Thursday, December 31, 2009

My Reflections of 2009

1. Apparently the year 2009 began at about 2401 hr on the 1st January 2009 and it is going to end with some celebrations at Dataran Merdeka at about 2359 hr to-night on 31st December 2009. I hope the new year will come as planned!

2. The year 2009 is not that memorable at all to me as there are nothing much to savour and remember except:
a) I didn't enjoy teaching botany and biology very much. The undergraduates and postgraduates were not that ready intellectually to embark on their studies. They didn't read much and they were far from being critical with their science either. I feel the teaching of biology in pre-university curriculum is much to be desired and the teaching of biology in first degree curriculum is no better either.
b) I didn't enjoy supervising the students either. Many expected spoon-speedings and wanted to be told of every things they should do and shouldn't do. I have more difficulties supervising foreign students because of their poor English, poor biology and some of them are too lazy to work. Some of them are excellent though and a joy to have them around. However, in 2009 I have 8 PhD students and 14 MS students to supervise, in addition to three final year students.
c) I have no research grant. The ones I applied for failed to get support from those who evaluated my proposals. Hence I don't have funds to support my students. What a crazy world that a professor emeritus has no research grants!
d) I have not been productive academically. I produced only 3 papers in scientific journals and a dozen of papers in local and international proceedings. However, I helped to edit and write texts for 7 beautiful Coffee table books and edit 2 proceedings for Department of Forestry Peninsular Malaysia and other popular books and proceedings.
e) I did enjoy contributing to the society via WWF Malaysia as Chair, Pulau Banding Foundation as Chair, Orang Utan Island Foundation as a Trustee, Malaysian Timber Certification Council as a Trustee, Academy Science Malaysia as a Fellow etc,
f) I was invited as either a Keynote speaker or a Plenary speaker for 15 conferences, mostly national, some at university level and only one at International level. I enjoyed speaking to the young scientists.

3. Mypersonal health is like a yo-yo, sometimes I feel great and sometimes I feel quite bad and fatigue. My friends thought it was because of my age. I am still taking glucovance for my diabetes and zocol for my cholesterol, in addition to some vitamins and food supplements. I am beginning to sleep earlier than usual but in the day time I could work from 0800 hr to 1830 hr without any complaints. My routine breakfast is still a piece of toast, coffee and warm water, sometimes bananas; my lunch is mostly tosyei and my dinner is anything goes.

4. My children and grandchildren are doing just great. Abe has started teaching at UPM after his reading for his PhD at John Morse University at Liverpool; Awa is enjoying his works at Manchester; Lalan is exhausted drawing plans for others; Tina is progressing well with her PhD works, Hakim is yet to be called by MAS, Yasmin is in her final year at UiTM Melaka and Amir is going to Form 5. Next year i.e. 2010 Ilyas is attending year 1 at Sekolah Section 7 and Sarah is going to a local pre-school.

5. My two sisters Latifah and Safinah in Kelantan are getting healthier than last year and my only brother the Giant Yu is still traveling all over the world as a TV3 photographer. My in-laws, nephews, nieces and other waris are fine too. I hope they continue to be happier and healthier in 2010.

6. The number of cars in the house has increased by two; the petrol bills, water bills, electricity bills, telephone bills and other bills also increased. This is not sustainable and environmentally friendly. We should decrease our foot prints by at least 10%.

7. What are my New Year resolutions? None this year.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Diversity in Banda Aceh

1. After five years I managed to visit Banda Aceh the city that was devastated by Tsunami on 26th December 2004. When I left on the Christmas day the people were preparing to commemorate the disaster by offering prayers and zikir. I also noticed many flags of all colours were erected as part of the commemoration.

2. My friends took me to almost all areas that were hit by the Tsunami and I could observe only the followings:
a) the many mosques that were spared by the big waves. Any damages were already repaired.
b) the many parks erected to educate and commemorate the event
c) the left-over mangroves, many regenerated saplings and only some remnants
d) new houses of various roof colours. Apparently one agency identified its contribution by the colour of the roof; blue roofs built by one agency, red, orange, green roofs were built by other international agencies. The one built by the Turkish Red Crescent bore the Turkish flags.
e) many new and elevated roads that left the houses below prone to floodings
f) two ships, one small and the other a tanker which were grounded kilometers from the sea.
g) Three mass graves

3. The peoples whom I spoke too more or less agreed that Tsunami had brought them new hopes for peace in Acheh Province. There is no more conflicts between the GAM and Indonesian armies that forced Banda Acheh to be under curfew after dusk in years before Tsunami struck.

4. Business florished, new hotels and supermarkets were built and at night there were some traffic jams; things not thought of 10 years ago. In the day times there were less traffics and hence no jams. The drivers loved to sound their horns but I observed no accidents . There were too many Toyotas though.

5. I enjoyed having mee Acheh (though a little hot), nasi goreng Acheh (not much rice but a lot of lauk), ayam tangkap (ayam kamupung fried with curry leaves and green chillies), ayam lepas, gado-gado Acheh, pengat pisang, tempeh garing (thinner than the normal ones), ubi stela (I was suprised they Acheh people used the Kelantanese name), bebek (itik), kopi solong at Ulee Kareeng (cannabis added) and so on

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Quranic Botanical Gardens

1. I've heard of Islamic Botanical Gardens or Islamic Gardens in some countries in the Middle East and Biblical Botanical Gardens or Biblical Gardens in the United States and some European countries. This week I was introduced to Quranic Botanical Gardens

2. On Saturday 19th I attended and presented a paper at the Post-Conference Forum on "The Quranic Botanical Gardens" at one of the hotels in Pulau Pinang. It was organised by Islamic World Academy of Sciences (IAS) and the Centre for Global Sustainability Studies (CGSS), Universiti Sains Malaysia.

3. The concept of Quranic Botanical Gardens has been endorsed by UNESCO in 2006 and the first garden is being planned in Doha since September 2008. The first International Forum on Quranic Botanical Gardens was held in Doha on 2nd March 2009.

4. The Gardens would feature the plant species that are quoted in the Quraan, Sunnah and Hadith, in particular the gardens of Paradise or "Jannat al-Firdaus". There are many verses in the Quraan that described the basic role of water and shade as well as plants, animals, walls, gates and pavillions. In endorsing the concept of Quranic Botanical Gardens, UNESCO stresses that such an effort could achieve important objectives in the environmentl conservation, scientific research. education and recreation.

5. Among the plant species quoted in the Quraan include, Allium cepa (onion), Allium sativum (garlic), Brassica nigra (mustard), Cucumis melo (musk melon), Dryobalanops aromatica (kapur), Lagenaria vulgaris (Bottle gourd), Ficus carica (fig - wat thin), Musa paradisiaca (banana), Ocimum basilicum (basil, selasih), Olea europaea (zaitun), Phoenix dactylifera (tamar), Punica granatum (delima), Salvadora persica )tooth brush tree), Vitis vinifera (anggur), Zingiber oficinale (ginger) and Zizyphus spina-christi (Christ's thorn).

6. What astonished and suprised me were the plants species from our part of the world that made into the Quraan such the banana, kapur, and ginger. My assumptions were that many other plants including the above were introduced by man from our part of the world before the days of Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. as the Quraan was revealed to Prophet Muhammad s.a.w.

7. Among the plant species quoted in the hadith were Acorus calamus (jerangau), Aloe barbadense (aloe), Aquilaria agallocha (karas), Citrullus vulgaris (water melon), Citrus medica (limau purut), Costus speciosus (setawar), Cucurbita pepo (labu), Cuminum cyminum (cumin), Lawsonia inermis (henna, inai), Oryza sativa (padi, beras), Sesamum indicum (gingelly, sesame), and Zingiber zerumbet (wild ginger).

8. Those plant species quoted in the hadith and sunnah did not suprise be as Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. was a known trader in his time.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

On Rafflesia and Rhizanthes

1. With the demise of Dr. Kamarudin Mat- Salleh in October 2009, the Malesian rafflesias expert, we see very little activities in Rafflesiaceae research except

2. Dr. Harry Wiriadinata of Bogor had sent me a manuscript on Rafflesia meijeri, an interesting new species from Sumatera. I've yet to respond to him though. I found this species intersting in having no processi similar to R. rochusenii of Jawa. At first I thought they are conspecific but on a further detailed investigation they differ in pattern of warts on the perigone lobes, filiform ramenta and small in size. This species is named after the late Dr. Willem Meijer, the world's authority on Rafflesia. Some times ago Dr. Jef Veldkamp of Leiden proposed if there is a new species discovered it would be great to name after Dr. Meijer. Now it is done. Congrats Dr. Harry

3. Recently, Shamsul Khamis of Institute of Bioscience, Universiti Putra Malaysia reported the observation of Rafflesia azlanii from the Lenggong area in Perak, a locality parallel in geographical location to Sg. Halong in Teneggor Forest Reserve where the species was first observed. According to Siti Munirah of FRIM and the late Dr. Kamarudin Mat Salleh, R. azlanii is known from Royal Belum State Park and Gerik area, amongst other localities. This new observation by Shamsul is interesting phytogeographically.

