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Monday, August 30, 2010

Selamat Menyambut Hari Merdeka

 

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ARTiculations mengucapkan selamat menyambut hari merdeka kepada semua warga Malaysia.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Eh, Tun dah lupa?

Every year, during the first two or three days of fasting, I suffer from headaches. That is because my blood sugar level drops. Thank God this will go away after the 3rd day of fasting.

Low blood sugar level may cause hypoglycemia. In some cases, symptoms of hypoglycemia include impaired judgment; irritability; belligerence; confusion; belligerence, combativeness and rage. Thankfully, as far as I know, I don't have those symptoms.

When Tun DrM said yesterday that meritocracy and "meritocrats" are racists, my first reaction was one of irritation. Then I was bemused. Later I was amused. And finally today I think it must have been the fasting month and the obvious low blood sugar level which was affecting him.

Meritocracy as I understand it is the act of rewarding or awarding an individual or a body of individuals or any entity with anything based on merit. Like awarding a student who has scored 13 As in SPM a place in the university. Or awarding X Sdn Bhd a contract to maintain a submarine because X Sdn Bhd has successfully maintained 15 other submarines before this without any problem at reasonable costs as compared to any other company who were bidding for the job.

Conversely, if someone becomes Chief this or that just because he or she has good contact with the appointor, that is not meritocracy. It is also not meritocracy if a person obtains something just because he or she is of a particular race, religion or even has a particular sexual preference.

In the sporting arena, Datuk Nicole David has been a world champion for so long because she is so good at what she is doing that there is no other living creature could be as good as her. Therefore, Datuk Nicole is a champion by virtue of meritocracy. God forbid that Tun DrM thinks that the good Datuk is a racist or that the World Squash Championship people are!

The same thing with our badminton teams. We have won the Thomas Cup umpteen times just because we are the best. Are we racists or  the organisers of the Thomas Cup racists?

The Spaniard recently won the World Cup because they played the best football. Are they or  FIFA racists?

At King's College, London University, students who top their class are given a Merit award on their post-graduate degree. That is because those students qualify for the said award by being top students. They are not given a Merit just because they are of a particular race or profess a particular religion. In other words, the students get the award based on merit. Is King's College racist?

I believe Tan Sri Azman Mokhtar is the chief of Khazanah because he is really good at what he is doing. And he is appointed by the Prime Minister. The same goes with the new Petronas chief who replaced Tan Sri Hassan Marican. Recently, Dato' Bakke was appointed as the new Sime Darby chief because it is said that he is the most suitable person to be the chief of Sime Darby. He has done a great job at FELDA. Again, the PM must have had a hand in his appointment.

The PM also chooses all the members of his cabinet. I am sure the PM appoints all the cabinet members because the PM thinks those people are the most qualified persons to be in the cabinet. Thus we have people like Idris Jala and Amirsham in the cabinet. These are proven people from the corporate sector.

Tun, is the PM racist then?

Dear Tun, allow me to say this. Malaysia could  be a united nation, with a confident Malaysian society, infused by strong moral and ethical values, living in a society that is democratic, liberal and tolerant, caring, economically just and equitable, progressive and prosperous, and in full possession of an economy that is competitive, dynamic, robust and resilient.

But we cannot be so until and unless we overcome the nine central strategic challenges. They are:

  1. the challenges of establishing a united Malaysian nation with a sense of common and shared destiny. This must be a nation at peace with itself, territorially and ethnically integrated, living in harmony and full and fair partnership, made up of one 'Bangsa Malaysia'.
  2. the challenge of creating a psychologically liberated, secure, and developed Malaysian Society with faith and confidence in itself, justifiably proud of what it is, of what it has accomplished, robust enough to face all manner of adversity. This Malaysian Society must be distinguished by the pursuit of excellence, fully aware of all its potentials, psychologically subservient to none, and respected by the peoples of other nations.
  3. the challenge  of fostering and developing a mature democratic society, practising a form of mature consensual, community-oriented Malaysian democracy that can be a model for many developing countries.
  4. the challenge of establishing a fully moral and ethical society.
  5. the challenge of establishing a matured,liberal and tolerant society in which Malaysians of all colours and creeds are free to practise and profess their customs,cultures and religious beliefs and yet feeling that they belong to one nation.
  6. the challenge of establishing a scientific and progressive society, a society that is innovative and forward-looking.
  7. the challenge of establishing a fully caring society and a caring culture, a social system in which society will come before self, in which the welfare of the people will revolve not around the state or the individual but around a strong and resilient family system.
  8. the challenge of ensuring an economically just society. This is a society in which there is a fair and equitable distribution of the wealth of the nation, in which there is full partnership in economic progress. Such a society cannot be in place so long as there is the identification of race with economic function, and the identification of economic backwardness with race.
  9. the challenge of establishing a prosperous society, with an economy that is fully competitive, dynamic, robust and resilient.

Tun, with all due respect, we cannot run away from those challenges. We, as a nation and as a people, have to confront those challenges and by hook or by crook, overcome them in order to be a developed country.

What we are doing now is to forget those challenges. To assume that they are not there. To sweep them under the carpet and pretend that everything is okay when it is quite obviously not.

We are letting racism and communal interests rule the day. We are not working as one nor living as one. We are not even willing to attempt to do so. We have abandoned the ideals of this nation when this nation was at the brink of achieving independence. The ideals and aspirations of our forefathers have been betrayed, destroyed and consigned to our archives and treated as if they are not worth the paper they are written on.

