Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Treasonous Ingrates

During the course of an FB chat, a friend asks for my comments on a former reporter colleague’s posting of choosing between peace and prosperity, or freedom, rights, integrity and transparency.

In the Malaysian context, this is supposedly a Hobson’s choice.

As it was close to midnight, I yammered some incomprehensible reply before logging off but an article on the massacre of 57 people, including 31 journalists, on a November morningthree years ago in Maguindanao got me thinking again on the question.

Yes, we have been blessed with relative – the main blemish being the May 13, 1969 riots - peace and prosperity throughout the 54 years of the nation’s existence.

Why couldn’t we, then, put in place principles that upholds one's freedom and rights, governing integrity and transparency – and if I may add – moral and ethics into the way we administer the country?

Can’t we have both? What is it about the latter that is so threatening to the former that co-existence is supposedly impossible?

We are not talking about unbridled freedom and rights but in the context of the proper adherence to the Rule of Law; i.e. where EVERYONE knows exactly where the boundary lies and the penalties for transgressing this line.

Realistically, it is here that we have been found wanting for quite a while now with seemingly two sets of rules being in play: one for the politically favoured and, another, for the rest of us.

That, and the seeming politically-expedient way of our execution of some laws: the most recent being the charging of a Border’s bookstore staff over the banned Irshad Manji’s book.

At least, there is a Judicial Review on the matter.

The retroactive nature of the alleged offence and the seriousness of its outcome (for the staff’s livelihood and freedom) means that there shouldn’t be any other way forward than to contest the charge brought against her under the Syariah Enactment.

So, can it be argued that the Rule of Law is alive and well as such?

Before we come to the said conclusion, do remember that Borders is owned by Berjaya Books and in Malaysia, Berjaya is a biggie.

There shouldn’t have been a charging in the first place had the Rule of Law really been adhered to.

All things said, I have to admit that the country is a relatively peaceful place to live and work in.

Not necessarily play, though, (pun intended) – what with the, ahem, increased perception of lawlessness apparent amongst some of the populace.

What is also true, however, is that some of the natives are restless; a sentiment simmering just below the all-glossy,shiny surface of the nation’s peace and prosperity facade.

Restless over perceived and actual bias in the implementation of national policies, over the seemingly accepted culture of rent seeking as a valid method of earning a living, over a more apparent division of class on top of the already well entrenched polarization of race, over the increasingly burdensome chase of economic over social well being…

Perhaps these are just the middle class / urban suburban / Gen X manic responses to the crushing economic malaise of late.

Or mere ravings of the disgruntled, treasonous ingrates as purported by some of our politicians.

Sadly, the peace we’ve held for so long did not see the putting into place a system of governance where such grievances could have been amicably tackled.

I’ve often asked this question: how and when did the country go off tangent in its nation-building to come to this sad state?

When did we make peace and prosperity, and governance, rights, integrity and transparency a Hobson’s Choice?

To some, this was when the Doctor was in the house.

Was it? Why did we let it be so?

Did we want our people to be forever in hand outstretched for crumbs mode?
The Tyranny of Thanos the Titan

Monday, 25 June 2012

Early Morning Brew

In vain he hoped the creaking is the bed’s spring
The ticking, the three hands of the clock in the corner standing
He damns the window glass thin panes, silently screaming
Letting in the God-awful resonance of traffic’s busy buzzing

Or is it a leftover headache from days gone still brewing

Slight sweaty palm careens lightly off a patch balding
A malaise common, a signal of years swiftly moving
Not that old, he thinks, gray matters fully awake now pulsing
One day short of a month, a year less of six decades of living

Really? Of pandering to EVERYONE, his own convictions notwithstanding

He caught a whiff of a scent most wonderful so scintillating
To his left, there on the console table, natural wood, shines unflinching
A cuppa, China white with flowers red, yellow and bluish green, enticing
Making him forget, the longest of moments from all that foreboding

Coffee? He wished it so; black no sugar plain and simply

Neatly stacked were daily newspapers he’d gave up reading
For so long, there were simply there doing nothing but parroting
Headlines a day old, spread earlier by fingers crafty so darn irritating
Making everything so open so transparent, a world so galling

Now, if only we can switch tech off for one day from one fine morning

He knew he needed to rise, needed to cap a restless excuse of supposed sleeping
Too much bickering, too many issues, much too big a stake that needs tending
A nation torn, its soul scarred its community divided from years of peddling
 Of so-called development, alas only the surface begets substantial tinkering

By a perpetually pontificating of a pathological polywacker practiced in the pocketing of pennies

Isn’t it?

