Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Tuesdays With Bapak (3)

The Other Side Of Morning - Tuesday February 27 2007
Nina was not supposed to come downstairs so early. She had just gone to bed only a few hours ago, along with everyone else.
Could she have slept well after what happened?
Nina had cried herself to sleep. At least she did not wake up screaming as little children often do after going through hell.
Did she remember what happened earlier?
Nina who was asleep with our nephew Irwan in our parents' bedroom, had been rudely awakened when the Special Branch officers began opening and rummaging drawers.
She was in shock. Her face ashen. We thought our baby sister would surely never recover.
I wanted it to be a bad dream for her. For us all. A bad dream would have been better. At least it was not real. Don't wake up until after the good part comes.
Damn! The good part never came and I woke up.

"Papa mana?" she asked, still groggy. Poor kid. Poor Baby.
She had not forgotten and wanted to be sure.
No reply from anyone. No one dared say anything. Except, of course, Mak.
She took Nina by her side, stroked her head then gently said that the police had taken Bapak.
Nina's eyes were blinking. She did not cry.

It was a school day but the kids were not up to it. Kak Eda and I were on our semester break.

Breakfast, as usual, was already on the table. We all had our particular likes. I liked toast to go with my coffee. Abang Med preferred half-boiled eggs or cereals while Kak Olin, Kak Eda and Azah would go for fried rice.
Our three youngest siblings -- Kamal, Lalin and Nina would have whatever was on the table.
Anything Mak prepared was good.
But today nothing looked good. Today, the morning papers carried the story of Bapak's arrest and detention.
There were no details. We just wanted to know, from them, why.
Abang Med was conspicuously missing at breakfast.
He would usually make a point of having his eggs or cereals before going to work.
Also, Lalin was very close to him so he would spend a bit of time with her before rushing off to his office in Shah Alam.
This morning, he had left without having his breakfast.
He must have read the papers.
Did he go to work, I wondered?
He looked all tensed up when those men were in the house. His face was pale but I could see fire blazing in his eyes when Bapak left in the car with those men.
Ah, the car. We could remember many things but none of us could remember the make or the colour of the car. It was just a miserable dark-coloured car.
I wondered whether Abang Med was going to be okay?
Was he planning revenge? I shuddered thinking about it yet the thought brought a hint of pleasure.
Before I could begin to fantasize about the pain I could inflict on some people, there were noises at the front door.

"Assalamualaikum," rang a familiar voice. It was Pak Cik Tongkat (Usman Awang) and his wife, Cik Senah (Hasnah Din).
Mak had called them earlier about Bapak's arrest.
We all responded to the salam in unison.
Oh! They were heaven sent. Dear sweet Pak Cik Tongkat and Cik Senah. We could have cried at the sight of them.
A tangible air of anxiety and anguish must have been overwhelming for I had never seen Pak Cik Tongkat looking so distraught and disturbed.
His voice quivered as he asked us about Bapak. Cik Senah, with tears streaming down her cheeks said nothing as she hugged her Kak Midah.
"Sarapan dulu, ya. Kak Midah masak nasi goreng ni", Mak said.
"Budak-budak baik?" she asked, referring to their children, Lina, Is, Yamin and Maya.
As they sat down with her at the table, she began to relate to them the early morning events from A to Z. Mak was good with details.
Pak Cik Tongkat hardly sipped his coffee, much less able to eat the fried rice.
He was taking deep and long puffs of his "gudang garam" as he listened intently to Mak.
I was sitting on the steps of the staircase in front of the dining room, holding Nina and Lalin. Kak Olin, Kak Eda and Azah were huddled close together further up.
My teenaged brother, Kamal, was in the living room, staring at the newspaper, at the headlines.

Pak Cik Tongkat had been like a younger brother to my mother since the Singapore days when he would visit my father at my Ompong's (my grandpa's) home in Jalan Sudin.
Mak treated Cik Senah just like her own adik as their families were neighbours, living across each other. They were very close.
So it was not long before the pretty 16 year-old Hasnah caught the eye of the young and dashing Usman.
My father hosted their wedding held in our kampung -- Kampung Melayu -- the Malay heartland in Singapore.
Their wedding was indeed considered grand, attended by ambassadors and top PAP leaders.
Not your regular kampung day-long affair. But a dinner reception with musicians playing stringed instruments and a piano.
Kak Piah and Kak Ton , then 10 and 8, were the bridal couple's "pengapit".
To my siblings and I, Pak Cik Tongkat and Cik Senah were like our second parents, so dear to us and were always there to share our joy. This time, our sorrow.

As Pak Cik Tongkat and Cik Senah were preparing to leave, I felt a wrenching tug inside.
"Don't leave. Stay with us," I wanted to say.
Their presence at our home had made us feel comforted. We wanted it to last a little longer.
Pak Cik Tongkat's soothing words made the morning-after less unbearable.
He asked a lot about our younger ones - Azah, Kamal, Lalin and Nina. Every now and again, he would turn to them.
Pak Cik Tongkat assured us that he would always be there for us as he had always been.
Cik Senah said they would both come and visit us as often as they could.
We were not sure whether they actually would.
You know people change.
But they kept their word throughout the following years until Bapak's release. Bless them!

We'd soon learn how true it was that in such trying times, we'd know who our friends were. We really would. And I mean, our real friends.

Monday, February 26, 2007

We Ask, We Listen And We Advise, Says Shahrir

We Don't Decide
Nor does the Public Accounts Committee execute decisions made by the Cabinet. As was the case with the controversial merger between ECM Libra and Avenue Capital.
Shahrir Samad earlier today chaired the PAC meeting in which 2nd Finance Minister Nor Mohamed Yakcop briefed on the merger.
Here's what Shahrir told a Press conference after the meeting:

"The Finance Minister had explained that there was nothing unusual about the deal since it had obtained clearance from the Securities Commission (SC).
"To say we are satisfied (with the explanation given) is not right since the PAC consists of representatives of various political parties. We all have a different degree of satisfaction. The government feels that since the SC had no objection and the majority of shareholders of the two companies wanted to merge, then the merger should take place without any interference."