4. Ms Donna Jackson is about to write a description of Rhizanthes kamarudinii sp. nov. from Lanjak-Entimau, Sarawak. This species when discovered was thought to be R. lowii a species from Brunei and Sabah. But on detailed observation may prove to be a new species, initially Dr. Kamarudin wanted to call it R. jambulipa, a local name for its bud. However, I suggested to Ms. Donna to name in commemorating the man who had spend many years of his time studying the Rafflesiaceae in South-east Asia.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Diversity Within WWF1Malaysia

1. Last week I attended the WWF staffs retreat at Port Dickson where the staffs from Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak offices came together to discuss the WWF Strategic Plan, amongst other agenda. I met most staffs at the evening show cum dinner and also at the morning session chaired by Sudeep Mohandas.

2. I was personally excited at the way the staffs worked during the sessions and enjoyed themselves from evening to the early hours of the mornings. They worked hard and they thought hard and they expressed their concerns, wishes, anxieties etc by jotting them on big paper spread and pinned them on the wall. In a way they demonstrated their pleasures and displeasures well and democratically.

3. In the evening show I realised what a family WWF Malaysia is. We came from all states including Singapore and the Philippines and we belong to various ethnics. On one evening I was told all staffs came in their sarongs expressing their unity within WWF Malaysia and the next evening they came in their fancy dresses expressing their diversity. I couldn't help by noticing that the Indians came in baju Melayu, the Malays came in their baju Punjabi and Opera Chinese Opera dress, the Chinese came in baju Melayu and baju Bajau and Iban, and the various ethnics of Sarawak and Sabah came in very fantastic attire, glittering to their necks. I called this scene a WWF1Malaysia. And I expressed clearly how I wished our Prime Minister could be among the audience that evening and realised what 1Malaysia means and exudes.

4. As Chair I am terribly happy with the WWF Malaysia family and encouraged them to work harder, especially next year we are going to host the WWF International Conference at Kota Kinabalu. It is going to be a very memorable one as we are going to welcome the new WWF International President and WWF Council.

5. I am particularly impressed with the success stories and asked our CEO to show the tape to the next Board Meeting when we welcome two new trustees. The success stories were of turtles, tigers, forest, marine, governance, education, outreach, networking, public awareness, etc.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

On Phytogeography

1. This morning Datuk Seri C K Lim talked to me about his collection of Trichosanthes emarginata from Krau Wildlife Sanctuary. According to him that species was just described by Rugayah (BO) from Sumatera. This is a good example of floristic affinity between Sumatera and Peninsular Malaysia and I'm sure there are many examples like this.

2. A couple of years ago I described Cissus sumatrana from Gunung Leusser, Sumatera and two years ago Sani Miran collected a similar species from Bukit Labohan, Terengganu. I have wanted to believe that these two species are conspecific, but how could the montane species of Sumatera is distributed to a coastal low hill of Terengganu?

3. Other taxa showed north-south distribution and this is easily understood. Ampelopsis cantoniensis, an Asiatic species is found throughout Peninsular Malaysia; Parthenocissus semicordata, another Asiatic element has been found on Larut hills, Perak and Cissus aristolochiodes, yet another Asiatic species has been found in Kelantan and Terengganu.

4. Tenstroemia magnifica, a species of Borneo has been collected from Bangi forest; Cayratia pterita, a species known from Minadano has been located on Pulau Sipadan, Sabah; Kibatalia macrophylla, a species from Thailand was collected from Pulau Langkawi. There are many more examples of phytogeographic phenomenon to study and understand.

5. In my earlier post, I talked about zoogeography of Kelantanese. For human and other animals it is easier to understand their distribution and dispersal, but the immobile plants (except for their fruits and seeds) it is harder to explain. How could an African mangrove species, Annona glabra been found in Matang, Perak and Mersing, Johor?

6. This is a lesson in biogeography!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

On the diversity of Kelantanese

1. Lately there were Kelantanese bashings. Firstly, when the Kelantan fans were said to damage some chairs at the Bukit Jalil stadium; secondly when Kelantanese went home to celebrate the Hari Raya Haji and caused mad traffic jams; and thirdly there were people creating some political instability in the PAS government. I would like to share some thoughts about who the Kelantaese are and why their behaviour has been misunderstood.

2. These Kelantanese share many things in common among themselves. They speak a great dialect; they love sweet food; they are famous for their budu (fish sauce); they love songket and shadow play; they did many crazy things; they are said to be very religious; they love to fight; they work very hard to survive; they are very competitive; they dominate good schools and universities etc etc

3. There is the royal Kelantanese whose names begin with Tengku. They are the royal households who were said to migrate from Pattani, South Thailand some years ago. When the Tengku married the commoners, we have the Engku and the Tuan. The Raja are also said to be royal in origin but they were not the ruling elites.

3. The Syed who were thought to have brought Islam to Kelantanese via Pattani were reverred as royal too.

4. Then there are the Nik. There two kinds of Nik, the first were the Chinese origin who became the workers and slaves in the royal households then there were the Ni' who originated from Pagar Ruyong in Sumatera who also were the workers and slaves in the palace. Since then they had inter-married among their kinds and also with the commoners and they are very localised in their distribution.

5. There are the Wan whose origin is uncertain for there are Wan all over the country notably in Terengganu, Perak, Negeri Sembilan etc

6. Then there are the Che, whose origin is uncertain too.

7. Then there are the others without the title in front of their names. They are mostly from Pattani. The Javanese came to Kelantan to build the Kampung laut mosque and the Minangkabau came to open rice restaurants. There are Chinese too and many of them had assimilated in the villages. Of course there are also Chinese in towns. Then there are the Siamese especially in Tumpat, Bachok, Jeli, Pasir Mas and Tanah Merah districts. Kelantanese has very few Indians. The Orang Asli or Pangans are the Bateq and Temiars who are found in the districts of Kuala Kerai and Gua Musang. Then of course there are those from other states who made Kelantan their homes.

8. After all there is nothing special about us!

Monday, November 23, 2009

On SCOPUS and Impact Factor

1. Three days ago I met a friend who told me the journal, Tropical Life Science Research (formerly Journal of Bioscience" has been extracted by SCOPUS. I congratulated him and his university.

2. Today I met another friend who thought the demand by the Vice Chancellors of local universities for their staffs to publish their research findings in journals with Impact Factor is over-emphasised. So much so the local journals have been side-lined. After all only two Malaysian journals have IF, one a mathematical journal and the other is the forest science journal. And Malaysia has more than 100 journals, mostly in-house.

3. The surge to get extracted by SCOPUS and SI Thomson has been blown to the levels so unacademic that affect most of the researchers in local universities. If they don't publish they will perish. My friend told me both SCOPUS and SI Thomson are business enterprises. The more we pay attention to these the more they will make money at the expense of the third world universities. THES is also in the same category! The competition to serve THES and other surveys had taken so much academic times and efforts, that could better used for teaching and supervising students.

4. Local universities are supposed to serve the Malaysian communities first and regional communities second, and lastly the global communities. My friend thought we have been serving the global communities at the expense of the Malaysians, and I tend to agree with him. We publish to inform our Malaysian communities not to accumulate personal IF values, though there are scientists who serve themselves.

5. Somebody ought to tell the Vice Chancellors Council of the dungeon we have dug for young academics. The seniors have serve their dues and they are the one who set new rules for the young academics.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Gunung Benom Expedition

1. From 9th-16th November the Academy Science Malaysia and the Department of Wildlife & National Park (PERHILITAN) organised a week-long scientific expedition to Gunung Benom, the 10th highest mountain in Peninsular Malaysia. It is situated at the north-west end of the Krau Wildlife Sanctuary, Pahang. It was cemoniosly declared open on the 10th morning by the Director-General of PERHILITAN.

2. 100 particpants were specially invited but only 86 scientists registered and took part in the expedition together with PERHILITAN annual inventory work. They came from Universiti Sains Malaysia, Universiti Malaya, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Universiti Malaysia Terengganu, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Forest Research Institute Malaysia, Universiti Teknologi MARA, WWF Malaysia and of course PERHILITAN.

