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Friday, August 1, 2014

The Battle Of Penang

By Rasa Writes
A hundred years ago this week, the first global conflict in the world began. And it set in motion many geopolitical quakes whose ramifications we continue to witness today.
It was on July 28, 1914, that Austria declared war on Serbia. On August 1, Germany declared war on Russia. Two days later, Germany declared war on France and invaded Belgium. On Aug 4, Great Britain declared war on Germany.

And thus began World War 1. On one side were Germany, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire; on the other side were Britain, France, Russia, Italy, Japan and the United States.

Though most of the fighting occurred in Europe, battles were fought in most parts of the world and on all the oceans; even in the then Malaya.

The veterans and those who know some history of Malaya would remember the incident that came to be known as the Battle of Penang. This happened on Oct 28, 1914.

Penang, then part of the British Empire, was a popular port used both by naval and merchant vessels.

In the early hours of Oct 28, the German cruiser Emden which had been preying upon British merchant vessels in the waters off China and Southeast Asia, entered Penang port disguised as an allied vessel and flying the Russian flag.

A Russian cruiser, the Zhemchug, was then undergoing repairs at the port.

Nearing the Zhemchug, the Emden lowered its Russian flag and raised the German flag before firing a torpedo at it. The first apparently missed but a second torpedo did not and the Russian cruiser, undergoing repairs and its crew taken by surprise, sank.

At least 85 of the 250 crew members of the Zhemchug died, according to a November 9, 1914, report in a US weekly called The Independent. On its way out of the port, the Emden engaged with the French destroyer Mousquet, which was returning to port, and sank it too.

Why did the German cruiser bring down the Russian flag and fly its own German flag before attacking the Zhemchug and the Mousquet? Well, under the international code of naval warfare it was permissible for a ship to disguise itself, including using a false flag, to come near an enemy vessel but it is required to display its real flag before firing. That is what the Emden did.
A Wikipedia entry, however, says the Emden was disguised as a British cruiser and that 89 crew members of the Zhemchug died that day.

I am sure some older Malaysians and Singaporeans would have heard of many more stories about World War 1. It would be great if those who know could kindly share the tales with us.

My comments :  Family lore says that my grandpa who would have been 24 years old in 1914 witnessed the Emden attack Penang.  On that day my grandpa happened to be by the sea along Penang Harbour.  The Emden fired not just at the ships but also at Penang Port and shells landed along the shoreline. People ran helter skelter. 

The Emden's movements were hampered by the hundreds of sampans and small boats that cruised around Penang Harbour. The Germans used a loudhailer and shouted 'Sampan lalu, sampan lalu' to get the sampans out of the way.

The stories I heard was that the Emden did enter Penang disguised as a British cruiser, complete with an extra funnel (which  was fake).  Since there were strong British defences and other warships in the harbour the Emden turned at speed, causing the fake funnel to either tilt or fall over completely. 

Penang Harbour of 1914 would not have been much different from Penang Harbour of the 1960s when I first saw it. Those were the days of beautiful old ships. Penang was a fantastic place. I think it still is.

U.S., U.N. announce deal on 72-hour Gaza cease-fire

Associated Press 1 hour ago

Israel and Hamas have agreed to a 72-hour humanitarian cease-fire to begin Friday morning, the United Nations and United States announced, although Secretary of State John Kerry cautioned there were "no guarantees" the lull in violence would bring an end to the 24-day-old Gaza war.

The surprise announcement came hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to destroy Hamas' tunnel network "with or without a cease-fire" and as the Palestinian death toll soared past 1,400.

Noting the difficulties that lay ahead, Kerry said: "This is not a time for congratulations or joy or anything except a serious determination — a focus by everybody to try to figure out the road ahead."

"This is a respite. It is a moment of opportunity, not an end."

At least four short humanitarian cease-fires have been announced since the conflict began, but each has been broken within a few hours by renewed fighting.

U.S. and U.N. had gotten assurances that all parties to the conflict had agreed to an unconditional cease-fire, and would send delegations to Cairo for negotiations aimed at reaching a lasting truce.

Israel had agreed to a 72-hour truce beginning at 8 a.m. local time Friday. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the Islamic militant group also had signed on, "as long as the other party is in agreement to it."

Israeli and Palestinian delegations were expected to travel immediately to Cairo for talks with the Egyptian government aimed at reaching an end to the conflict.

"It is up to the parties — all of them — to take advantage of this moment," Kerry said. "There are no guarantees. This is a difficult, complicated issue."

