Sunday, January 31, 2010

Claws of The Tiger

Born in the year of the ferocious tiger I am but it does not mean I am immuned from the 'Claws of the Tiger', so says the subject heading.

The 'Tiger' I am referring is the financial institutions, the banks that will resort to anything to make sure their borrowers make good their loan payments. Granted, they have to make sure every step taken is as legal as possible but the immense pressure lashed on borrowers who have inevitably fallen on bad time & struggled to meet payment schedule makes no difference to a typical Ah Long's modus operandi. The only distant difference is banks won't throw paint & write graffiti on wall unlike Ah Long. However, their (the banks) soft approach is equally, if not more deadly. This will inevitably drive desperate one to do the unthinkable, sigh!

Naive enough to trust a friend of mine, I agreed to stand as his guarantor for a S$40,000 loan taken with a co-operative in 1999. This friend used to work for a catering & restaurant company as its GM but he got a tad too ambitious and started to venture on own. Almost everything did not go his way from start, and when it dawned upon me, I found myself entangled in this saga that lasted more than 10 years.

Boy, I was mad...really mad at him for subjecting me into this mess of his and thousand of apologies from him can't change the fact that we, the borrowers and guarantors were at the mercy of the financial institution. Not that I did not have enough problems to settle on my own, I was saddled with another big one due to the good faith for acting as his damned guarantor.

Remainder letter came one after another and then demand letter issued by their legal counsel and finally, the court action when this idiotic friend finally stood us up. I had then moved house, didn't get to receive all these remainders and court documents and court judgment was made without anyone of us making presence. That was too easy for the financial institution, whatever costs they had claimed from us...penalty fee, admin fee, legal fee, court fee, compounded interest and what not, these costs simply added up to unbelievable sum.

I was in dire financial situation, my own travel business failed in 2004 and I was already struggling to meet my own financial obligations, let alone worrying for this idiotic friend of mine. I was prepared to be sued bankrupt but I could not stomach the fact that I was to be made bankrupt by the doing of my idiotic friend who did almost nothing to meet his obligations with the financial institution. Then, I felt like 'killing' him and that hatred for him was too much for me to bear at times.

Common sense prevailed...we began to cool down, met up and re-organised in order to meet our financial obligations to keep these predators at bay, at the very least. Back in Nov 2006, we realised we still owed the financial institution more than S$58,000 despite already paid more than S$42,000 though haphazardly. The original loan sum taken by my idiotic friend was only S$40,000 in 1999.

Monthly payment continued and finally, in Nov 2009, the financial institution decided to up our monthly instalment from S$600 to S$1,000 without giving any valid reason. We decided enough is enough, we will 'beg, steal or borrow' to pay this blood-sucking organisation and wanted nothing to do with them, henceforth.

We did our last computation again and on record, we were owing them about S$42,000. We proposed to their management for a lumpsum payment but 'greed' is probably in their blood, they wanted S$39,000 to close this outstanding. Yes, a meagre S$3,000 'so called' goodwill discount after slowly sucking us dry for more than 10 years. Few appeals were made but each time, it was fallen on deaf ear. In my final resort, I issued a challenge to their management that I will take them to court and to make an issue with MAS and I will fight them to the end. They finally agreed to a full & final settlement of S$37,000 which was reluctantly accepted by us. The money came from me, not my idiotic friend or the other two guarantors who were mere spectators while I sparred with this 'ever-hungry' tiger.

For the record and at last count, we had paid the financial institution a total of S$96,092.35 for an original principal sum of S$40,000 taken in 1999. Finally, on 27 Jan 2010, I am just glad and totally relieved this decade-old matter is finally done and over with. This damned financial institution is Telecoms Credit Co-Operative Ltd, an organisation that sucks to the core. Don't expect me to sing praises for this co-operative, I had enough of their legal threats over the years. Facing them or Ah Long, the pressure was just the same except, one is legal and the other is not. Last but not the least, never never agree to act as is not worth the trouble at all.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Tun Mahathir - Sand For Singapore

The still highly regarded former PM of Malaysia, Tun M by some quarters in Malaysia is insinuating something in this latest posting of his, titled 'Sand For Singapore' or rightly put, pointing his arrow at Singapore (sadly...again).

During his long tenure as the PM of Malaysia, he was the one who decreed ban on selling sand to Singapore and I strongly believe (coming from a layman's perspective), the decision was based on his personal dislike of Singapore than any valid reasons.

I now wonder wrong can it be for one country selling sand to another country solely based on commercial transaction, even for the sole purpose of land reclaimation by the 'land-scarce' country? Isn't it free economy supposed to work this way? Will the so called security from that 'selling country' be compromised or threatened as a result of losing some sand from the abundant supply? If jet engines can be sold by this sand selling country to another country on the sly, is this not considered a gross security breach of the country which can unsettle that country and even the region? Selling sand on the open and selling jet engines on the sly, which poses threat?

Meanwhile, read on the following posting by Dr M...

1. Works Minister Datuk Shaziman Abu Mansor remarked that everyday 500 trucks carry sand from Johor to Singapore. A friend told me that it is not 500. It is 700. That's a lot of sand.