Where is the nation at peace with itself, territorially and ethnically integrated, living in harmony and full and fair partnership, made up of one 'Bangsa Malaysia' stated above?

Have we even attempted to achieve a psychologically liberated, secure, and developed Malaysian Society with faith and confidence in itself? How are we to be liberated if days in and days out we keep reminding a particular race that they are weak; that they are not good enough to compete; that they always need crutches to walk; that they should unite lest they would be destroyed and various other negativism?

Have we even thought of establishing a matured,liberal and tolerant society in which Malaysians of all colours and creeds are free to practise and profess their customs,cultures and religious beliefs and yet feeling that they belong to one nation?

What liberalism are we talking about when some headmistress who outwardly is a Muslim allegedly spouted racial hatred to her students, describing non-Malays as mere passengers in a car who can be asked to leave the car anytime and anywhere? Yet some hot shot Minister dismissed that incident  as isolated and almost irrelevant? What liberalism are we talking about when cartoon books are seized just because some people are lampooned in it; when radio DJs are sacked just because he dares to speak out on sensitive issues; when candle light bearing people congregating to propagate the abolishment of a draconian Act of Parliament were met with batons and riot police? What liberalism?

What about establishing a fully caring society and a caring culture, a social system in which society will come before self? Sorry, but I am suddenly enveloped by this uncontrollable need to laugh. What caring society are we talking about when there are Ministers who suggested that baby dumpers should be sentenced to death knowing full well that those who do so are mere children who have acted irresponsibly by having unprotected sex?

What about ensuring an economically just society. This is a society in which there is a fair and equitable distribution of the wealth of the nation, in which there is full partnership in economic progress? Have we even had a plan for this? Or are we in self denial mode still?

Have we realised that such a society cannot be in place so long as there is the identification of race with economic function, and the identification of economic backwardness with race?

I don't think we have. Because all I could see now is the identification of everything under the sun with the colours of our skin.

By the way, before you dismiss those nine challenges which I had referred to above as being the unachievable ideals of an idealist, allow me to remind you dear Tun, in case you have forgotten, that those are the nine challenges that you YOURSELF have identified for all of us to overcome if we ever want to achieve the status of a developed nation by 2020 in your Vision 2020 speech.

Yes. It is you who have said all those. Not me. Not Dato' Sri Najib. Not Lim Kit Siang. Not Anwar Ibrahim. It was you who said it.

Perhaps Perkasa, MPM whatever should now lodge a police report against you. Just as they did to Dr Chua Soi Lek.

What has happened since you espoused those ideals Tun? What has happened to your plan for a Bangsa Malaysia? It's been hijacked by Harris Ibrahim, has it?

In addition, you also said the followings:

  1. Of the two prongs of the NEP no one is against the eradication of absolute poverty -regardless of race, and irrespective of geographical location. All Malaysians, whether they live in the rural or the urban areas, whether they are in the south, north, east or west, must be moved above the line of absolute poverty.
  2. This nation must be able to provide enough food on the table so that not a solitary Malaysian is subjected to the travesty of gross under-nourishment.
  3. The second prong, that of removing the identification of race with major economic function is also acceptable except that somehow it is thought possible to achieve this without any shuffling of position. If we want to build an equitable society than we must accept some affirmative action. This will mean that in all the major and important sectors of employment, there should be a good mix of the ethnic groups that make up the Malaysian nation. By legitimate means we must ensure a fair balance with regard to the professions and all the major categories of employment. Certainly we must be as interested in quality and merit. But we must ensure the healthy development of a viable and robust Bumiputera commercial and industrial community.
  4. A developed Malaysia should not have a society in which economic backwardness is identified with race.

Oh, what was it that you said about merit then? Yes, you said, "certainly we must be as interested in quality and merit."

Interesting. And yet yesterday you said meritocracy and "meritocrats" are racists.

What gives?

Monday, August 23, 2010

American Pie Revisited

I heard he sang a good song,
I heard he had a style
And so I came to see him,
To listen for a while
And there he was this young boy,
A stranger to my eyes

Those are part of the lyrics from Killing Me Softly, popularised by Roberta Flack. It was written by Charles Fox and Norman Gimbel. Originally, it was recorded by Lori Lieberman but it was the Roberta Flack version which had thrust this beautiful song into pop folklore, sweeping the world by winning 3 grammys including the coveted “Song Of The Year” award.

I like the song. The soulful Roberta Flack version is always touching and emotive, to say the least. And the recent Fugees’ version (featuring va va voom Larryn Hill), despite it’s hip hop proximity and influences, is also one to be savoured.

Not many people know but this song was inspired by a poem written by Lieberman titled “Killing Me Softly With His Blues”. Lieberman wrote that poem after watching a then unknown singer performing. This particular singer later became a famous folk rock singer who wrote one of the best, and the most enigmatic folk rock song of all time. Who was he? Who was this singer whom Lieberman saw and who was:-

Strumming my pain with his fingers
Singing my life with his words
Killing me softly with his song
Killing me softly with his song
Telling my whole life with his words
Killing me softly with his song

That singer was the then unknown Don McLean. The singer/composer who would later penned hits such as the beautiful, and yet disturbing and haunting “Vincent”, a tribute to non other than Vincent Van Gogh. Just consider this:

And when no hope was left inside
On that starry, starry night
You took your life as lovers often do -
But I could've told you, Vincent:
This world was never meant
For one as beautiful as you
.”

