Saturday, December 12, 2009

I have nothing to say either... (burp)

Not everybody is subscribed to Malaysiakini. This hot story happens to be an exclusive, and I feel it should be accessible to as wide an audience as possible. So I'm cloning it here with sincere apologies, congratulations, and gratitude to Malaysiakini for blazing new trails in investigative reporting.

Bala's inconvenient and unexpected reappearance (at least on YouTube) puts Najib and Rosmah is a very tight spot. No matter how they respond - or don't - too many incriminating details have emerged from Bala's videotaped interview with three veteran lawyers to brush away with practised nonchalance.

Najib's arrogant and peremptory dismissal of a reporter's request that he comment on Bala's latest allegations reveals a man confronted with a gigantic NO EXIT sign. Najib can no longer stonewall his way out of the nightmarish mess he has made of his alleged non-involvement with Altantuya Shaariibuu - and her macabre murder between 19 and 20 October 2006. His younger brother Nazim has been publicly accused of criminal intimidation, a jailable offence; and the hidden hands behind Bala's abrupt disappearance have also been exposed. If Bala is lying he must be brought to book for defamation and libel. If he's telling the truth, then Najib Razak and Rosmah Mansor should relocate from Putrajaya to Sungai Buloh prison, along with quite
a few others involved in the massive cover-up...

Nazim Razak: I've nothing to say

Hafiz Yatim & Salhan K Ahmad
Dec 11, 2009
6:59pm


After a series of unsuccessful attempts to get in touch with Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak's brother over the allegations raised by private investigator P Balasubramaniam, Malaysiakini had a little dose of luck this afternoon.

Our journalists bumped into Nazim (in white shirt) at Masjid Negara in Kuala Lumpur, where he had gone to attend the Friday prayers.

The architect was visiting the grave of his father, second prime minister Abdul Razak, when approached.

Just like his elder brother who dismissed the serious allegations with two words - 'frivolous statements' - a startled-looking Nazim also offered a curt response.

When asked to comment on Balasubramaniam's allegation that he had met the second youngest of the five Razak brothers at a shopping mall in Petaling Jaya, Nazim replied with a stern "I have nothing to say" before walking away.

Malaysiakini had two weeks ago sent a list of questions to Nazim's office but did not receive any response. Repeated attempts to call him and visit his office also proved futile.

'Threatened and offered RM5 million'

In video interviews that surfaced last month, the private investigator, who has since fled the country with his family, also claimed that Nazim had threatened him and then offered him RM5 million to retract his statutory declaration pertaining to slain Mongolian national Altantuya Shaariibuu.

According to Balasubramaniam, the duo met on the night before the private investigator inked his second statutory declaration which cleared Najib of having close ties with the murdered woman.

He also claimed that carpet merchant Deepak Jaikishan and Nazim's wife, a former television personality, were present during the brief meeting at The Curve in Mutiara Damansara.

In his first statutory declaration unveiled less than 24 hours earlier during a press conference with Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim, Balasubramaniam sent shockwaves through the nation when he claimed that Najib had sexual liaisons with the deceased former model.

Najib has repeatedly stressed that he has no connections with Altantuya or her death.

On the carpet merchant's trail

Yesterday, Malaysiakini went on a mission to track down the elusive Deepak, who is described as a dashing lad and said to be close to Rosmah.

During a visit to his office in Jalan Chan Sow Lin 6 in Sungai Besi, an employee who identified herself as 'Miss Wong' said that her boss was not in and told the journalist to leave.

The latter was then escorted out of the building.

Following this, Malaysiakini went to Deepak's carpet shop along Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman and managed to meet the businessman's mother, who introduced herself as 'Mrs Jai.'

After explaining to 'Mrs Jai' the reason behind the visit, the woman proceeded to make several telephone calls.

In a guarded tone, she then told Malaysiakini that both her sons Deepak and Dinesh - who was also implicated by Balasubramaniam - were not in the country.

She also refused to divulge her sons' mobile phone numbers.

Apart from this, 'Mrs Jai' said she also does not know if Deepak or Dinesh share close ties with Rosmah.

"I have never met her," she said when asked if the prime minister's wife had visited their shop.

END CORPORATE GREED NOW!!!


Clowns and anti-capitalists: Copenhagen’s other meet

COPENHAGEN, Dec 11 — While negotiators with furrowed brows and dark suits work painfully toward a global climate deal at Copenhagen’s Bella Center, a different kind of summit is underway in a sports center downtown.