A headache consuming
A cuppa brewing
A mind aching
And psyche creaking

Friday, 22 June 2012

Talking Pixs

In between “work”, I’ve been revisiting old issues of Marvel’s Avengers, covers and reading the storyline synopsis.

Somewhere in my memory banks, there are off on recollections of plotlines and intermittent appearances (cameo?) of non-traditional characters including Starfox and Thanos (to name but two).

I know I can easily Google the keywords for possible hits, but, heck, the (online) flipping through of each issue is way more fun.

(Of course, it would be even better if I actually had the physical copies in mint / near mint condition TQVM!)

Anyway, re-reading the old issues reminded me again why I fell in love with the (old days) Japanese Manga, especially Kazuo Koike’s Lone Wolf and Cub and Kasuhiro Otomo’s Akira & Domu.

Typical of Americans (apologies for the crude generalization, but it is true’s isn’t it?), their comics are talky.

They yak and yak.

The villains, for example, will often explain at great lengths whatever nefarious scheme to conquer the world / destroy the Avengers / carry of Mantis / rule the universe etc etc.

Or they’ll try to wear down each other with words before fights: “I will pummel thee with my bone-crushing, boulder smashing, steel bending fists of death!!!” against “Bah!! I have withstood the death dealing / worlds’ destroying / armada wrecking rays of XXXXX that you puny fists will be less than nothing!!!”

Something like that.

Like I said, great fun. Corny but fun.

The aforementioned Japanese works though worked differently as the story flows almost seamless with the words complementing instead of telling the tale.

I was literally dumbstruck when I picked up my first ever copy of Koure Okami (Lone Wolf & Cub), reveling in the simplicity of its storytelling.

Before that (remember I was still quite  teen then, ya), I didn’t realized that you could actually gets the pictures to tell the story.

Of course, the modern day Avengers have curbed (not totally, though) most of these, urm, flair.

And, yes, they are still great fun.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Priced Out aka Improving One's Lot

Is my community one of the most kesian of communities in this country?

Is that the reason why the phrase “improving the lot of the Malays” keep cropping up every now and then; the latest being the UDA – Penang State Government – Kampung Tanjung Tokong, urm, initiative?

Read: “It would entail relocating about 1,200 families from their village houses into flats built in high-rises as compensation. UDA hailed the initiative as improving the lot of the Malays so that they are not left behind.” (My emphasis)

My briefest of stay in Penang with my uncle did not allow me much of exploring the of the island state; Kampung Tanjung Tokong included.

It is said to be an original Malay fishing settlement all those years ago pre Francis Lights’ taking over of Penang from Kedah and turning it into a thriving port.

And because of that, the powers that be decided for Kampung Tanjung Tokong to be accorded the status “heritage”.

Umm, for 250 years of being what? Excuse me for being blur on the history of Kampung Tanjung Tokong, which I promise to look up if I am so keen and have the time to indulge in something which I have little interest in.

Anyway, I am digressing here and back we are to the “improving the lot of Malays” bit.

Supposedly one way of doing so is by cramming families into flats of between 800 to 850 square feet from wherever it is that they were staying in previously.

Really crude generalization at work here.

There’s no doubt that most of us would have had the, urmm, luxury of staying at these modern - housing development players driven - interpretation of the human habitat.

Mine was the Teratai Mewah (ahem) Apartments in Setapak, Kuala Lumpur.

Nasty, nasty traffic, crappy lifts, express out-the-window garbage deliveries, scant consolation of a shared playground, longhouse styled layout, birds’ eye view of your neighbour’s flat, deplorable maintenance… Quite the place we had.

Sure there are plus points; …… a roof on my head (nope sorry, that’s my upper neighbor’s floor actually), close knit community (if we had enough time to knit about, that is), security (yeah, right).

(But flats are sure heaven sent for the starting-out-in-life singles. Affordable entry point, often easy access to public transit points, plenty of makan places, solace of being stranger amongst strangers…)

Improving of one’s lot in life, eh?

Perhaps the newer flats are super spanky: after all, it really has been quite a while since I’ve been in one after I left Teratai Mewah and Kuala Lumpur for Ipoh and a landed property (initially rented then bought) in one of its suburbs.