McLean’s lyrics are always filled with emotive imageries and metaphors, and hauntingly beautiful multi layered colours. Along this line, American Pie was composed, recorded and released in 1971.

The song bucked the then prevailing trend in that it was more than 8 minute long. Many among the production people were pessimistic about the song when McLean wanted to record it. But of course, the rest, as they say, is history.

The song became some kind of an anthem among folk rock fans across the globe. It is, for example, listed in the Song Of The Century education project at number 5 song of the 20th century. But what actually interested many fans about the song is its lyrics and their meaning.

I must say that in terms of enigmatic lyrics, American Pie must rank up there together with Procol Harum’s haunting “A Whiter Shade Of Pale” and Robert Plant’s gibberish laden “Stairway To Heaven”. Plant’s “Stairway To Heaven” is a heavyweight in itself, being a 6-minute something epic rock with arrangement so complicated that it had even been compared with a Beethoven’s piece.

Jimmy Page’s riffs in that song is among the best riffs in any rock songs ever. In my opinion, that riffs are almost similar in stature as that of David Gilmore’s riffs in “Comfortably Numb” (voted by Rolling Stones Magazine as the best rock riffs ever). The only thing which would have made Stairway To Heaven even better, to me, is a 2 minute co da with an inter play between Page’s acoustic guitar and his monster Les Paul! I wish!

In contrast, Procol Harum’s number was shorter in length. It remains to date as one of the most frequently covered song in history although Annie Lennox’s cover would, in my opinion, rank as the best. The lyrics were enigmatic, to say the least. Plant’s lyrics in Stairway To Heaven were seemingly gibberish. In fact, it is a known fact that Plant himself did not like the song, refusing to perform it live. Once, he famously, or rather infamously, referred to the song as “that little wedding song”! Blasphemy!

I digressed, yes. It’s hard not to when I am talking about something which I absolutely love.

Okay, back to American Pie. Lyrically, American Pie became the “greatest mystery in rock and roll history”. Such was the enigma and mystery of the lyrics that the song spawned hundreds of interpretations while Don McLean maintained a dignified silence about its meaning save for admitting that the song did refer to Buddy Holly and that the album American Pie was dedicated to him. On August 3, 1993, a letter was published where McLean among others said:

"As you can imagine, over the years I've been asked many times to discuss and explain my song "American Pie" [June25]. I have never discussed the lyrics, but have admitted to the Holly reference in the opening stanzas. I dedicated the album American Pie to Buddy Holly as well in order to connect the entire statement to Holly in hopes of brining about an interest in him, which subsequently did occur... Sorry to leave you all on your own like this but long ago I realized that songwriters should make their statements and move on, maintaining a dignified silence."

And so, it is well established that American Pie did refer to Buddy Holly. “American Pie” to me refers to the America of the old days, where people would live in happiness and peace, days where greed and power were not too important, days of innocence where people would be listening to their favorite music and danced in the gym, days where Richie Valen and Buddy Holly ruled. The song is a study in rock and roll music development in America intertwined with a social study of the American psyche of the late 50s running through the 60s, paying attention to how things changed after a certain date, the turning point being “the day the music died”, namely, the day Buddy Holly died in an air crash in 1959 together with Richie Valen (as portrayed in the movie La Bamba) and the Big Bopper.

"But something touched me deep inside
The day the music died
So bye-bye, Miss American Pie
Drove my chevy to the levee
But the levee was dry
And them good old boys were drinkin' whiskey and rye
Singing this will be the day that I die
This'll be the day that I die
."

To McLean, the day Buddy Holly died marked a shift of some sorts in the history of rock and roll in particular and in the socio-political scene of America generally. America of old was portrayed in various imageries and metaphors which are filled with innocence and nonchalant attitude.

Well, I know that you're in love with him
'Cause I saw you dancin' in the gym

You both kicked off your shoes

Man, I dig those rhythm and blues

I was a lonely teenage broncin' buck
With a pink carnation and a pickup truck

All these would change, quite irretrievably on the day the music died.

But I knew I was out of luck
The day the music died

Thereafter he traced the emergence of Bob Dylan, a fact which was juxtaposed against the decline in popularity of Elvis Presley (I think):

“Oh, and while the King was looking down
The jester stole his thorny crown

It also contained some vague reference to the cover of Dylan’s album titled “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” where Dylan posed in a red windbreaker ala James Dean. It would be remembered that James Dean wore a red windbreaker in “Rebel Without A cause”, a defining moment in American film industry: -

When the jester sang for the King and Queen
In a coat he borrowed from James Dean

And a voice that came from you and me

I could go on and on about the various facets of the lyrics and what they could possibly mean. Among the more interesting events alluded in the lyrics are the rise of Rolling Stones; the political inclination of the Beatles; the murder of Tate by Charles Manson; the famous Woodstock concert; and the infamy of the Rolling Stones’ concert at Altamont where a young man was beaten and killed by a member of the Hell’s Angel who was engaged as security crew. These are but some of the events related in the song. Events which formed a lasting impression on America and the world in general.

