Saturday, October 31, 2009

Is this the sultry-voiced 18-year-old folksinger I met so many years ago?

Anna Salleh belts it out at No Black Tie (September 2002)

Portrait of a torch singer

Anna used to be in a Sydney-based a cappella group

Jazz is her passion now (photos by Antares)

I was introduced to Anna Salleh in 1983 by her proud father, the larger-than-life bilingual poet, columnist, actor and playwright Salleh Ben Joned (pictured left). Having just bought myself a guitar a couple of years earlier, I was bowled over when Anna picked up hers and played me a couple of her own songs.

You could say I was immediately smitten by her uninhibited spirit, her strong melodious voice, and her Eurasian good looks (her mother Ariel is Australian, married her father while he was doing his Masters in English literature in Tasmania).

Lat's classic portrait of Salleh Ben Joned as a bohemian poet

But, dammit, she had just turned 18. I was only 33 then but it did seem like a huge age gap (how silly of me to even think it!). At the time I was still part of a nuclear family with two lovely daughters aged 14 and 12; and, besides, the thought of having Salleh Ben Joned as a father-in-law lent the whole prospect a somewhat surreal, if not entirely absurd, dimension, much as I love the man. Anna mentioned, as if in telepathic response to an unspoken question, that she was dating a muso named Peter, who was into folk.

Anna and I kept in sporadic contact over the years. Peter and she were part of a commune called Magic Mountain, mostly populated by artists, musicians, organic farmers, assorted oddballs, maverick scientists, and visionaries. Perhaps it was Anna's description of life at Magic Mountain that inspired my establishing the Magick River community nine years later.

My first trip to Australia was in 1991 as a guest of the Department of Foreign Affairs who sponsored a 23-day tour of five cities. I had a fantastic time meeting musicians, filmmakers, theatre activists. mystics and high-tech shamans. During my brief stay in Sydney, Anna dropped in at my tiny hotel and we had a long, leisurely natter. At the time she was part of a professional a cappella group. She was also struggling to obtain her degree in some esoteric branch of biology, while holding down a rather mundane day job, I forget what. And she was still mesmerizingly beautiful. Indeed, I thought Anna had improved with age. Take a look at these videos recorded a few weeks ago at No Black Tie...

Black Orpheus (Luiz Bonfá and Antonio Maria) performed by Anna Salleh (guitar/vocals) and friends (Xiong on guitar; Badar on percussion; Wan Azfarezal on bass) live @ Kuala Lumpur's 'No Black Tie' (12 October 2009).

Semalam di Malaya (Saiful Bahri) performed by Anna Salleh (guitar/vocals) and friends (Xiong on guitar; Badar on percussion; Wan Azfarezal on bass) live @ Kuala Lumpur's, 'No Black Tie' (12 October 2009).

Summer Samba/So Nice
(Marcos Valle/Norman Gimbel) performed by Anna Salleh (guitar/vocals) and friends (Xiong on guitar; Badar on percussion; Wan Azfarezal on bass) live @ Kuala Lumpur's, 'No Black Tie' (12 October 2009).

What a smashing diva, don't you think? Anna's back in Sydney at her day job writing and producing features for ABC Science Online - but she says she plans to spend a lot more time in Malaysia exploring her roots. I think that's an absolutely fabulous idea, Anna!

Say, how about one more number from the delectable Anna Salleh, folks? And if you still haven't had enough, check out her YouTube channel.

So Danco Samba
(VinĂ­cius de Moraes/Antonio Carlos Jobim) performed by Anna Salleh (guitar/vocals) and friends (Xiong on guitar; Badar (R) and Toninho (L) on percussion; Wan Azfarezal on bass) live @ Kuala Lumpur's, 'No Black Tie' (12 October 2009).

Friday, October 30, 2009

Abducted, raped, robbed, tortured & C4ed

These are indeed extremely troubled times. I don't recall any other era in Malaysian politics when the situation felt so hopelessly mired in a morass of moral murk - apart from the May 13 period, and just before Mahathir launched his cynical Ops Lalang on 27 October 1987, effectively turning Malaysia into a rogue police state.