In the DGI-Byen complex, a panel of economists argue for no-growth economies, fresh-faced students blog furiously and dreadlocked women work in interpreter booths. A clown wanders past.

Demonstrators attend a protest march in central Copenhagen, as the city hosts the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2009, which lasts until December 18. — Reuters pic

Welcome to Klimaforum, the alternative summit organized by 30 Danish non-governmental organizations and student groups to complement and challenge the official talks.

“We want to influence the process at the Bella Center but we are also building a global civil society movement on climate change,” said organizer Kristine Holten-Andersen. “We are succeeding on that.”

The speaker line-up boasts the darlings of the anti-capitalist movement, including Vandana Shiva, George Monbiot and Naomi Klein (left), and will attract about 10,000 people from 92 countries over two weeks, she said.

While tensions rise at the official talks, the atmosphere at Klimaforum is optimistic.

“Go out and fight for Utopia!” cries one speaker, former Danish politician Niels I Meyer, in a talk on why people should work fewer hours to cut consumption and drive down emissions.

Chief Bolivian government negotiator, Angelica Navarro, was treated to a round of applause when she said yesterday that the root cause of climate change was capitalism.

“I am very glad to hear you because this is so hard to say in the Bella Center,” she said.


“I think what’s going on in this room is the most important thing that’s going on in Copenhagen,” Naomi Klein, author of seminal anti-consumerism text No Logo, said on Thursday.

Christiane Oros, a German environmental engineer attending Klimaforum this week, said she was inspired by the alternative summit: “It’s motivating for me and makes me want to look for what I can do afterwards in my life.” — Reuters


On 9 December 2009 a powerful vortex opened above Norway, baffling astronomers who have never witnessed any aerial phenomenon like this...

On 12 December 2009, not only will millions around the planet be holding vigils to show world leaders that we are absolutely serious about demanding "a real deal" on global climate issues and a commitment to put a stop to ecocidal activities, there will also be countless others doing special ceremonies and meditations to anchor a massive infusion of spiritual force from the Galactic Center, which will dramatically accelerate a mass awakening on all levels of consciousness.

I am inviting anyone who so desires, to spend the day at Magick River which is located within the radius of a transformational portal or planetary chakra. Bring a picnic lunch and be prepared to frolic in a magnificent wild river!

9 December 2009 ~ Tromso, Norway.

Friday, December 11, 2009

LONG LIVE THE PENAN!

Penan sue Malaysian authorities over logging, plantations

MIRI, SARAWAK, 10 Dec 2009 - Five indigenous Penan communities of the East Malaysian state of Sarawak on Borneo are suing the Sarawak state government and three licensees of timber and planted-forest concessions at the High Court of Sarawak and Sabah.

The new land rights' litigation affects forestry operations by the three Malaysian timber conglomerates of Samling, Interhill and Timberplus in concessions issued to Damai Cove Resorts, Samling Plywood, Samling Reforestation and Timberplus.

View of Long Item in the Baram region

The Penan are demanding land titles for an area of 80,000 hectares, the nullification of the four unlawfully issued timber and planted-forest licences and also compensation for damage done by the logging companies in the course of their past operations. In particular, the Penan are asking the court to issue a mandatory injunction against the licensees, plus their contractors and subcontractors, for the removal of all structures, equipment and machinery from the plaintiffs' native customary rights land.

CLICK ON MAP TO ENLARGE

In support of their case, the Penan plaintiffs have provided ample proof of the fact that they and their ancestors have been using their claimed rainforests since time immemorial. The formerly nomadic Penan hunted and gathered food from the rainforest and lived on sago (uvut) in the area until the 1950s, when they decided to settle at their present village locations. The Penan have a history of barter trade in jungle products, such as nyateng (resin for producing fire), kapon (latex from kapon trees) and handicraft items, with traders who have been coming to their villages since the early twentieth century.

Sarawak government's conduct "oppressive, arbitrary, illegal and unconstitutional"


The Penan plaintiffs state that, for over ten years, various logging operators have wrongfully trespassed onto their ancestral land with bulldozers, excavators, shovels, trucks and lorries and have destroyed a substantial area of their forest, fruit trees, crops and cultural heritage, such as graves and historical sites. They object to the Sarawak government's issue of timber and planted-forest licences, which the plaintiffs consider to be "oppressive, arbitrary, illegal and unconstitutional".