Whatever it is, I never failed to be saddened by the last few verses of the song, which to me, is still relevant to the whole world and indeed to Malaysia and our society in the present days. As the electric instruments and percussions stop and McLean is left strumming his acoustic guitar, the tempo slows down and he sings, in a melancholic voice:

I met a girl who sang the blues
And I asked her for some happy news

But she just smiled and turned away

I went down to the sacred store

Where I'd heard the music years before

But the man there said the music woudn't play

And in the streets the children screamed

The lovers cried, and the poets dreamed
But not a word was spoken

The church bells all were broken

And the three men I admire most

The Father, Son and the Holy Ghost

They caught the last train for the coast

The day the music died

The girl who sang the blues was of course Janis Joplin, a singer full of verve and emotions, with a voice which would make even the hardest of hearts weep, a singer who was saved from the streets a hippie and turned into a blues star but later was found dead with foams in her mouth courtesy of a handful or bottleful of LSDs.

When asked for some happy news, she would just smile and turn away and the man at the music store said the music just wouldn’t play. The children screamed, the lovers cried and the poets dreamed. And the father, son and the holy ghost, they took the last train for the coast.

These lyrics never fail to make me sad as I ponder and fear for my children’s life in future Malaysia. The music has long died in Malaysia. And if I had asked the girl who sang the blues, I am sure she would just smile and turn away. It is sad, but true. Just read our newspapers nowadays. Just listen to our politicians. The mullahs. Just look at Malaysia today. American Pie is worth more than we ever realize.

May God have mercy on us.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Memali - a democracy in rubbles

“In the absence of justice, what is sovereignty but organised robbery?”: Saint Agustine

Date: November 1985.

Place: Malaysia.

The Prime Minister was Mahathir Mohamad. Musa Hitam was the Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister.

Malaysia was going through a bad recession. The price of its 2 main natural resources, tin and rubber, was at rock bottom.

The Mahathir-induced “look east policy” was not working to Malaysia’s advantage. All it managed to do was to invite Japanese and South Korean contractors to undertake massive development works such as the then ground breaking Dayabumi project. Little else was being achieved from the policy apart from the mushrooming of Japanese restaurants around town.

“Privatisation” and “sogo sosha” were the in-words at this time. On the other hand, the policy only managed to isolate Malaysia from its customary ally, the Great Britain and consequently, the United States.

Economically, Malaysia was struggling. Nothing was happening. Graduates, local and from abroad, were finding it hard to find jobs. In order to help the graduates, a “graduates scheme” was implemented where graduates were assigned jobs as clerks and junior executives in the civil service and government agencies circa 1986. Things were bleak.

Mahathir Mohamad had managed to consolidate his power base by winning the general election in 1982 after a “power transition” - which UMNO is so well known for – from Tun Hussein Onn. He appointed Musa Hitam as Deputy Prime Minister, a pairing that was so glorified as the “MM” leadership. Both of them were even presented with a motor bike each bearing registration number MM 1 and MM 2 respectively.

It looked like a pairing made in heaven. Although history would later show that Mahathir Mohamad’s political marriages would never stand the test of time, for various reasons which could only best be described as Mahathir-esque.

Elsewhere, something earth shaking and of more sinister nature, was brewing.

In 1979, the Shah of Iran left Iran under cover of darkness leaving Shapour Bakhtiar, his Prime Minister, to fend off the Islamic fundamentalist with the help of the Supreme Army Councils. The exiled Ayatollah Khomeini - whose preaching and sermons were smuggled into Iran in cassettes tapes – came back to Iran on February 1 1979.

On April Fool’s day that year, after a referendum in which only one choice was offered - Islamic Republic: yes or no – saw a landslide vote for the Islamic Republic, Khomeini declared Iran as an Islamic Republic with a brand new constitution. The Iranian Revolution was thus complete.

Nobody in Malaysia - not even Mahathir Mohamad - gave 2 sens to the Iranian Revolution and the effect it would have on the world in general and on Malaysia specifically. The truth was that the Iranian Revolution would be the catalyst for Islamist revivalism all around the world.

Soon, its effect swept throughout the world, the wind of Islamist revivalism sweeping east through India, Afghanistan going downwards towards Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. To the west, it blew through Turkey, Europe and crossed the big pond to the United States of America without even being noticed nor realised.

In Malaysia, the Islamist revivalism saw the Islamist party, PAS, going on a fundamentalist rampage throughout Malaysia. This coincided with the return to Malaysia of firebrands such as Ustaz Abdul Hadi Awang, who would soon climb PAS’ power hierarchy on fundamentalist ticket. In the early 80s, PAS, taking advantage of the Islamist revivalism elsewhere throughout the world and with Iran as the central catalyst, embarked on a series of political assaults against UMNO and the Barisan government in such intensity as yet unseen.

In short, PAS’ agenda was to equate UMNO and Barisan Nasional with infidelity and a vote for UMNO or BN was a vote against Islam. Those who did that would be the enemy of Islam and would consequently go to hell. It was a simple message. It was as basic as it comes.

The mass media referred to this propaganda as the “kafir-mengkafir” (branding people as infidel) issue. The infamous “Amanat Hadi Awang” ( Hadi Awang’s Decree) was laid by Hadi Awang in 1981.[i] Loosely translated, Hadi decreed:

My brothers, believe me. We oppose UMNO not because its name is UMNO, we oppose the Barisan Nasional not because its name is Barisan Nasional. We oppose them because they continue with the Constitution of the colonial, continue with the regulations of the infidel, continue with the regulations of the ignorant. Because of that we struggle to fight them. Believe me brothers, our struggle is a divine struggle (jihad). Our speech is jihad, our donation is jihad and because we struggle against these groups, if we die in our fights, our death is martyrdom, our death is an Islamic death. We do not have to join the Jews, we do not have to profess Christianity, we do not have to profess Hinduism, we do not have to profess Buddhism, but we will be infidels if we say politic is a quarter and religion is a quarter.”

