Sunday, October 30, 2011

Coughing in Mekah


That is one poor copycat to the title of a Hollywood blockbuster, Sleepless in Seattle. Sleepless was also a copycat of An Affair to Remember.

All three of us, especially moi since Medinah, have been down with cough, since we arrived in Mecca at pre-dawn on October 19th, 10 days ago. That's one way to remember an important milestone in our life.

The fume from the bus's diesel engine during the trip continued my asthmatic coughing streak from before Ramadhan till the present. I would have worn a surgical mask if I had known that it is quite alright to wear one in ihram clothing under medical reason.

With the muscle cramps that comes with asthmatic medicine, it makes coughing painfully a little challenging. Dugaan ...

I lost the mood to blog till one Tabung Haji petugas who happen to be a Husin Lempoyang fan asked of my next posting. That reminded me that I have not been blogging since I was in Mekah.

With some of my Muasasah roomates the at Masjidil Haram and some in a briefing session by Tabung Haji, I'm alone in the room, free from distraction, to write.



Those familiar with Haji would know that being down with cough is an inevitable thing in Mecca, especially during the Haj season. With the heat, dust and large number of people packed in, viral cough spreads like wild fire.



As more people are coming and packing up Mekah, the coughing has come to the point that the coughing exchanges, be it in Masjidil Haram or makeshift surau, emulates a balas pantun which ends in a chorus at the end of prayer.

Everyone seems to be down with cough.

Four out of six in my room are also down. Since they are young, the cough does not seem to stop their will from going to the Masjid, do tawaf sunnat and do umrah sunnat. Remember when you were young?

You are likely to bump into people coughing in the elevator, dining room, lobby seats, etc. Even few people with the media here are coughing albeit less serious.

In Mekah, Malaysian are assigned residential colleges or Maktab numbers 86 to 94. We were assigned to Maktab 93 which is located at Hotel Luluat At Tawheed off Ibrahim Khalil Road. It is about 1 km away from the Masjid.


At each Maktab, Tabung Haji provides medical services. And cough seemed to be the biggest problem facing our pilgrims. One can peek through their pharmacy and see cough medicine Amydramine by the boxes. I really pity the old folks having to deal with this Mekah variety cough which cough incessantly.

I had earlier anticipated this to happen and stocked a whole plastic bag of my own flu and cough related medicine, from two types of gurgle, to three types of lozenges, and my Respirator Specialist, Dr Wahab Suparlan's prescribed cough medicine, Cough-en Rx Linctus.

I had stocked up on all my medicine and medical paraphenelia from Kuala Lumpur that I needed a dedicated travel bag for it. Lucky me, because Tabung Haji's medical clinic seemed only limited for normal ailments like fever, cough and headache.

For instance, they do not provide any anti-biotics for flu and cough sickness. I wanted a muscle relaxant but it seems painkiller Arcoxia that I brought along was beyond their budgetary means.

The best they could answer my wife's suspicion that she may be down with an asthmatic related cough is to put on a surgical mask. That is in fact good advice and I had it on when I am in public or in large crowd.

I am not putting any blame but taking it as it is. For me, their services are second to none in Mekah. It is just useful reminders for future pilgrims to be prepared medically. They are supposed to come with certain physical preparedness and address any medical issue they have.

Tabung Haji had also reminded pilgrims of this before coming.

Since Medinah, they repeatedly kept reminding us to take care of our health and to not be overzealous with ibadah sunnat. One challenge Mekah pose on pilgrims is that the heat could sap energy from you.

Our priority is to be physically and spiritually ready on the real important and physically tough Haj rituals on Zulhijjah 8-13th.

That is only next week.

We have always kept our focus for those dates and Insya Allah, with Allah's concurrence we hope to be healthy pilgrims ready to seek Allah supplication and invocation by next Friday.

Nevertheless, Tabung Haji would refer the serious cases to hospital. They have an emergency ambulance on standby at our Maktab should any pilgrims gotten worse and needs hospitalisation.

Despite the cough, it has not stopped us from doing quite a bit of activities. I'll talk about it soon.

From hereon till the beginning of the Haj journey at Arafah field, expected to be next Friday, we'll stay indoor and pray in the
Italichotel. And I could be a little more frequent with blogging.

We still have some 20 days after Haj to do tawafs and umrahs. Maybe it is more meaningful doing it as Hajis and Hajjahs.

Currently we are supposed to be described as 'hujjaj' but the Bangla and Indon maintenance workers, the crowd police and religous police are addressing us as Haji and Hajjah. Insya Allah.

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Apocryphalist's Pilgrim Story: Medinah


Apocryphalist is a great guy. A cool dude. He is what other people should be, but aren’t. In fact, he is so good, it hurts. That’s what he would like to think of himself, and that’s what everybody would like to think of themselves too.

And so imagine the shock he receives when he made that once-in-a-lifetime journey of every Muslim: the Hajj pilgrimage. For thence, huddled amongst three million other Muslims, performing the same rites on the same Google spot before the same Lord of the Worlds, where colour and creed pales in comparison with faith and deed, it doesn’t take long for Apocryphalist to realize that he is no more great than a heap of shit really is.

How Apocryphalist had been there and done that. Slept on cold nights in the Rockies and braved the hot Belgian summers. Sailed the murky-blue Bosphorus and trod the brick-laden pathways of Champs d’Elysses, of Lyons. Stomached Dutch insults in Ridderkerk or praised in Lisboa. Wrestled the trouts of Windermere and danced with the morning dews of Kyoto. Tamed white stallions from the Northern Seas in `Lynn and argued with the disciples of Socrates in Syracuse. Shifted through the royal ruins in Mandalay and survived the streets of Quetta. Bear the curse of Kings in Persepolis and conversed with the dead poets Jami and Sadi.

But nothing in life had prepared him for his encounters during this pilgrimage, for there, he had met one person he hadn’t met in all his entire journeys before.

Himself.

The following chronicles Apocryphalist’s pilgrimage journey towards self-realization.

PART A: MEDINA - THE CITY OF LIGHT


Arrival

A whiff of fragrant air, neither hot nor cold, greets him as he stepped down the airport, prompting him to wonder: could there be any chance at all that these same air molecules that he breathes in are the same ones that was breathed by the most noble inhabitant of this city about fourteen hundred years ago?

Naaaahhhh… well but wait: air molecules are made up of atoms and in each atom are protons. A proton’s life span is about 10^32 years, ooohhh… about a trillion, trillion years. So there! Apocryphalist’s musings are not so much nonsensical after all!

Uhud


There, yonder engraved upon the light blue sky, is Uhud, the mountain that breathes. “I love Uhud, and Uhud loves me”, he said. And on Uhud were battles fought, and won, and lost. And on Uhud too were hopes made, and dashed, and made and dashed up till this day.

When news of the Qurashite polytheists coming to attack Medina came from the scouts, he had preferred to let them come to Medina and fight there. But his companions opined that it would be better to face them out of the city, and he agreed, and Uhud was the scene of a most heinous battle.

“Do not leave your station even if you see us victorious,” he had commanded a group of about 50 archers stationed on top of the “Battle Hill” in Uhud. “Do not leave your station,” he repeated a second time, ”even if you see the prophet and his companion’s dead bodies being eaten by dogs and vultures.”