In September 2009, a Malaysian government report confirmed allegations by the Penan of the middle Baram region that a number of indigenous girls and women had been sexually abused and raped by logging company employees. An independent review of logging operations in the region commissioned by the French Accor group had uncovered numerous offences committed by Interhill against the Sarawak forestry legislation.

The litigation is divided over two court cases that have been filed by ten Penan leaders of Ba Abang, Long Item, Long Kawi, Long Lilim and Long Pakan in Sarawak's Middle Baram region.

[Pada Jutang, headman of Long Pakan (L) and Panai Irang, headman of Ba Abang]

Both cases are based on detailed community maps and oral history documentation that have been compiled with the assistance of the Bruno Manser Fund. The cases are being handled by the renowned law office of Messrs. Baru Bian in Kuching. Baru Bian has recently been appointed the Sarawak leader of the People's Justice Party, PKR.

For more info, maps and high resolution photographs, please contact: Bruno Manser Fund
Socinstrasse 37,
4051 Basel
Switzerland

Email: info@bmf.ch
Tel. +41 61 261 94 74



Thursday, December 10, 2009

A special plug for my favorite Swami

December 3, 2009

THE TRANSFORMATIONAL POWER OF LAUGHTER ~ SERIOUSLY!

By Steve Bhaerman @ Swami Beyondananda

Why comedy in these serious times? It's simple... there's definitely something funny going on!" - Swami Beyondananda

Considering the increasingly serious condition our society and planet seem to be in, and given the persistent failure of just about every one of society's institutions, focusing on comedy might seem counterintuitive.

Or, it might turn out to be just what the doctor (or for that matter, the paradox) ordered. Let's take, for example, the sad truth that the Obama Administration has proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Democratic Party misleadership (like the Republican misleadership) has betrayed the commonwealth in favor of the uncommonly wealthy.

The Evolutionary Up-Wising is Up to Us!

We can do what is expected of us - fall into cynicism, apathy or denial, and numb ourselves with reality TV because it's easier to face than reality. Or, we can use this as an opportunity to go cold turkey on "hopium addiction," and recognize that neither freedom nor functionality can be bestowed from above, but comes from cultivating two evolutionary practices: awareness and community.

The implications of what new edge science has been telling us - that we are not victims of a vengeful God or a random universe, but conscious co-creators of our reality - are both awesome and intimidating. As Bruce Lipton and I point out in Spontaneous Evolution, we stand on the threshold of the greatest adventure in recorded history, conscious evolution.

In order to take advantage of this evolutionary opportunity, we humans will need to cultivate the two great gifts that have been bestowed on our species: love and imagination.

Laughter - and the awakening that comes in the wake of laughter - will help us magnify and cultivate both of those precious tools.

I have written the Wake Up Laughing e-book - and purposely made it available to be proliferated widely as a digital download - because I believe the distinctions uncovered in my two decades as a cosmic comic (and a lifetime of humor appreciation) can help us gain the courage, the perspective, the love and the creativity we will need to navigate this extraordinary passage.

And the perspective of humor (the "aha" that comes with the "ha ha") will help us process and put into practice the understandings Bruce and I write about in Spontaneous Evolution.

Give the Gift of Laughter ...

So ... if you wish to help move forward the "evolutionary up-wising" where we overgrow our current system from the grassroots up, one simple and highly-enjoyable step is to read the freely-available book introduction here.

And order your copy (or copies for a dozen friends and cohorts) here.

We have purposely extended the one-third off $10 price through Friday, December 18th to make it easier for you to give the gift of enlightening laughter -- and enlighten up your friends as well through our Buddysattva program.

Remember, the laugh you save may be your own!

... and Give the Gift of Encouragement

You can also help move the evolutionary up-wising forward this Holiday season by giving the gift of encouragement. For a truly heartening story based on modern science and ancient wisdom, consider giving Spontaneous Evolution to friends, family and "co-hearts" on your list.

The reviews are coming in, and tend to echo what biologist and author Elisabet Sahtouris has written: "Spontaneous Evolution is a wonderfully exciting, enlightening and heartening ride! Read it and know exactly where we stand and how we can thrive."

You will also note that 19 of the 21 reviews Spontaneous Evolution has received on Amazon are five-star reviews!

