stipulated that the payment would be made only on completion of the job.  Such was the audacity and gall of this cheeky individual.

This offer was flatly rejected. There are far too many con-men, with or without titles, and poor paymasters who are not shy of reneging with all manner of excuses.

Types of Ghostwriting Jobs

I have, however, undertaken a number of ghostwriting jobs for chief executive officers of established companies and presidents of clubs as well as societies. Most of these were to prepare speeches and press releases for these busy people. I have also prepared a few conference and seminar presentations for individuals who needed such assistance. Finally, I also undertook to prepare position papers on critical issues for a professional accountant serving on the council of an international accounting body.

Many well known business gurus, famous politicians and even celebrities turn to ghostwriters to tell their story.

Why Don’t These Individuals Write?

This could be because they do not have the time for it; or alternatively they do not possess the stamina, skill and ability to do so. Recognising this situation for what it is and having the means to pay a proper professional fee for the task at hand, many do turn to competent ghostwriters.

There are a host of famous business gurus, generals who won great wars, celebrities and politicians who have used ghostwriters.

Writing a book is, without doubt, hard work and requires discipline, energy and time to complete the task. This is what Lou Gerstner, chief executive officer of IBM had to say on the matter after he undertook to write the book: ‘ Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance ‘ – I had no idea that it ( writing a book ) would be so hard to do! ‘

Some Famous Personalities Who Used Ghostwriters

There are a host of famous business gurus, generals who won great wars, celebrities and politicians who have used ghostwriters.  Many have openly acknowledged the contribution of these ghostwriters but there are some who have not been so forthcoming.

Here are some famous personalities who have used ghostwriters. Did you know, for instance, that celebrated business guru Stephen Covey worked with Ken Shelton on the book: ‘ The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People?

Likewise, Jack Welch the legendary chief executive of General Electric had the assistance of John Byrne for his book: ‘ Jack – Straight From the Gut’.

And reality TV star of the Apprentice and real estate tycoon, Donald Trump had the service of Tony Schwartz for his book: ‘ Art of the Deal’.

Helping to Tell Their Stories with Expertise

Others who jumped on that bandwagon were Richard Branson in ‘ Losing My Virginity ‘. He had the assistance of Edward Whitley.

General Norm Schwarzkopf of Desert Storm fame had the services of writer, Peter Petre.

Former First Lady and former Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton in her book, ‘ Living History ‘ relied on Maryanne Vollers. Chris Gardner wrote the book: The Pursuit of Happyness ‘ with the kind the assistance of Quincy Troupe.

Even former president Jack Kennedy’s famous book about the courage of eight US senators titled: ‘ Profiles in Courage ‘ is rumoured to have had the assistance of famed writer, Theodore ( Ted ) Sorenson. And it won the coveted 1957 Pulitzer Prize!

Ted Sorenson was one of the many bright individuals who Jack Kennedy brought to the White House during his all too brief tenure as president.

A Malaysian Ghostwriter’s Experience

I know of a Malaysian professional in this niche field who was approached by a US based engineering professional to go over, edit and improve  his technical effort. This was a tough job but this ghostwriter was able to do it to the satisfaction of the client.

It subsequently resulted in another assignment from a different source.

There are many technical and professional individuals who do recognise their limitations in this area. To their credit, these individuals are professional and humble enough to seek this expertise from competent writers.

I do remember assisting a lawyer and a former magistrate who candidly confessed that his writings tended to be far too legalistic. He was open to the idea of learning the basics of good business writing.

Some Reasons to Engage the Services of a Ghostwriter

There are many reasons why one should think of engaging a ghostwriter.

For one, you may wish to capture the life and times of a loved one who means the world to you. You may have in your possession many relevant materials, photographs and documents. However, you have no clue how to go about the task of writing about that individual. This is when you can engage the services of a competent ghostwriter.

In another instance, you may wish to pen a tribute to a respected teacher, mentor or coach who has had a tremendous influence in your life.

Or it could be about a manager or director of a company or the president of a society or club who was truly a cut above the others in terms of managerial leadership and charisma.

In yet other instances, it could be to produce a book or booklet about a much loved club or society on its special anniversary. The list of possibilities is endless.

The important thing here is to meet that ghostwriter initially, discuss the matter in some depth and then get some idea of the time frame, supporting materials and documents that are required. You could also get an idea of the fee involved and the payment schedule. Once these matters are sorted out, you can begin the process.