3. The fields covered were geology, hydrology, water quality, flora, fauna, sociology and ecotourism potential. The participants were divided into two groups; one group of 23 went to Jeneroh Camp via Jenerih and the rest went to Lata Bujang Camp via Perlok. The former group also consists of 13 who successfully climbed the peak of Gunung Benom.

4. I was informed that in 1965 some scientists went up there to conduct some research projects and among them were the late Dr. T. C. Whitmore, Prof. Emer. Dr. Yong Hoi-Seng, Dr. Lim Boo Liat and several former lecturers from Universiti Malaya.

5. The reports are yet to be presented but from the discussion on the evening of 16th revealed many new finds. The geology of the mountain is granitic, with some patches of mountain peat. The water quality is superb though it rained the whole week. The mountain top was cold and one one day it was bright sunny that those with cameras took many scenic anad panoramic scenes.

6. The small mammals trappings were not good and the scientists blamed the weather. The birds were aplenty, catches of insects were not that good either but the beetles group from Universiti Malaysia were quite pleased with their collections. Herpetofauna group also reported bad catch, however, on gigantic caecilian was brought down.

7. There were at least 2 species of Nepenthes, four species of Rhododendron, Rafflesia cantleyi, Balanophora, many palms and gingers, including Baeckia frutescens, Leptospermum, many Ericaceae and Lauraceae. On the lower altitude there were many dipterocarps and Mr. Kamarudin Salleh of FRIM made a list of more than 300 species of flowering plants along his rounds.

8. The findings will be discussed in a seminar to be organised next year and a proceeding will be published.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Bintang Range - Gunung Inas Expedition

Photo from

1. From 2-6 November more than 100 scientists and foresters gathered at Sungai Sedim Recreation Forest, Kulim, Kedah to participate in the year end scientific expedition organised by Forestry Department Peninsular Malaysia and Forestry Department Kedah. It was officially opened by YB Dato' Wira State Secretary on the morning of 2nd.

2. This morning a group of more than a dozen participants led by muscologist En. Damanhuri tried to scale the Gunung Inas. He was accompanied by the orchid group from Universiti Putra Malaysia and by the forestry group of the same university. We were told half way up there is a place called "Dataran Bunian" literally translated as Concourse of Elves. The forest is stunted and infested by grasses. I got the feeling it is one of those flat-topped peaty forests, like the one on Gunung Chamah, Gunung Gagau and Gunung Keriong.

3. Datuk Seri C K Lim and Qammil Muzzamil reported the observation of an elusive Costus oligophyllus (Costaceae) from Ulu Paip Recreational Forest and also Gunung Inas Forest Reserve. This the third species, other that C. speciosus and C globosus, which was once collected around Taiping-Gunung Hijau area some 60 years ago, recollected by Dr L G Saw from Ulu Langat area in Selangor.

4. Dr. C Y Choong reported the observation of 18 species of odonates on the first day of expedition, 7 species of dragonflies and 11 species of damselflies, including a rare species, Indocnemis orang.

5. En. Damanhuri himself was fascinated by the existence of one Pogonatum sp. which is known from montane habitats on the bolders at about 150 m above sea level.

6. I will report again after the 6th of November when the expedition is closed.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Garderne4s' Bulletin Singapore - A Commemorative volume

1. Yesterday Datuk Seri C K Lim borrowed me the latest copy of Gardens' Bulletin Singapore - A commemorative volume of the 150th Anniversary of the Singapore Botanic Gardens. I didn't realise that Singapore Botanic Gardens is 150 years old now, and remains one of the best botanic gardens in our region. The cover was colourful and the articles inside were excellent.

2. Dr. George Argent reported new species of Rhododendron; Prof. P. S. Ashton on new species of Syzygium and Tristaniopsis; Dr. Barcelona et al. reported a new species of Rafflesia; Hughes et al. on new Begonia; Prof. Iwatsuki et al. on new Fissidens; Prof. Kato & Koi on new species of Podostemonaceae; Dr. R. Kiew on new species of Gesneriaceae; Lee et al. on new species of Nepenthes; Dr. Ian Turner on new species of Alphonsea; Suksathan & Triboun on new species of Impatiens; etc. When I finished reading them my feeling was ...there are still many new taxa lurking in the wild waiting to be collected, decribed and named.

3. What struck me is Rafflesia aurantia from Luzon. I remembered Mr. Co one of the the co-authors showed me the picture of it during the Flora Malesiana Symposium in Manila years ago but the late Prof. Kamaruddin Mat Salleh (KMS), one of the specialists of the genus dismissed it as R. tengku-adlinii. I argued with him how could the Sabah species get dispersed to Luzon or vice versa and furthermore most Rafflesia species have limited range of distribution due to its biology - small population, pollination and seed dispersal. Now justice is done to that species, and the late Prof. KMS is not around to witness it. I also remembered urging Mr. Co to name and publish it.

4. The articles on the deep taxonomy of Gardenia tubifera complex by Low and Prof. K. M. Wong is an excellent example of what taxonomy is all about when comes to species complex. Also the article by Dr. Ian Turner & Dr. Jef Veldkamp on the taxonomic history of Cananga is a must read for students of taxonomy and taxonomists in SEAsia.

5. As a botanist I sincerely feel many of us have not done much justice to our taxonomy for many various and obvious reasons. After all the last count of active taxonomists in Malaysia is not more than 30, though there are many young and budding ones around. I honestly believe the scenario would be different in 10 years time. Speaking for myself, just before I retired in June 2004 I had promised myself to devote much more time and energy to taxonomy and finish my treatment of Vitaceae for Flora Malesiana. More than 5 years gone now and I am not able to do what I had promised, probably I may not be able to realise that at all.

6. What is lacking in this commemorative volume are the contributions from the Singaporeans themselves, after all this is the commemorative volume of Singapore Botanic Gardens, except for the reviews. The neighbours of Singapore had contributed significantly.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Integrated Master Plan for Belum-Temengor : The Synthesis

1. On the 21-22 October more than 100 participants representing the various stake-holders of Belum Temengor Tropical Forest met at Impiana Casuarina Hotel, Ipoh to discuss the concept of Integrated Master Plan for the Belum-Temengor Forest Complex. In my earlier posts I called this proposed plan as the Integrated Management Plan.

2. It was organised by Northern Corridor Implementation Authority, the implementation arm of the Northern Corridor Economic Region, one of the growth corridor initiatives introduced by the former Prime Minister, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. The conference was officially opened by HH The Crown Prince of Perak, Raja Dr. Nazrin Shah Ibni Sultan Azlan Muhibuddin Shah. In HH speech HH reinterated implicitly the importance of having an instrument to manage and conserve the vast area for socio-economic development of Hulu Perak and Perak state in general. The Chief Executive of NCIA, Dato Seri Anuar Zaini emphasized the importance of transparency and consultation in the inception phase of IMP.

3. Two invited international speakers spoke about their experience in managing the ecosystem; Dr. G. Castellija, Director of Conservation WWF International spoke about the experience of 8 nations coming together to agree to look after the Amazon Basin and manage it sustainably and Mr. Robert W Calson from Costa Rica spoke about the development of ecotourism sector based on forest resources in that Central American republic. Both are relevant to what we were dreaming for but on the smaller scale! After all Belum-Temengor area is only about 334,000 ha in area. Belum FR whihc is about 117,000 ha has been gazetted as the Royal Belum State Park and part of the Temengor FR is a production forest, where selective logging is going on at the moment.

4. The local scenario was provided by Prof. Datuk Khaw Lake Tee from Universiti Malaya on the aspect of legislations, policies and laws involved in protecting area such as the Belum-Temengor Tropical Forest. She argued on the salient conflict between the Federal lists, State lists and Concurrent lists of legislations. Dr. Hari from UNDP spoke on the economy of conservation similar to pay per view concept. Mr. Wan Hanafi Wan Mat EPU spoke on the infrastructure development and Dr. Dolbani Mijan JPBD Perak spoke on state plans for Hulu Perak.

5. Then the participants broke into 6 group for discussion and after 2 hours each facilitator summarised the thoughts of the group consensus. Tan Sri Dr Salleh Mohd Noor MNS & ASM spoke on the need to review the policies and legislations, and looking at the aspects of governance Planning. Dr. Loh Chi Leong ED-MNS spoke on the porosity of security in the area & the weak enforcement therin. Dr. Noor Azlin Yahaya of FRIM spoke on the ways to promote and market sustainable ecotourism. Dato' Dr. Dino Sharma CEO-WWF on the aspect of self-sustainability of the area. Dato Shaharuddin Mohd Ismail UKM spoke on organisational structure and I did speak on the past research works & on the importance of research to generate data and information for the development of socio-economic development such as ecotourism.