Hadi Awang was, and still is, a brilliant and fiery orator. His was a potent mixture of oratorical skills and political savvy-ness unashamedly laced with religious fervour. His audience were the farmers, the padi planters, the young Malay in the rural areas, the young impressionable university students and those who were unknowingly caught and swept away by Islamist revivalism. In other words, he appealed to the poor non-urbanites as well as the impressionable intellect who were tired of the Barisan Nasional’s policies and were looking for alternatives.

The Barisan Nasional, under Mahathir Mohamad, did not lack leadership. However, Mahathir was too much of a leader as much as he was a listener. Polemic was a dirty word. Dissent, political or otherwise, was even a dirtier word. As a result, it was a government which lacked any kind of intellectual input. It was a government which lacked any kind of opposite ideas which would provide the impetus for any counter-reactive steps when faced with political assaults based on rural popularism.

(The inability to deal with new and untested issues seem to be the BN's - and particularly UMNO's- real bogeyman. It continues till this very day. In 2008 GE for example, both the BN and UMNO were at a loss as to how to deal with the alternative media and the cyber world. At present, the BN and UMNO do not have a clue on how to deal with the people's grievances and wishes which are being aired daily. This is because their leadership tradition is not based on an orchestral-conductor  or same-level leadership but on a pyramid-feudal leadership, where the top only listens to the man directly below him.)

Thus, the Mahathir led government was at a loss on how to counter PAS in general and Hadi Awang in particular. The effect of the Islamist revivalism caused by the Iranian revolution was slowly, but very surely, sweeping the nation under Mahathir’s nose without him even sniffing it!

The government tried to counter the sudden revival of Islam by portraying itself as an Islamist government. The Barisan Nasional’s or more specifically, UMNO’s brand of Islam saw the emergence of the various Islamic authorities, Islamic school, Islamic attire and a more Islamic oriented civil service. Thus, where there were no female students wearing a tudung in school in 1979, the tudung became almost an identifying factor in the early 80’s. Efforts were made to show that UMNO was in fact a more Islamic party than PAS. And UMNO’s Islam is a better Islam than PAS’ Islam. That was the agenda.

However, the government’s efforts to “Islamise” the country as a counter-reaction to PAS’ populist political assaults has just resulted in PAS gaining more and more momentum in their political assaults. In Kedah for example, a village would have 2 mosques, one for UMNO’s supporters and another for PAS supporters. Families broke up just because the father was a PAS supporter and the son was an UMNO supporter. Marriage could not take place because the bride to be comes from an “UMNO family” and the groom comes from a “PAS family”. PAS supporters don’t attend a khenduri by an UMNO supporter and vice versa. Even the dead would not be prayed for by PAS supporters if he or she was an UMNO supporter! These were the scenes at the height of the kafir-mengkafir controversy.

In the universities, the full force of the Islamist revivalism, which translated itself into a war of political idealism slowly seeped into student politics. As a student who was active in student politics in the University of Malaya in the early 80’s, I went through hellish moments and countless confrontations with students who leaned more towards the PAS political ideologies. (There is no doubt that the development in the student movements, both locally and abroad, in the 80’s laid the premise for the current political climate in our country. I don’t think this is realised by the powers that be).

Hadi Awang and the PAS agenda were therefore left largely unchecked. On the social front, Islamist organisations, such as Al-Arqam, were gaining momentum, recruiting not only rural Malay folks but also young Malay intellects as members. The Mahathir led government was at a loss to deal with this sudden rise of a concept which was almost alien to this country. Suddenly, wearing a skirt was deemed anti-social in Malaysia. Going to work or school without a tudung was deemed immoral in Malaysia.

Memali was a sleepy little village near Baling, Kedah. Surrounded by rubber smallholdings, the villagers were mainly rubber tappers, odd jobbers and farmers. These were among the forgotten people of Malaysia. Ensconced within an impoverish surroundings, these were people who had never seen development. The benefits, if any, of the New Economics Policy only spread within a small circle of the Malay elites and the people of Memali were too far away from even the edge of that circle. They were the modern proletarians whose only concern was to find enough to eat and to survive on day in day out.

When hope was not a part of life, what else was there to look forward to, other than to hope for the best in the after world? In death, if one could go to heaven; bath in rivers of milk and surrounded by virgin nymphs, what wouldn’t one give to ensure such heavenly achievements? Thus it came as no surprise that PAS’ ideologies, encapsulated by Hadi Awang’s decree, won the hearts of the people of Memali. UMNO after all was the antithesis of life in Memali. UMNO was rich. UMNO was in the big towns. And of course, UMNO was infidel! And we fight them, we are on a divine struggle. And if we die, we are martyrs.

Ibrahim Mahmud was a graduate of the University of Tripoli (thus was his nick name, Ibrahim Libya). He also studied in Al-Azhar. When he came back, he even made some appearances on national television. But back in Memali he was an orator in the Hadi Awang’s mould. Fiery, enthralling, charismatic and full of religious fervour. Obviously, he jumped onto Hadi Awang’s martyrdom formula to gain his political mileage. And in Memali, where life was hard and mired in hopelessness, heavenly promises would be the only hope left. The people of Memali embraced the call for jihad and Ibrahim Mahmud aka Ibrahim Libya became a religious leader for whom the Memali people were ready to die in order to protect him from the neo-colonialist-imperialist-infidel UMNO led government.

