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