And thus the battle began. In the blink of an eye, the enemy was routed, and they fled. And they gave chase, and seeing this, seeing how easy it was that Allah gave them victory over the polytheists, 40 out of the 50 archers left their post and started to scramble down for the goods and the spoils left behind by the fleeing enemy.

In no time, the cavalry led by the then-still-a-polytheist Khalid al-Walid, noticed the unguarded territory, passed through the backdoor of the mountain vale and onto the abandoned flanks, and slaughtered the remaining Muslims. Seeing this, the spoil-getters realized their error, ran back to the spot, and they got slaughtered themselves. The fleeing enemy additionally made a U-turn at this turn of events and helped in the kill.

The Muslims elsewhere got the beatings too, and the most noble man himself was struck by the enemy’s sword until the metal helmet protecting his noble head gave way and he got bloodied in the event, breaking a few of his teeth. And nonetheless, he saw a brave Amazonian Muslimah dispelling the enemies with her sword, protecting him. 70 Muslims were killed that day, and only about 20 polytheists faced the same faith. Just because, and only just because, the Muslims had disobeyed ONE single instruction of the most noble of men.

How many have we disobeyed today? And we are wondering why the Muslims presently are weak and downtrodden?

Uhud – the mountain who loved, and was loved.
The Prophet’s Mosque


I thought Badshahi was huge, and I thought the Jame in Delhi was huge. But the prophet’s mosque defies description.

And I am not just talking about size. I am talking about … magnanimity. I am talking about love, about pining, about a sense of longing. For how else can you describe all these million or so that are here?

Being in Medina isn’t part of the Hajj ritual, but why else would they all be here if not for love, for longing for that most loved of the objects of love? And if it is not Love, how would you explain the fact that to each of these worshippers, coming to his mosque two hours before the azan of the morning prayers at 5am in the morning would be considered too late already?

Of Camels and Donkeys


After the battle of Hunain, the Muslims had won and the Polytheists had fled with tails between their legs. The spoils of war were gathered and now to be distributed. And he distributed them.

The first batch he gave it to the Muhajirs, (the Immigrants). The second he gave to the Muhajirs too, and so was the third, the fourth and so on.

And from a distance, the Ansars (the Helpers) were just …observing. And they observed, silently. Until one of them could not contain anymore, and said, “The man had gone back to his people.”

And the hypocrites and the jews took no time to seize the opportunity to sow discord.

“What did I tell ya, people,” they said. “When he is need of of us, he’d rally for our help. Plead for our assistance. And now in the time of success, he forgets us, and prefers his people over anything else.”

But these whispers they passed along in private, until the Yathrib winds could no longer contain the breezes of discontent no more, and it landed onto his ear.

“What’s this I hear, O Ansars? That there are talks about the Prophet of God giving spoils of war to the Immigrants and leaving out the Ansars? Is this what you people think”

“O Prophet of God,” said the leader amongst the Ansars. “I stand by my own people.”

“Alright,” he said. “Bilal --- call the azan and gather all the Ansars in one tent, and do not let anyone enter it except the Ansars.”

When they had gathered, he gave a little speech, extolling the virtues of the Ansars over the Muhajirs, reminding them how he, even though an Muhajir himself, love them so much that each valley and hill traversed by the Ansar he would make sure that he is amongst them.

And then his speech got a bit more throaty. “O Ansar”, he said. “Are you not satisfied with the fact the to the Muhajirs the Prophet of God gave Donkeys and Camels, while to Ansars he gave him his own SELF, his heart and his soul?”

Hearing this each and everyone in tent broke down crying, and realized the true meaning of Love. At this point in the story, Apocryphalist would let go too. every time he hears it.

The Rawdhah


Ah, what can convey to you what the Rawdhah is? Amongst some of my non-Muslim readers, it would be almost an impossibility to describe to you all the significance of this spot called the Rawdhah --- an area about … oh less than 10 meters by 10 meters square, just behind the Prophet’s sermon place in his mosque.

Millions would throng to be anywhere in that spot even if it would be for a few seconds. In it, hearts’ desires are met. Supplications are made to God and, if found favourable, God would grant it. “Between the mimbar and my resting place”, said the Prophet of God, “Is the Rawdhah of Paradise. Whoever prays to God in it, will be granted”.

On Thursday last week sis Roziesms’ed me saying if I am in the Holy Lands, to please pray for her daughter whose hands had not been …errr … “asked” and they’re getting worried: she’s already passed the blissful age.

I was fortunate to secure a spot in the Rawdhah for a few minutes Saturday (after battling the spot with thousands of people at 3 in the morning) and I did pray for my niece. This morning (Tuesday) she called, and said someone had come to propose yesterday….

Coincidence? Yes, let’s all think so.

Of Caesars and Chosroes.


Omar came rushing to his abode one day after hearing that he had been displeased with one of his wives. Fearing that it could be his own daughter who was also one of the mothers of the faithful, he had admonished an struck her, and thereafter ran as quickly as he could to try to appease him.

Upon coming up to his balcony, he had asked forgiveness on behalf of the women, reminding how these Muhajir lasses had probably been influenced by the more chic and suave Ansari girls. This carved a little smile on his holy face and it was then that Omar saw his back: He had been resting bareback and his bed was made of harsh date palms piled together and the palm leaves had carved an imprint on his holy body.

Seeing this Omar cried. “O prophet of God”, he said. “Look at you. The Caesars of Rome and the Chosroes of Persia are at this moment reclining on their beds made of down and silk, while you, the Prophet of God, are sleeping on palm leaves.”

Hearing this, he sat up, with a surprised look on his face. “Omar”, he said. “Are you still in doubt? The comforts of this world are nothing compared to the comforts of the hereafter. As for my needs in this world, I should so love that whenever I feel hungry, I could pray to God for sustenance and if I should feel sated, I could have the ability to be thankful to Him. Wherefore have you strayed from this, Omar?”

Yes indeed, folks. Wherefore have we all strayed from that?

And here, beneath the earth of Medina, lies the body of that most blessed and most noble of human beings.

Apocryphalist.

Apocryphalist is a regular commentator in this and other blogs. He spotted this blogger taking pictures at the Perdana Haj course in Putrajaya and have been keeping in touch since. He is performing Haj this year. We met in Medinah but yet to meet up in Mekah.

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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Blog Haji1432.com giving Haj coverage


A blog Haji1432.com is another blog established to document this Hijrah 1432 year's Haj recently. Read in the link here.

Tomorrow, we will publish an article from a popularly known blog commentator, Apocryphalist whom we bump into at the Tabung Haji-organised Perdana Haj course in Putrajaya and in Medinah.

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

From Medina to Mekah


While my other roommates made their farewell visit to the Prophet's grave after zohor, I insisted my goodbye will be after my last prayer at his Masjid.

I am no more that 31 year old rebelious spirited young man with the energy and idealism but that of a 51 year old. The long queue for the limited Tabung Haji quota may make this my last.

After the 'asar prayers, I hurried my way to the entrance of the Prophet's mausoleum. Some part of the passage to the mausoleum still had people just completed performing their 'asar prayers. Some are reading the Quran.