More and more I find myself struck dumb, numb and speechless by the sheer audacity of those who cling desperately to power. The vicious cruelty and sheer wickedness that have insidiously crept into the national psyche and taken possession of our collective soul, holding ransom our public conscience, our sense of decency and justice.

The horror stories wafting like the stench of putrefaction from our refugee camps.

Human beings routinely and arbitrarily forced to endure hellish conditions - even painful and meaningless death - when their only crime is to be driven by economic necessity to find employment as domestic help in a foreign country seemingly inhabited by wannabe tinpot despots.

There is no way we can escape the conclusion: a land where even a market vendor displays such ruthless tyranny and inexcusable cruelty must have had a long history of raksasa rule. What are raksasa? Wikipedia defines raksasa as "supernatural humanoids who tend toward evil. Powerful warriors, they resort to the use of magic and illusion when unsuccessful with conventional weapons."

Magic and illusion, otherwise known as voodoo and media spin.

I'm at a complete loss for words, seeing what has become of our once promising nation, and utterly appalled by the fact that - going by the percentage of pro-BN comments left on blogs and news portals - some 50% of the population remain blind to the evil nature of the power structure they prop up with their ethnocentric ego insecurities. Below are some snippets gathered from news portals and forwarded emails that amply demonstrate that "peace and stability" are unsustainable and illusory in the absence of justice and freedom...

HANG THE POLICE FIRST by Raja Petra Kamarudin

Take a walk back into history. Look at how the USSR held on to power. Look at how the Shah of Iran held on to power. Look at how Saddam held on to power. Look at how Marcos held on to power. Look at how Sukarno and then Suharto held on to power. Look at the last 5,000 years of the recorded history of mankind and look at how any of the regimes held on to power. And you will discover one common denominator. And that common denominator is a violent police force that serves the regime in any way that is required, legal or otherwise.

And that is the situation in Malaysia today.


To those who walk in the corridors of power, I wish to inform you that I know you are beating up my son in the Sungai Buloh Prison. Every day he is being subjected to beatings to force him to withdraw his not guilty plea and to plead guilty to the various charges he is facing. I also know he is being subjected to these daily beatings to force him to withdraw his not guilty plea and instead plead guilty because there is no evidence against him and the charges are merely trumped-up charges.

Furthermore, I know he is being threatened with six additional charges to the ones he is already facing and he is being beaten up to force him to plead guilty to these charges as well.
My son has informed me he can no longer stand these daily beatings and he wants to plead guilty to the charges. I have advised him to do so although we both realise that this means he will be spending at least ten years or so in jail.

My son is aware he is being subjected to this torture to induce me to surface and he is prepared to plead guilty and spend ten years in jail if that means it will save me from the powers-that-be.

Raja Petra Kamarudin

Posted on ArtisProActiv, 28 Oct 2009:

Unbelievable! All within a week...

Unbelievable #1 - Tian Chua sentenced to jail because judge was convinced cop who admitted punching Tian Chua told the truth about his biting.

Unbelievable #2 - Lingam case dropped because no evidence of judicial interference notwithstanding the Royal Commission findings.

Unbelievable #3 - Anwar Ibrahim's case against Tun Dr Mahathir thrown out because filing was not in Bahasa.

Unbelievable #4 - Gobind Singh Deo's challenge against suspension denied because court has no jurisdiction although the opposite was said in the Perak fiasco.

Unbelievable #5 - Local pathologists completely overlooked body injuries that point to homicide as revealed by Thai forensic expert Dr Pornthip Rojanasunand.

Unbelievable #6 - At Najib's instigation Ong Tee Keat and failed porn star Chua Soi Lek shake hands suddenly after months of bitter fighting.

Unbelievable #7 - Loss of over RM 1.4 billion in Rawang-Ipoh double-tracking project.