Important to Honour Your Solemn Commitment

Distinguishing Mark of a Person of Integrity

I recently read a news item in one of the mainstream English language newspapers where it was reported that a staggering 410,500 individuals owe the National Higher Education Fund in Malaysia a whopping RM 6.84 billion.

Of this amount, RM 2.84 billion was from borrowers who had never bothered to repay a cent thus far to the NHEF since the programme was introduced. The report also mentioned that the remaining RM 4.05 billion in arrears is from borrowers who are paying their dues.

Indifferent to their Legal and Moral Obligations

This is shocking news on many fronts.

I am simply appalled by the indifference of these individuals to their legal and moral obligations. In addition, it reveals rather starkly a lack of integrity, the mother of all virtues, in these individuals.

These graduates are not keeping to their part of the bargain when the loan was first offered to these individuals. They seem to shrug off this responsibility with an air of casual indifference.

A reputation takes time to build and if early on in your career, you choose to self destruct in this manner, it is a wholly ill considered move.

In the process, they also inadvertently reveal to current and potential employers that they are not individuals who can be trusted! What a damning indictment!

It Behoves You to Reciprocate

These individuals who have received loans and benefited from higher education as a result, have conveniently forgotten that a much needed loan was offered to them in the first place. When someone or some organisation assists you in your time of need, it behoves you to reciprocate that act.

A loan has to be repaid if one has any principles…………no ifs and buts about that. And when you do not do so, you consciously sully your own reputation. A reputation takes time to build and if early on in your career, you choose to self destruct in this manner, it is a wholly ill considered move.

Extremely Wary of Standing as Guarantors

No wonder many Malaysians are extremely wary of being guarantors when colleagues, relatives and friends approach them. The number of shameless individuals without an ounce of personal dignity, who choose not to repay is very difficult to comprehend.

These individuals approach you with all manner of sob stories and even give you their solemn promise to repay but this is all a scam to deceive you. They have no intention whatsoever of repaying that loan. They had just taken mean advantage of your kindness and goodness of heart.

Therefore, it pays to listen to the great William Shakespeare  (Hamlet) who gave us this advice: Neither a borrower nor a lender be, for loan oft loses both itself and friend, and borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry ‘.

These same individuals, I believe, have not cultivated a ‘ working ‘ conscience ( their conscience is in a comatose state  ) or even a sense of personal pride. Where are the values that they hold to guide them in life, love and career situations?

What Message are These Individuals Sending?

It is imperative that these individuals pay back their loans in a timely manner in order that other deserving candidates too can be considered for such assistance.

What message are these so called graduates sending to NHEF, their families, their employers and society at large by this wilful disregard to honour the terms of that loan agreement?

Revealing Their True Character

Finally, their current employers, regardless of whether they are in the public or private sector, should be alerted to this matter. By this casual and irresponsible disregard for their solemn obligations they have revealed their true character.

It is time we Malaysians get back to the good old fashioned values of yesteryear that have stood the test of time. Your word and your commitment must be taken seriously.

Good to be in the Civil Service?

Another Perspective to this Statement

Recently a reader of a main stream English language newspaper wrote a letter to the editor of that publication extolling the benefits of being in the civil service. His letter when published in the newspaper’s Letters page was titled: Good to be in the civil service.

Pension after Retirement

The main thrust of the writer’s case is that there is a pension to look forward to after retirement. He also cites the case of a friend who resigned from government service to go into business with a like-minded colleague. This business arrangement unfortunately ran into serious problems and the friendship too suffered as a result.

The letter also cautions others to ‘ think twice ‘ before resigning from government service. The writer also mentions that his friend is bitter about the decision he made and wishes that he had thought twice before resigning. Now he is apparently paying the price for that decision by continuing to work even at the age of sixty five because he has no pension.

Another Discerning Look at the Issue

I would like to offer a different perspective to the issue.

As most people are aware, venturing into business is always going to be a risky proposition. The percentage of those who actually succeeded is very small. This is a worldwide phenomenon.

Much too often, individuals go into business without a proper preparation and the necessary due diligence. They are all fired up with their ability to sell or market a product or service and are less likely to listen to sound advice from those in the know.