This area remains part of raudah. I stand between them and cited the Malay traslated version of the doa for raudah. As I was seek for foregiveness, prayed for the Prophet, seek spiritual strength and guidance, and prayers for goodwill of all Muslim, then came a phrase:

O Allah! O My Lord! May you not deviate our hearts after you have guided us. Shower us with mercy from your abundant generosity ...
Tears just naturally flow.

One guard spot me holding up a queue and asked me to move on. I abide and moved on towards the Prophet's tomb. While walking, I gave salam to the Prophet from afar. And relayed the salam of friends who had just called in from Kuala Lumpur about two hours ago.

There were many things I had prayed for with the syufaat of the Prophet. But my parting words were:

I said, if it happens that I do not ever make it back to visit you again, O rasulullah, accept me as your ummah and allow me to be behind you when we assemble at the Mahsyar on the day of judgement.

Then, I gave my salam to Khalifah Abu Bakar and Omar Al Khatab, whose tombs are next to the Prophet.

I left with tears of happiness and relief.


On my return to my room, my roommate Haji Mat from Senawang was busily trying his ihram. He kept on complaining that it doesn't feel right. I just smiled.

Since before zohor, I had packed all my stuff into the bags. I've been wearing the ihram since but just short of saying the niat. Before putting on the ihram, I had a the sunnat ihram bath.

Nothing feels right in an ihram. It is just two pieces of unstitched white cloth. We are going kilt if you know what I mean. Make sure those belts are tight and can hold the large towel-like cloth.

At about that time, 10 buses were already lined up in front of the Al Haram. We are scheduled to leave at 5:30 pm saudi times.


I came down earlier to book seats for us at the front. We are slotted for Bus #1.

I hanged around and waited for my fashionably late wife and her sister to come. As soon as they boarded, I boarded. Lucky for us, especially me, I had the whole two seats for myself which we used the extra seats for our hand luggages.


By 6:00 pm, we left Medinah. It was a mixed feeling of sadness and anxiousness. We are leaving Medinah, the city that Prophet Muhammad built to Mecca, the city that Prophet Abraham built.

As werer passing through Medinah city, we could hear the muezzin call for Maghrib prayers.


Before the journey to medinah begins, we are required to go to a Masjid at Bir Ali, just outside Medinah. We are supposed to pray the sunnat ihram and cite niat to ihram.



While officially in ihram clothing, one has to respect a lot of prohibitions. Basically it is to emulate a state of zuhud or hermit.

Our bus journey to Mecca begins. Along the way, we are to pass three immigration Haj checkpoints. The first was just after Bir Ali.

Not only is the checkpoint for ducumentary purposes, we were given bread, dates and drinks. The Saudi were a welcoming host to us, "invitee of god."

Along the way, few of us were citing the talbiyah. Oh God! I have answered your call. I am coming to your house.

I was having coughing problem with the smell of diesel fume. But I told myself I was inside a bus and driving along a highway. That was a fr cry from what my grandparents had to undergo in camel rides in the hot sun many decades ago.

The bus drove slowly and carefully till the last checkpoint just outside Mecca.


Some medical personnel from Tabung Haji appeared into our bus to inform we are near Mecca. He gave a few advse, particularly health advise. Temperature is on the higher side, he warned.

In about 15 minutes, I can identify that we are in the Mecca city limits. I read a doa. We are finally here at about 2:00 am saudi times.

We settled down at the hotel and rested for the day.

It is after isya, and around 9:00 pm October 19. We are scheduled to go to the Masjidil Haram to perform the tawaf, cicumbulation around the kaabah and saei, to and fro between the hills of Safa and Marwah.

The schedule is such so as to avoid the excessively packed crowd.

For the whole day, we are only in our ihram and observing the prohibitions. Until we fulfill the tawaf and saei, we can't take it off.

I am more anxious to be in the House of Allah. The want has been long but the calling had only suddenly surfaced.

Labbaikallahu humma labbaik ...

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Insignificant inconveniences


The little inconvenience to withdraw cash to Tabung Haji depositers is practically over. By yesterday, pilgrims were able to withdraw up to RM1,000 a day.

This is but some of the Haji experiences. Being Malaysians, many pilgrims are loudly voicing grouses on petty matters.

If it is not about eating packed food, it is the cooking. If it is neither about both, it is about not having home taste sambil belacan or sambal ikan bilis. They should know that belacan, ikan bilis and udang kering is an expensive delicacy here. Or there are those that expect food to be delivered to their rooms.

If the food is not a problem, there are those that complained about the packed accomodation. It is little of this and little of that.

If only they know that there are rooms, in the Al Haram Hotel they are staying, that could fetch in the off-season as high as SR1,000 a night. That is a good deal for Muassasah Haj.

And, if only they know, Tabung Haji had put in lots of effort and dedication to make their journey safe and problem free to ensure they are able to perform ibadah in comfort.

The cash withdrawal inconvenience pales in significance to the opportunity to perform ibadah at the home of the Prophet.

Certainly, visiting Medinah before Mekah presents an opportunity to acclimatise and prepare oneself physically and spiritually to the more challenging visit to Mekah and performance of the Haj.

We are scheduled to leave for Mekah this evening at around 7 pm Saudi time October 18th (around 12 pm Malaysian time 18 October). It is going to be a sad affair to bid farewell to the soul of Muhammad in the land of Medina this 'asar.

For the past 8 days from October 10th, we - myself, my wife and sister-in-law - have not done much. Like the rest of pilgrims, much of our time were spent going to and from the Masjid for the five times daily prayers. Here, one has to be really to get a good location.

In between, we try to do as much sunnat prayers, wirid, zikr, doa or just reading the Quran. Sometimes we try to do our ibadah near the Prophet's grave.

My Quran is already downloaded on my Galaxy Tab, so I am reading from it. It saves me the inconvenince of going through the crowded Masjid to reach and return the Quran. The Galaxy Tab is giving me much attention from on-lookers and at the same time, attracting beggars who thinks I am such rich men with a toy.

In holy Medinah, we try as much as possible to refrain from shooting our mouth or having improper intentions. Sometime we do not know that what we really wish for could happen and that turned out for the worst.

With hundreds of thousands congregating into Medinah and millions in Mekah, many things in our daily life that are usually taken for granted can be a challenge.

The large number of people makes the condition seemed chaotic with people rushing for the better spot to do prayers at the Masjid, to have a chance to do prayers in the Raudah and visiting the Prophet.

The expansively large Masjid that can be quite a tiring long walk.

Patience can get the best of us. And that becomes a real test on our tolerance for the smaller things in life.

It is important to remain focus on our purpose in coming here. That way, all other petty inconveniences do not matter.

Still, Medinah is only the beginning of bigger challenges from Mekah onward.


When hearing complains on TH, it is quite inappropriate.

Credit to where it is due, TH Haj operation had done a commendable job. Mind you, there are only a total 800 "petugas", with about 400 being personnel for medical and emergencies, handling 28,000 pilgrims from Malaysia.

They assist pilgrims, which are mostly old and/or first time travellers, with their immigration, customs, teaching bab haji, sending off and receiving at the airport and hotel, transportation, accomodation, food and even guiding through one's own responsibility of performing the ibadah.

