Thursday, 23 July 2009

Roger, Wilco!

“Virtues are acquired through endeavour, which rests wholly upon yourself. So, to praise others for their virtues, can but encourage one’s own efforts” -- Thomas Paine

I cannot conceal my pride and pleasure in reporting that I have started my new job, and that I love it very much. I cannot disclose very much about my job in my blog, both for reasons of security and confidentiality and because there is always a risk that certain classes of people may capitalise on the information for reasons of self-interest. I will, however, reveal that I am honoured to be part of a very dynamic team of people who are committed to helping some of the most vulnerable and marginalised people in the country. I shall strive to be worthy of the position I hold, to serve selflessly, to be loyal to the Organisation as long as I am part of it, and to seek to improve myself and the quality of my work always. I have set forth my goals as of today as follows:
i. To be diligent in my research work, to keep abreast of all news of political nature, to be current in my knowledge of international affairs and relations and to read all academic journals, that I may better understand my work and its requirements.
ii. To understand my Unit’s targets and to strive to surpass them.
iii. To assist my colleagues and all interns/volunteers whenever the need arises, that I may contribute to a positive and harmonious work environment, and at the same time to avoid office politics and unfair alliances.
iv. To regard each person who comes before me with respect, dignity and compassion.
v. To create a personal Key Performance Index and try to meet all targets within a year.
vi. To observe the Code of Conduct always and to adhere to the highest standards of conduct and personal integrity.
vii. To never forget my commitment to serve, assist and protect what can be classified as among the most vulnerable people in the world.

Saturday, 18th July 2009: Green Living talk at the Aloka Foundation

I have always believed faith groups to be one of the most powerful agents of awareness and change when it comes to environmental stewardship. It is for this reason that I have been very steadfast about my principle that Green Living will try its best not to turn down any requests made by faith groups, community groups and fellow NGOs, and that we will not charge them anything to conduct activities or events. Green Living had fulfilled its commitment to SFX Church at their Family Day Carnival on 12th July, and on 18th July, I conducted a talk on setting environmental priorities and practicing the 3Rs at the Aloka Foundation, a Buddhist foundation, upon invitation by one of the committee members.

Hands-On Participation: Playing the 3R Game

Discussing what constitutes priority

As usual, the talk started with a discussion on waste management issues and infrastructure, followed by a screening of “The Story of Stuff”, and then a discussion on the 3Rs. To facilitate their understanding of the difference between the 3 categories of waste reduction and management, I had the participants play the 3R Game. We moved on to a discussion on environmental priorities and 3R practices, followed up with slideshows and factsheets on PET bottles and plastic bags, and a checklist on waste reduction and management.

It was a lively and interactive session and I believe the participants enjoyed my presentation as much as I enjoyed rendering it, as they contributed their views and ideas. I learned as much from them as they did from me. We had vegan refreshments after the talk and exchanged contact information before departing. There are requests for me (by others in the Green Living Committee) to create Powerpoint presentations and video slideshows relying on the Standard Operating Procedure I had produced for two of the most frequently requested topics of Green Living, and I shall try to deliver the same before the end of my tenure as Coordinator.

Sunday, 19th July 2009: Mammoth Concerns

When Pat asked me if I thought it would be a good idea for us to visit the Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary, I had answered in the affirmative, as I had quite enjoyed my previous visits there. I guess I wasn’t prepared for the fact that the meteoric increase in tourist arrivals would affect the way they ran things there. I was disappointed, saddened and angered by some of the things I saw on Sunday, 19th July.

Pat’s blog entry does more justice to our outing than any of my narrations could:
Our Elephant Sanctuary In Kuala Gandah

I have since drafted a letter to the Press, to be signed by us as a group. I hope the powers that be will conduct a proper assessment and monitoring of the Sanctuary, instead of merely issuing an ingratiating and meaningless official response.


On Sunday, 19th July, a group of us visited the National Elephant Conservation Centre managed and operated by Perhilitan (Dept of National Parks and Wildlife) at Kuala Gandah. While we enjoyed having contact with the elephants and would like to commend the Centre for limiting the number of visitors who are allowed to ride on and bathe with the elephants to reduce the stress that the elephants may experience, many other things left us saddened and angered.

Bullhooks were used extensively by the staff to threaten and prod the elephants, even when they were complying with the mahouts' instructions. One of the members of our group approached the staff and asked him to stop using the bullhook on the elephant. For a while, the staff used the blunt handle of the bullhook to prod the elephant instead. As soon as the said staff was obscured from view, he used the hook on an elephant again, and sneered at us when we cautioned him not to do so.