Disappointed? And what were you expecting?
Bernama has the full story here.

Indomitable Shahrir

Sticking To His Guns
In 1982, I met a young deputy minister at an assignment in Kuala Lumpur. I was with a colleague, Zainah Anwar who was there to talk to him for a political story.
I had just been back a year from my journalism studies in the US to resume work with the NST, and was there to cover the young political leader who was the main guest at the event.
At 31, Shahrir Samad was Deputy Trade and Industry Minister. I took an instant liking to him because he spoke so passionately and articulately when replying to questions.
I liked him also because I found him to be smart and very outspoken.
It was refreshing to listen to this brave and brash young leader.
In my book, Shahrir Samad was a non-conformist. He had gall and gumption. His outspokenness became his trademark notoriety.
Before assuming the trade and industry portfolio, he was Deputy Finance Minister.
I also remember him to have been the youngest Cabinet Minister at 34 when in 1983, he was made Federal Territory Minister.
His last Cabinet post was as Welfare Services Minister. He held the post until 1986, before the infamous 1987 Umno (Team A-Team B) split when Tengku Razaleigh challenged incumbent Dr Mahathir Mohamad for the party presidency.
Dr Mahathir who led the Team A camp, won by just over 40 votes. His candidate for deputy presidency Ghafar Baba also defeated Team B's (incumbent) Musa Hitam.
Dissatisfied, Team B cried foul. This led to Umno being declared unlawful in 1988. A new party, Umno Baru was formed. Shahrir who was in Tengku Razaleigh's camp as were Musa Hitam and Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, refused to join the new Umno at first but did so a year later.
Although he was not accepted back into Dr Mahathir's Cabinet, Shahrir remained active in the party, down south in Johor.
We never met after he left Umno until I think, the party general assembly in 2000. He had contested a seat in the supreme council and won more than 1,000 votes to emerge 14th among 63 contenders for the 25 posts.
I invited him over to the media centre and we talked. He was still as outspoken as ever, although a little mellowed.
I had asked him what he had been up to, besides Umno.
"Oh, what else is there to do? I have been running a dry cleaning business."
I told him I had heard about that.
Shahrir was soon back in the fold.
In 2004, he was made Backbenchers Club chairman but resigned last year after he broke ranks with the BN for supporting a DAP motion in the Dewan Rakyat.
Later, he told reporters that his support of the opposition motion which was subsquently rejected, was "a mistake in regards to the parliamentary procedure involved".
He maintained that based on the political model, there was no mistake. It was "wrong in regards to parliamentary procedure but politically no wrong was done."
Shahrir Samad is today the Public Accounts Committee chairman.
Later today at 9.30am (Monday, February 26) the PAC will reconvene at Parliament House where Second Finance Minister Nor Mohamed Yakcop is scheduled to give testimony over the controversial ECM Libra Bhd-Avenue Capital merger.
The PAC last touched on the issue in August last year. Shahrir had then said that the merger had raised troubling questions.
Will he be satisfied with Nor Mohamed Yakcop's testimony?
What will the outcome be?
Rocky's Bru has a take on the PAC meeting here. Malaysia Today's Ibnu Hakeem has his here. A Voice (of Another Brick In the Wall) has the background to the controversial merger (or was it a takeover?) and a photo of Shahrir chairing this morning's meeting, courtesy AgendaDaily here.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

No Sensasi

TV3's Entertainment Programme Banned
Remember "Sensasi" which had actress Rosnah Mat Aris uttering insulting words about Prophet Muhammad's wife in front of a live audience, causing a controversy and forcing her to publicly apologise ?
Well, it has been banned with immediate effect.
This was decided by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC).
That particular programme was shown on Jan 30.
According to Star On Line, MCMC , after its investigations, found that it had failed to abide by the approval conditions and that the television station had failed to control inappropriate content.
The MCMC said this in a statement issued yesterday.
Here's the rest of the story:

MCMC corporate communications head Adelina Iskandar said the entire Sensasi programme should have “contributed to the national aspiration and not offend the sensitivity or values of the community.”
She said that TV3 should abide with procedures and obtain the Film Censorship Board’s approval should it wish to produce the show as a recording.
The statement did not clearly state if Rosnah’s comments had insulted Prophet Muhammad’s wife.
However, public reaction as reported by the media suggested that what she said should not have been connected to the Prophet’s family.
Adelina stressed that the requirement to be sensitive to the community’s feelings was contained not only in the Content Code and the Special Licence Conditions but also in the Multimedia and Communications Act 1998.
The one-hour programme hosted by Awal Ashari and artiste Intan Azura is aired on Tuesdays at 11pm and panel members from the arts and entertainment industry are invited to share their views.
In a slot last month, Rosnah when answering a question, had linked a piece of gossip about her (Rosnah) with the age of Prophet Muhammad’s first wife, Siti Khadijah.
Her short statement had caused a huge controversy.
Viewers had also sent in letters expressing their regret over her statement.

The "A" Word

When Being Anti is Ok
In the old days, the dreaded label was "anti-national" or "subversive".
It was the easiest tag to slap on your enemy.
Those days, anyone critical of the government was a pain in their backside. You'd be accused of being subversive or anti-national .
That could put you away for a long time.
We have come along way. At least, we are supposed to.
You'd think that this "anti-government" bogey used against people would have long gone.
Don't be surprised, though, if this is resurrected.
There are among us who are paranoid. Afraid of shadows. Most times, our own.
Of course, there are the exposes in the blogs.
Consider the remarks by Ahirudin Attan aka Rocky in an interview with AFP after his hearing was adjourned by the High Court in Denmark House on Thursday, February 22.
(The hearing on his application to strike out the defamation suit against him by the NSTP and 4 others, has been adjourned to April 2 2007 because the plaintiffs made last-minute amendments in their writ of summons.)
Rocky told the AFP that he does not write anti-government articles.
"(Articles) critical of the government, yes," he said. Later, he elaborated on this issue in his blog, pointing out that he is also not pro-government.
He said that he is anti many things --racism, apartheid, crime, spying and plagiarism, among them.
Well, that makes many of us, doesn't it?

