Tuesday, October 03, 2006


Once there were three trees on a hill in the woods. As they were discussing their hopes and dreams, the first tree said : "Some day I hope to be a treasure chest. I can be filled with gold, silver and precious gems. I can be decorated with intricate carvings and everyone will see my beauty."
Then the second tree said : "Some day I will be a mighty ship. I will take kings and queens across the waters and sail to the corners of the world. Everyone will feel safe in me because of the strength of my hull."
Finally, the third tree said : "I want to grow to be the tallest and straightest tree in the forest. People who see me at the top of the hill will look up to my branches, and think of the heavens and God, and how close I am to them. I will be the greatest tree of all time and people will always remember me."
A few years after that, a group of woodsmen came upon the trees. One of them looked at the first tree and said : "This look like a strong tree ... I should be able to sell its wood to a carpenter." He began to cut it down. The tree was happy because he knew that the carpenter would turn him into a treasure chest.
At the second tree, the woodsman said : "This look like a strong tree; I should be able to sell it to the shipyard." The second tree was happy because he knew he was on his way to becoming a mighty ship.
When the woodsmen came upon the third tree, he was frightened because he knew that if they cut him down, his dreams would not come true. One of the woodsmen said : "I don't need anything special from my tree. I'll take this one, and he cut it down.
When the firts tree arrived at the carpenter's, he was made into a feed box for animals. He was then placed in a barn and filled with hay. This was not what he had hoped for at all.
The second tree was cut and made into a small fishing boat. His dreams of being a mighty ship and carrying kings had come to an end. The third tree was cut into large pieces and left alone in the dark. The years went by, and the trees forgot about their dreams.
One day a man and woman came into the barn. She gave birth and they placed the baby in the hay in the feed box made from the first tree. The man wished that he could have made a crib for the baby, but the manger would have to do. The tree could feel the importance of this event and knew that it had held the greatest treasure of all time.
Years later, a group of men got in the fishing boat made from the second tree.One of them was tired and went to sleep.While they were out on the water, a great storm arose and the tree didn't think it was strong enough to keep the men safe. The men woke the sleeping man, and He stood and said, "Peace", and the storm stoopped. The tree knew then that it had carried the King of Kings.
Finally, someone came and got the third tree. It was carried through the streets as people mocked the man carrying it.When they came to a stop at the top of a hill, the man was nailed to the tree and left to die there. When Sunday came, the tree realised that it was strong enough to stand at the top of the hill and be as close to God as possible because Jesus had been crucified on it.
Each of the trees got what it wanted, although not in the way it had imagined. In the same way, God's plans for us are not always our plans, but they are always the best.

Monday, October 02, 2006


The Star Sataurday 30th September 2006 edition carried a news and pictorial feature on Pekan Rabu, Johor Bahru.

Pekan Rabu modelled on the original Pekan Rabu in Alor Star was built in 2005 and is a three storey complex designed to mirror the Johor Malay architure. The 7577 sq m complex and built at a cost of RM 7 million has 116 stalls, an exhibition area and 200 parking lots. Pekan Rabu is under the charge of Pekan Rabu Corporation and the state Economic Planning Unit. It was built on a site that priviously housed a whole sale market and was planned as a one stop centre for bumiputras to sell a diverse range of goods among others such as salted fish, clothes, handicrafts and cakes.

A year on instead of bustling crowds, Pekan Rabu is practically eeriely silent, deserted and devoid of customers. Despite the incentive of the RM600 monthly rental being waived as well as the water and the electricity charges being waived, most traders prefer to keep their shops shut.

So what went wrong ? How could such a place with a 350,000 population within a 8KM radius and so close to commercial and residential area turn out to be a flop?

While it is commendable, that the state authorities have assisted the Malays who wish to venture into trading, but I believe it was wrong to turn PekanRabu into a 100% malay trading post. What was so difficult to let traders of all races trade there? Presently why would any Chinese and Indian flock to this place when they can buy all the Malay goodies elsewhere and shop somewhere else where it is more multi cultural.

