Monday, May 31, 2010

On the record by Abdullah Ahmad

1. As I entered the waiting room at the Pengkalan Chepa airport I saw a book sale and I approached the stall. I saw many religious books and a couple by Tan Sri Abdullah Ahmad or otherwise popularly known as Dollah Kok Lanas. He was well-known in Kelantan as a former Barisan National-UMNO MP for Machang, a former ISA detainee, a former diplomat, a former Deputy Minister who was so close to Tun A Razak

2. I was compelled to buy the two books written by him as I knew him, or rather I had talked to him some years ago. I think I spotted him at the airport wearing all-white with a white hat too, a colourless old man, so to speak. I had wanted to understand his thoughts as I knew as Editor-in-Chief of one of the populat newspapers he wrote his mind very well. As a former diplomat he articulated his thought very well too.

3. I enjoyed reading one of his books, "On the records" which is a compilation of his write-up for the column before he was sacked by Pak Lah the 5th Prime Minister. He recorded that incident very well on page 75. Though I had read these before but I must say it was equally enjoyable to read again and again. He wrote well in English, though coming from Kok Lanas. But this is the trait of Kelantanese of that generation.

4. However, I was beginning to get pissed off when he criticised Al Gore, Dato' Seri Anuar Ibrahim and PAS. I thought he was tolerant enough with that comments of Al Gore. I though he was tolerant enough with PAS's brand of Islam. But being an UMNO man, coming from Kelantan, I can understand why he could not tolerate PAS at all. He criticed many political incidents of the past from his personal point-of-view, which I though was fair but not quite intellectual and academic. There were a certain amount of intolerance within him that misguided his intellectual thoughts and wisdom.

5. However, I enjoyed reading it and it could easily be a piece of history and lessons in politic.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

National Council of Professors

1. In 2004 the faculty of Science and Technology, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia established a Council of Professors, a committee under the faculty. The main objective had been to create an academic forum where serious academic matters are presented and discussed by the learned men and women. Some of these agendas were not able to be discussed at the normal faculty meetings due to lack of time.

2. Since then we had discussed the university rankings, internationalisation of university, journals of high impact factor, international networking, commercialisation of research, what is a research university, etc. The forum had been productive because great minds and brains think alike some times but not all the times.

3. Tomorrow Prof. R Wickineswari of the School of the Environment and Natural Resources is going to table a presentation on, "introgressive rice" the bread and butter of her academic research which has been supported very well by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation Malaysia.

4. This year on 31st March the Malaysian Ministry of Higher Education established the National Council of professors with Prof. Emer. Dato' Dr. Zakri A. Hamid as her first Chairman. A number of clusters were also established to group some outstanding professors in various disciplines to give inputs to the government. Honestly I don't know how many professors are there in the country. My perception is that there are a few types of professors in Malaysia; there are founding professors, there are clinical professors, there are teaching professors and there are research professors. I am not sure whether United Kingdom has these types of professors!

5. A professor, to me is simply who has been a good teacher, teaching both the under- and post-graduate courses; who has been supervising graduate students, preferably PhD candidates; who has been carrying out good research and publish many papers in journals; who has contributed significantly to the scientific community, societies and governments; who is knowledgeable in his/her chosen discipline; presenting keynote and plenary addresses and above all the role model for the aspiring lecturers. The above characteristics differentiate professors from politicians, business people, professional practitioners and the public at large.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Universiti Malaysia Kelantan Symposium on Natural Resources

1. Last week I attended the first ever academic symposium organised by the Faculty of Agro-industry and Natural Resources, Universiti Malaysia Kelantan. In his opening speech the Vice Chancellor, YBhg. Prof. Dato' Ir. Dr. Zainai Mohamad commented that that was the first symposium to be organised by the new university and many more were to come in future.

2. I was happy to participate and gave a Keynote address on, "Conservation of biodiversity in Malaysia" a subject that I loved to dwell and cajole especially to the young scientists who will take the conservation baton from the old ones one day. The plenary lectures were given by YBhg Dato' Dahalan Hj Taha, the ex-Deputy Director General, Forestry department Semenanjung Malaysia and En. Khairuddin the Director, Department of Environment, Kelantan.

3. As I had stated elsewhere almost 90% of the participants who presented their scientific papers either orally or by posters are young; they came from almost all local universities in Malaysia, including those from Universiti malaysia Sarawak, Kota Samarahan and research institutes.

4. The papers covered all aspects of natural resources from minerals, heavy metals in rivers to flora and fauna reflecting their current graduate research projects conducted for their respective degrees, MS and PhD in their respective universities. I must confesses their English need a lot of improvement, their presentation especially their coloured slides need great colour-sense improvements and their answers to questions and comments need a lot of improvements. I believe in investing in the young scientist to carry the torches in various disciplines but they have to improve. There is no excuses in saying their Thai or Indonesian friends spoke worst English than them.