Also check out Rocky's latest on Malaysia's Turkish Cobra here.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Playing Tag

Weird Things
Okay. This is not going to be easy for me. But I am doing it for my dearest friend, Zaharah Othman AKA the famous Kak Teh of the ever popular Choc-a-Blog blog who is doing me in, if she has not already. She's been tagged by Ruby Ahmad and she's not going it alone, so she has tagged me. I could have feigned ignorance, dumbness, or even, tech-illiteracy when she texted me to read her blog. Of course, without hesitation, I went to her blog to read her latest post.As it turned out, she tagged me. And, frankly, I am so not with it in this game of tag. Why should I want to tell anyone weird things about me?I wanted to get out of it, but, she being a friend of 30 years, has left me with no option. The rule of this game is that I have to tell you six weird things about me. I am going to get this over and done with very quickly. But first here are the rules:
RULES: People who are tagged should write a blog post of 6 weird things about them as well as state this rule clearly. In the end, you need to choose 6 people to be tagged and list their names. Don't forget to leave a comment that says 'you are tagged' in their comments and tell them to read your blog.

Weird Factor 1: I am a hoarder. I keep everything and anything, from restaurant receipts, parking tickets, any sort of printed materials . I don't discard them, until perhaps, months later during springcleaning of files, drawers, handbags, purses, glove compartments. But, I find it really hard to part with magazines and published materials.
Weird Factor 2: I love my own company. This is not to say that I hate to be in the company of others. It is just that I have learnt, for a very long time, to enjoy the privacy of being alone. I work-out alone -- up Kiara Hill or around my neighbourhood, I can lunch or dine alone. I can go on holiday alone too (although this has yet to be tried and tested.)
Weird Factor 3: I am a stickler for traffic rules, even in a shopping complex. I won't even enter "no-entry" lanes in the parking areas of shopping complexes. That's a no-no for me. My argument is that if everyone breaks the rule, then, well... there'll be chaos -- on the roads, in parking areas etc. And people can turn murderous on the roads, as we all know.
Weird Factor 4: I love doing laundry. You know the washing (clothes that cannot be machine-washed), and hanging clothes to dry. I learnt to like doing the laundry when I was young when our maid had to balik kampung for the longest while, and all of us, of course, had to help out. Out mum gave us each our duty. Laundry duty was mine. I enjoyed it. That's not the weird part. I would hang clothes colour-coded, or style/cut-coded or size-coded. I would use certain hangers and certain pegs for certain clothes. And it would be the nicest-looking clothesline in the neighbourhood. Ok, enough of that.
Weird Factor 5: I am a mimic. Well, sort of. In college, my friends would get me to mimic people like, say, the most unpopular lecturer, or the most "mengada" student. It is the way people walk or their mannerisms that I can mimic pretty well. Perhaps, this has to do with the next weird thing about me.....
Weird Factor 6: Remember I love my own company? Well, when I am out for coffee or lunch alone. I'd sit and watch people around me. I don't stare at them... I just observe. Remembering their faces...Perhaps, that is why I can remember faces of strangers or people whom I had never actually met, when I get to meet them, years later. But, I believe this may regress with age.
So, now I hereby tag Fabmama, Zewt, Elly, QueenB, ShangaiFish and Typhoon Sue.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Rocky's Case Adjourned To April 2 2007

And He Was Not Alone
Yet again, it was over so quickly.
The judge hearing Rocky's application to strike out the defamation suit by NSTP and 4 others adjourned the case to 2.30pm on April 2.
This was because the plaintiffs had amended the claims in their suit, and their lawyers had submitted them to Rocky's lawyers only last Friday (February 16).
Given that it was just two days before the Chinese New Year holidays, Rocky's lawyers clearly needed time to go through the amended claims.
Some 50 bloggers and wellwishers accompanied Rocky to court this afternoon. Among the bloggers were Jeff Ooi (Screenshots), Sheih (Kickdefella), Ruhanie Ahmad (Kuda Kepang), Zahrin Yasin (Sang Kelembai), Marina Mahathir (Rantings by MM), Bernard Khoo (Zorro Unmasked), Stephen Francis (Shanghaifish), Mulah and Rajahram.
Also there were Shar101, What A Lulu (who gave us two plastic boxes of scrumptious cupcakes), Walski, Politikus, Alliedmarster, Lame Basket, I Am Malaysian, Malaysian Man, Salahuddin, BigGuyDotCom, Galadriel and PC Teh, as well as the Gen-M guys.
And what a delightful surprise it was for me to see someone from the old NST days -- Saad Hashim, a former Berita Harian editor and NSTP London correspondent.
He was living in UK for some 20 years before returning home 3 years ago.
There he was, grinning at me, looking quite unrecognisable. It has been so long, Pak Cik Saad.
I have to confess - Marina and I arrived there at about 2.45pm. By the time we got to the 10th floor, we could see the plaintiffs' counsel giving an impromptu Press conference along the busy corridor and Rocky being interviewed by a reporter.
All the way from down south were three of Rocky's older siblings (Rocky is the baby in the family) -- Ismail (Bang Long), Zainal Abidin and Rafiah and her husband, Jakariah Simen.
Rafiah and her husband had come all the way from Singapore, fetching along the way Zainal in Johor and Ismail in Malacca.
Their parents have passed away and as Rocky's older siblings, they are naturally very concerned for the welfare and wellbeing of their adik bongsu.
Meanwhile, Marina and I were late for a good reason. We were in Bangsar buying a birthday cake for Bloggers' United.
The Bloggers' United - No Fear logo was created by Sheih last month following the action by NSTP and the 4 individuals to sue Rocky and the NSTP and 3 of the individuals to sue Jeff for defamation.
Hundreds of blogs carry this logo.
The little birthday party was held at the canteen, next to Denmark House.
And everybody had a piece of the delicious chocolate chiffon cake from Berry's in Bangsar.
Earlier in the day, at about 11am, the same group enjoyed a mee rebus brunch at Kafe 4-teen (oppositie the Section 14 Mosque in PJ).
How did that happen? Well, Rocky, having grown up in Singapore, could never resist a good mee rebus.
I told him that I always have mee rebus at a cafe run by Ariffin Hashim (my sister, Maria's brother-in-law).
It's really sedap because it is prepared by Maria and she makes it the way she likes it. The way we all like it.
One day, he decided to give it a try. He loved it and wanted everyone else (read:bloggers) to share his bliss. So, today seemed the perfect occasion to do so.
Clark Gable of Pulau Duyong was the first to arrive. And then Tony Gayandato (The Stand-up Philosopher) and then Zorro, Mulah, Sheih, Jeff, Tony Pua, JuneX2, BigGuyDotCom, Syed Akbar Ali, Salahuddin, and then Marina, Alliedmarster,the Gen-M guys.......
Editor of Forward magazine, Zul Othman also dropped by for the mee rebus, and to do a story on the little band of bloggers having mee rebus.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Rocky's Hearing