Unbelievable #8 - Mara paid RM84,640 for two units of Acer notebooks plus millions for other overpriced computer equipment.

Unbelievable #9 - Government guarantees failed Prasarana bonds of over RM 7 billion.

Friday, 30 October 2009 11:44

BN must make up its mind once and for all. Does it still want to put up the pretence that Malaysia is a democracy? If it does, should it continue to bombard our senses with such disgusting scenes and bare to the world the ugly truth of what Malaysia truly is?

By Kim Quek

After the nonsensical assembly sitting in Perak on Oct 28, Barisan Nasional should deeply reflect whether it is worthwhile to prolong its farcical rule in the Silver State.

To say the least, the session was a complete wash out.

First, police control and intervention inside and outside the assembly was so heavy and so overpowering that it has completely destroyed the image of our legislature as an independent and the highest institution in our system of government.

Second, the slipshod manner with which BN’s budget motion was rushed through makes us wonder whether the budget was legally approved.

Let us start with the budget approval.

BN’s Mentri Besar Zambry Kadir started his budget speech at 1120 hrs, and thirty minutes later, he had not only completed his speech, but had moved his budget motion through three readings, each time approved by the BN assemblymen present, under vocal protests from Pakatan assemblymen. There was no debate and no one seemed to have heard any detailed figures – if figures were read out then, these were not carried in many newspapers the next day anyway. Pakatan assemblymen walked off the assembly immediately after the approval of the third reading.

A budget proposal is a statement of revenues and expenditures as well as major policies that encompass the entire government which is made up of many departments. So, it is normally a lengthy speech, followed by debates that take place during each of the first, second and third readings. It is hence a real marvel how the assembly could have compressed such elaborate process of proposal, deliberation and decision in all the three stages in the short interval of half an hour.

Through such shotgun approval, the voices of the people who speak through their representatives are muted. Isn’t this a mockery of our democratic process and betrayal of the trust of the people?

Was the budget legally approved?

On top of that is the questionable legality of Ganesan’s position as speaker. His election as speaker on May 7 was deemed a fake, as the assembly session on that day was so chaotic and violent that it was not possible to conduct any business except the delivery of the opening speech by the Regent. Compounding this now is Ganesan’s breach of the Perak Constitution Article 36 A (5) which stipulates that a speaker must relinquish his private practice immediately or in any case not later than three months after his appointment, failing which he shall be disqualified. So, even if Ganesan’s appointment on May 7 was legal (which is not at all the case), he was already disqualified on Aug 7.

With an illegal speaker presiding in the assembly, can any business be conducted legally, least of all the all important agenda of the state budget approval?

No doubt, BN may be least worried about matters of illegality, confident of its iron-grip on the entire government machinery to serve its parochial interests. After all, isn’t BN Mentri Besar Zambry, who was appointed while incumbent Mentri Besar Nizar Jamaluddin was still serving, also illegal if the courts have been upholding the constitution? Isn’t the entire state cabinet, which was selected by Zambry, also illegal?

But can BN afford the massive loss of popular support every time the police manhandle and bully elected representatives from the opposing camp or judges dishing out blatantly unconstitutional rulings?

Barbaric police intervention

According to PR assemblymen, the scuffle was violent and turned into a fist fight as some in the group of 28 attempted to protect Sivakumar from being harassed. Simpang Pulai assemblyman Chan Ming Kai was dragged on the floor when two policemen grabbed on to both of his hands and tried to pull him away. (The Malaysian Insider, 29 Oct 2009; image from

Take the ridiculous scenario of the Perak assembly of Oct 28. The entire assembly compound was turned into a virtual war zone, with the entrance being protected by the kind of barbed wire seen only in war time. Hundreds of policemen and riot squad who had been milling inside and outside the building manned the five checkpoints stretching from the gate to the door of the assembly hall. Pakatan assemblymen complained of harassment every inch of their way to the last check point where they were subjected to the humiliation of a body search and metal scan and their personal effects of hand phones, laptops, cameras. etc., being forcibly removed before they entered the hall.