Secondly, the location of Pekan Rabu is sandwiched between Giant Hypermarket on the right and left and also KIP Mart Tampoi. KIP Mart Tampoi is a bustling place where one can buy products ranging from Jamu to Keropok to Malay delicacies. Then there is the pull factor of a real multicultural atmosphere with Malay, Chinese and Indian stalls. Why bother then to go to Pekan Rabu. For handicrafts ? Well one can go to Danga bay which offers a greater and a variety of choices.

Thirdly, one wonders if the stall holders chosen are genuine business traders. For a complex to be successful, shops must remain open even during the slump. Traders have to support each other. Instead most traders in Pekan Rabu have "gulung tikar". Why not give up the shop instead of keeping the shop shut. It is only natural that when shops are kept shut and when that happens it has a knock on effect on the remaining shops which are open. There is no more shopping atmosphere. In any event, it must be noted that from the beginning, the shops in Pekan Rabu sold a mismatch of things which were hardly enticing to the shoppers. Maybe the Pekan Rabu Corporation and EPU should have been not only selective in n selecting the tenants and but also should have ensured the correct mix of business.

It is a shame that this place could not have been turned into a food paradise offering genuine Johor dishes. The location was perfect, good catchment area and more importantly it was also close for Singaporeans using the 2nd Link. Unfortunately the managers of Pekan Rabu sought to challenge Giant and KIP Mart.

What next for Pekan Rabu ? Judging from the statement by State Entrepreneur and Cooperative Development committee chairman Samat Ariffin who said that there were plans to intergrate an immigration department on the Pekan Rabu complex to help draw customers. He is quoted to have said that with the immigration department there the traders will be assured of customers as 1500 to 2000 people go to the department daily. Imagine 116 shops catering for 1500 customers. Each shop getting about 10 customers !

Unless some better idea can be thought of, Pekan Rabu has all the classics of yet another expensive folly.

Last Friday 22nd September 2006 as I was driving along Jalan Air Molek, Johor Bahru, I saw a banner on the fence of the old Johor Bahru prison. It was a call to Muslims to protest against “pope yang biadab” (yes those were the exact words).

While I sincerely belief that the quote was offensive, I was most relieved when the Pope with all humility apologized to all Muslims and made it known that the quote does not reflect his own views. He apologized openly not once but twice.

Thus I find it sad that despite the Pope having expressed his regret and apologized twice, there are still those who reject the apology and instead deem appropriate to continue to make the Pope’s speech an issue. Isn’t apologizing and forgiving an honourable virtue?

Growing up In Kuala Lumpur, I remember one South African preacher Ahmed Deedat who found in Malaysia a captive and receptive audience for his venomous sermons against Christians. He used to return to Malaysia regularly espousing his hatred for Christianity all couched in his bile sermons. I used to wonder how in a multi-religious country, the government could be so indifferent to the sensitivities of the Non Muslims and instead accord him such an honorable privilege.

Naturally we Christians were hurt but we suffered in silence. There was no demonstration or calling him to apologise. One day I heard that he had suffered a stroke but what made me very happy was when I heard that he had also lost his ability to
speak. That was the end of him.

Then who could forget Al-Arqam and its leaders who had some warped ideas for Muslims, Malaysia and Non Muslims. Thank God, Dr Mahathir’s government took them on and arrested the whole lot and incarcerated them under ISA. The main leader upon release was reduced to a drooling mess and unable to speak coherently.

I am an avid reader but alas there are some bookshops in Johor Bahru and Kuala Lumpur (Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman) which stocks and sells books which disparages Christianity. I used to wonder how these books could be permitted for sale when it is offensive to Christians. You do not see any banner calling for protest. Alas what could the Christians do but to pray that no one buys these books. One such bookshop in Landmark Mall has already closed down.

Perhaps those and particularly PAS who rejected the Pope’s apology and instead called for the “perhimpunan” could also ensure that in future that Christians and Christianity will also not be slandered and books which are offensive to Christians will not be sold in bookshops.