The Mahathir led government meanwhile had no clue on how to deal with the likes of Ibrahim Libya. It branded him a criminal and set out to arrest him and detain him under the ISA. Just how various attempts to arrest and detain him failed is beyond my comprehension as the government has on numerous occasions shown that when it wanted to arrest or suppress the people, it would somehow succeed. On the 19th November 1985, after Subuh prayers (morning prayers), the police surrounded Ibrahim’s madrasah. When attempts to arrest him failed, the police fired guns and killed 14 villagers, including women and old folks. Most of them were rubber tappers, farmers and oddjobbers who were armed with parangs, spears and one or two hand guns. Four policemen also perished.

Memali is proof that the New Economic Policy doesn’t benefit the forgotten people of Malaysia. It is testimony that the politics of hatred, much more when the hatred is based on religious differences, would soon terminate in a colossal debacle. Memali is also about a government which had lost its plot, which had no idea how to deal with oppositions in a proper and democratic manner, in an area where it lacked clear ideals and plans. Never in the history of independent Malaysia has the might of physical power been so nonchalantly and casually executed on the helpless and weak. At the very least, the usage of brute power against the villagers was reckless, if not downright wrongful and illegal.

Memali is also proof that religious extremism is a time bomb waiting to explode. Religion as a political base and tool is a recipe for disaster. Because religions, to many people, demand blind faith. And blind faith does not require thinking or the process rationalisation. PAS and the late Ibrahim Libya were indeed playing with fire.

In true Mahathir fashion, Mahathir Mohamad sometimes later insinuated that he was not responsible for the Memali incident as he was abroad on 19th November 1985, when it happened. That also insinuated that Musa Hitam was responsible as he was then the Acting Prime Minsiter and Home Minister. Whatever it was, it was during the administration of the Barisan Nasional government, of which UMNO was the leading party, and of which Mahathir was the Chief, that the incident happened.

What does Ketuanan Melayu mean to the people of Memali, then and even now? What does the New Economics Policy (and now, the New Economics Model) mean to the people of Memali, then and even now? If the Judges who were wrongfully sacked and suspended by the Mahathir regime in 1988 could be paid a total of 10 million ringgit, perhaps the Memali people deserve even more.

At the end of the day, the victims were those who perished and the poor people of Memali. Malaysia was reduced to a state of disbelief.

Mahathir Mohamad. Musa Hitam. And the whole cabinet in 1985. Please visit Memali and feel the pain of the forgotten people of Malaysia. And if the Memali incident does not tickle even the edge of your conscience, you are perhaps a lesser human than you think you are.

Al-Fatihah to those who died in Memali on 19th November 1985.


[i] Saudara-saudara sekalian, Percayalah! Kita menentang UMNO bukan kerana nama dia UMNO, kita menentang Barisan Nasional, bukan kerana nama Barisan Nasional. Kita menentang dia kerana dia mengekalkan Perlembagaan penjajah, mengekalkan peraturan kafir, mengekalkan peraturan jahiliah. Oleh kerana itulah kita berjuang melawan mereka. Percayalah saudara, perjuangan kita adalah jihad, Ucapan kita adalah jihad, derma kita adalah jihad dan kerana kita berjuang dengan puak-puak ini, kalau kita mati kerana berlawan ini, mati kita adalah mati syahid, mati kita adalah mati Islam. Kita tidak payah masuk Yahudi, kita tidak payah masuk Kristian, kita tidak payah masuk Hindu, kita tidak payah masuk Buddha, tetapi kita menjadi kafir dengan mengatakan politik suku agama suku.” : Haji Hadi Awang, 1981.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

TMZack reports!

Roman Polanski has been spotted packing up all his belongings recently. He has even put up his Hollywood mansion for sale.

We met him yesterday and asked what is happening. "I am moving to Malacca Bro," says him.

Apparently Malacca is a small state in a country known as Malaysia, a peninsula north of Singapore - starting from a piece of rock known as the Middle Rock - and south of Thailand. We did some googling and found out that it is one of the most progressive Muslim countries in the world.

In fact apparently, Malaysia is a showcase for a tolerant Muslim majority country with a multi-ethnic population.

Efforts to elucidate the real reasons for this almost impromptu decision of his were only met with this  cryptic answer. "I want legit man...legit..I am tired of being illegit man...I want legit...and many too...maximum 4!" says Polanski.

Over in the UK, we heard Gary Glitter is also packing up his bag to move to this place Malacca. And latest we heard Woody Allen might be following suit.

Wow...we must check this place out man. Like tawdally happenin!

By the way, Bob de Niro was recently spotted in Kuala Lumpur, the bustling capital city of Malaysia. We caught up with him and asked wassup with him.

"Oh, I went there with my own money and lemme be entirely clear about that, I went there on my own and with mah own money, okay."

Er..what was he doing there?

"I was there to look for locations and to get ideas for my next movie, a movie which I am producing and acting in."

Hmm..interesting. What's it gonna be called and about? Is it the Godfather 4?

"Well, I did think of Godfather 4 but you know I wouldn't want to insult the Muslims in Malaysia. In fact I wouldn't dare insult them. They take the word "God" very seriously you know. And God does not have a father to them and I was kinda like thinkin' you know, Godfather would mean that God has a father you know what I mean, and so I was kinda like afraid about that and so I stopped thinkin' about Godfather 4 in Malaysia man..."