Even the blunt handles of the bullhooks were used to strike elephants. One of the elephants we were riding, Abot, had an untreated wound on his head which appears to have been inflicted by the bullhook, as the mahouts kept tapping the elephants on the head with the heel of the bullhooks. Another baby elephant, Siput, who was merely having her meal, flinched when a staff member showed her his fist, an indication, perhaps, that fists have been used to cause pain before.

Although the Centre may argue in its defence that the implements used are necessary for the protection of the staff and to exercise a measure of control over the elephants, we are of the opinion that if visitors to the Centre were made aware of the fact that physical harm is used in the training and control of the elephants to make them amenable to human contact, many would in fact choose to limit their contact with the elephants to avoid stressing them out and creating a reason to punish them for recalcitrant behaviour.

As an agency that calls itself a wildlife conservation centre, the Centre must eliminate cruel practices such as the use of bullhooks, sharp and dangerous implements and chains which are too short and which cause injury.

We therefore urge the management of Perhilitan and the Pahang Tourism Board to look into the matter and treat it with the importance that it deserves. We would not hesitate to advise our friends against visiting the Centre in future if no action is taken to train the staff to handle the elephants with respect and compassion.

This letter carries 8 signatures.


Unknown said...

You're a great team player! Your dedication is exemplary. So, all the very best in your endeavours.

My nephew and family from the UK visited the Elephant Sanctuary in Feb. They enjoyed the whole experience. However,it saddens me to hear of the gross handling of the elephants. I look forward to the letter to the editor to highlight this mammoth concern, as you rightly put it.

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Aww shucks! Thanks, Keats!
Re Kuala Gandah: I really enjoyed my previous visits because I saw how the staff simply refused to allow demanding visitors to overexert the elephants. I did see a bullhook in the back of the food truck on my last visit there, but since nobody was using it to intimidate the elephants with, I didn't think much of it. This visit really left me feeling disappointed and dismayed. I was yelling and arguing with the handler already. The elephant wasn't even being stubborn, she was walking along nicely and wham, he struck her with it! It just made me sick to the stomach, and it ended in a shouting match with all the visitors watching me scream at him. :o(

Ellen Whyte said...

Those poor elephants! Was your letter printed? If not, please send it to the Star weekender: and ask one of their journalists to check it out.

about the strays in my area... I would like to do the whole lot at once, because more than half of them are pure black and can't be told apart! I'm checking out some alternatives: let's meet up and talk in a fortnight???

Cat-from-Sydney said...

You have to prepare personal KPI? My Mama was just the other day telling her staff to do personal job review but she wrote the KPI for them.
We're upset about the elephant story. Maybe those handlers were drunk.

Anonymous said...

Remarkable young lady. so much zest, dedication and commitment to all aspects of life.

im sure you will make Sec Gen in no time. We are tired of all the old fellas who cannot do much lah!

we want ze peace and more muscle for ze YEW ENN!

mamasita said...

please write to the MB of Pahang..maybe he can see to it that no more elephants are badly treated anymore.
These idiotic staff deserved to be bullhook themselves! So mean!

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Re Ellen: The letter was published in NST and The Star, and someone has suggested getting StarProbe to cover the story. As for the stray cats, I can help to get them done at Mission HELP rates. Let's try to get something done before the end of August.

Re Cat-In-Sydney: I don't have to prepare a personal KPI, but I want to, to see how much progress I have made. As for the elephants, the handlers were NOT drunk. They were just in the habit of showing the elephants "who's boss".

Re Saya: I'm really glad I got to meet you and your lovely daughters. We did have a fun breakfast, didn't we? Hope the girls were not too bored! I enjoyed your company -- all 3 of you!

Re Datin Mamasita: Really? You think the MB would actually listen? Their attitude all this while seems to be that "yeah well, elephants are just animals, and someone has to control them and put them in their place."

Pat said...

Hi dear,

I'm sorry I'm so late getting here. And thank you for the link to my blog.

As always, it is a joy to see you live your life with such zest :)

And about those lovely elephants: one day, our voices will be heard.

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Dear Pat, I don't want to wait for 'one day'. 'One day' might be too late for the elephants. We need to do something now. I need to contact ACRES to do an independent assessment for Perhilitan.