You can support our own "global local" bookstore, Source Books by buying your copy of the Spontaneous Evolution book here.

And support the Swami and I directly by ordering the Sounds True Spontaneous Evolution 5 CD set here.

Already read the book? Add your reviews to Amazon.com, or send them here.

Want to learn more? Hear Bruce and I on the air in December!

[Left: Bruce Lipton & Steve Bhaerman]

CHEAP SHOTS

Cheers! Now, will the Pahang syariah court haul up Mr Pink Lips for consuming alcohol in public whilst on official duty, fine him RM5,000 plus six strokes of the rotan? Or is that just oolong tea? (Pic courtesy of The Malaysian Insider)

MOB RULE: The 'cow-head' protesters demonstrating outside the Shah Alam courts...

Headless cow gang from Umno portraying DAP leaders as The Yellow Peril or Mooists.

Way to go... kick their faces in... show them your utter contempt, boys!

Now step on their faces... harder! Oops, forgot to step on dog doo first...

Hahaha... pee on Lim Guan Eng... fart on his father's face... do it!

Altogether now, hold up your finger and bleat: "1Malaysia!" (Cowhead Dungu pics by Minaq Jinggo)

They joined a group of men outside the Sessions Court here and displayed a banner of the heads of DAP leaders Lim Kit Siang, Lim Guan Eng and Nga Kor Ming on the bodies of cattle in front of press photographers.

They were also seen stepping on the banners before shouting against those who were trying to fool the Malays. (Jangan bodohkan orang Melayu!)

The group told reporters that they would be lodging a police report later today against the DAP for questioning Malay rights.

[Read the rest here.]

SO WHO'S MORE 'KURANG AJAR' ~ THESE DUMBOS FROM UMNO OR NAMEWEE?


THEY SAY THE GOOD DIE YOUNG...

This 21-year-old would rather be alive than "good."

Malaysian Yong Vui Kong was only 19 when he was arrested in Singapore in June 2007 and charged with trafficking 47gm of heroin. He was sentenced in January 2009 under the Misuse of Drugs Act which carries a mandatory death sentence for anyone caught trafficking more than 15gm of heroin, 30gm of cocaine or 500gm of cannabis. Yong's lawyer Ravi Madasamy has urged a moratorium on the mandatory death penalty in Singapore until the outcome of his appeal is decided.

From the Online Citizen...


By Koh Yi Na

SINGAPORE, Wednesday, 9 December 2009 - In a surprise decision, the Court of Appeal has granted [Sabah-born] Yong Vui Kong, who faces execution for a drug trafficking conviction, an opportunity to have his appeal heard.

Following an hour-long hearing on Tuesday morning, the judges nullified his previous withdrawal of appeal and accepted Yong’s application for an extension of time. This would allow him to file an appeal against his conviction and death sentence.

Yong’s lawyer, Ravi Madasamy, had initially been pessimistic about securing the extension of time, given the nature of previous decisions and his own experience with capital cases. While he knew “the present judiciary is forward-looking,” he did not know how the Court would react to his arguments.

Therefore when the judge ruled in favour of hearing the appeal, he was pleasantly surprised, describing it as a “fantastic outcome.”

No date has been set for the appeal hearing, but it could be as early as next month, according to Mr Ravi. He has been informed by the registrar to go to court this Friday to set a date for it.

His execution is stayed pending the outcome of this appeal.


[Read the full story here and here.]


World Day Against The Death Penalty (Singapore)

Watch the entire forum on YouTube!

My personal view on the absurdity (not to mention the inhumanity) of trying to fight "the drug menace" by hanging traffickers:

Heroin is a psychic painkiller derived from morphine, a physical painkiller that gained popular use during the First World War for acute battle injuries. Every heroin addict I have met actually suffers from severe emotional trauma and feel they have to take something to numb their psychic pain.

Those of us strong enough to soldier on without painkillers can consider ourselves fortunate, but we don’t have to become unfeeling and soulless about our less robust friends.

Alas, almost every form of therapy for addictive personalities (whether the drug be heroin, alcohol, crystal amphetamine or cocaine) has turned out unpredictable with at least 50% of regressions. This leads me to conclude that, ultimately, addictive personalities become a burden on their families and communities only when the substance to which they are addicted becomes exorbitantly priced.

In effect, the more illegal the substance, the higher its street value. Having researched the subject for years I’ve drawn the inevitable conclusion that criminalizing any kind of drug is actually a racket – a game being played by very powerful crime syndicates working in cahoots with law enforcement agencies.