That is practically the comprehensive service of first class hospitality operators.

The challenge on TH is to keep the "first class service" as low as to make it affordable but yet sufficiently comfortable.

Without those intentional but justified inconveniences like not being served breakfast, which could be part of cost adjustments, it would not be easy to send on pilgrims on muassasah package with such quality of service at the cost RM10,000.

It should be about RM25,000!

Despite that, there are able to throw in ancillary services like ziarah. We had joined two of the organised ziarah.


On our second day in Medinah, TH organised ziarah into the Raudah, Prophet's grave and grave of the sahabat and family at Jannatal Baqi.


The next day, we were taken for a tour to visit the Masjid Qubah, the first Masjid built by the Prophet.


We passed through Masjid Qiblataini, Masjid where the Prophet was instructed to change kiblat in mid-prayers to change from Baitul Maqdis to Masjidil Haram.


Along the way to the ground of the battle of Uhud, we saw the Masjid Jamaah, the first masjid the Prophet performed Jumaat prayers.


The tour guide, a Sarawak theology student with the Medinah Universty described the battle of Uhud. The lesson was obey command in a battle.

We then passed through Seven Masjids which is also the site for the battle of Khandak (trenches).

On Saturday, we revisted again Masjid Qubah and Qiblatain. My mother and many friends advised us that the benefit of performing prayers at Masjid Qubah is almost equivalent to performing the Umrah.


In between prayers and ibadah, we did do a bit of shopping. Be it prayer mats, perfume, clothes, etc, it is much cheaper than in Malaysia.


It is a Malay tradition to contribute to pilgrims. We received quite a number of donations from family and friends.


It is difficult to figure what the appropriate gift for them. Some of them regularly visit Mekah and Medina for umrah. So we decided to buy Quran and wakaf (donate) to the Masjid with them as beneficiary.

I was told that after the Haj season, the Masjid usually redonate and sent out it's Quran to other Masjid locally and abroad. It means that their Quran could be spreading elsewhere in the Muslim world.

Sprawling around the hotels built surrounding the Masjid are shops. The number of Malaysians and Indonesians shopping have made some knowledge of the Malay language as an important business tool.

We had only a day or two to get something for family and friends that we resorted to
nearby shops. Had we known it is much cheaper, we would have gone to the older Medina area where the Indonesians, Thai, Africans, Indians etc are staying.

The barang-barang have been posted via Pos Malaysia back and some family members can get their gifts in 14 days. Others have to await our return.

That was advised by TH. The reason we abide was that we hope to not be diverted from focusing on ibadah, umrah and Haj in Mekah.

And the talbiyah grew louder, Labbaikallah humma labbaik ...
.

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Monday, October 17, 2011

TH averted crisis of confidence


Big Dog was given the scoop on the meaasures by Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) to cap cash withdrawal by Tabung Haji (TH) with it's Saudi banker.

This has inevitably affected the amount to be withdrawn by pilgrims and raising concern of confidence in Medinah.

Read here.

Despite TH pilgrims not needing money to pay for their food, accomodation and ziarah tr, pilgrims performing the Haji Tamattuk (umrah before Haj) seriously need to ready about SR 350 to pay for the dam.

Pilgrims followed TH advise to not keep much cash but deposit in TH account and withdrawn in Medinah and/or Mekah.

Cash is also needed to pay for postages to Pos Malysia who are providing services to send parcels home. TH had advised pilgrims visiting Medina before Mekah to maintain luggage as light as possible and post home their gifts for family and friends.


In a conversation with the TH Vice Counsell for Medinah, Tuan Haji Shahrul Najmi after Isya, he explained the security motivated precautionary ruling by SAMA did not affect payment by cheques.

This has enabled TH to assist cash strapped pilgrims by making payments to Pos Malaysia and TH for postages, dam and korban by deducting from their passbook accounts.

The choice to limit daily withdrawal to SR 500 per person is reasonable enough for pilgrim's spending.

There is no more worry of insufficient withdrawal amount to cover for their immediate financial needs to pay dam, postages and korban.

Pilgrims is not prevented from withdrawing again the next day. Cumbersome as it is, the measure was necessary for TH to meet the new SAMA ruling and fulfill their obligation to provide financial services to pilgrim.

Such measure to limit withdrawal by Bank could lead to a crisis of confidence leading to a run on the Bank. However, there is nothing for the TH depositers to worry. Things should be back to normality.

For pilgrims about to leave for Haj, if it is really necessary, it would be advisable for precautionary measures to arrange remittance and deposit services with other Banks with network in Saudi Arabia like Al Rajhi Bank.

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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Paying respect to the Prophet


While on our direct flight from Kuala Lumpur to Medinah, cabin crew of Saudi Air SV 5701 turned on the lights at around 3:00 am local Saudi Arabian time.

It was time for an early breakfast. The choice for menu was fish or chicken with rice. It was to be our last meal till lunch at the hotel at 11:00 am. We should need the energy to undergo the standing and waiting at the Immigration counter, attending to our luggage at the Airport, the travel to the hotel and expected chaos of settling in at the hotel.

The noise of the cabin crew moving up and down the aisle woke me from my slumber. I was still sleepy. I am still tired from the rush the week before to prepare for the trip. I was not in the mood to eat. I wanted to continue sleeping.

While I tried closing my eyes again, I just could not sleep again. I knew we are close to Medinah. I begin to get excited to the prospect of being back to Medina again. After more than 20 years since my Ramadan Umrah in 1991, I am finally returning to the holy city of Medina.

In my last prayers at Medina and Mecca, I prayed to Allah to not end my life till I perform the Haj and revisit Mekah and Medina. After many tumultuous years of ups and downs between successes and failures, Allah answered my prayers.

I am now returning to “meet” the prophet again. Tears of joy begin to roll down my eye.

The visit to Medinah is not compulsory but highly recommended for Haj and Umrah visitors. It is to pay respect to the Prophet Muhammad s.a.w.

The Prophet’s mausoleum is inside the Masjid Nabawi, the second holiest Masjid after Masjidil Haram of Mekah. It is located next to an area of the Masjid called the Raudah, which is the distance from his home to the Mihrab of the original Masjid; the spot the Prophet would lead prayers.

The original Masjid is not the sprawling Masjid of today capable of housing 150,000 jemaah. When the Prophet expanded the Masjid, it was only for 20 m by 15 m.


Raudah is also described as “heaven on earth.” That is where the Prophet seldom received revelations brought down by angel Jibrael. It is a highly sought after spot by pilgrims for the barakah to pray and do their doa. Based on some hadith, it is believed that Allah will not refuse doa made at the Raudah.

After getting our luggage and settling into our shared room, I took a nap so that I am fresh by zohor. By 11 am, I was awakened by my roommates knocking to enter our room and change into more appropriate attire for zohor.

I took a shower and put on the black baju Melayu I had on from Kuala Lumpur. I had a black clip-on sunglasses attached to my spectacle. It is a moving experience and I would not want to be seen in tears.