6. Before the closing ceremony the moderator and convenor Dato Seri Anuar Zaini promised to undertake the preparation of IMP as recommended by the participants through consultative methods with the stake-holders. An ad-hoc small group is set-up to oversee the preparative phase. In closing the conference the Menteri Besar of Perak promised to ensure that the IMP is prepared for the state.

7. To put bluntly I, on behalf of the participants wish to put on records that for all the works in the last 10 years as inputted by MNS, WWF Malaysia. Pulau Banding Foundation and other agencies and individuals, would like to pray that NCIA under the leadership of Dato Seri Anuar Zaini and the state government under the leadership of Dato' Seri Dr. Zambry, once and for all will make our wishes and dreams come true for the sake of Belum-Temengor Rainforest and its biodiversity both in the terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Prof. Dr. Kamarudin Mat Salleh : In Memoriam

1. On Saturday 10th October 2009 Prof. Dr. Kamarudin Mat Salleh, after suffering from cancer for about a year, died at his home on Jalan 9 Taman Sri Jeluk, Kajang, about 6.50 pm that evening. He left a wife, Azizah and six children, three boys and three girls.

2. He was my former student. I plucked him from obscurity at the Jalan Pantai Baru Campus when he was in 2nd year by asking him to quit his activities in students society and concentrated on his studies, which he did. In the 4th year he completed an honours project under supervision on "the ethnobotany of Simaroubaceae", which had prompted him to finish a book on "Tumbuhan Ubatan Malaysia 2002". Hailed from a rural family of kampung Tepi Sungai, Tanah Merah, Kelantan, he was not bright student but a very hardworking one. It is on the basis of his hardwork attitude that I recommended to Charlie, then Dean of UKMSabah, to take him as a tutor. He was sent to University of Aberdeen to read his MS in chemotaxonomy of Annonaceae under Dr. Chris Wilcox, and subsequently to University of Michigan to read for his PhD in the taxonomy of Annonaceae.

3. He was my mentee. Upon returning to UKMSabah, we kept in touch because we shared a common interest in the taxonomy of Malesian plants and ethnobotany. When UKMSabah was about to be dismantled, I asked him to return to Bangi. Soon he was promoted to Associate Professor. We began our taxonomic journey into the biology and taxonomy of Rafflesia, and we co-authored Rafflesia tengku-adlinii, a small species endemic to Sabah. Though we argued a lot on the taxonomy, we remained as taxonomic comrades, and acknowledged me as his mentor.

4. He was my friend. Though we differ in age, he was 51 when he died and I am just past 61, we respected each other as colleague. He always featured in my research group, we shared many courses and we also co-supervised students. When he was promoted to professor, I asked him to stay away a bit from my shadow because I strongly believed as my understudy and successor in taxonomy, he should be on his own. He should be Prof. Dr. Kamarudin Mat Salleh, and not a former student and a mentee of mine. Some friends interpreted this as my attempt to divorce him.

5. He was fondly remembered as an emotional researcher whose "families" are Annonaceae and Rafflesiaceae, a professor who wanted to convert many students to join his families; who loved to talk about computer, facebook, photography and cameras, blogs, flickers and spin etc. He loved writing messages in UKM email network, some times created animosity amongst some. I missed him so much. May his soul be among the chosen believers.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

UKM slides down a bit

1. In to-day's STAR the details of the THE-QS World University Rankings were published. This year UKM was placed at the low 291 position oiut of the total 2,175 universities. It is not that bad considering many other universities were placed lower. However, the Minister of Higher Education and the VCs were thinking of braeking into the 200 and ultimately the 100.

2. It is not impossible considering the National University of Singapore is placed at number 30, Kyoto University at 25 and the University of Tokyo at 22, among the Asian universities. Of course there are those in India, China, South Korea are also in the top 200.

3.QS Intelligent Unit Head Mr. Ben Sowter stated that one of the key indicators is the greater proportion of international students. I have observed that at least in the USM, UM, UPM and UKM there are already too many international students, especially from the Arab countries, Iran and Indonesia. One way to ensure greater proportion of international students especially from the African and South American, European countries and Indian subcontinents is to make available to them some research grants. At least at UKM I have observed that many professors found it hard to recruit international students because of the unavailability of endowment grants. I realised many European and American universities have such a grant for their international students to carry their research outside Europe and US

4. The recruiter review (10%). There have been some bias on the parts of recruiters local or otherwise of UKM graduates because of the old perception that they couln't talk and converse in English. This is a misconception of the highest level because UKM is established to elevate the teaching in Bahasa Malaysia. This criteria is a bit difficult to achieve, though once again I use the terms not impossible.

5. International faculty ratio (5%). Yes, the number of international students increase but not the international faculty number hence the ratio. At least in my faculty, the Faculty of Science & Technology there are too few international faculties. One of the reasons is of course the renumeration is not compettitive at all, compared to those in NUS; the infra-structure especially the labs are below international standard and the support system is almost non-existence, to exaggerate a bit.

6. International student ratio (5%). UKM promised to increase the post-graduates and decrease the intake of the pre-graduate students. However, the demands for university places is on the increase every year.

7. Student faculty ratio (20%). As I observed in UKM the number of students, post-graduates and pre-graduates is on the increase but the number of faculty members is almost stagnant. We are lucky the retired professors stayed back, as they, like me, don't have other places to go except to beg for a new contract. The reason for non-recruitment of new faculty is the salary is too low and not competitive and the responsibilities of lecturer are increased by almost 60%, especially with those of non-academic domain like doing documents of ISO, MQF and the likes.

8. Citation per faculty (20%). This is a perrenial problem faced by the faculty since I first started teaching at UKM in December 1978. There were those who were prolific lecturers and reserachers and they published many articles in reputed journals every year but there are too many of us who didn't publish an article per year at all, they are 100% lecturers. When I was in the Dean's office I remember less than 10 faculties per school (Pusat pengajian) who had to shoulder the others. There were many initiatives introduced by the university to enhance this phenomenon but failed.

9. Peer review (40%). Most of us in the appropriate professions were the Alma Mater of Universiti Malaya and we have certain loyalty to it, though the past and present authorities didn't recognise this. I have never been invited back to UM for a cup of coffee to remind myself that I am an alumnus of UM. I bet many peers have a softer spots for UM than any other local universities, but this criteria is going to change in the next 5 years as the alumni of other universities would become peers.

10. UKM is also featured in the Arts and Humanities at number 238, in the Social Sciences UKM is at number 203, and UKM doesn't feature well enough in the Life Sciences & Biomedicines, Natural Sciences and Engineering and Information Technology.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

On the Varsity & THES-Qs World University Ranking

1. In the Star of Thursday 8th October and NST Friday 9th October there were reports of the much awaitedTimes Higher Education-QS World University rankings. The VC of Universiti Malaya, my alma mater was happy because UM has jumped from #230 to #180, a leap of 50 steps. Except for Universiti Teknologi Malaysia which improved by 36 steps, the other big three suffered a bit.

2. When I was a university student (1969-1978) I have never heard of such a topic being discussed by my professors, though I knew Universiti Malaya and University of Reading were among the best in the world at least in my chosen field of study. When I was a lecturer myself at the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (1979-now), it is only in the last five years that we pay some attention to this exercise of ranking universities in the world and Asia.

3. As expected the long established universities in US and UK stayed in the top 10. However in Asia, University of Tokyo, University of Kyoto and the National University of Singapore featured among the best 30 in the world.

4. All the top 5 universities in Malaysia are quite similar in history except Universiti Malaya which is the oldest, the others are about 40 years. As a 40-year old university it is expected to be macho, handsome, secured, confident matured and competitive, but as I grew and aged within the academia, I can't help but felt sorry for our universities for a couple of reasons.

5. All universities have been treated like a secondary schools by the ministry, everyday professors have to clock-in and clock-out, take the attendance during lectures, prepare ISO documents like a factory etc. There were too many unnecessary chores and routine that we have to do and the professors at Harvard, Yale, Cambridge and Oxford never did in their life times! In addition the VCs and DVCs are appointed, at least some, via political whims and fancies. These people are not among the top academicians in their own universities.

6. Among the criteria that Malaysian universities didnot feature well enough are (a) inadequate publications in top journals in various chosen disciplines (b) the number of international students especially from Europe and other developed countries. We have been receiving post-graduate students from Indonesia and Middle East countries and northern Africa (c) inadequate R & D funds, not that we have no funds, but the funds were not systematically chanelled to research in competitive areas, (d) inadequate freedom given to university professors to innovate and excell and (e) the graduates produced via a 3-year students are just short of becoming competitive force of labours for the private markets.