Finally, my family had its own breathing space and what an improvement it was.

Often the excuse is that land is scarce and hence you have to build upwards to be able to accommodate the burgeoning population as cities, towns and suburban areas expand through the years.

Maybe so, but couldn’t we have planned our development better? After all, the country is only 54 years old and we could have well learnt from the experience of others which had threaded the same path before.

Authorities often would decry the supposed unreasonable demands from those involved in similar, urm, relocation exercise.

It is but only natural to want to be able to stay close to the land, feet on the ground as you stand outside your home – no matter how humble an abode - to watch the time pass by and to not feel trapped in a concrete enclosure with a single exit.

The writer of the above mentioned article asked: “Is not decimating such a physical legacy in the form of the village, which inherently contains old Malay values – cultural, architectural, communal – an antithesis to improving the lot of the Malays?”

A perfectly valid point.

In fact, we can travel down south to another heritage-status filled state in Malacca to see some of these ideals in action.

Of course, these are views of the romantics and the idealists; not the realists who understand that the new value in life is in denominations of Ringgits and Sens.

Especially in the Pearl of the Orient where a 850 sq feet flat can cost a whopping RM300,000 per unit. How much is that in monthly installment, I wonder? Perhaps this is the improvement in lot spoken of.

A plot of land can house a single family. Or it can accommodate a whole lot more with some economical equations thrown in.

Pardon the fully intended use of words.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

What the Sam Hill?!

Morality policing in Malaysia has certainly gone lopsidedly loony.

Who would have imagined a mere staff of Borders charged before the Syariah High Court for “distributing by way of selling the book entitled, Allah, Liberty and Love (The Courage to Reconcile Faith and Freedom”).


Technically, the charge could well be valid since Nik Raina Nik Abdul Aziz was the Mid Valley outlet’s store manager, but logically, neither the books by Irshad Manji nor the outlet, Borders, are hers to start with.

Nik Raina faces a RM3,000 fine or a maximum of two years' jail or both under Section 13(1) of the Syariah Criminal Offences Act (Federal Territories) 1997, if convicted.

Am really not sure how the charge is worded but going by the Star’s phrasing of “distributing by way of selling”; it seems to be one of strict liability. Legal eagles would definitely be able to explain this to all us layman.

A store manager, huh?

Didn’t have the balls to go after the real owner, is it? Borders, according to the Star, belong to Berjaya Books Sdn Bhd.

Look at the penalty for God’s sake and tell me if it’s just?

A bookstore staff…

Did she have like total control over the outlet? Over the procurement of all books?

How many books do Borders have in stock?

The one at the Curve in Damansara seems to have like a billion books from the most innocent My First ABC to the horrendously explicit Brian Azzarello’s 100 Bullets series (to cite an example).

But of course, the latter isn’t something that is "deemed to be against the Islamic Law (Hukum Syarak)" even if it does feature gratuitous sex and violence every other issue.

Is Nik Raina’s charging to set an example? Couldn’t she be just slapped with a mere warning to take the books out within a certain period - her convictions on the book’s contents and the banning act notwithstanding?

How in heaven’s name are Muslims supposed to show that Islam is the perfect Addin when you have something so logically, chronically unjust?

What others see is the authorities picking on the easiest of targets to make an example of.

Someone like Nik Raina. 

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Visionary Templates

Off and on, the Sun provides some really thought-provoking pieces such as this latest nugget from Halimah Mohd Said on reviving the Vision School concept.

Halimah (Datin?) is worried over growing divisiveness of a national education system trying to accommodate three different streams replete with their very own linguistic and cultural exclusiveness.

(Digressing a bit but perhaps she should also include a fourth stream which has come out strongly over the last few years in the form of the sekolah pondok type of schools, some of which feature integrated syllabus, and offering far more exclusivity than even the vernacular schools can profess to offer.)

I echo Halimah’s thoughts in the urgent need to bring the diverging schools system together and for the time being, it does look that the Vision School concept is the most viable solution we have.

It is important for the children to be allowed to open up and learn the hotch potch in race, religion and culture “real time” rather than what they could theoretically gain from books.

In book form, such differences can come out very cold and technical. Boring is an apt phrase to be used.

Worse still, things come out all black and white with no grayscale allowed perpetuating an “Us and Them” mentality right from the start.