Civil Service Has Lost Its Lustre

The Malaysian civil service was once one of the best in the region. This was so especially after independence and till the late seventies. Many well qualified candidates chose to be in government service and only opted for the private sector if that was not possible. These civil servants performed at a professional level on a consistent basis and were generally highly regarded.

Over time, many changes took place. The mix of factors, political and otherwise, has to a lot to do with the slow decay and decline in the civil service. Quality candidates these days choose to look for opportunities in the growing private sector. More MNCs are now operating in Malaysia and these companies are on the look out for candidates of calibre.

Prepare to Forego Challenges and Promotions

One friend who left government service in the seventies put it quite bluntly: ‘ To get this pension, one should be willing to forego the challenges and the development of one’ latent potential.

One must also be prepared to forego promotions when less deserving candidates are fast tracked because of other unknown considerations! In addition, in order to get this pension one must endure mind numbing boredom, mediocrity and bureaucracy for years ‘.

In Life, Love and Career Situations There are No Guarantees

Yes, of course, do think twice or even thrice. Once you have made that all important decision, do not ever look back with regret. Instead look forward with confidence. I too was offered this advice by a good friend when he heard that I was contemplating resigning from government service after having put in 19 years.

That friend meant well. However, I chose to go ahead because to me that was a major decision I was prepared to make after all the relevant factors were considered. This is because I truly believe that in life, love and career situations there are no guarantees.

Courage and Confidence come from Within

President Ronald Regan once famously remarked after a space tragedy in the United States: ‘ The world belongs to the brave and the bold ‘. Courage and confidence unfortunately cannot be purchased from the neighbourhood convenience store! These qualities come wholly from within.

Before embarking on that significant and life changing move to the private sector, one must prepare adequately for it by continuous self education…as a life long pursuit and passion. You should also carry out a proper and realistic audit of your strengths and weaknesses and determine if you have what it takes to not only survive but make it in the private sector. There must also be that willingness to ‘ stretch ‘ yourself and the ability to work long hours as well as work smart.

The key to continuing success in the private sector is your ability to give your employer even more value on a consistent basis.

Give Your Employer Even More Value

The key to continuing success in the private sector is your ability to give your employer even more value on a consistent basis. Additionally, it is also your willingness to undertake urgent assignments and projects as required by your employer.

And when you do so willingly and with competence and flair, you will be noticed and recognised in an appropriate manner. And when there are promotions to be made, you will be on the shortlist.

In the private sector, as I discovered, you are measured among other factors, by Key Performance Indicators ( KPIs ). If you meet or exceed these KPIs on a regular and consistent basis, you are quick to be recognised and rewarded.

Deliver Excellent Results on a Consistent Basis

Unlike in the civil service where so much emphasis is placed on your entry level qualifications and you are then placed in a special salary grade, the private sector is focused more on your ability to deliver excellent results on a regular basis.

I am pleased to report that many of my friends and colleagues have made the transition to the private sector with considerable success. A few have, I admit, faltered because they lost focus, grew careless and impatient and subsequently gave up much too soon.

Quick to Recognise and Reward

In my case, I worked for two major international accounting institutes for over 18 years. I certainly enjoyed the challenges that came my way. My bosses here in Malaysia as well as those in London were very supportive throughout my years of service.

So too were the members and students of these international accounting institutes. Both these bodies were also quick to recognise and subsequently reward me with perks, privileges and significant salary increases on a regular basis.

Enjoyed Teaching at La Salle Brickfields

I must admit, however, that I did enjoy teaching at La Salle Secondary School, Brickfields, in Kuala Lumpur for 15 years.

The teaching chores, the camaraderie and the fellowship with teaching colleagues, the wide variety of extra mural activities with students, and the La Sallian traditions and ethos were a real delight.

Relished the Excitement, Professionalism and Satisfaction

What I particularly relished was the excitement, professionalism and satisfaction of embarking on new challenges and worthwhile initiatives while in the private sector. There was none of that repetitive, boring and soul destroying bureaucratic activities on the other side of the fence.

For sure, there were risks to be faced and I had my share too. But in such times, one should remain resolute, flexible and be prepared to think out of the box in facing such situations. It was, for me, an adrenaline rush of a delightful kind.

In short, even after thinking twice, leaving for the private sector was the best career decision of my life. If you can make it in the private sector, managing your finances in the post retirement phase should be a cinch …if you are disciplined. Moreover, it is merely a case of ‘ cutting your coat according to your cloth’.