On his way to the assembly hall, Speaker Sivakumar was lured to an area not visible to reporters and the public where he was pounced upon by scores of police personnel who forcibly disrobed him. In the melee, he was punched and strangulated with an arm lock, and his colleagues roughed up for trying to protect him.

Image from

Pray, where in the world can you see such barbaric acts? Not even in the pariah state of Zimbabwe!

The picture inside the assembly hall is not any prettier. Scores of police personnel were there to man the entire assembly, with twenty of them forming a protective wall in front of the BN speaker Ganesan. And video cameras were transmitting live the activities of Pakatan assemblymen to the state police headquarters and the national headquarters at Bukit Aman, according to a Malaysiakini report.

Now, isn’t this the ultimate humiliation and insult to the highest and the most sanctimonious institution of a democracy, with the police contemptuously treating our Pakatan law makers as a bunch of criminals?

BN must make up its mind once and for all. Does it still want to put up the pretence that Malaysia is a democracy? If it does, should it continue to bombard our senses with such disgusting scenes and bare to the world the ugly truth of what Malaysia truly is?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


From Malaysiakini: 10.55am - Police have chased off about 80 supporters outside the building, back behind the security tape. The supporters obliged, but are taunting the cops, with some shouting: "1 Malaysia, 2 Perak, 3 Katak!"

RESPECT must be earned. It cannot be bought or demanded at gunpoint. Surely, the former Lord President and present Sultan of Perak knows this simple truth. If so, why does he not enlighten his friend, the Umno crime minister, Dato Seri Najib Razak (aka Pink Lips) about the responsibilities of true leadership?

Is the Sultan of Perak the victim of BN blackmail, as this controversial report in Malaysia Today suggests? Allow me to quote a couple of paragraphs:

Nazrin’s succession to the Perak throne depends on the goodwill of the federal government. But only if the state government is a Barisan Nasional government will there be this goodwill. If Pakatan Rakyat remains the state government, then expect Nazrin to pay the price when his time comes to succeed his father.

Furthermore, the Sultan and his family has asked for a lot of things from the Pakatan Rakyat state government, all of which they rejected. Umno will ensure that the Sultan and his family get whatever they want if Barisan Nasional takes over as the Perak state government.

If there is any truth to what Raja Petra Kamarudin has written, this nation is indeed in dire straits. It would mean that the symbols of highest authority in the land - the Sultans who serve as defenders and upholders of Islam - are as corruptibly human as you and I; and some may actually be no better than the third-rate hoodlums who have infiltrated Umno over the decades and taken complete control of the country's once abundant resources.

My personal take on the contentious issue of royalty is very straightforward. Since a very tender age I have been aware that some people I meet are naturally endowed with a certain quality I choose to call "noble" (as opposed to "base"). They make a point of upholding essential values such as honesty, compassion, generosity and wisdom; and they constantly endeavor to attain an inclusive and comprehensive perspective on the world around them.

These naturally noble souls have long outgrown narrow definitions of ethnicity and their allegiance is always to truth - not rigid religious dogma. They would never go along with a political ideology as patently false, petty-minded and self-serving as "Ketuanan Melayu." Indeed, they would be fully conscious that the word "Tuan" is a contraction of "Tuhan" (or "Lord" in English); and if anyone addressed them as such, they would instinctively flinch. Pretending to be superior to others is a silly child's game, unbefitting of any mature and intelligent soul.

Of course, the world is full of examples of idiots, pretenders and usurpers who have fallen into the trap of believing themselves superior. To reinforce their grand delusion, they invariably acquire the trappings of obscene wealth and become overly fond of pomp and circumstance. These souls are at best immature; at worst a parasitic infection of the human psyche.