7. I am happy for Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia for maintaining the 2nd stop beihind my alma mater, but at # 291 does not reflect the true picture of the sweat and tears we put in daily, weekly and monthly in teaching, supervising, researching, publication and community services. I hope in 2010 we shall improve.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Mangrove Biodiversity and Audit

1. In the RM9 the government via the Economic Planning Unit (EPU) paid special tribute to the environmental audit and biodiversity in its 5-year plan. We the scientists have been asking for the intregration of the value of the environment and biodiversity in the auditing review for years because we believed biodiversity has economic value and this must be reflected in the national audit.

2. The ecosystem or community biodiversity has been giving us free services via the provision of clean air and water; the mangroves have been filtering many toxic substances from the lands into the sea and vice versa; the forests have been mitigating climate change by fixing and storing carbon, in addition to providing timbers and non-timber products. The beautiful landscapes have been the attraction for ecotourism promotion.

3. The species biodiversity also have been giving us free foods and other benefits. The beautiful and iconic species have been giving us some economic benefits from ecotourism too. At least there were people who paid some money to watch the blooming rafflesias, orang utan, proboscis monkeys and hornbills. Many semi-wild fruit tree species have been providing us with some exotic fruits.

4. The genetic biodiversity is yet to give us economic benefits because our scientists have not been doing the animal and plant breeding very much, possibly the orchids are the exceptions.

5. On Tuesday 7th October I gave a 2-hour lecture to the auditors of Malaysia and Indonesia at the Sutera Harbour Hotel, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. The auditors from these two countries met to discuss the economic value of the mangroves on both sides of the Straits of Malacca. In spite of what were reported about the threats of the extreme nationalists, we mingles with each other as brothers!

6. Since the 1980s I had carried out some researches on the taxonomic composition, biomass and economic value of the mangroves of Pulau Langkawi, Sungau Merbuk (Kedah), Matang (Perak), Kuala Selangor, and some of my co-reseachers like Dr. Wan Juliana Wan Ahmad & Dr. Norhayati Ahmad had done some works at Sungai Pulai, Johor and Sungai Linggi, Melaka. To say the least we have some useful data on the mangroves of Malaysian side of the Straits of Melaka that benefit the auditors.

7. One of my previous PhD students, Dr. Haliza Abdul Rahman, now a lecturer with Universiti Sains Malaysia at Kubang Kerian did look at the legislative protocols, policies and regulations affecting the management of the mangroves in Selangor. She found out that there are conflicts between the Federal policy and plannings with the State and also the local governments. This did not augur well with the process of auditing of this important green asset in Selangor. In spite of the strong calls by the Federal government to preserve and conserve the mangroves; the state and local governments utilised and exploited the mangrove swamps for aquaculture, oil palm plantation and housing.

8. To be fair I am not sure whether there were similar studies on the mangroves on the Sumateran coasts, the other side of the Straits of Melaka. If there were either I don't know about them or the informations were not published in journals. And I believe there are more mangroves on the other side.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

On Diversity of Stress

photo from Google

1. This morning I read the news ietm in NST on stress with some amusements. The reports say the Prime Minister's job is the most stressful, followed by that of Chief Justice, Doctors especially surgeons, Inspector General of Police, Attorney-General, MACC Chief and so on including that of teachers.

2. I personally view that the dgeree of stressfulness is proportion to their salaries, allowances, perks, priviledges etc. The Prime Minister, Chief Justice etc are stressful because they received a lot of monetary and priviledges returns. There are exceptions of course, the fishermen, taxi drivers, bus drivers are also stressful but their monetary returns make them among the poor and the under-priviledges.

3. The teachers are also quoted as stressful lot and their salaries and priviledges are small. Here I disgareed with the findings. Amongst the teachers include the lecturers, so they are also a stressful lot. Here I could give the readers some of the in-sights of the factors that make the lecturers stressful, though not of their own doings.

4. Teaching. It was so much fun in the 1980s. But now we are supposed to prepare our lecture notes and deposit in SPIN. We are suppose to take the attendance of our class, that routine I remembered well when I was teaching at Sultan Ismail College, Kota Bharu in 1973-74. I thought university teachers are spared of this routine

5. Supervising. Teachers in schools don't have to supervise BS, MS and PhD students but we all do in universities. To-day it becomes more stressful when we are supposed to handle and supervise foreign students, whose English and fundamental of science are inadequate.

6. Research. Teachers don't have to do research but we all do in universities. No funds no research and funds are not easy to come by because R & D administrators don't understand what R & D is all about. How could they understand for they have never done good scientific research in their life.

7. Publication. Teachers don't have to publish any thing, just like the other civil servants in the ministries, but we all do in the universities. No publication no promotion. To-day there are many silly indicators being dragged into our academic life such as Impact Factor journal etc. So far only two local journals have Impact Factor, so we have to penetrate oversea journals. The oversea journals now were run like a business venture, you pay USD we publish your unedited articles. Is this not stressful?

8. Service to community. All of us teachers and lecturers do but of different kinds and degrees. Taechers don't have learned societies to look after, teachers don't organise scientific international or regional conferences, teachers don't have to advise NGOs and government agencies. Yet they are stressful

9. My conclusion is simply ... NST published what I call an illusion.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Future Siege on Motorists

photo from Google

1. This morning I read (NST page 8) that the government is going to introduce a new system to monitor the errand traffic on Malaysian roads. It is called the AES (Automated Enforcement System) in which the company set up by the government is going to fix hundreds of laser-cameras to monitor the motorists.

2. In the past and presently, the traffic policemen were forced to sit or lie down the stomach secretly and unassumingly behind vertical pillars, bushes and on towers to snap pictures of motorists who sped up of beat traffic lights etc. During Tun Lim Liong Sik's time, the Ministry set-up many cameras along the roads and millions of pictures were tahen to scare the offenders. The Ministry officials said there were too many pictures to develop and no fines could be collected.

3. This time the Ministry boss said this is not scientific as the policemen used their manual systems and their hands are not that steady and furthermore they could only take one picture at a time. This is not costly enough and nobody is going to make money out of this archaic system!

4. The government is going to privatise this by allowing a company to do the job and the company is going to collect the fines and I bet Malaysians don't mind paying the fines so long as they could weave through the traffic in great speed. There are thousands of silly bus drivers, lorry drivers, motorists and motorcylists on our roads and the company is going to make a lot of money by fining the perennial offenders.

5. Privatisation is a lucrative business in Malaysia. The former British PM Margaret Thatcher introduced it in UK and Tun Mahathir championed it in our country and there area many Malaysians who became instant millioners. This is Malaysianomics and it deserves a philosophical study in Harvard as Najibonomics.

Friday, September 25, 2009

On the Beaches of Kelantan

photo from Google

1. During the Hari Raya Eidulfitri holidays I managed to visit two beaches of Kelantan. By the way from the beach of Tumpat on the north of Kelantan to the beach of Dalam Rhu, Pasir Putih, there are many once famous beaches of Kelantan.

2. I drove to Pantai Dasar of Sabak hoping to see the once beautiful beach where I played rubber football in the 60s. Much to my shock and astonishment as I passed the bridge I saw a horrible sight both of the river and also the beach. The river ia dirty and there are fish cages and there is no more beach. What I saw was a long mountain of rocks which were pitted there to save the remaining area from being eroded by the sea.

3. Before Thursday 24th I heard so many stories about the plight of Pantai Dasar but I didn't image it is that bad and horrible. I couldn't recognise the shophouse that serviced the visitors in the 60s that belonged to one of my relatives there.

4. Then I drove to Pantai Irama of Bachok and I found there was no more "irama" or rythym of the sand there anymore. In the 60s I thought it was beautiful with white sandy beach and Casuarina trees lining the paths. What I saw was dirty and smelly beach. There were two workers trying to clean the area but the place is horrible. I was told the public toilet was dirty and filthy! That I didn't dare asking my grandchildren to clean themselves there after playing on the dirty beach before putting on their clean pair of trousers and shirts.

5. What is happening to the Pantai Dasar and Pantai Irama? I am sure the authorities are not blind to see what is happening to our beaches. I talked to some friends who blamed on the coastal engineers who planned the deepening and chanelling the estuary of Tok Bali that eroded those beaches. Of course the coastal engineers must have received instructions from the state planners and other authorities. Some blamed mother nature that eroded those beaches. I saw similar phenomenon at the beach near the Kuala Terengganu airport.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Is Hari Raya Aidilfitri of 2009 Coming?

1. I must confess everything around me is quiet to-day. I went to the office, the office was quiet though the staffs were still in. The car parks were nearly empty, the noise on the road was not that bad; the staffs cars were missing .......something is coming!