By the time we were out of the Al Haram Hotel, where we were placed at by Tabung Haji, the muezzin was calling the azan to mark the time for zohor. The Al Haram is not too from the Masjid, just behind the famous Masjid-front Oberoi Hotel. We had ample time to walk and join the jemaah.

People can be seen walking at brisk pace from all direction towards the Masjid. Nearby shops and at shopping complexes were already closed.

As we entered the Masjid, it was already packed to the brim. It is a scene one sees on a Friday in Malaysia but in Medinah and Mekah, people flock to the Masjid five times a day. This is a usual phenomenon during Haj season.

We read a special doa as soon we entered the Al Fahd main door. There were containers of zam zam water from Mekah nearby. I took a plastic cup full and cited prayer to seek useful knowledge, halal means of living, and healing power. And drink it.

I then walked along the assigned passageway and secured a spot to join the jemaah for prayers. This is a more orderly arrangement than it was 20 years ago.

After zohor prayers and citing of doa, I walked further front towards the mausoleum. I realised there were changes in the arrangement too. To pay respect to the Prophet, one has to enter through a certain door to visit the mausoleum. I forgot the name of the door. (It is Abu Bakar As Siddeq door).

The area to visit the mausoleum was sealed from the Raudah. It is no more like it used to where visitors reached the mausoleum through Raudah.

With the place packed with people from all over the world, one does not have the luxury of citing the doa in solace in front of the fenses of the mausoleum as I used to have the luxury to do. But one only recites the doa as one walked pass the mausoleum on the way out.

Assalamualaikum Ya Rasulullah ...”

In the doa cited quietly in my heart, I thank Allah for giving me the opportunity to visit the Prophet. I mentioned of families, and friends who extended their “salam” to the Prophet through me.

Deep within me, I was only too happy and the beautiful translation of the doa was really moving. Tears rolled out of my eyes.

But it was too short.

On the second day of our stay, Tabung Haji arranged a visit for Malaysian pilgrims to the Raudah together with the Prophet’s mausoleum in mid-morning. This time we had some time to do prayers in the Raudah
and a less rushing walk pass by the mausoleum.

That afternoon I visit the Raudah again and stayed till ‘asr prayers. This time I get to do some ibadah - perform se
veral sunat (non obligatory) prayers, read a juzu’ of the Quran and do the zikr – and also make doa for many well wishers.

However, the visit to Medinah goes beyond paying respect, performing ibadah, and multiple pahala from ibadah performed at the Masjid Nabawi.

It is spiritually about seeking the Prophet to accept one as his ummah in the day of judgement at the field of mahsyar.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

No fresh milk, No politics


My first travelogue is delayed.

The Internet access is not that good and costly here. The Internet SIM card I got did not help my Internet access. The hotel Wifi cost Riyal 25 per hour. Aren't we bless in Malaysia?

Oh well. It s a different place after all.

On the night of our departure on Oct 9 at the Kompleks Tabung Haji at Kelana Jaya, as soon as they begin to play a slow nasyid version of Labbaikallah ..., the pilgrimage got the message that it is time to depart with loved ones and friends.

All our family were advised not to sent us to the Kelana Jaya Tabung Haji Kompleks dues to the heavy traffic and crowd.

All except my mother.

Despite her legs not as strong as it used to, she insisted that having sent all her others sons and daughter (note the singularity), she has to send me too!

That is my stubborn mother. I guess one has to be strong-willed and firm to raise a family of seven boys and one girl.

There were several bloggers sending me off. Shamsul Yunos of My Anger (now Still Angry) was there with his wife. His presence serve to keep me to remember to pray for his invitation to the holy land.

Aspan Alias was there to also confirm rumour he is running on DAP ticket in Negeri Sembilan for next election.

Ghaffar, a close confidante to the Deputy Prime Minister, was there with his friend.

Off course, there is Big Dog.

They waited till we were finished taking the goodies and neck tags and helped squeeze these gifts into our filled-to-the-brim luggage.

As soon as we checked in at the Kompleks at 9:30 pm, we went through almost like an airport operation, complete with bag scanners. The main luggage are checked in and the Tabung Haji given bags are carried as hand luggages.

We were given a last pep talk before boarding the buses for the Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

The reminders were to focus on our ibadah and it is the same reminder given to me. Many worry I can’t shed my blogging habit. I promised it will only take a couple of minutes, ok.

We were reminded that we are carrying the good name of country and flag. Lots of Malaysian flags are pasted all over our luggage, sling bags, neck tags, ihram, etc.

The real gist ... no politics please. Do not bring political pamphlets there. No participation in any political demonstrations. No criticising of the Saudi King.

After getting on bus, some 10 Plusliner buses carrying us were given police escort to the tarmac of KLIA. We got off at B2 terminal to clear immigration and straight into a Saudi Air 747.

We took-off at around 1:30 am.

We reached Medina International Airport at 4:40 am October 11. As the formula BRT-TUC, we lost some time for travelling westward.

All the way from Kuala Lumpur to Medinah and every step of the way, be it on logistic, accomodation, ibadah, etc, there is Tabung Haji’s involvement. Haji. They were helpful and courteous, especially to the many older, unfamiliar first timers, etc.

We were truly treated carefully as "invitee of Allah" to his "house".

It is no joke. The operation in Medinah involves two zone with each zone covering three hotels. At any one time, there is 2,000 pilgrims here with new coming in from Malaysia and some going to Mekah.

The same team here will be going to Mekah to help out the Haj operation and upon finishing Haj, they will rush back top Medinah to receive pilgrims visitng Mekah after Haj from Mekah.

Mind you, the number of pilgrims is as much in numbers as the invading troops at Normandy during World War II, as what millitary freak Big Dog described.

That is a logistical nightmare. It is once a year and there are many seasonal workers. That is not like other full time hotel and travel operations.

Due to the long number of years of good rapport and work with the Saudi authority, Tabung Haji gets a special respect for their management. Other Islamic countries begin to emulate Tabung Haji's pilgrim management

As Malaysians, we should be proud because everyone looks at us with respect and envy. "Malaysie? Malaysie? ..." they would ask.

On the fresh milk, don’t get me wrong. Naughty ... please we are on Haj, ok. We were told to void drinking camel’s milk taken fresh from the camel.

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Sunday, October 09, 2011

My spiritual journey begins


Labbaik Allahumma Labbaik. Labbaik, La Shareek Laka, Labbaik. Innal Hamdah, Wan Nematah, Laka wal Mulk, La Shareek Laka Labbaik.
Here I am at Thy service O Lord, here I am. Here I am at Thy service and Thou hast no partners. Thine alone is All Praise and All Bounty, and Thine alone is The Sovereignty. Thou hast no partners, here I am. Surah AHaj 3:97
Since my September 8th calling, the Talbiah has grown much louder and it is almost a reality as we - me and my accompanying family member - ready our luggages to fly tonight.

We are heading for a 45 day journey to the holy land of Mecca.

Alhamdulillah, there was no hitches. It was a rush rush on my part since the formal confirmation from Tabung Haji came only last Monday.

However, it works out as I was able to get my travelling documents sorted out in the nick of time to join my two other family members for tonight's flight.

Wish to express my heartfelt thanks to the helpful, speedy and responsive Tabung Haji staff and officials. Not to be left out are the immigration, and other Government departments people who helped.