Never Alone, Brother!
Tomorrow, Thursday the 22nd of February, at Wisma Denmark at 2.30pm, Rocky goes back to court to face NSTP and 4 Others.
Rocky says he does not feel alone anymore.
"I've got Bloggers United behind me," he said in his blog.
You sure ain't alone no more, Rocky!
See you in court, bro!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Tuesdays With Bapak (2)

Morning Was Broken - Tuesday February 20 2007
Mak sat motionless and silent for a long while after bapak was taken away. She seemed so calm. No tears. Was she in shock? We couldn't tell.
Then, she looked up.
"Go back to sleep now. Don't worry, your father will be home tomorrow," she said reassuringly.
It was already about 4am. Wouldn't that mean "today"?
There was an aching silence. That was quickly broken when my older sister, Kak Olin pointed to the floor where some books were strewn.
"What a mess," she muttered as she picked up the books and hastily placed them back in the bookshelf.
Oh, she could be mopping the floor for all anyone cared then.
Trust Kak Olin, a stickler for neatness!
We were all bapak's blue-eyed girls but we had long suspected that her eyes were bluer than ours.
Too overcome with shock, she wore a vacant look the entire time and was breathless everytime she attempted to speak.
Couldn't blame her. She had just come home two days earlier from England for the summer holidays and because of bapak's busy schedule, was able to spend only a few hours with him on the day she arrived.
She was not alone on that early morning in June 1976. Abang Med, Kak Eda, Azah, Kamal, Lalin, Nina and I were with her. Dazed and confused .
Mak was holding Lalin, then 9, by her side. Our youngest, Nina, 6, was on her lap. They had been up since the special branch guys came, and saw bapak taken, and driven away.
Mak asked Kak Eda to check on Irwan, our five-month-old nephew, who was asleep in her room upstairs.
She had been upset when one of the policemen "stormed" into her room, and began ransacking the shelves and drawers, looking for God-knows-what.
I think grandmothers would kill for their grandchildren. That guy would have had it coming had he stayed in her room just a little bit longer.
To her, he did the unforgiveable and the unthinkable. In the process of messing up her room, he kept stepping over little Irwan who was asleep on the mattress on the floor.
Okay, okay. Mak wouldn't hurt a fly. And no profanities would ever come out of her mouth.
But, there really was no telling under the circumstances.
Thankfully, baby Irwan (my parents' first grandson) slept through it all.
There we were. Sitting around in the living room, trying to make sense of it all. No words were spoken. They were not necessary. Nor important.
Outside, we could see the lights in our neighbour's house across the road. They must have, somehow, been awakened. They must be very curious, we thought.
Then mak beckoned Abang Med.
"They (the police) have gone now. You can call your sisters and tell them about your father. It is up to them if they want to come here," she said, her voice strained.
She was referring to our eldest sibling (Irwan's mama) Kak Piah and second, Kak Ton (Maria), They were the only married ones then and were living nearby with their respective families.
Soon after the calls were made, they arrived with their husbands, by which time our youngest Nina, then 6, was sobbing .
Mak held her close, comforting and soothing her.
Kak Ton and her husband, Roslani, first. A short while later, Kak Piah rushed in, her husband, Dzul close behind.
As soon as Nina saw Kak Ton at the door, she ran to her and cried uncontrollably : "Polis tangkap papa Nina. Polis tangkap papa Nina."
Kak Ton took her little sister in her arms. She herself looked so confused and shocked.
Then she became angry, almost hysterical.
"Dammit. They just gave him an award. Why? Dammit, why?," she kept asking.
It was just a few months earlier that bapak was awarded the Literary Pioneer Prize or Hadiah Pejuang Sastera by the government.
So what gives?
Mak was still calm. She looked up at the clock on the wall and asked us all to go back to sleep.
She would stay up with our older sisters and their husbands, she said.
It was nearly 5am. How could we? We just wanted to stay up and be together.
Mak looked at Kak Piah and Kak Ton.
"Your father expected this, you know. He said after Hussein's and Azmi's arrest, they will be after him," she said, softly. as she held Nina, gently stroking her .
Yes, we remembered the newspaper reports. Singapore Berita Harian journalists Hussein Jahidin and Azmi Mahmud, were arrested some time earlier by the Singapore authorities for communist activities.
"You remember what happened in Singapore? Your father had to make a swift exit?"
Ah yes, the hasty exit in his car via the causeway a few months earlier.
Bapak was accompanying my sisters and I to Singapore after we received the tragic news of my (maternal) grandfather's passing.
Kak Eda and I were then studying at ITM (now UiTM) in Shah Alam. We got the news early in the morning and rushed home to prepare to leave for Singapore with bapak.
Bapak's company (NST) car was driven by his driver, the ever loyal Encik Majid. Mak and Abang Med had already left by air to be in time for the burial.
We knew we would not be able to make it for the funeral because in Singapore, it was a rule that a Muslim burial be over and done with quickly.
No sooner had we arrived at my grandfather's house in Jalan Sudin when my aunt (my dad's younger sister) told him that my brother was stopped at the airport by some plainclothes policemen.
They had wanted to know if he was "Samad". How strange, we thought. Surely they would know that Samad was a much much older man.
My brother told them he was "the son". They checked his passport and let him go.
That was enough for bapak. He told Encik Majid: "Let's go back."
Somehow, the Singapore authorities "missed" him when he entered and exited the island.
My father had literally fled Singapore.
Yes, we could see what was going on. And it was chilling.
The strain of the ordeal must have taken its toll on us.
My older sisters and their husbands got up to leave. Everyone was too numbed to say anything anymore.
We slowly made our way back to our rooms. I turned to mak and asked:
"Do you think they will release bapak?"
"I don't know, I don't know... Insyallah.. we'll see, we'll see," she whispered.
She didn't sound as reassuring now. Or was she just so tired. So spent.
None of us could really sleep. The uncertainty was painful.
I could feel fear. And then, anger seeping in, threatening to take control.
I remember tossing and turning. And then, waking up to my sister's cry.
The morning papers had the story.
And the screaming headlines: "Samad Detained". Or something to that effect.
For us, life was never going to be the same again.

