Wednesday, September 13, 2006


RR Mahendran was a lawyer in private practice in Johor Bahru. On the 5 th of September 2006, RR Mahendran passed away. He was 40.

His area of practice was civil law and quasi-criminal primarily specialising in Habeas Corpus applications for which he deservedly developed a reputation and respect. As a lawyer, he was thorough in his research, meticulous in the preparation, persuasive in his articulation and unrelenting in his mission. He had all the hallmarks of an excellent lawyer.

There is no denying that in his early years of practice he was more often than not dogged in some personal battle or embroiled in some controversy. In fact controversies found a friend in him and even at death it never left him. Many still remember his Anglo-Saxon address to a stunned judge.

But in the last two to three years there was a remarkable change in him. Perhaps he finally found in his wife, Susan his anchor. He became focused in his practice, developed a passion for golf and was a maniacal supporter of Liverpool though the team more often than not fell short of his expectation. He had was a zest for life.

He was generous in kind and cash to many worthy causes of the Bar. He donated freely.

RR Mahendran had his faults and his shortcomings – even at death. Who are we to judge his faults or cast aspersions on him. Did Jesus not say, let the man who had not sinned cast the first stone It is for him to make peace with his God and knowing him he will file a habeas corpus just to get a meeting with God to resolve matters.

Let us remember RR Mahendran above all as a lawyer, proud that he was one of us and more importantly he was from the Johore Bar.


Tuesday, September 12, 2006


On Monday, 4th September 2006, the New Straits Times published a letter by Azlan Ramli a former Malay Mail reporter giving a poignant account of his meeting with the late Rev. K. Sri Dhammananda Nayaka Maha Thera, the Buddhist Chief Priest of Malaysia and Singapore who passed away on the 31st August 2006.

The letter by Azlan Ramli is published as had appeared.


Honoured and humbled by thoughtful gesture

AS a reporter with The Malay Mail between 1994-2005, I met Rev K. Sri Dhammananda several times – usually during Wesak Day celebrations he led at the Buddhist Maha Vihara (temple) in Brickfields and on a few other occasions.
On Christmas Day, 1998, I was assigned to cover a party for some 200 underprivileged children. It was held at the Vihara in Brickfields.
Organised by a group of Christians, the Santa Claus was a Hindu and the contributor for all the ballons adorning the party area was a Muslim.
December 1998 was also the month of Ramadan. By the time I arrived at the Vihara, it was 6.30pm and many children were already playing around, taking photos with Santa and being entertained by a clown, among others.
As the time approached for buka puasa, I was busy thinking of where to go for my dinner. The Reverend, the Vihara’s religious adviser back then, must have been observing me. As if he had read my mind, he calmly said : “Young man, don’t think too much. You can buka puasa here. I will accompany you”.
“Please forgive us. We only have vegetarian dishes here,” he humbly and smilingly added, while leading me to a dining table somewhere in the Vihara’s premises.
So there we were, sitting at the dining table, together with a few other priests in their saffron robes and a spread of vegetarian dishes was laid out in front of us.
As I was checking my watch, the Reverend brought out a small pocket radio transistor, and tuned in to a Bahasa Malaysia radio station.
As scheduled, the muezzin recited the call for the evening prayer through the little speaker, which also marked the moment to breakfast.
“Go ahead, Azlan,” he told me to start first. Only after I had my first gulp of water for the day did he and the other priests start eating. I was honoured and humled at the same time.
The fact that I didn’t go to a KFC outlet or the teh tarik stall wasn’t because I didn’t know how to turn down an invitation of the chief high priest of Malaysian and Singaporean Theravada Buddhism. It was buka puasa in a Buddhist temple for me, during a Christmas party.
The Reverend’s humble gesture greatly raised my respect and admiration for him.
During that brief encounter with him, my personal tolerance and understanding of other people’s faiths, beliefs and cultures was greatly altered for the better.
In less than an hour of dining together, his simple humility made me a better person, more open-minded and drastically changed for the better my ways of looking at the world I live in.
To me, the Rev Dhammananda was a great Buddhist and more importantly, a great human being.
Malaysia and its Buddhist community lost a very special person on Aug 31.
With much sadness, I bid farewell to him.

Ironically on the same day I had received an email from friend, Adeline, recounting her unfortunate experience at an event organized by one of the government’s ministry. Being upset and understandably she courageously wrote a letter to the ministry.