Many thanks to the many well wishers from friends, comrades, and readers.

For the next 40 over days, there will be no politics, no corporate stories, and no other posting but Haj posting of this, maybe, once in a lifetime spiritual journey.

I have volunteered myself and a little of my time there as "official" blogger for Tabung Haji and will be covering the Haj as a Jamaah.

The Haj is the 5th and last rukun to a Muslim. It is obligatory on those Muslims who can afford this journey.

In brief, the actual Haj ritual falls on the 8-13th of the Muslim month of Zulhijjah begining with the trip from Mecca to Mina for the wukuf in Arafah. At Arafah, all the pilgrimmes would congregate together from Zohor to Asr.

Then they move on to Mina and stopping over at Muzdalifah to collect stones for use at the devil stoning ritual on the 11-13th Zulhijjah.

Finally it would be circumbulation around the Kaabah. Insya Allah, on completion, one is a Haji and in accordance with the Malay custom, will carry that title around.

I hope I got that right. Rush job, remember. By that time, I am through, I should be familiar.

Tonight we are flying first to Medinah to pay respect to the Prophet. The grave of Prophet Muhammad saw lies, within the holy Masjid Nabawi.

Let me sign off here. I need totake a shower and do my Musaffir prayers before going leaving. Family and friends are congregating at home already. Dog's mobile awaiting.

We are to leave now for Tabung Haji Haj Centre at Kelana Jaya. There is the sad happy good bye.

Before my next posting, I seek everyone's prayers so that we will be healthy and spiritual strong to undertake this Haj which could be physically arduous to a just recovering from asthma patient like me.

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Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Tajuddin vindicated!


The Malaysian Insiders (MI) today advertised an apology to Tan Sri Tajuddin Ramli on their website.

Subsequently, an apology will be advertised in the New Straits Times and Berita Harian for their continuing a wild accusation that have been spreading for a decade that MAS lost an aggregated RM8 billion under Tajuddin's Chairmanship.

Bigdog had the tip-off last Friday. Read here.

He wrote of opposition leaders insistence on continually making the unsubstantiated claims despite police have cleared Tajuddin of any wrongdoing and his case NFAed between 2004-2005.

MI's admittance is also a validation and attestation to the ICC arbitration court judgement in April 2007 that should have acquited Tajuddin of any wrongdoings as in all the alleged reports made to the police and MACC, statements by barking dogs the like of Tan Sri Robert Phang, Salahuddin Ayub and now Dato Zin Ibrahim, and hate blog postings by Din Merican.

The vindication on the various injustices on Tajuddin will await for the global settlement with the Government.

On the side, Tan Sri Nor Yakcop is uneasily looking at the events unfolding. Its coming closer to him.

Salahuddin Ayub and Harakah has a leading role in demonising Tajuddin with the fictitous loss and is liable.

So too are Saifuddin Nasution and Dato Mahfudz Omar who had repeated the same allegations in public.

MAS officios, like Dr Mohamaddon Abdullah and Shaari Sulaiman, who mentioned the RM8 billion alleged loss in their reports are open to investigation for making false report to the police.

This is despit ethe fact that the alleged unsubstantiated loss first surface in a letter from Dato Ramli Yusof, Head of PDRM's Commercial Crime to Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in March 2007.

This RM8 billion figure did not come out of the blue. The strong suspicion is that it came from the "crooked" lawyer Rosli Dahlan with some insidious hands within MAS' Legal Department on instruction from someone from within but outside .

Despite Ramli Yusof being the first to make that accusation in the letter to Tun Abdullah, the loss was not substantiated and the letter delved more on alleged indiscretion by Tajuddin in the Hahn Cargo Airport deal.

Ramli Yusof reopened the case upon his return from Sabah to head PDRM's Commercial Crime Unit in May 2005. He was influenced by his friend and MAS's hired "crooked" lawyer, Rosli Dahlan.

Both of them may have suspiciously initiated a conspiracy with former Prime Minister, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, conspirator-spinmaster, former Bernama Chairman Dato Annuar Zaini, then Chairman Dato Munir Majid, the CEO appointed on December 1st 2005, Dato Idris Jala, and Legal Counsel Dr Wafi Nazrin to pin something on Tajuddin.

Read about the juicy detail here.

They never managed to pin Tajuddin with anything. There was nothing to pin him with.

By demonising Tajuddin with such losses, the suspicion was that it justify their plan to cut MAS to pieces and to be later swallowed by Air Asia as we see happening today.

In fact, the contentious issue of the Hahn Cargo Airport was resolved in April 2007 by the ICC arbitration in Geneva around the time the dogs were barking.

MAS lost their case and did not dispute the judgement. In addition, MAS had obligingly honoured to pay the determined sum.

Not only was there no case of an aggregated loss of RM8 billion, the repeated issues of non-disclosure of interest and conflict of interest by Tajuddin in Ramli Yusof's letter, police reports by MAS officio and allegations by Raja Petra, Din Merican, and Tan Sri Robert Phang were untrue.

How could there be a conflict of interest when Tajuddin was expected by the Board of Director of MAS to risk his money into the venture as a sign of commitment?

The moment Tajuddin left in February 2001, it was MAS that did not honour their commitment. They canceled the deal immediately on July 2001 and also great opportunity to develop a "spoke and wheel" air transporation link between Malaysia and Europe.

They claimed the agreement was unfair but the ICC arbitration saw it as fair.

Read it at length here.

The advertisement by MI and a tidy sum of off-court settlement is a vindication for Tajuddin who have suffered bad publicity and been keeping himself quiet and away from the public.

Not only is the issue of his lawsuit against MI, Tajuddin is now in the wake of negotiating a global settlement with the Government.

He had been unfairly treated during the financial crisis by Danaharta and the then Adviser to the Prime Minister, Tan Sri Nor Mohamad Yakcop Minister who force sold his shares in Celcom and also his stake in Naluri
at an exorbitantly low price . There is also a pending lawsuit against MAS over the Hahn Cargo Airport.

The global settlement is no bailout but similar to an arbitration process to find a best solution to protect the interest of Tajuddin, Government and GLCs. It is handled by judges.

Read The Star below:

Friday September 30, 2011

Zaharah is new managing judge in Tajudin settlement with GLCs

KUALA LUMPUR: Court of Appeal judge Justice Zaharah Ibrahim is the new managing judge for the proposed mega settlement involving former Malaysia Airlines (MAS) executive chairman Tan Sri Tajudin Ramli and government-linked companies (GLCs).

Previously, it was handled by Justice Md Raus Sharif, who is now Court of Appeal president.

Yesterday, Justice Zaharah met the parties at the court complex here.

Sources told The Star that the parties had to report to Justice Zaharah on the progress of their negotiations next month.

Tajudin’s lawyer Lim Kian Leong confirmed that the matter had been fixed for further case management on Nov 3.

However, Lim declined to disclose details of the proposed negotiations.

The media had reported last month that the Government and Tajudin were negotiating a settlement of all legal cases involving him and the GLCs.

The proposed settlement, which includes appeal cases, covers more than 10 suits pending at the courts here. The cases include a breach of contract suit filed in 2004.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz had said in an interview then that any out-of-court settlement must not be at the expense of the Government.