By playing along with their foolish game, we are equally responsible for all the injustices and imbalances we constantly complain about. Only by consciously reclaiming our dignity, sovereignty and power as divinely inspired individuals can we free ourselves of this deleterious scam that has been inflicted on the inhabitants of this edenic planet since the advent of the "creator gods" who colonized the Earth many eons ago and whose "blueblooded" descendants persist in perpetuating this great hoax.

Are we still trapped in the limited worldview of a bunch of cannibals cowering before the arrival of White Gods in flying machines who sometimes bear gifts of colorful trinkets and firewater - and at other times rape our women and massacre us with their death-dealing weaponry?

Those are events that occurred many millennia ago, although the inertia of the ancient past continues to hold sway over our traditional hierarchies. We need not be ashamed that our ancestors were awed and shocked by the so-called gods' display of military might (thunderbolt-hurling deities can be very scary). In this day and age, despite the apparent might of the plutocrats and their puerile secret societies, we have the option of uninstalling dysfunctional software and upgrading our operating systems, so that we can step boldly towards the fulfilment of our glorious destiny as free and fearless kings and queens (and princes and princesses) of our own personal domains.

[Images courtesy of The Malaysian Insider, Malaysiakini, The New Straits Times and Google]


Published on Malaysia Today 28 October 2009

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Asia Sentinel | Monday, 26 October 2009

It's best to be connected to the ruling national coalition

On July 16, according to the testimony of a Thai pathologist, Teoh Beng Hock, a 29-year-old aide to an opposition politician, was probably beaten during a marathon questioning session, sodomized, strangled unconscious, dragged to a window of the Malaysia Anti-Corruption Commission in Kuala Lumpur and thrown to his death.

The country's law enforcement establishment maintains that Teoh committed suicide by leaping from the MACC building after the inquiry was concluded into irregularities in his boss's accounts. But it is far from the first "suicide" in custody and what happened to Teoh happens all too frequently when the luckless collide with the powerful in Malaysia. His real killers are unlikely ever to be identified. As many as 350 people have died in custody since 1990. The privileged are rarely brought to trial.

The most infamous recent case before Teoh's is that of Altantuya Shaariibuu, a 28 year-old Mongolian translator who was murdered in 2006 by two bodyguards of then-Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak. Altantuya had been jilted by Najib's best friend, Abdul Razak Baginda, and was demanding money from him.

Although numerous witnesses and evidence connected Najib to the affair, he was never questioned or put on the witness stand, nor was his chief of staff, Musa Safri, who Baginda said in a cautioned statement he approached about getting Altantuya to cease her harassment. His two bodyguards were convicted of the murder although one, in his confession, said the two men were to be paid RM100,000 to kill her. The court never asked who would pay the money. The confession wasn't allowed in court. Baginda was acquitted without having to put on a defense and promptly left the country and Najib was eventually named Prime Minister.

Such questionable cases go back to at least the early 1980s when Sultan Mahmud Iskandar of Johor (left) was dubbed the "killer king" by the British tabloids after he shot a trespasser to death on his property. He also reportedly assaulted and killed a golf caddy who was said to have laughed when the sultan missed a golf stroke and he maimed the caddy's brother. He later was alleged to have assaulted and injured a hockey coach, kicking off a constitutional crisis that led to former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's removal of legal immunity from prosecution for all of Malaysia's nine sultans, although Iskandar was never either arrested or jailed.

There are plenty more. In 1988 an attractive young woman named Mustakizah Jaafar, who owned a video rental business in Malacca, was found hacked to death by unknown assailants. Mustakizah reportedly was pregnant at the time of her death. She was believed to be having an affair with Megat Junid Megat Ayob (right), the onetime UMNO deputy home affairs minister, who died in January 2008 of cancer.

No one was ever charged with Mutakizah's murder. The widespread gossip about Megat Junid's connection with Mustakizah didn't do his political career any harm. He was ultimately named Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister in 1997 although he lost his parliamentary seat two years later and retired from politics.

[Read the whole sad and sordid story here.]