"I am now thinkin' of doing a light comedy man...called Meet the Mother Fokkers" you know....a kinda like prequel to Meet the Fokkers...yeah...am thinkin' of Barbra Streisand and Hoffman again man...but with a Malaysian actress as well...maybe Maya Karin...delectable man...delectable...the movie I mean."

"Then I was thinkin' of doing a court drama  called Anal-ised This or That too. But I am not too sure yet man...yea. It's gonna be cool man...a man accused of doin' anal sex with another man  and then the other man  says it was consensual although the charge says non-consensual and then in the middle of it all, oh man...I don't want to reveal too much man..."

"Oh, do tell us Bob..."

"Well, you know, a bit more eh..in the middle of it, it kinda goes surreal a bit...like the victim had an affair with one of the prosecutor man...kinda like that...oh ho ho...you love it dontcha? Kinda like Serpico meets And Justice For All ya know? I think I am gonna ask Al to be the prosecutor."

"Oooh...we can't wait Bob."

Latest. We found out OJ Simpson is thinking of moving to Malaysia too.

"Ah wanna be a Malay in Malaysia dude. There ah can be a Malay if ah wanted to. Yeah...in fact anybody could be a Malay there dude. Just convert to Islam, speak Malay and live like a Malay. Not difficult man..."

"Er...why would you want to do that OJ?"

"Hey man...America is da shit for black man like me dude. They say me a killah and all dude. Am not gonna take that kinda shit no more dude. Am gonna be a Malay and get me some privileges dude."

Latest about Sean Connery.

"I am going to Malaysia too!"

Wow...like everybody is Sean. Wassup?

"Oh, I am thinking of doing a movie based on a true story there."

"Oh, another James Bond, Sean?"

"Naah...it's The Hunt for  Red October 2."

"Wow...that submarine movie again?"

"Yes, only this time it's based on real story."

We can't wait.

Paris Hilton was spotted at a pharmacy at the corner of Sunset Boulevard recently. With apparently a new boyfriend, a chubby guy who happens to be a Chinese. We caught up with her.

"Paris, what's with the grass in South Africa and Paris, Paris?"

"Oh, grass? That's my trainer tellin' me, like green is good, you know what I mean, like no fat, cholesterol and stuffs? So I kinda like took some...inhaled some, felt good, people...then they arrested me. Jeez...wet blanket!"

"Oh..who's your new boyfriend Paris?"

"Oh...he is kinda like so cute ya? Kinda like Winnie-the- Pooh kinda cute eh? He's so fine ya know. Millionaire when he was 20 ya know. Kinda like tawdally rich. Studied in Farton..."

"Wharton you mean?"

"Wharton, Farton, whatever...hey ya know, he is a state swimmer too. He's from Malaysia."

"Wow, they must have huge swimming pools in Malaysia. Heard he spent 2 million sterling pound buying you champagne?"

"Oh, oh...you knew 'bout that? He's so thoughtful ya know. The other day he bought 1 million dollar worth of nail clippers for me ya know..."

"Wow, what's the story there Paris?"

"Oh, we were in a pharmacy ya know. I needed a nail clipper. Spotted my ex buying a nail clipper too. So it became kinda like a competition ya know. I told him to buy two, and my ex bought three and 3 hours later, he spent like a million bucks on nail clippers...he's tawdally hawt and awesome ya know...guess what?"

"What?"

"He won! My ex gave up after 700k! Isn't that kinda cool?"

"Wow...what's his name?"

"I call him J Low. Hope Jenny's not angry tho'. Goodbye people...tada."

That's all peeps. Tune in tomorrow for more.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Malacca to allow child marriages

* by Hang Nadim

Malaysia and its authorities in general, are renowned for their knee-jerk reaction to social problems, opting almost always to address symptoms rather than the causal factors. The recent decision of the Malacca State Government to allow child marriages to purportedly curtail out-of-wedlock pregnancies is current testimony to this.

Fighting the temptation to use harsher words to describe this proposal, I will relent at merely stating that it is beyond intelligible comprehension. Just for purpose of argument and not that I support this idea, why does not the State impose mandatory chastity belts that may be only removed upon reaching the age of 18? Condoms provide another remedial measure. Does the State want to stop pre-marital sex or out-of-wedlock pregnancy? Will this new measure prevent out-of-wedlock pregnancies but give rise to more divorces since these children are typically immature and unable to cope with the daunting responsibilities of being a parent and wife?

If there was sincere introspection, the State should realise that the causal factors of this malady lay deeper than youth just engaging in pre-marital sex resulting in out-of-wedlock pregnancies. In my humble opinion, the most significant causal factor for this malady relates to the values held by our youth today. These values are contributed amongst others by religious beliefs, parental and family influence, societal environment and norms, and even governmental action.