He stressed that the Government had no plan to bail out any party in order to settle the suits.

He said the Government considered that there were counter-claims involved in the cases and that they could be settled without any party paying any damages.

Among the GLCs involved in the proposed settlement are Naluri Corp Bhd, Telekom Malaysia Bhd, Celcom (M) Bhd, Altan Holdings Bhd, Pengurusan Danaharta Nasional Bhd and MAS.
All this arise from the vengeful actions of Nor Yakcop against Tajuddin. The same Nor Yakcop had irresponsibly lost RM16 billion of Bank Negara money and it was Tajuddin that came to help bailout Bank Negara from a position of negative capital.

Tajuddin has a case and chances are he could win it.

Can the Government afford RM15 billion, or maybe with interest cost running over 10 years, it could reach RM23 billion?

By the look of it, it will be Tajuddin that will have to compromise again for the sake of the nation. One wonders, will there be people out there who appreciate his sacrifice?

Click Here to Read More..

Sunday, October 02, 2011

E&O AGM: Orchestrated to concert perfection


Eastern & Oriental Berhad’s Annual General Meeting was held on Friday.

One major item on the agenda was the nomination of ECM Libra Financial Group Bhd’s representatives to the Board of Directors and the re-election or as the term used by the Bernama report, reappointment of E&O chairman Azizan Abdul Rahman, managing director Terry Tham, and two other directors.

Bernama reported that 75% of the shareholders present rejected ECM Libra’s nomination, while 90 to 95% overwhelmingly voted for the reappointment of Azizan, Tham, Henry Chin, and Vijay.

Hmmm ... 90-95% voted for. That seemed like business as usual.

The same report quoted E&O Deputy Managing Director Eric Chan Kok Leong as claiming that shareholders gave overwhelming support for the collaborative agreement with Sime Darby Berhad (Sime Darby).

That is a business-as-usual, sanitised, positive remark from any businessman and corporate man.

With some knowledge of how AGMs and EGMs are staged and handled in Malaysia, shareholders may not have received the proper answers and most answers are sanitised.

In any AGM and EGM of PLCs, there is more at work behind the scenes than meet the eye.

Despite the claim of support, Chan said, “The energy is high. They (shareholders) have more questions than usual.”

What were the questions raised by the floor? How were they answered? Were they handled satisfactorily? Was there any suppression or diversion of issues raised by the floor?

The Chairman is Azizan, the controversial husband to the Chairperson of Securities Commission, Tan Sri Zarinah Anuar.

Read the Bernama report first:

E&O shareholders reject nomination of ECM Libra’s nominees

September 30, 2011

KUALA LUMPUR: Eastern & Oriental Bhd (E&O) shareholders today rejected ECM Libra Financial Group Bhd’s nominees – Mahadzir Azizan and Leong Kam Weng – to the company’s board of directors.

About 75% of the shareholders who attended the property developer’s annual general meeting (AGM) here, voted against ECM Libra’s request, E&O deputy managing director Eric Chan Kok Leong told reporters.

Mahadzir is currently a director of ECM Libra, Syarikat Takaful Malaysia Bhd, ECM Libra Investment Bank Bhd, Libra Invest Bhd and several other companies, and is a member of the investment committee of Amanah Raya REITS.

Leong sits on the board of directors and audit committee of TA Enterprise Bhd and TA Global Bhd.

As of Sept 22, ECM Libra holds 6.3% of E&O, making it the second largest shareholder after Sime Darby Bhd which owns 30% equity interest.

Sime Darby acquired its stakes from E&O managing director Terry Tham (12.2%), Wan Azmi Hamzah (9.1%) and GK Goh Holdings of Singapore (9.5%) on Sept 9 for RM766 million or RM2.30 per share.

After the sale, Tham still has 5.1% while Wan Azmi and GK Goh hold 2.9% and 3.5% respectively.

Chan said about 60% of the shareholders of E&O attended the AGM which lasted about four hours.

He said between 90% and 95% of the shareholders voted for the reappointment of E&O chairman Azizan Abdul Rahman, managing director Tham and two other directors – Henry Chin Poy Wu and Vijayaratnam Thamotharam.

“We received overwhelming support from the shareholders. The energy is high. They (shareholders) have more questions than usual,” he said after the AGM.

Chan also said E&O would hold its first meeting with Sime Darby in October to identify areas that both parties could work together.

“We’ve signed a collaborative agreement with Sime Darby. We’ll call for the first meeting next month in accordance with the agreement,” he said.

E&O and Sime Darby signed the three-year collaborative agreement on the same day share sale deal was concluded.

Chan said the group was now focusing on promoting E&O’s unique brand proposition as a true lifestyle developer.

He added that the strategic corporate recognition attained by the group from its sales and marketing collaboration with Mitsui Fudosan Co Ltd – the joint venture with subsidiaries of Khazanah Nasional Bhd and Temasek Holdings Pte Ltd to develop an iconic wellness township in Iskandar Malaysia – as well as the entry of Sime Darby would provide vital impetus for the group to move forward with its growth strategy. - Bernama

Did shareholders ask about insider trading?

All three parties involved in the sale of the 30% block to Sime Darby had existing shares in the company and bought some shares prior to the announcement of a share sale agreement and a collaborative agreement.

It is widely known that Chairman Azizan bought 100,000 shares on August 16th, about two weeks before the announcement.

Some commentator defended Azizan with the argument that he has all along been holding few million shares in the Company. So what?

All members of the Board of Directors with shares in the company are confined to buying and selling shares in the company to within certain periods. Those “windows” are before and after a General Meeting, important price sensitive announcements, etc.

It is unthinkable and almost impossible that the Chairman was not notified or alerted of an impending major corporate move two weeks before the announcement.

Not only that, Azizan also bought 100,000 and 50,000 shares on April 1st and April 6th respectively. That was less than six months before the announcement.

If one refers to the simple chart below, that was the time of the initial market effort to “push” the shares. Was the Chairman giving a hand to rig the market?



The collaborative agreement was signed on the same day as the share sale agreement between E&O managing director Terry Tham (12.2%), Wan Azmi Hamzah (9.1%) and GK Goh Holdings of Singapore (9.5%) and Sime Darby for the block of 30% valued at RM766 million or RM2.30 per share. The date was Sept 9th.

We have extracted from the Bursa website here:

http://www.bursamalaysia.com/website/bm/listed_companies/company_announcements/changes_in_s_holding/historical.jsp

Note the list of changes in shareholding of E&O for a period of six months before the announcement.

Except for few purchases from ECM Libra and “secretive” off-shores accounts, most of the transactions were interested parties of vendors Terry Tham, Wan Azmi and GK Goh Holdings, Singapore and their related people and company directors.

They were having a good time taking a crack at this insider information!

Why is ECM Libra seeking Board representation?

Referring to the Bursa list again, ECM Libra and Tan Sri Azman Hashim joined in the fray from sometime in May 2011. Could the off-shore accounts be theirs too?

That question is asked because this blogger got wind of a conversation over lunch at a restaurant between Dato’ Kalimullah Hasan and Ayub Ali, the Managing Director of Bumiwerks Sdn Bhd, a boutique financial services company.