Monday, February 19, 2007

General Election Soon, You Say?

Not According to Khairy..
So, let's not waste our time and energy speculating about a snap general election because Khairy Jamaluddin has spoken. And we know better than not to believe him, don't we?
Khairy, who is deputy Umno Youth chief, said in Rembau Saturday (Feb 17) that the government is unlikely to call for a general election anytime soon.
The current strong economic situation is not going to be the push factor to have the elections.
Khairy said there are other factors to be considered such as politics, the country's development and "issues outside the party".
He also noted that the projects under the Ninth Malaysia Plan had to take effect at the grassroots level.
The government, he remarked, should be given time to fulfil its promises made during the last elections.
Khairy told this to reporters after flagging off the Taman Rembau Utama National Park expedition convoy.
Now how can you not believe the boy. Even father-in-law Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said the same thing yesterday (Sunday).
At a Gerakan-hosted Chinese New Year open house, he said all the feel-good stories about the economy are not an indication that the general election will be held soon.
He said the current strong economic growth instead presented a chance for the government to use the existing momentum to actively pursue its national development agenda.
"What is important is that we have the momentum now and it is moving forward and upwards. "But we need to raise the momentum and build on what we have already achieved so that we can develop our economy even further," Abdullah was quoted by the Star as saying.
Now, if you are among those who have been playing PM, speculating about a snap general election because of those trillion-ringgit trade and those incredibly impressive growth figures (all in the newspapers), you can now take a break.
Stop bitching now. Son-in-law and father-in-law have spoken.
You are not taking their word for it?
Shame on you!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Be Happy and Have a Safe Journey!
To my Chinese friends, have a very happy and prosperous New Year!
May there be greater luck and happiness for you in this year of the pig (boar).
If you are an out-of-towner, drive carefully, please. Don't be a statistic in the traffic police records.
And the rest of us in KL and PJ -- enjoy the traffic jam/congestion-free roads. You just have a week before everyone comes back from the hols.
Peace, brothers and sisters!

Friday, February 16, 2007

Kleptocracy? No Way!

But Beware Anyway
There is a letter by "Concerned Citizen" from Shah Alam in the Sun today (Speak Up! page 16), expressing the writer's concern that if public officials in this beloved country of ours (last four words are mine) continue to abuse their powers, we may go the "kleptocracy" way. Oh! Heaven Forbids!
"Concerned citizen" was thanking the Sun for the paper's good work in publishing what he describes as "all the interesting (and frustrating) no-holds-barred news".
He went on to say that he was reminded of an international Monetary Fund report in a financial magazine in 1985 referring to an African country as a "kleptocracy", which the magazine described as "a government of thieves".
"Concerned citizen" said: "Unless something is done by the powers-that-be about the way things are happening, I am afraid the above word may be used to describe our country."
Touch wood, I say!
Here's what Wikipedia says:
"Kleptocracies are often dictatorships or some other form of autocratic government, or lapsed democracies that have transformed into oligarchies, since democracy makes outright thievery for direct personal gain slightly more difficult to sustain in the long term and still remain in power, more subtlety is employed. Some kleptocracies are a reponse to jingoism, and frequent bullying in the government place itself.
......The protection society has against kleptocracy is largely dependent on the effectiveness of the rule of law to prevent political leaders abusing their powers, the free flow of information (necessary to properly identify kleptocrats) and ability of the population to remove corrupt leaders from office. Many such protections are included in legal documents such as a constitution or a bill of rights and are also found in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 17."