Adeline’s letter is published as contained in the email I received.

I was a guest at the recent launching of ‘Pameran Perjuangan Ke Arah Kemerdekaan’ & the new publication by our highly respected YB Datuk Seri Utama Dr. Rais Yatim. I was deeply disappointed to note that several matters of import in the interest of our country’s multi-cultural society failed to be respected and incorporated into the event.

There were dignitaries both local and from the various foreign consulates there but the Event Managers were absolutely oblivious to their presence and were not sensitive to local ethnic sentiments. How can we truly say we can proud of our multi-ethnic society when we practice total disregard and disrespect of others.

For one, the event managers failed to ensure that their dancers who represented the Chinese & Indians were indeed of that ethnic race!

Is it that hard to get one Chinese and Indians each?.. furthermore, instead of dressing to reflect the national costumes from various parts of the country, eg Minangkabau, Kadazan, etc, some of the dancers were dressed in appallingly unsuitable costumes!

When it was announced that a rep from each ethnic race would deliver the key to the chest containing YB’s Book, it did not happen as such.

These small gestures sends waves of messages to the invitees..both local & foreign..

Further to that, the beautiful collection of exhibits were all titled only in Bahasa Malaysia. Our foreign guests would have gone back wondering why did they even bother to attend! The food served for VIPs were not labeled to indicate what they were???

…Beef was placed at the table without label. Insensitive to say the least.

How can we preach harmony, mutual respect and racial solidarity when simple gestures like these reflect blatant disrespect and disregard of others.

I was deeply saddened by this event rather than proud of it. I truly wanted so much to purchase the book YB had written but the event had sapped the patriotic mood out of me. Frankly I don’t think anyone’s going to take this comment at all seriously but I had to say my piece in the true sprit of Nationalism.

Both YB & our esteemed Deputy Prime Minister delivered such beautiful speeches surrounding national unity & harmony between people of many races in our country yet sadly that message failed to reflect upon KeKWa’s handlng of the same event.

I believe it is time for KEKKWA to Walk The Talk if it truly aspires to achieve the very objectives it stands for.

The ministry’s response was;

Subject: Re: Aduan Perkhidmatan Awam
Date: Fri, 18 Aug 2006 09:27:47 +0800(CST)

Behalf of the Ministry, We would like to thanks for your concerning and response by giving the information about the quality of the services which provided by government servant.

For your information, this hotline only received the complaining about misbehaviour of the government servant which contradicted to our Budi Bahasa and Nilai-nilai Murni Campaign.

Therefore, action can only be made if your compaining is related to our observation.

Thank you.

[ note: Notice the reply which is written in atrocious English and is a testament to how low the standard of English has fallen but more importantly notice also the tone of the reply which neither addresses the complaint nor is apologetic for its transgression.
--Norman ]

The compassionate act by the Rev. Dhammanananda as recounted by Azlan Ramli serves as a great example of religious understanding and racial tolerance. On the contrary, the act of serving beef at KEKKWA’s function ought not to be dismissed as an administrative hiccup suffice to be resolved with an apology or even worst to reason out that the Hindus and the Taoist guest at the function were provided with other options.

The act of serving beef at a government organized function can only fortify the view that despite all the sloggering of multi racial, multi religious and multi cultural Malaysia, in truth, many of us and worst of all the government continue to be ignorant, insensitive and indifferent to another’s and particularly the minority races cultural and religious norms. In fact many a times Hindus have complained about beef being served by organisers at functions attended by Hindus. It would seem that the main concern to the organisers of functions where food is served is to ensure that no pork is served. On the other hand, beef is provided as an option. Infact I (a Christian) together with a Hindu friend Kuna, had to move a resolution in the Annual General Meeting to stop the Johore Bar from serving beef at functions organiused by the Johore Bar.

Recently, Malaysia celebrated 49 years of independence. We may have achieved nationhood but honestly it is questionable if we have not lived as Malaysians. As Malaysians, we are obliged to know and understand each other and that includes knowing ,understanding and more importantly respecting cultural norms and religious sensitivities but alas ! after 49 years there are Malaysians who remain ignorant and worst of all insensitive.

Imagine after 49 years, the government, of all people still do not know that Hindus and Taoist do not consume beef.!!!