2. I went into the office to drop some mails and cards, I met Dr. Mohd. Talib busy preparing his paper publication before the long holiday; Prof. Othman Ross was talking to his student; Dr. Sahibin, Dr. Norhayati and Dr. Haja Maideen were sharing some jokes.

3. As I was leaving the building I noticed Dr. Hasidah and Dr. Wan sharing some academic matters. I wished them happy Hari Raya and holiday, respectively.

4. At about 1 pm I went to the university mosque to do my Jumaat prayer, the car parks were not that full. On the normal Friday some of the jumaah parked their cars almost inside the mosque, but today the parking was orderly.

5. Then I went to AM Bank, the similar atmosphere existed, there was only one counter open for some 7 people wanting their transaction

6. But I noticed there were too many cars and other vehicles on the roads in Bandar Baru Bangi and Kajang. More so when I stopped to refill my gas tank .....I think people were on the move.

7. I think Hari Raya Aidilfitri is coming. I wish to wish my Muslim feoolw-bloggers "Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri" and drive carefully to your destinations. The radio deejays kept telling the listeners there had been too many death on the roads last year .....let's reduce the accidents and unnecessary deaths.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Of Black Coffee On the Table and Coffee Table Books

1. I am a cofee lover and I love Coffee O Beng of the north ....Whenever I travelled to Penang, Kangar or Alus Setar I never missed ordering Kopi O Beng. I love white coffee too with Mee Curry at the outlet.

2. The medical doctor says drinking coffee is not good as it contains a lot of substance called caffeine, an alkaloid that suffocate your blood streams. And tea has caffeine too.

3. Of late I have been involved with Coffee Table books.
a) At the Institute for Environment and Development (LESTARI) I have been involved with supplying small texts for, "The hanging Gardens of Langkawi" and "Memories of Eucalyptus Camp, Maliau Basin". The first is written to commemorate the declaration of Geoforest Parks in Langkawi and I must confessed it is one one of the best. The second is purely to record what went on while we were encamped in a remote area of Maliau Basin, Sabah. I must admit that this one is not that good.

b) At the faculty I was involved with, "Marine Wonders" and "Bukit Fraser - The Crown of Titiwangsa Range". The first is really great, potraying the wonders of life in the shallow seas and I like it so much. Some times I wonder of the beauty underneath the water surface - are they really beautiful? ....for I don't dive to appreciate them myself. The second was a reflection of this highland refugia. Indeen, I gave that title.

c) With the Department of Forestry Peninsular Malaysia I was involved too. The first "Terenggnau - A fascinating forest profiles" was a great piece of Coffee Table book. In it contains one of the most beautiful work of arts, the aerial picture of Jambu Bongkok. Then I was involved with, "Melaka - Where Forestry Began". Honestly I have not seen the finished product as yet. Now I am working on three more - "Significant Findings of the Expeditions", "Negeri Sembilan - Natural Resources and Heritage" and Cameron Highlang, Pahang : The Heart of Central Forest Spine".

4. Between the two i.e. drinking coffee which are put on the table and writing and help produce Coffee Table books, I like the latter as these books don't contain caffeine and they are pleasant to your eyes and minds

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Last Quarter of 2009 Scientific Expeditions

1. I have been informed by many reliable sources that the last quarter of 2009 is going to be filled with many scientific expeditions. So much so that many friends are going to miss the "Open House" phenomenon and many others are not going to find dates to hold an "Open House" this Hari Raya AidilFitri.

2. Immediately after the Hari Raya breaks, between 28 September to 1st October UKM expeditioners are going to Mt. Silam in Sabah. I am going to participate in this as the botany of this area is very interesting.

3. Immediately after Mt. Silam expedition the same group together with those from Taman-Taman sabah and Universiti Malaysia Sabah and others from other agencies and institutions are going to climb Mt. Tamboyukon, near Mt. Kinabalu. My good friend Emer. Prof. Datuk Dr. Noramly had already declared that he is going to look after the goodies at the Base camp. He did not have the legs to climb the second highest mountain in Sabah.

4. Then there is the Sungai Sedim, Kedah scientific expedition organised by the Department of Forestry Peninsular Malaysia and Forestry Department of Kedah. Sungai Sedim is a recreational forest with chalets and canopy walkway. Tentatively it is going to be on 19-23 October 2009 but I'm asking for a postponement to the following week.

5. Then in November, the Academy Science Malaysia possibly with PERHILITAN is going to organise an expedition to Gunung Benom, Pahang. I have been informed by Emer. Prof. Dr. H S Yong, the last time a scientific group went up there was in the 1960s. The late Dr. T. C. Whitmore climbed up there too. I read a paper on a quadrat survey of mosses published as a result of that expedition.

Monday, August 31, 2009


1. Today Semenanjung Tanah Melayu or Malaya celebrated her 52nd Merdeka Anniversary as our first Prime Minister shouted merdka on 31st August 1957. On that day I was just over 8 years but I remembered it very clearly as I took a NETS bus with my cousins to go to Padang Bank (or now called Padang Merdeka) in Kota Bharu to shout that sacred word, Merdeka. At that time I had no slightest idea how my beloved country received her Independence from the British.

2. To-day I received a note asking me to celebrate our Merdeka by flagging the Malaysian flag and remembering what the freedom fighters had sacrificed. I was told if not for what those fighters did and sacrified I won't be where I am to-day.

3. I was in real dilemma because I felt I had lost the mood to celebrate for the following reasons:
a) As a country celebrating her 52nd Merdeka Anniversary there should be a small number of her population living below the poverty line. In states like Sabah, Sarawak, Kelantan, Terengganu, Kedah and possibly in others too, there is real poverty. What went wrong?

b) There is too much interference by the politicians in managing and running universities and schools. Students and teachers don't feel free to express themselves for fear of being reported by the unknown to the higher-ups. If you are not aligned to a certain political party you are abused!

c) There is inadequate freedom of expression in both the printed media and TV. These are controlled by the politicians of the day and they have been used blatantly for their own agendas. Seldom the power that be discussed environmental issues in their political meetings, even though the climate is changing and the natural resources are depleting.

d) When people demonstrate the police should line themselves to facilitate their march but not to interfere by shooting tear gas. I experienced that when I was a student at UM in 1970s and the police are still doing it today after 52 years of Independence

e) Economic, education etc equity of the Bumiputera in Sabah, Sarawak and Peninsular Malaysia are far from being achieved. the savings of each individual Bumiputera are so insignificant compared to other ethnics, especially the Malaysian Chinese. What went wrong?

f) The special priviledges of the Bumiputera as written in the Constitutions are slowly been eroded. Lands of the poor are sold and lost in Pulau Pinang; the scholarships for the good students are questioned.

g) With the rich resources as we have there shall be no divide between the haves and the have-nots. A poor family with 6 children are living in a house with 2-rooms and the a rich family with 1 daughter is living in a big 3-storied house with 4 rooms

h) As an Independent Nation we should be proud and patriotic with our Bahasa Malaysia not a foreign language. It is ironic that I wrote my blog in English but I am a believer and supporter of teaching mathematics and science in Bahasa Melayu. I have said before Malaysian should master a third language, Mandarin, Tamil, arab or any other

As a legend in Kelantan called Tok Awang many times shouted at the top of his voice, "Merdeka, Merdeka Tahi Apa Nasi Berlauk Pun Tak Leh makan" literally translated, "Independence, What a kind of shit Independence, I can't get a Nasi Berlauk, a special rice for breakfast, normally prepared as white rice + fried fish cooked in coconut milk + hot chili paste + two pieces of cucumber


Sunday, August 30, 2009

Diversity of Research Niches

1. On 17th April 2009, the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Tan Sri Dr. Sharifah Hapsah Syed Hasan Shahabuddin introduced 8 strategic research areas for Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. In her lecture she stressed the importance of promoting research frontiers of knowledge to drive research per se, academic excellence and excellent services to the students and the community at large. As one of the senior professors I viewed her lecture as so timely when the government wants university to experience a quatum leap in R & D. In addition, she acknowledged the diversity of natural resources that could spearhead socio-economic development.

2. She was serious in motivating the staffs into doing something different from the past. To my my understanding research has been ploughed back into teaching and curriculum and also publications as a service to the scientific communities. The latter is less appreciated by the government and also the public. Both had wanted products that could generate incomes and thereby solve some of the woes and worries in the present economic slow-down.