And here's what our old friend, Dubya, said not too long ago (Aug 10, 2006) on kleptocracy. You may or may not take his word for it:
"For too long, the culture of corruption has undercut development and good governance and bred criminality and mistrust around the world. High-level corruption by senior government officials, or kleptocracy, is a grave and corrosive abuse of power and represents the most invidious type of public corruption. It threatens our national interest and violates our values. It impedes our efforts to promote freedom and democracy, end poverty, and combat international crime and terrorism. Kleptocracy is an obstacle to democratic progress, undermines faith in government institutions, and steals prosperity from the people. Promoting transparent, accountable governance is a critical component of our freedom agenda."

Well, folks. I suppose we have to ask ourselves this -- Is our government characterised by rampant greed and corruption?
You think this is a stupid question?

Not Just A Song

My Negara Ku
I've had a problem with this for a very long time. Actually since my eldest started primary school.
No, not a problem with our national anthem, but with people not singing it when they should be. Oh. I am not making a judgement here of people who do not like to or simply do not sing Negara Ku.
I am not questioning their patriotism at all.
Just because I like singing the national anthem does not make me more patriotic than the person beside me who isn't singing it.
I am just curious. Wondering aloud, if I may.
Perhaps, it makes me feel the odd-one-out, as the only adult (almost always) in the crowd, singing the national anthem.
It must have been 11 years ago that I began noticing that people didn't really sing the national anthem when it was being played.
I remember I was about the only parent singing it during morning assembly at my son's primary school.
It was the school's Monday morning ritual to have the anthem played.
The children, would, of course, be singing. But not the adults. And I mean parents as well as teachers.
Is it because they did not know the words? I doubt that very much.
Shyness? But, why shy? Or, they don't much care?
Then, I began to really be observant whenever the national anthem was being played during functions.
And I notice that Malaysian adults don't really sing (out loud) the national anthem.
Oh, yeah.... they mouth it. But they don't sing it.
I think it's not just shyness. It's laziness because the anthem is usually played accompanied by a choir and it saves them from having to sing.
And they are quite happy not singing it. You know-lah, Malaysians. Always shy.
So, what they do is open and close their mouths, pretending to sing it.
Also, perhaps, having to stand for a full five to seven minutes is tiring enough. So, singing is asking a bit much. You reckon?
Why have I brought up this subject?
Well, I was at a launching of a building two days ago and, yes you've guessed it -- Negara Ku was played and everybody, of course, stood up.
And, as I had expected, I couldn't hear voices singing. I could hear mine and my friend Shue's.
But not the rest of the guests'.
The next time you are at an event where Negara Ku is being played, just listen. And you will not hear.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Tuesdays With Bapak (1)

Prologue - Tuesday February 13 2006
No, I am not kidding. I am not copying Mitch Albom's "Tuesdays With Morrie".
I am reminiscing the past here.
This is for real. Tuesday was the day our family was allowed to visit my dad, after he was detained in 1976, under the Internal Security Act at the orders of (then Prime Minister) Hussein Onn.
And it would be every Tuesday off from work for me from then on, until his release in 1981.
My boss, Rejal Arbee (then at the NST), unhesitantly marked a cross in the Tuesday margin in the reporters' roster. No questions asked. I can never forget that.
But there are some things you want to forget but cannot.
And then, somehow for some unexplained reason, after living with memories that won't go away, you are glad that they have remained. Fresh and lucid. Like they just happened this morning.
How could I forget the sound of the front gate being tapped and then loudly being rapped in the early hours that fateful day in 1976?
How my elder brother, so irritated to have been awakened at such an hour, acted so macho and demanded from the four men some form of identification, only to have to grudgingly open the gate after being shown proof that they were really police officers?
How confused and angry we were when they came and demanded to go through the books in our library as well as the things in my dad's bedroom?
I remember their faces. Especially the one who confiscated books on China or anything remotely Chinese, uttering that they must be books on Communism.
How we could still laugh, though quietly to ourselves, when he menacingly extricated Pearl S Buck's "The Good Earth" from the bookshelf.
And yes the last few words bapak told mak after asking her to pack his toothbrush, a tube of toothpaste and a change of clothes.
"Don't worry. I'll be home tomorrow," he remarked as the men escorted him out of the house.
For the first time, bapak was dead wrong.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Hiring Bloggers In Elections

Blogging In Politics
Next general election in Malaysia, will we see bloggers being hired by political candidates? What for, you may ask? Well, it's the thing to do in the US. Check out this story.