I am not aware of any religion that encourages pre-marital sex though one may argue that some religions do not expressly prohibit it either. That’s really up to the individual to decide. On family influence, how often do parents and family members take the time today to teach our children good principles? I remember being taught these principles by my mother when I was very young – “You must never engage in physical activity with a woman before marriage. Try where possible not to even touch a woman. If you are introduced to a woman, always wait for her to extend her hand before you offer yours. Be courteous, show women respect and never use foul language etc. In other areas, I was reminded as soon as I started working “to never sell myself like a loaf of bread (i.e. accept bribes)”. These principles I continue to hold dearly. My mother lived those principles she taught me, strengthening my resolve to follow suit. As I was exposed later to the elements of the society, these principles continued to guide me. I never saw the need to conform to “the order of the day”. I still do not. I doubt I ever will. I used these principles as a sieve to weed out what I consider the bad from the good. These days, I only see parents emphasising that kids must study hard and accumulate wealth. Rarely anything else is added to the syllabi they ‘teach’ their children. Whether they practise what they teach is further in doubt. It is my humble view that a good education and wealth sans good principles/values is akin to having bones unclothed with flesh. When you add more bones to society, you get a society bereft of a soul, one that is in reality, dead.

Next, let us consider the values that the Malaysian society extols. I may be generalising by surmising that our society emphasises materialism and educational achievement (our version) that is individualistic. We rave about the ‘top richest men in the country’, the tallest twin towers in the world, the longest bridge, the number of ‘As” scored in exams, the ability to make the news or television, about going for holidays and to space, the sexual prowess of certain men, the record number of times certain men/ women married etc.. Why not emphasise values that we would like to see our society have and more importantly, truly live them.

The government clearly needs to engage with society and all its stakeholders to seek direction on how to restructure our society and address our social ills. It must cease pretending that it has all the answers. By evidence of this measure proposed by the Malacca State Government, it is evident that it does not even comprehend the question, let alone have an answer.

Monday, August 02, 2010

When our shadows are taller than our soul...

"And as we wind on down the road,
Our shadows taller than our soul"

Robert Plant: Stairway to Heaven

When our shadows are taller than our soul, at the end of it, we would be consumed with fear. Just as we are nearing death, and we realise that our sins have far outdone our good deeds, we would be consumed with nothing but fear of the judgment day.

That is only to be expected. That is just a part of being a mortal human being.

When I learned about the arrest of about 30 people who attended an anti-ISA candle light vigil at Amcorp Mall last night, the first thought which came through my mind was, why is this government so afraid of the people it wishes to govern?

It is like this government is bereft of any moral standing to govern. Like it fears any kind of expression of feelings by the people. Like it fears any show or display of whatever which may teeny wee bit resembles an opposing opinion or stand.

No wonder even cartoon books lampooning the administration has been banned. Not long ago, even t-shirts bearing some depictions of funny cartoons and logos were seized in Central Market just because they "offend" the powers that be.

I ask on Twitter, when will this government ever respect the people's constitutional rights to assemble peacefully and to express their opinion and themselves peacefully? When?

Why must the peaceful people of Malaysia, who just wish to express their stand against a totally archaic law, which has been abused again and again and again, in a totally peaceful manner be met with riot police, swarming and bearing on them with baton and riot gear?

Just take a look at this video:

This was supposed to be a peaceful candle light vigil to mark the 50th anniversary of the Internal Security Act 1960. In addition, of course the attendees wanted to make a statement that the ISA ought to be abolished. That was all.

What was so threatening about that that they had to be met with riot police in full riot regalia? And why must they be stormed at, swarmed on and dragged like some arm bearing bank robber?

Has this government  lost any kind of ability to treat the people with at least some common decency? Has this government no ability to acknowledge the existence of human dignity, some very basic form of rights which the people, as human beings, naturally possess?

Most importantly, has this government lost the plot?

The most sickening thing about this episode is the fact that all of us, members of civil society and the peace loving people of Malaysia, are made to swallow the blatant and nauseating hypocrisy by this government day in and day out.

All of us would remember that when some rabid "mentalites" from Shah Alam marched from the mosque while carrying  a bloodied and severed cow head, stomped and spat on it in front of the State Secretariat, no less than our Home Minister said that those people felt "victimised" and that "they had only wanted their voices to be heard".

He then cavorted them, met and sat with them and even had a press conference with them. This government actually cavorted with pure utter racists who were hell bent on creating racial disharmony.

The few policemen who were around that day did not even lift a finger to prevent that shameful act which threw the whole country into a state of international infamy!

Oh, they had only wanted their voices heard.

Well well Mr Home Minister, how about the attendees of the vigils last night? They had wanted to overthrow the government, were they?

ALL THEY HAD WANTED TO DO WAS TO EXPRESS THEIR STAND AGAINST THE ISA IN A PEACEFUL MANNER? (sorry, I have to shout!).

Why must they be treated like some criminals? Who were more threatening? Those people carrying the kepala lembu or the candles?

One would also remember that when some Muslims threatened to have a big demonstration after Friday prayer over the "Allah" issue, no less than the Honourable Prime Minister who said that the government will not prevent such demonstrations. That statement was made knowing full well how the Allah issue was being used to fan racial hatred and how big such demonstrations could be, as it was planned to take place after Friday prayer. (notice how these people just love to turn Friday prayer into a hotbed for demonstrations).

I remember clearly the Honourable Prime Minister saying that the planned demonstrations cannot be stopped because "if people want to demonstrate, there is nothing the government could do"!

And what was the result of that statement? Yes, churches were burnt nation wide. Are we happy?

Why the double standard? Why the talam dua muka?

Why can't some peaceful Malaysians be allowed to have a peaceful assembly to pursue a cause which they thought was worthy of their attention?

What is there to fear?

Some people really have to go back home tonight, stand in front of the mirror and ask him or herself, "what has become of me?"