5. I wish the best to them in their studies and in their future participation in the national conferences and symposia. If not for them who have been daring enough there shall be little progress in our scientific endevours.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Biodiversity Footprints

1. This is the year of biodiversity and soon the COP is meeting again in Nagoya, Japan. Among other pressing items to be discussed is the link between biodiversity and climate change. The Rio Summit in 1992 discussed both and passed resolutions on both. When they met at Johannesburg in 2002 they evaluated the progress of Rio while discussing sustainable developement. They stalled the Kyoto Protocol and registered a failure at Copenhagen in 2009.

2. There was a divide on Climate Change both among the scientists and decision makers because they were greatly influenced by the business circles. Even in Brazil many politicians believed they coulddo away with conservation and go for maximum economic growth. The Malaysia Prime Minister made a promise to reduce green house gas emission up to 40% by 2020 on two conditions that Malaysia wants green technology transfer and financial compensation.

3. While targets are set both my political masters and business tycoons the ecosystems are suffering and species are being lost. However, both partners don't understand the definitions of community diversity and species diversity, let alone genetic diversity. They are willing to lose peat swamp forests in Sarawak and other lowland dipterocap forests in many states for some business gains. They are willing to lose turtles, rafflesias, orchids, dipterocarps, Sumateran rhinoceros, tigers, terrapins, freshwater fishes, slugs etc for similar financial gains.

4. What holds the future of biodiversity for the younger generations to appreciate and study? Possibly pockets of degraded forests where some populationss of fauna and flora are concentrated and fighting for their survivals. Perhaps degraded peat swamp forests where the peats could not much water; perhaps degraded mangrove swamp forests where aquatic life is in peril; perhaps the degraded montane vegetations where landslides are more prone to occur; and perhaps no more clean water is available to drink.

5. The prophets of climate change are dishing many alarming predictions what are in store for humanity in the next 100 years. Lkewise the prophets of biodiversity are alsopredicting its loss in the coming decades. I am not able to verify both but suffice to say that I have seen and witnessed the greed of loggers and business communities including past politicians in raking their profits from both the forests and marine habitats and are leaving the legacies for their grandchildren.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Gunung Besar Hantu Scientific Expedition

1. This year the Peninsular Malaysia Forestry Department can only organise one forest biodiversity scientific expedition and the locality chosen was Gunung Besar Hantu, Jelebu, Negeri Sembilan. The locality could be accessed either from Seremban via Kuala Kelawang or from Semenyih via the Selangor-Negeri Sembilan border. From the trunk road junction we traveled on 4x4 road for about 15 km inside passing through a few the temuan villages.

2. It was launched and flagged off by the Chief Minister of Negeri Sembilan on the morning of Monday 2nd at the Sri Negeri, Seremban. This time it has attracted scientists from UNIMAS, UMS, USM, UM, FRIM, Tama Botani Putrajaya, SIRIM, UiTM, UPM, UKM, Department of Wildlife & national Parks and of course from the Forestry departments

3. As usual the scientists from SIRIM collected leaf litter and soils for bacteria and actinomycetes; Prof. Wan Ruslan from USM and Dr. Kamil UPM studied the water quality; Regina and Tuan Marina from JPSM studied the Temuan communities; Damanhuri collected mosses; Razali Jaman collected ferns; Datuyk Seri C K Lim studied gingers and palms; Hazman and pak Din collected gingers too; students of Dr. Rusea Go and A Rahman Jalil collected orchids; Ranger Salleh from Terengganu observed the dipterocarps; students of Dr. Nizam established plots; students of Dr. Fauziah of UM studied beetles; students of Dr. Norela caught moths and butterflies; Dr. Cy Choong studied the odonates; Azman Sulaiman caught cicadas, student of Dr. Y F Ng caught the thrips; students of prof. Idris trapped wasps; assistants of Dr. Shahrul Anuar caught bats, birds and small mammals; Dr. Pan of FRIM observed hornbills; Dr. Norhayati caught amphibians; Dr. A Hamid of UMS and Dr. Abdullah of UKM caught freshwater fishes and Azman of UiTM surveyed the recreational potential.

4. Some of the significant findings were:
a) The forests in the valleys and foothills are poor as indicated by the proliferation of bamboos and other pioneer species; lack of dipterocarps and palms. They are in the process of slow regeneration.
b) The waterfalls at lata Kijang was spectacular
c) Th gorges at Jeram Berunggut was also beautiful
d) Gunung Besar Hantu is still undisturbed at the altitude of about 1200 m a.s.l.
d) There are two endemic but rare Corybas
e) The red-flowered Etlingera which was put previously under E. littoralis complex needs further elucidation as Datuk Seri C K Lim thinks it warrants sp0ecific recognition
f) A few new records of mosses
g) Dr. Pan recorded on video the male Buceros rhinoceros feeding and caring the female in roosting site

5. The state plans to develop the 9,000 ha area as Taman Alam Liar Negeri or State Wildlife Nature Park together with Ulu Bendul Recreational Forest and Sungai Menyala Forest Reserve as ecotourism destinations. The basic infrastructures are already in place and we recommended the three localities must be developed with the biodiversity knowledge as the main educational attraction