Ayub is an open secret. He is a close associate and has had a long, personal relationship with Tan Sri Nor Mohamad Yakcop since their days in the Bank and Bank Negara Malaysia in the currency market.

In fact, Ayub is so close that many believed he is the "adopted brother" of Nor Yakcop.

In their rather loud conversation, typical of mamak, Ayub spoke of having acquired interest in E&O.

Former traders and gamblers like Ayub and Nor Yakcop do not play with just a few shares but deal in millions of shares. Ayub could likely be holding interest for Nor Yakcop as well.

Without consideration for nearby ears eavesdropping on their conversation, he told Kalimullah to speak to Zarinah. It is better to go for a General Offer so that they can cash out.

ECM Libra has only 6.3% of E&O but their interest to be represented on the Board of Director of E&O only shows they have a substantial amount of shares in E&O. It would not be a surprise if the likes of Ayub, offshore “secretive” accounts, etc. were working in concert with ECM Libra.

The fact that Kalimullah has been asked to speak to Zarinah is a lead that either Azizan or CIMB has tipped them off.

Azizan is a close business associate of Kalimullah. He is together with Kalimullah on the Board of Directorship of few PLCs and took over MBf Holdings many years ago. CIMB, meanwhile, is an adviser to ECM Libra.

The nomination on the Board of Directors could be a decoy to justify them cashing out.

Did shareholders ask about a General Offer?

With the collaboration agreement brought together immediately after the sales of shares to Sime Darby, why did Wan Azmi make the remark that the vendor could vote their own way?

Read The Star report below:

Tuesday September 20, 2011

E&O shareholder Wan Azmi says no agreement to exercise voting shares according to Sime Darby’s interest

PETALING JAYA: Sime Darby Bhd and Eastern and Oriental Bhd (E&O) continue to make the news as both their share prices moved again in opposite directions on speculation that the former will launch a general offer (GO) for the latter's shares.

Sime Darby declined by 30 sen, seeing about RM1.8bil of its market capitalisation wiped out, while there was active trading in E&O shares, which ended the day 2 sen up.

The Securities Commission, which is looking into whether Sime Darby would be required to conduct a GO for the rest of the shares in E&O after buying a 30% block in the latter (at a 60% premium to market), has yet to make a decision on the matter.

Meanwhile, major shareholder and part seller of the 30% block of E&O shares Tan Sri Wan Azmi Wan Hamzah told StarBiz that there was absolutely no agreement or understanding between himself and Sime Darby on how he would exercise his voting rights on the remaining E&O shares he owned.

“There is absolutely no agreement to submit to Sime Darby's wishes in the future what a preposterous thought,” he said in an interview at his office.

“If any resolutions come up to vote I will act as I have always acted, support it if it's good for the company and oppose it if it's bad,” he said.

While the Takeover Code states that a mandatory general offer (MGO) is only triggered by a 33% or more change in shareholding, there are other instances in which an MGO can be required by the regulator.

According to Para 6.2 of Practice Note 9 of the Takeover Code 2010, the SC has the right to consider all surrounding circumstances to deem if control has been passed to a new party, including the premium to market that was paid for those shares.

Wan Azmi also confirmed that Sime Darby's purchase of the 30% block of shares from himself, Datuk Terry Tham (the managing director of E&O) and GK Goh Holdings Ltd of Singapore had been completed, with full payment made and the shares crossed.

Wan Azmi said he had owned E&O shares since 2006 which is part of his portfolio of public equity investments. Having been an active corporate player in the 1990s, he seemed to have vanished from the limelight in the aftermath of the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis.

He also has stakes in UK-listed PureCircle Ltd, Kazakhstan-based Steppe Cement Ltd and is reportedly involved in mining activities, including gold. He also owns the Rohas Perkasa building in Kuala Lumpur, which houses his small but tastefully-decorated and art-filled office of Halfmoon Bay Capital Ltd, where this interview took place.

Sime Darby's share price ended the day at RM7.70 after reaching a new 52-week low of RM7.65 during the day. Along with E&O, both stocks were among the most actively-traded counters on Bursa Malaysia.

An MGO will cost Sime Darby an additional RM1.8bil to acquire the remaining 70% of E&O, on top of the RM761mil cash it has paid for the 30% stake.

An analyst said the market was pricing in the possibility of Sime Darby having to do the GO even before it was required to do so.

“Sime Darby is now trading at its lowest valuation range of close to 12 times price-to-earnings ratio. Even if there is an MGO, the worst case is that it will forgo its one-year capital expenditure,” he said.

The group's plantation and industrial divisions should be able to maintain the group's financial performance, he added.

An analyst with a foreign bank-backed research house pointed out that even if an MGO was needed, Sime Darby had the money to do the deal.

“The acquisition is just such a small component compared with the group's overall operations,” she said.

However, both analysts said they weren't advising their clients to buy into Sime Darby on its weakness, considering the uncertainty with regard to its obligation to do a GO for E&O.
By the way, Halfmoon Bay Capital Ltd were actively in the E&O market.

It is not only the remaining shares being questioned for insider trading. Who is Wan Azmi trying to fool?

With the collaboration agreement signed by all of them, Wan Azmi (3.9%), Terry Tham (5%) and GK Goh Holding (2.5%) with Sime Darby (30%) are considered to be working in concert. It means their total holdings are 36.9%, which has exceeded the 33% trigger point.

Much as I hate to see Sime Darby being taken for a ride by ECM Libra, they are supposed to do a General Offer. Why didn’t Sime Darby see all this?

As Dato Bakke Salleh said, that Sime Darby is capable of fulfilling the GO. That is one thing but aren’t the share vendors supposed to do a GO also?

Did shareholders ask about CIMB’s conflict of interest?

This blog and also blogger Big Dog raised the points of conflict of interest and the unprofessional conduct of CIMB.

CIMB was an advisor of ECM Libra who is taking a ride on this collaboration. Words are that they backstabbed ECM Libra’s intention to acquire and do an asset strip by showing the 30% block to Sime Darby, another client of theirs in the humongous tri-merger failure.

There is another conflict of interest that missed the eyes of many.

In June 2005, CIMB took control of GK Goh Securities Singapore by acquiring a 51% stake from Goh Geok Khim. Part, if not all of the remaining 49% in GK Goh Securities is probably held by GK Goh Holdings or related parties of GK Goh Holdings.

Isn’t it a conflict of interest and unprofessional conduct on the part of CIMB to be involved in this deal and the various unprofessional dealing manouvres?

Probably, there are many other issues that need to be raised. Did the shareholders raise all these issues or did they just do not bother?

If they didn’t bother, they should realised that any offenses committed by officials of a company may have strong implications on future approvals from the SC for the company to conduct business in the future.

Having been involved in AGMs and EGMs of PLCs, this blogger notice that shareholders do not care and in all likelihood, the interested parties have cornered the shares and any issues raised will be stonewalled by the Chairman of the meeting, Board of Directors and other interested shareholders.

Was the E&O AGM so well orchestrated that the shareholders re-elected the conductor and friends, and gave them a pat on the back for the lullaby, with magic shows during the interval?

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My Say