3. The 8 research niches are:
a) Climate change. This is so timely as the world is experiencing global warming and climatic craziness as experience by many nations including ours. This niche is headed by Prof. Dr. Sharifah Mastura and I'm sure Prof. Dr. Fredolin Tanggang could play a pivotal role here to educate Malaysians about what to expect in the next decade or more.
b) Content-based informatics. I suppose the ICT people know what to expect and what to do. This is far beyond burning lectures notes into CDs and made available to the students. In the era of ICT and electronic communication this niche has great role to bring progress to the university.
c) Nanotechnology & Advanced materials. Prof. Dr. Burhanuddin Yeop Majlis has been active in nanotechnology and biophysics.
d) Advanced energy. Prof. Dr. Wan Ramli has advanced so far in fuel cell research so as to contribute not only to alternative energy but also the advacecement of solar energy.
e) National identity, nation state, cultural diversity & globalisation. This niche has a long name so much so that I have difficulties to comprehend its mission and plan of action. I understand that this is to encompass ann research in social science and humanities. This is headed by Prof. Datuk Dr. Shamsul Amri
f) Regional sustainability development. Anything goes in here and I am one of the cluster leaders and my job is to steer the research in Langkawi Geopark and other regional scientific development such as Tasik Chini, Bukit Fraser etc
g) Health technology and medicine. All research in health science and medicine go here.
h)Biodiversity for biotechnology development. This is where it is strategic to utilise the rich biodiversity of the country for biotechnology advancement, though we have a long way to achieve any results of significance.

4. A couple of days ago NST reported that only Universiti Malaya & Universiti Putra Malaysia had achieved more than 5% of their research commercial targets. I don't know much about UM but UPM has progressed so much in commercialising their agro-biotechnology products and also kits in veterinary sciences. I am sure UKM and Universiti Sains Malaysia are not far behind.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Gunung Belumut Biodiversity Scientific Expedition

1. This morning concluded the Scientific Expedition to Gunung Belumut (Mount Moss), Johor, organised jointly by the Department Forestry Peninsular Malaysia & Forestry Department Johor. It was officially opened by YB Tuan Tan Kok Hong, on the morning of 10th, an Exco of State Government Johor, representing the Chief Minister Johor.

2. More than 150 scientists and support staffs took part representing Universiti Putra Malaysia, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Universiti Malaya, Universiti Malaysia Terengganu, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Malaysian Nature Society (Johor), Forestry Research Institute Malaysia, SIRIM Bhd., Putrajaya Botanic Gardens, PERHILITAN Johor, and the various state forestry departments.

3. Dr. Maketab UTM and his team looked at watershed issues & water issues while Dr. Mohd Kamil and his team investigated the water quality of the rivers and streams in the area. Dr Shahir UTM and his team looked at the area in the aspects of GIS and land-use.

4. Dr. Fauziah UM studied beetles diversity, Dr. Norela UKM studied the moths and butterflies diversity, Dr. Shahrul Annuar USM & Nor Zalifah UMT as usual investigated the small mammals, birds and bats diversity; the SIRIM Bhd team collected leaf litter & soil for actinomycetes and bacteria screening. Dr. Alex Ng UKM and his team studied the thrips and wasps; Prof. Jambari UPM and En. Khairulnizam JPNPahang studied spiders; others collected cicadas etc.

5. The flora group consists of En. Damanhuri UKM and his team collected mosses and liverworts; Dr. Haja Maideen UKM and his team studied ferns and fern-allies; Dr. Rusea Go UPM and her team and En. A Rahman Jalil JPNPahang studied orchids; En. Nasir PLKepong surveyed the dipterocarps; Shamsul & Tajuddin UPM and En. Mohd Rahim Rani JPSM surveyed the ethnobotany; Dr. Nazre UPM studied garcinias; the team from FRIM surveyed the lianas among others;

6. A dozen of participants climbed Gunung Belumut and on the first night they were greeted by heavy rains and thunders. They were wondering how come the mountain is called "mossy" where there was not much moss on the floor of the mountain peak. According to Damanhuri there were sands! The mountain should be re-named Gunung Berpasir.

7. Other team members did other studies and surveys. These findings will be presented in a seminar next year to be organised by Forestry Department Johor.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Biodiversity & Pacific Science Congress

1. In 2011 the Pacific Science Congress will come to Malaysia. Years ago I attended the Inter-Congress in Manila and sat in the committee with Dr. Sy Sohmer of Texas's BRIT.

2. This time the Academy Science Malaysia is organising it with the local institutions and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia is invited to convene one of the themes i.e. Terrestrial Biodiversity. Earlier the Faculty of Forestry, Universiti Putra Malaysia proposed the theme Biodiversity and the Ecosystem Services.

3. Prof. Idris A Ghani had a brief discussion with me on the possibilities of several sub-themes. As Marine biodiversity will be convened by Prof. Phang Siew Moi of Universiti Malaya and Wetlands Biodiversity will be convened by Prof. Mashhor Mansor of Universiti Sains Malaysia; we agreed on the following sub-themes

4. (a) Insect biodiversity (b) Herpetofauna biodiversity (c) Mammal biodiversity (d) Lower plant biodiversity (e) Angiosperm Species diversity and (f) Biodiversity evaluation ....there might be one or two more sub-themes after the coming meetings and discussion.

5. The objectives have been to revisit the above sub-themes while monitoring the progress made in Malaysia post-1992 CBD and also post-1998 the launching of National Biodiversity Policy

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Langkawi Geopark as a Model

*photos by Dr Norhayati Ahmad

1. Langkawi Geopark is the first Global Geopark established in Malaysia. It is endowed with a diversity of geological formation being the oldest in the country, rich in marine diversity and terrestrial biodiversity.

2. In addition, Langkawi is also endowed with a very rich cultural diversity and various methos. Three areas such as Kilim-Kisap, Pulau Dayang Bunting & Mount Matchinchang are included in the Geopark. Other areas such as Mount Raya, Bukit Sawak are recognised as GeoForest Parks.

3. The country is also keen to establish a network of National Geoparks, a total of more than a dozen areas have been identified for evaluation using strict criteria as proposed by UNESCO. This idea augurs very well both for internal and international eco-tourism.

4. We are now developing biodiversity contents which will be put in web-based data which is to be developed in a month o two. In addition, we are going to strengthen public awareness and governance to make it a model for subsequent future establishment of other GeoParks in Asia-Pacific area, as well as the National Geoparks.

5. If these challenges and objectives are fulfilled and succeeded it would certainly leap-frogged the UKM researchers to a level that the country is proud of. After all the researchers at UKM who worked closely with Langkawi Development Authority and the Kedah State government and Federal agencies that ensured the establishment of the First GeoPark in Malaysia. I must confess there are many Malaysians out there who are still sceptical about the whole idea - only times will tell.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Ismail Parlan and Gonystylus bancanus

1. Last week PhD candidate Ismail Parlan defended his thesis on Gonystylus bancanus management at Pekan FR, Pahang.

2. The Pekan FR is a peat swamp forest immensely rich in the populations of Gonystylus bancanus or Ramin melawis, a much sought after timber. After all this species is listed in CITES Appendix II.

3. According to him there have been a few PhD thesis written on peat swamp forest before his. He mentioned that of Dr. Samsudin Ibrahim of FRIM and Dr. Hizamri of JPSM

4. He discussed the pollination and pollinators of Gonystylus bancanus, in addition of stand structure and density.

5. He also discussed the harvesting regimes specifically for the species in order to achieve sustainable yield.

6. Years ago Dr. Samsudin Ibrahim of FRIM established a 5-ha Study and Monitoring Plot at the same forest reserve, which was consumed by socio-economic development. There went his years of useful data to the peat ....

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Aneesah and Neolitsea

1. My Yemeni MS student Aneesah has had her viva voce on the systematic study of Neolitsea, a small genus in Lauraceae. Since the last treatment of the late Kochummen, Dr. Francis Ng is revising the family for the Tree Flora of Sabah and Sarawak.

2. There are things she agreed with Dr. Ng and there are a couple of things she chose to disagree. This is systematic botany. She did carry out studies on morphology, anatomy, palynology and phytochemistry.

3. N. zeylanica is now N. cassia and what Mr. Kochummen thought was a new species is now recognised a variety, N. cassia var. pahangensis. Dr. Ng also regarded it as a variant of the widely distributed N. cassia.

4. N. kedahensis and N. mollissima are conspecific, agreeing with Dr. Ng. However, Aneesah thought N. villosa and R. coccinea should be separated as distinct species.

5. She believed there is a new species tentatively called N. brinchangensis, collected without flowers and fruits from Gunung Brinchang, Cameron Highlands. Apparently this new taxon differs from the recognised ones above in both the morphological and anatomical features. We have to monitor this tree for its reproductive structures before describing it.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Prime Minister's 100 Days

1. To commemorate PM Dato' Seri Najib's 100 days in the office as the 6th Prime Minister, I as a citizen of Malaysia wishes to put down some personal comments and wishes meant for him and his government.