You’d have to wonder why the concept never did gain the kind of wide acceptance and strong political support it should rightly garner given the national unity objective that it carries.

I would venture that the main problem lie with our inability to do away with the racial distinctions of being Chinese, Ibans, Indians, Malays, Muruts, Sikhs etc etc etc instead of identifying ourselves first and foremost as Malaysians.

50 plus years of independence and we still identify our schools on the basis of their purported main language of use: Malay, Chinese and Tamil.

Throw into the mix with the newer streams in Sekolah Tahfiz – with its predominant Islamic-based syllabus – and the elitist community based International schools – predominant English speaking - and we have a potent divisive foundation on racial, linguistic and class lines all set up for the future.

Is this the kind of future we are offering our kids?

It is time that the education reformists take the Vision School concept a step further than the mere sharing of grounds, facilities and resources.

No: the Vision School should be a sharing of ideals and principles.

Not “You”, not “Me”, but “We” as in “We” are in this together.

And the government should not be put off by the wholly Malaysians’ Malaysia philosophy behind this.

For God’s sakes, can we chuck racial politics out the window for once?

God knows the haste in the need to set up the correct foundation before we all go down six feet under and leaving our legacy of a divisive education system for decades to come.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Shaun Cringeworthy

"Come and get it! It's a running buffet! All you can eat!"
A quickie English lesson:

An informal adjective defined as causing feelings of acute embarrassment or distaste

Example of usage of the phrase from good ol Mr Google:
"The play's cast was excellent, but the dialogue was unforgivably cringeworthy.."

And, a totally unrelated News In Brief, PTPTN has apparently lifted its freeze on loans for the new students of Selangor’s Unisel.

"It was always PTPTN's intention to test whether the state was serious about providing free education.”

"Now that the university has acknowledged the importance of the PTPTN, it is clear that they are unable to reach the goal of free education."

Note again: News in brief is totally unrelated to the above quickie English lesson.

Like Shaun of the Dead (above) and Shaun the Sheep (below).
Both are drop dead funny, though.

And never a cringeworthy moment to boot.


Thursday, 7 June 2012

Parting Gift

PTPTN has apparently frozen all loans to students’ of Selangor’s Unisel.

Apparently, the move is courtesy of Higher Education Minister Mohamed Khaled Nordin as confirmed to Utusan Malaysia.

Of late, PTPTN has come under the limelight of sorts with calls from the Pakatan Rakyat for it to be abolished and for the Federal government to introduce free higher education.

The issue was debated quite extensively by the dynamic of Umno’s Khairy Jamaluddin and PJKR’s Rafizi Ramli and I don’t believe that any “correct” conclusion was reached despite the heavily partisanship stance on the matter.

Now, rather than leave things on an intellectual banter level between two foes, along came Khaled Nordin upping the ante with a decision with actual impact.

Come on la En Minister…

I might not agree with the whole abolish PTPTN argument, but this is clearly a discriminatory and spiteful move of a political score.

Who do you think the students will blame for the frozen loans? Pakatan?

I don’t think so. Not when there are already moves to provide interest free loans to students from Selangor.

I mean, even PMNTR did not pilih bulu when he distributed the much maligned BR1M cash handouts, correct?

Elligible Selangorians, Penangites, Kedahans and Kelantanese all got their dues.

In terms of political brownie points, such a move just gives Pakatan the extra ammo - already quite substantial in stock thanks to the NFC, the PKFZ and numerous other public procurement debacles - for their campaigns against Barisan.

Abolishing PTPTN is first and foremost a political talk; the reality is that it is not something QED what’s with the multitude on side issues to tackle.

A roundtable discourse on how best to approach the appreciably noble objective of free – or partially free – higher education would have been the better choice as regards the nation’s best interest.

Not this over-the-top, clearly Partisan’s move.

What bloody shame.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Democratic Fervor

In Malaysia, voting during the General Elections is NOT something that is mandatory. Hence as an extension of this then it makes sense that automatic registration of voters is also not ON.

Shouldn’t it though?

It is one thing to be registered, and another to actually vote. For one, you have to be - theoretically, at least, what’s with allegations of Hantu voters popping up every time the election comes – physically present to do the latter.

Apparently, there is an estimated 3.6 million people who are still unregistered as voters.

Huge concern thus. HUGE.