2. I thought we had stopped selling lorry loads of our land to Singapore. But my friend explained that the sand is not sand. It is silica sand.

3. Singapore needs it to make microchips. I don't know how much sand goes into those tiny microchips. Must be a lot if they need 700 truck loads of sand a day.

4. Selling raw materials gives the least return. Better to add value by processing the raw material.

5. Cannot be that difficult to produce silica from silica sand. Glass factories do that (I think) all the time. And we do have glass factories in Malaysia. Why not produce the silicon wafers and sell them to Singapore?

6. I think someone is not telling the truth.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Praying for peace is not enough!

The article below was written by a Malaysian writer, Azly Rahman who is a Muslim but whose pragmatic views on the current situation in Malaysia have earned my praise and of course & deservingly, a posting on my blog too. Read on...

By Azly Rahman

There is a Buddhist lesson in how we ought to perceive Malaysia’s emerging style of terrorism.

When one is bleeding after being shot by an arrow, the first step is not to look for the culprit that shot the arrow and pondering why was it shot but to pull out the arrow from the victim’s body and to quickly put a stop to the bleeding. This is what Siddharta Gautama would teach as crisis intervention.

Malaysians might never know who carried out the series of church bombings, nor what organisations are behind them, and if there is a higher order involved in the long-term planning of terror.

Postmodern debates will be a tedious exercise on whether this or that name of a Universal God can be copyrighted or whether a pastor or an archbishop can be pushed to the ground or physically attacked for using the forbidden name of the Universal God during their sermons.

Malaysians can only speculate if the reign of terror they are entering will lead to more bombings, arson, and even attacks that will take innocent lives away or even, God forbids, people are actually willing to die in the name of religion.

Governments are voted into power to protect citizens so that life, liberty, and the pursuit of basic needs and next, justice and safety and security, and finally self-realisation and civility can be pursued.

What is left in the self-worth of a government when swift action to protect property and people cannot be carried out?

When churches are no longer safe and Christians will live in fear over their right to worship the Universal God they are accustomed to by name – when these are happening, why should peace-loving people of Malaysia of any faith continue to keep the current regime in power?

Buddhist solution

In these last few days of seemingly sectarian violence, Malaysians want to know how trustworthiness is the government in using it’s machinery in making sure that the first order of the day is to be responsible and systematic enough to “pull the arrow out of the bleeding man and to quickly heal him” and next, to prevent more arrows from being shot.

Seemingly this Buddhist solution to a Christian-Muslim dilemma will have to be the logical step the regime will need to take.

In America, the mere receipt of a phone call of a terrorist threat will send the police, the bomb disposal squad, the fire engine, and perhaps a SWAT team to the scene to cordon the place in a “lock-down situation”.

The local government is strong and the police is highly efficient and every step is taken to ensure damage control, to provide both the perception and reality of providing safety and enforcing the law.

The citizens of the municipality or township pays high taxes that pay the salary of the police, the firemen, and also the teachers. As such, they expect their neighborhood to be safe in return. That is one key performance of a civil society.

In America, if there are even talks of one attempting to bomb a mosque, a fleet of patrol cars would be at the scene with helicopters hovering above.

Of course American democracy and the practice of it still has its flaws but in the case of providing assurance that things will be fine, I have seen numerous instances of the efficiency of the law enforcement agency.

Deploy volunteers…

Malaysians must demand that the churches are constantly kept safe and the government must also ensured that the police force will not come up with lame excuses that they are short handed to do the job.

If needed, they should deploy the cadet police, youths trained in the National Service, Rela volunteers, and any citizen watch groups such as the Rukun Tetangga to ensure that terrorists, perhaps paid handsomely, don’t throw Molotov cocktails into houses of worship.

Arrest the terrorists as fast as we can if we claim that our police force is one of the best in the world, and investigate who or what is behind these demonic acts.

We are in a crisis that might be a prelude to something bigger and will have us see our cities burning while Neros amongst us play the fiddle. We cannot allow this magnitude of violence to continue to spread.

We might even one day have, the Universal God forbids, suicide bombers blowing themselves up in our marketplaces or the pasar malam (night markets), if we do not act upon this fast and furiously.

We must stop all rallies that incite hatred and takes action against newspapers that invoke the ghosts of May 13, 1969.

Let our police and other law enforcement agencies be seen in public, patrolling the streets, the kampongs, the churches and other houses of worship – so that the rakyat that voted for this government will at least feel safe.

That was the sense of security Americans felt as the country was healing from the Sept 11, 2001 attacks – when two ‘arrows’ were plunged into the Twin Towers.

The healing process was painful one for Americans but healed they were and a new agency, The Department of Homeland Security, there was.

In Malaysia, what is the worth of a government if I cannot provide all the means necessary to guarantee safety.

Malaysians might as well vote in a new regime – that will not only ensure that no arrows will be shot and healing is in the form of administering holistic and preventive medicine.

That ought to be the solution. We cannot allow demons to rule, nor demolitions to define the democracy we dearly yearn for.