2. I applauded the govenment decision to revert the teaching of Mathematics and Science to Bahasa Malaysia. As the Malay saying goes,"If you got lost go back where you started". However, the announcement was partially committed as the government insisted on English at secondary and tertiary levels. As I said in my earlier post let's have Bahasa Malaysia as the medium of instruction at all levels because Bahasa Balaysia is the language of unity and English is the languagae of knowledge. It must be done from the start from kindergardens to university, for all levels, as the European did.

3. I disagreed with Tun Mahathir who lamented on the fact that after the WW2 the Japanese leant German to procure the technology and hence that's why the Japanese could built cars, the Greeks learnt Arabic to procure and understand philosophy and mathematics, etc (see NST 11/7/09) as I didn't see Japanese speaking German and the Greek speaking Arabic now. Only a small number of selected intelectuals and technicians did that. For Malaysia we want all future citizens to write and speak Bahasa Malaysia and at the same time they do with English and possibly another language, Mandarin, Tamil, Arabic, Japanese etc.

4. The government also intends to reduce the rate of those unnecessary tolls. The tolls had affected the poor so much in the past and the government play deaf on their cries. As the number of vehicles using the toll increase exponentially over time, over the longer period of years the toll concessioners would have the investment paid off.

5. The government also wishes to release the ISA detainees, especially the political and religious detainees whose detentions were a shady and not based on facts . I also wish the government eliminate the "elements of fear" within all strata of the community. It was quite real during the reign of Tun Mahathir.

6. I also applauded the government wish set-up the Economic Council which comprises the economic-thinkers. As the airport taxi driver said,"with the rich natural resources Malaysia has a taxi driver like him should no longer earn this much driving taxi for nearly 12 hours a day. not much time to rest, eran enough to buy his family foods".

7. Please revert the 3-year university curriculum in science to 4 years. Too much damage had been done to the students and lecturers. The 4-year system practiced in the 1970s and until it was changed by the present Prime Minister when he was the Education Minister, did many good things to science graduates. I started teaching in January 1979 until today, and I think I know what I am talking about. So do many other lecturers who are afraid to speak out .....again out of fear.

8. Tell me more about 1Malaysia as I was in the dark when Masyarakat Madani was introduced, when Islam Hadhari was popularised (to me Islam doesn't need an adjective), then now 1Malaysia. I tried to read the thoughts of some politicians and their wives explaining the concept and yet I can't comprehend, what more the less educated Malaysians in the rural areas who don't blog and don't have access to computers and don't read the newspapers.

9. I wish our PM pay more attention to the environmental issues which are affecting all activities to-day. The state of our rivers, species, soils, landscapes etc are in real peril ....let's show-case to the world what a megadiversity Malaysia can offer to them. Please strengthen our human resources and capacity (Dato' Pa tried a few years ago .....) , please strengthen our research institutions, including universities.

10. Please make us proud as Malaysians.

I purposely wrote 10 items, 1 item for 10 days in office. Best of luck Dato' Seri

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Integrated Management Plan for Belum-Temenggor

1. I look at Integrated Management Plan or IMP as a rational an sensible tool to sustainably manage an area, be it a permanent forest reserve, a park or an estate. This IMP has an owner and also a proponent.

2. The Belum-Temenggor area in Perak consists of permanent forest reserve (PFR), production forests, a large water bodies, rivers and streams, biodiversity, indigenous communities, etc. Part of the PFR has been gazetted as Royal Belum State Park which consists of more than 117,000 ha of undisturbed primary forests is administered by the Perak State Park Corporation. The rest of the forest areas are managed by the Forestry Department.

3. The large water body and its water margin is administered by Tenaga Nasional Berhad (National Energy Ltd.) the federal government agency which is responsible for running a few hydroelectricity dams.

4. There is the Indigenous Community Department which looks after the indigenous Temiar and Jahai; there is Drainage Department which looks after the rivers and streams; there is the Police Force and Army who look after the security of the area; the Gerik District Officer and of course the non-government oraganisations.

5. In addition, there is Northern Corridor Implementation Agencynof Northern Corridor Economi Region which is responsible for the socio-economic growth of northern Perak. There is also a Pulau Banding Foundation, which is interested to assist all the stake holders to achieve their wishes and concerns.

6. Because of the many stake-holders involved, there is a dire and urgent need for the IMP to be in place. The IMP will call for a Joint Technical Committee or possibly a Joint Advisory Committee to manage the area.
This will ensure some measures for sustainable development of the area as called for by both the state and federal governments.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Peat Swamp Forests and IMP

1. When one speaks of the peat swamp forests many thoughts come to our mind. The acidic water which is of the tea colour. The burning of peats in Sumatera and Kalimantan that caused haze in our country times and times again and many more.

2. Once upon a time there was vast tracts of peat swamp forests in Malaysia. Sabah and Sarawak have more peat swamp forests which are rich in timber produce. Perak has some around Bagan Datok, Selangor has some in Raja Musa FR and Tanjung Karang area which had been converted to oil palm plantations, Johor has some on which pineapples grow and Pahang has some intact and pristine shallow peat swamp forests.

3. While we have lost much of the peat swamp forests, the Forestry Departments of Sabah, Sarawak and Peninsular Malaysia with aids from UNDP came forward to conserve some at Klias, Loagan Bunut and Southeast Pahang, respectively. Dr. Efrasyah was the UNDP Chief Technical Officer, based at FRIM was instrumental in putting a project to conserve those for the generations to come.

4. The instrument put on the laps of our government is called IMP or Integrated Management Plan, discussed and agreed by all the stake-holders in the respective states and the federal government agencies. It is not a perfect document but it is the best template we ever had to give a good governance to managing our national heritage.

5. It is my hope similar set-ups in the country and states would follow this wonderful example. But, there again, a beautiful document does not guarrantee anything better if not followed by the government of the day. I wish the stake-holders would remain to be close to the state government to monitor the management of the peat swamp forests.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

All for Bio-Malaysia

1. Years ago I was invited to a national conference on Bio-Malaysia in Putrajaya. It was an excellent effort and initiative taken by then then government to address biodiversity for biotechnology. After all Pak Lah, our beloved Prime Minister believed that biotechnology could be our next engine of socio-economic growth, when launching the National Biotechnology Policy in 2005.

2. About the same year, when I met YBhg Dato' Dr. Abdullah Che Wan, famed for leading Badminton Association of Malaysia for many years is currently the Chairman of BioPerak. BioPerak was established the similar efforts for Perak. Many start-up companies were established to address the same.

3. The then Prime Minister, Pak Lah when chairing the National Biodiversity & Biotechnology Council, had expressed his views in support of the state level organisations or companies to utilise the rich and diverse biodiversity for biotechnology.

4. Then I heard there were rumours of the establishment of BioPerlis, BioPahang, BioKelantan etc. How true this rumous is I'm not in the position to tell. But I can tell you Sarawak and Sabah are serious with this as they had already established, Sarawak Biodiversity Centre and Sabah Biodiversity Centre, respectively.

5. Mext week I'm invited by BioJohor to a state level conference to revisit the similar issue. I'm not sure whether I am able to attend and deliver my thoughts as yet, as the semester has already began. I'm supposed to teach ethnobotany, biodiversity to first years students; taxonomy to 2nd year students and Biodiversity & Systtematics to post-graduate students.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Tales of One Bataq Mat Jenin

1. Mat Jenin is a famous Malay character who likes to dream. All he did was to dream of the impossible.

2. They say if there is one Bataq all he does is to dream too. If there are two Bataq they play chess and if there are three they form a trio and perform in Bataqland.

3. These are tales of one Bataq Mat Jenin

a) He wants to look after a genie so that he can be a professional golfer for his country. He could be like Vijay Singh for Fiji, K J Choi for S. Korea and T. Jaidi for Thailand. He wants to use a genie to guide his golf ball where ever he wants so that he could play par golf.

b) He wants to publish in Science and Nature so that he could satisfy his boss who wants high Inpact Factor as his university's Key Performance Indicator. To-day his boss looks down on his publications in proceedings and in non-SI and non-Scopus journals.

c) He wants to have some endowments from his fellow Bataqs who had made good in life so that he could establish a Bataq Foundation to help his fellow Bataqs.

4. Well, as the saying goes to say, until another Bataq comes along to play chess with him, he will be forever Mat Jenin ......

Since 14th April Pak Teh's blog has registered a total 1075 hits where close to that of Che Det's blog ....may be I should go political