Thus, looking at the response so far from the Barisan Nasional, urm, fellas (EC deputy chairman Wan Ahmad Wan Omar, excluded, of course) to the Selangor State government’s “SelangorkuBersih” campaign, you’d be forgiven to scratch your head and go: Huh?

The campaign aims to verify the voters listed and, can along the way help to persuade those who haven't registered to do so.

After all, why wouldn’t the Selangor State Government want to help out in registering the still unregistered 600k or so other Selangorians?

If these 600K non registered ones want to, that is.

Since neither voting nor registering as a voter is mandatory, it is really their choice, no?

But if they do wish to do so; and just don’t have neither the opportunity nor the means or the time to put pen to registration papers, then the “Selangorku Bersih” campaign is just plain haven sent.

 As Selangor has the highest number of unregistered voters, surely the EC will relish all the help it can get, shouldn’t it?

Saves the EC to concentrate its efforts on the other 3 million unregistered ones.

Out of curiosity, how does the EC verify the voters’ particulars and voting constituencies?

Take me, for instance.

I registered God knows how long ago as a voter in the Pandan Parliamentary constituency and except for the 2004 General Election, I have not had the opportunity to vote due to work and locality constraints.

Was I ever, urm, verified throughout the three General Elections including those in 1999 and 2008?

Until but recently when I changed my voting particulars, I was still very much a voter in Pandan.

It does seem that the verification of a voter's particulars is very much up to the individual voter’s own efforts, with the EC, urm, facilitating the data entry.

So, how would the EC verify something like this highlighted instance in suspicion arousing duplicating facts?

After all, outside of the particular locality's locals, how will one know who’s who? Asking for someone’s identity papers is just plain criminal for anyone other than  the authorities.

It could well be a sheer stroke of pure coincidence of which the door to door, house to house, “Selangorku Bersih” campaign could help prove and, without a doubt, VERIFY.

Or not, since the voters – any voter for that matter - could also say: “No, I will not allow myself to be verified”.

Or not. Perhaps it’s nothing more than the fervor of DEMOCRATIC IDEALS.

Yep. That’s probably IT. 

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Flying Contraptions

Can pigs fly?

Sure they can: provided they in the right kind of flying contraption, anything CAN fly, in fact.

Clive Kessler spoke of HIS dilemma over the choice between Pakatan Rakyat and Barisan Nasional to govern this lovely country of ours.

Perhaps there is.

Too quite a few – at the very least the 22,270 odd people who was at the Bersih Sit and Protest – the choice has been made.

Anyway, I have yet to make my choice since I don’t know who will be vying for the two positions over at my constituency.

I think I will make mine a personality based choice.

To know their stand on things. To make sure they are articulate enough about their position on all that is important to the country’s future.

As luck would have it, my change of address is finally effected and I no longer have to drive all the way to Pandan Indah to cast my invaluable vote.

It does feel a bit weird in that I am no longer amongst the so called ears-and-eyes-on-the-ground component of the Govt election machinery aka the MSM.

Supposedly, our news reports (for what they’re worth) provide the powers-that-be with a gauge on how things are going with the masses.

Really? Could well be a figment of my own over estimation of reporter-self worth. Funny Ha Ha. Didn’t accept my take on the Chinese massive vote swing the last time.

It was fun all the same to be right in the thick of things when it comes to the ceramahs and what not.

Parliamentary dissolution notwithstanding, we do seem to be in a perpetual pre-General Election mode these days with ceramahs galore, show-of-strength rapat umums, unabashed feel-good factor highlights, shameless "choose me" political speeches, handouts to the masses etc etc.

Even the party flags are a-fluttering. Billboards campaigning too: Janji Di Tepati; shouts one along the southern route of the North South Highway, seen during a recent balik kampong trip to Johor.

And then, there are also the many  - too many - pronouncements these days from the Barisan Nasional fellas of “trouble if Pakatan Rakyat losses in the General Election”, “Be gentleman la”, or something along the line.

My, my. Whatever do they mean? A pre-telegraphed nipping at the bud action, perhaps? A smug confidence that a win is already in hand? A Goebbels communiqué? Hmmm...

Suffice to say, the only thing missing from this whole equation is the players aka the candidates.

Who will I choose?  Who will it be?

First things first, though. PMNTR has to make the call, the trumpet for the 5-year mandate seeking exercise to begin.

So the BIG question is: When will he? 

PS: The woman pictured below will make a fine candidate in my and surely a whole lot of others, good books...