John Edwards' campaign had a little fire in the basement this week. Two bloggers hired by the former North Carolina senator, Melissa McEwan and Amanda Marcotte, were labeled anti-Catholic by the Catholic League for writings about the church's positions on abortion and homosexuality. Conservative bloggers also targeted the pair, reposting previous salty writings from their personal pages. Liberal bloggers largely came to the aid of their colleagues—and waited for Edwards' response, which they saw as a key test of his commitment to them and their causes. In the end, after a few days of contemplation, the campaign issued a three-a-culpa: a tri-part statement in which Edwards scolded the bloggers for their past writings, and they each apologized for offending anyone. No one was fired.
All the presidential campaigns have been hustling to hire bloggers. Now they're learning what to do once they've got them. Bloggers helped Ned Lamont beat Joe Lieberman in the Democratic primary in Connecticut. Still, he didn't know how to handle it when one of the activists involved in his campaign caricatured Lieberman in blackface. Lamont ended up running away. Edwards, this week, went silent. The senator read some of the offending postings. He asked to talk to the bloggers, whose work he'd not read before and whom he'd never met. His campaign had not formally processed their paperwork, so Edwards and his advisers talked about whether to end the relationship before it began. (A report that the two were fired was wrong, says spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri.) Bloggers heralded the decision to keep them; the Catholic League was outraged, and a top adviser to a rival Democratic campaign took a shot: "Apparently they're more afraid of the bloggers than they are the Catholics." *
Edwards has put a lot of money into Web outreach, to build netroots support and
raise money, so he had to tread with particular care for fear of undoing that work. But all campaigns are likely to face a version of his troubles this week. The major candidates are trying to do two conflicting things: channel the authenticity of the blogosphere while simultaneously maintaining the rigid image and message control that is crucial to any presidential campaign. It's a ready-made car wreck because bloggers are tough to domesticate. They want to demonstrate they haven't sold out once they get onto a politician's payroll. Their regulars readers will be turned off if they tame themselves, and if they don't, they're likely to be coarse and brash.
It seems almost unnecessary to make the case that political bloggers matter to primary campaigns. Almost all major candidates have hired them. Those that haven't still court and assiduously track them. Last week, John McCain's campaign held a special conference call with bloggers to convince them that their candidate was the real conservative in the race. When Hillary Clinton announced she was running, her campaign
boasted about its online activists, listing blogger rave reviews next to mainstream accolades from pundits at Time and ABC. The campaigns that don't treat bloggers right get penalized, as Joe Biden and Rudy Giuliani have been. Campaigns are desperately trying to bring supporters online—it makes fund raising easier and allows candidates to deliver their message directly to supporters, bypassing the press. But bringing supporters online means putting people who have never read blogs a click away from them. If you watched Barack Obama's or Hillary Clinton's announcements of their presidential candidacies online, you might start getting your campaign news online. At that point, you've ventured into the blogosphere's neighborhood.
It used to be the advertising guys who caused the campaign strains that Edwards went through this week. If the outfit making your ads made ugly ones in the past, you had to answer for it. In 2000, George Bush spent much of August playing defense over an ad that appeared to have a negative subliminal message embedded in it. Though the supporting evidence for that thesis was sketchy, the story stayed in the news because the team that produced it had a history of playing hardball. When a campaign shoves aside an ad maker, though, his competitors don't support their colleague. They try to take his business. Bloggers, on the other hand, rally. And if you don't do right by them, they rarely forget
.-SLATE Magazine

Thursday, February 08, 2007

War Crimes

Punishing The Perpetrators
I, as a citizen of the world, love peace. I say No to War.
I will help to spread the message that war is a crime against humanity, war kills, those who initiate wars or war mongers are murderers and war is not an option to settle disputes and disagreements.
I will be part of that international machinery to mobilise the second superpower -- the power of public opinion -- to make the world reject war, war mongers and any notions of war.
If, all of us, bloggers do that, we can make it happen.
The three-day Perdana Global Peace Organisation conference and exhibition ended yesterday (Wednesday, February 7) at the Putra World Trade Centre.
Aware that the media in the land of the mighty USA had been biased on the war in Iraq and will continue to be on this, our former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad who chaired the conference, called on bloggers to help in mobilising world public opinion against war and war mongers.
"We need the help of bloggers and the internet. Help to tell the truth and to make a case for us," he told the Press conference after the end of the conference.
As reported, the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission has been set up to study the complaints by 17 war victims - nine from Iraq, five from the Palestinian territories and three from Lebanon.
The commission will then submit its report to the Kuala Lumpur war crimes tribunal, to be made up of eminent, right-minded international jurists with repute and who have no personal or national interest.
The tribunal will hear charges against war-mongers, leaders and governments of aggressor nations.
The tribunal cannot mete out the suitable punishment to the convicted person simply because it does not have the legal authority to do so.
What it will do is to shame the perpetrators in the annals of history. They will be remembered as war criminals, as murderers of the innocents and as liars.
Obviously, the first to go on trial will be George W. Bush. The rest, I expect, will follow -- Tony Blair, Israel's Ariel Sharon and John Howard.
Frankly, if you ask me, we don't need a tribunal to find Dubya and his lackeys guilty for the crimes committed in the invasion of Iraq and the atrocities that followed. Dubya did it and Blair and Howard, as accessories, are just as guilty.
We know that Dubya ordered his troops to attack Iraq. He said it himself. We all heard him. But, since we have to abide by the rule of international law, the process of justice and fair trial, a tribunal it will have to be.
During the conference, we heard the views of activists and the first hand personal accounts of victims of atrocities ("man in the hood' Ali Shalah and Abu Ghraib survivor Abbas Abid).
The exhibition showed shocking, graphic pictures of the brutality and ugliness of war and aggression. No, they were not pretty. Many people had to turn the other way.
Former US congresswoman Cynthia McKinney said that the most important thing about the conference was that it took place.
She said the reality is that the average American does not know the truth about the Iraq War.
The average American cannot comprehend the extent of the suffering of the Iraqi people.
She plans to take the exhibition across the US.
I told her that she might find it hard to do that for several reasons, one of which is that she is a pretty controversial figure in the US.
She was the Democrat congresswoman who accused George W Bush of knowing in advance about the 9/11 attack. Needless to say, she got hell from the mainstream media in the US.
Cynthia was the one who offered Articles of Impeachment against Bush, Dick Cheney and Condoleeza Rice.
She told me she will go home and is determined more than ever to make a case against Dubya because she says the world cannot wait any longer.
"We do not condone what is done in our name and we are not complicit", she had earlier told the conference.
I tell her, Good luck. We need more of Cynthias in the US and the world.
Earlier, Dr Mahathir asked what we should do after attending the conference and listening to all that was said.
"Do we go home and, sleep?"
No, sir. Not after knowing that as I am writing now, the US and its allies are, in the words of Hans von Sponeck (former UN Asst. Secretary-General), in advanced stages of readiness to wage war on Iran using tactical nuclear weapons, which means that the unthinkable will happen for the first time since Hiroshima. No sir, I cannot go home and sleep.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Dr Mahathir's Leadership

Umno's Challenge
Join Dr Mahathir Mohamad in Johor Bahru this Saturday (Feb 10) at a leadership seminar: "Cabaran Umno Menghadapi Wawasan 2020" (Umno's Challenge in Facing Vision 2020).
The seminar starts at 10am at the Grand Ballroom (level 25) of Hotel New York.
The hotel is located at No: 22, Jalan Dato' Abdullah Tahir. Tel: 07-3311588.
It is an understatement to say that the seminar is worth making the time to attend.
And I bet my bottom dollar that Dr Mahathir will offer a very outspoken, (brutally?) frank and insightful assessment of the state of affairs of the party and the country.
Don't miss it. Make time to be with Dr M in Johor Bahru.