During the cease-fire, Kerry said Israel will be able to continue its defense operations to destroy tunnels that are behind its territorial lines. The Palestinians will be able to receive food, medicine and humanitarian assistance, bury their dead, treat the wounded and travel to their homes. The time also will be used to make repairs to water and energy systems.

"We hope this moment can be grabbed by both parties, but no one can force them to do that," Kerry said.

"Israel has to live without terror and tunnels and rockets and sirens going on through the day," he said. "Palestinians have to be able to live freely and share in the rest of the world and live a life that is different from the one they have long suffered."

The Palestinian delegation is expected to include members of Hamas, which the United States and Israel consider a terrorist organization and cannot be negotiated with directly. So if the Israelis and Palestinians meet face to face, the Hamas members will not participate in those talks.

The Egyptians will be the go-between for the sides and will help coordinate, a senior State Department official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the official wasn't allowed to discuss the issue publicly.

At least 1,441 Palestinians have been killed, three-quarters of them civilians, since hostilities began on July 8, according to Gaza health ministry officials — surpassing the at least 1,410 Palestinians killed in Israel's last major invasion in 2009, according to Palestinian rights groups.

For its part, Hamas has said it will only halt fire once it receives guarantees that a Gaza border blockade by Israel and Egypt — tightened after the Islamic militant group violently seized power in Gaza in 2007 — will be lifted.

My comments :  I dont think Hamas is serious about saving the lives of Palestinians. Look at the last statement. As part of a ceasefire with Israel, Hamas wants Egypt to remove the blockade of the Rafah border crossing .

How can Israel force Egypt to open or close an Egyptian border crossing with another country? Can Malaysia force Thailand to open or close their border crossing with Cambodia?

These are Hamas' poison pills that are designed to frustrate the negotiations and possibly break the ceasefire.  Hamas is not interested in a ceasefire. They take orders from the Ikhwan Muslimin which is now based in Qatar.  The Muslim Brotherhood needs money too. The Rafah crossing with Egypt generates over US200 Million in tax collection alone for Hamas.

Hamas leaders also hold monopolies on the import of many essential goods into Gaza. Money talks loudest.

Ustaz Shahul Hameed Apologises

Here is some news :
  • Embattled Muslim preacher Ustaz Shahul Hamid Seeni Mohd spoke today and reiterated that he never meant to insult Indians or Hindus in his ceramah four years ago.
  • The preacher from Penang said at a press conference he never meant to be offensive when he had told his audience not to buy curry powder from "Hindu companies", such as Alagappa's and Baba's.
  • In his speech four years ago, he had also made fun of the statue of a Hindu deity at the premises of an Alagappa's factory in Bukit Mertajam.
  • "It was never my intention to insult or to incite racial tension.
  • "I only wanted to attract the attention of my audience," he told a press conference at the Seberang Prai Tengah district mosque today after having his statement recorded by police.
And PAS says :

  • Uztaz behind Hindu slur made remark in personal capacity, says PAS
  • Shahul Hamid Seeni Mohd, does not represent PAS although he is a party member, Penang PAS deputy commissioner Datuk Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa said.
  • The Parit Buntar MP said Shahul had apologised for his offensive remarks and the matter should end there.  He said prolonging the issue would incite hatred among the people.
  • "He made the remarks in a speech four years ago. That particular part was taken out... we do not know the motive of those behind it.
  • "Do not use this to incite hatred among the people. Islam is a peaceful religion," he said at the Seberang Prai Tengah district mosque in Bandar Perda, Bukit Mertajam, today.

My comments :  Well it is so typical of PAS. The moment something embarrassing happens, they wash their hands.  'He was acting in his personal capacity'. 

After the media reported on it,  they immediately cancelled the membership of that PAS fellow who is fighting in Syria or Iraq somewhere. 

I hope the MIC, the Hindu Sangam and all affected parties can accept Ustaz Shahul Hameed's apology.  His apology sounds sincere enough.  I hope we can let this episode rest. 

There are many threats hanging over us. There seems to be one provocation after another that threatens to  cause chaos in the land. 

If there is fire let us douse it quickly.  We will only make things worse if we pour oil on burning fire. 

The Sulu attack, the Sabah kidnappings,  MH370, MH17, religious issues - just seem to keep coming.  Non stop. Be wary folks.  The Sulu attack was doomed to fail. MH370 and MH17 are real tragedies.  Others are petty.  Lets keep our eyes open.