War & Peace

Dignity, Justice, Peace & Love
Make love, Not war. And peace, brother.
This is the 21st century and the world is still a dangerous and violent place.
Nothing has quite changed except the level of brutality, the level of suffering and the sophistication of weapons of war.
That is why initiatives like the Perdana Global Peace Organisation conference/Exhibition, "Expose War Crime:Criminalise War" should be supported.
Whatever it takes, as they say, to put an end to war and mass killings.
Today is the last day of the three-day conference at Putra World Trade Centre, Kuala Lumpur.
We don't know how far the resolutions taken at the conference will go. If they don't go far, it will not be due to a lack of trying, surely.
One strong proposal is to set up a tribunal to try George W. Bush and Tony Blair for war crimes in Iraq.
Today, the delegates will formally launch the tribunal.
Our former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad who is the man behind the Kuala Lumpur initiative, had said that while the tribunal will not have the legal authority of any international organization and will not be able to impose penalties, its aim is to condemn the accused in history books.
For example, if the tribunal found Bush guilty, he would not be hanged like Saddam Hussein was hanged. But he should always carry the label 'War Criminal, Killer of Children, Liar.
That's what Dr Mahathir said.
And I'd like to see that happen. I really do.
And I would like to say this again-- a blast from the past, from those Woodstock days -- "Make Love Not War"!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Old & New Media

And Never The Twain Shall Meet?

Q: Tun, you have been telling people to read blogs. Lately the government has been responding to news that appeared in blogs, news which did not appear in mainstream news. What is your take on that?
Dr M: Oh, I am afraid you don't have the freedom to talk about it.
Those who attended the Press conference at Legend Hotel yesterday (Sunday, Feb 4) were treated to the usual Dr Mahathir Mohamad's sharp wit as he deflected questions about the Nobel Peace Prize nomination he received and the "war" against the blogs.
And many of those questions - as well as on the Perdana Global Peace Organisation's (PGPO) "Expose War Crimes:Criminalise War" Conference and Exhibition", came from bloggers.
Reporters from AFP, Straits Times (Singapore), Berita Harian, Bernama, the Sun and Utusan Malaysia, to name a few, were there. So were several bloggers, including Jeff Ooi (Screenshots), Ahirudin Attan (Rocky's Bru), Ruhanie Ahmad (Kuda Kepang), Syed Imran (Kuda Ranggi), Bernard Khoo (Zorro-Unmasked), Stephen Francis (Shanghaifish), Malaysia Today, KMU and Gen M.
With Dr Mahathir were some of the speakers who will be addressing the delegates at the conference. Also there were Dr Mahathir's wife, Dr Siti Hasmah and their son, Mukhriz.
And guess who had to be the one to throw Dr Mahathir the first question?
Why, it was Ahirudin aka Rocky. Once a journalist, always a journalist, they say.
Or is it -- "old" journalists don't die -- they become bloggers!
Here's the best part. The party over, reporters had long gone and bloggers still chatting.
A hotel staff (in that smart dark coat-trousers uniform) made an announcement:
"Members of the Press, we have prepared some refreshments for you. Please step this way". Momentary silence. Bloggers a trifle stunned.
Did he just say "members of the Press"?
"Do we look like members of the Press?" somebody suddenly whispered to me.
Does it matter? Let's not confuse him. To his credit, he had made no distinction between those in the mainstream media and bloggers.
Well, what can we say but thank you to Legend Hotel for the coffee, tea, sandwiches and curry puffs.
Anyway, in case you are interested, the three-day conference and exhibition begins tomorrow (Monday Feb 5) at 9am at the Putra World Trade Centre, Kuala Lumpur.

Friday, February 02, 2007

You Got A Name?

If You're Ok, I'm Ok
You'd better believe it, my dear little Politikus. Don't let anyone pressure you into revealing your identity as a blogger.
It is your decision. Only yours. Just weigh the pros and cons.
For those who don't know what I am rambling about, our blogger friend, Politikus, is in a dilemma.
To unveil or not to unveil -- her/his identity, that is.
Rocky of Rocky's Bru, in a recent posting spoke of the rise of bloggers. Actually I am exaggerating.
Rocky spoke about zorro.unmasked who started to blog on January 30, the day Jeff Ooi's case was heard at the High Court.
He had been zorro for so long and finally decided there was no shame or harm in exposing or rather, unmasking himself in blogosphere.
Bernard Khoo, ex-teacher etc etc, as Zorro, has been a regular "poster" in Rocky's Bru, Screenshots, KMU, Sheih Kickdefella, MarinaM's Rantings, here at Jalan Sudin and others.
He decided to "come clean" and reveal himself. Hurray!
Rocky also spoke of retired military man, the Ranger who has been blogging for quite some time now and ex-teacher Rajahram who is quite new.
So, back to Politikus.
Now, now, sweetie, don't go "makan tak kenyang, tidur tak nyenyak and mandi tak basah" over this, okay?
I know Rocky's final upshot was a reference to you still being anonymous. That's really ok.
I don't think he was pressuring you. Niggling or needling, maybe. Pressure? Heck, no. No way.
What's good for the goose may not be good for the gander, you know.
So, stay on course here. I'd like to say follow your heart but that would not be so appropriate.
Think about it. Whatever your decision, no regrets.
It's what you say that matters. But, many would sure as hell want to know who that smart blogger is behind those smart words.
Then again -- to each his/her own., I always say.
So, Politikus, blog on and blog away.