Sometimes I suspect governments deliberately allow a certain percentage of their youth to become addicted, so they won’t turn to political activism and topple an unjust system.

One can never be too cynical about big business, big government and big crime – because only too often it’s the same cast of control freaks switching roles. For example, it’s becoming clear that the most efficient drug smuggling operations on earth are being carried out by the CIA who work in tandem with the Mafia. The money is often laundered through innocuous fronts like the Vatican Bank and used to finance black ops to keep certain political dynasties in power.

It’s a very complicated subject but I’d like more people to start giving what I say some serious thought. Google the subject if you wish but be warned that your worldview will never again be the same!

In conclusion, I advocate the decriminalization of all drugs. No punishment, no crime. No official ban, no big profits, no thrill of rebellion against paternal authority from consuming illicit substances. Within a few years, no drug problem.

Those already hooked will be able to maintain their habits without turning to crime – and anytime they wish to quit they can be offered emotional therapy to heal their wounded souls. Every life has value.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Namewee: Malaysia's Own Eminem



Namewee, if it were up to me, I would inaugurate a new kind of award to acknowledge your creative brilliance and warrior spirit.

When genuine talent, intelligence and initiative are discovered among our youngsters, we ought to heartily applaud and reward these cultural innovators.

Instead, we make utter fools of ourselves by getting uptight and angry, thereby missing the significance of witnessing a new star being born out of controversy.

The music is superfunky, Namewee. Superslick editing and powerful graphics too. Congratulations!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Devdutt Pattanaik ~ The Myths That Mystify

Click on screen to view video

This is an excellent lecture. Never heard of this guy Devdutt Pattanaik, but he's very lucid and passionate. Mythology is a topic close to my own heart. Thank you, Miriam Hayman, for sending me the link.



Monday, December 7, 2009

FRIVOLOUS? You gotta be kidding, Jibby!

When questioned by reporters about private investigator Balasubramaniam’s latest revelations implicating the family of Prime Minister Najib Razak in the Altantuya murder scandal, Najib snapped, “I will not entertain any frivolous statement!” and asked reporters to move on to the next question...


Who is frivolous: PI Bala or PM Najib?

By Kim Quek
Monday, 7 December 2009

This curt reply to crassly cut reporters off from asking further questions sounds to me more like a reflex in panic, rather than a responsible answer from the prime minister of a supposedly democratic country. For it was a totally inappropriate reply to Bala’s serious accusation, made in circumstances that commanded respect and credibility.

What can be more serious than accusing Najib’s wife Rosmah Mansor and his brother Nazim of having used the “carrot and stick” maneuver to force Bala to retract his first affidavit which implicated Najib in the murder scandal?

And what can be more respectable than having his revelations made in an interview conducted and witnessed by three senior lawyers of the country?

Bala alleged that Rosmah’s close associate, Deepak Jaikishan, offered him RM5 million; and Nazim Razak threatened to harm his family unless he followed Deepak’s instructions. This happened on the day he disclosed his first affidavit on 4th July 2008. Fearing for the safety of his family, Bala retracted under coercion the allegations linking Najib to Altantuya in a second affidavit the next day, and disappeared immediately with his family - until his recent interview which was captured on video and recorded in transcripts. These were first published in Malaysia Today and later relayed by other websites including Malaysiakini and YouTube.

In the interview, Bala described how he was forced into retraction, and how he and his family embarked on their fugitive journey to India under the overall direction of Deepak. That journey was a rather convoluted and lengthy voyage that saw them passing through or staying for various durations in Singapore, Bangkok, Kathmandu, Delhi, Madras, and eventually Chennai.

Bala exuded confidence with his detailed description of occurrences supported by factual details that pinpoint the relevant players, locations, times, dates, durations, hotels, monetary figures, cheques, bank accounts, etc.

Against these formidable allegations, all we have from the alleged culprits is deafening silence, despite the news being circulated in the Internet for more than two weeks. Until, of course, when Najib dismissed these as “frivolous” and not worthy of his response, during a press conference after an UMNO supreme council meeting on December 4th. This effectively means that Bala has cooked up a pack of damned lies, according to Najib.

So, one of them must have lied. Was it Bala, or was it Najib?

Image courtesy of Justice

FACTS FAVOR BALA

A cursory glance at the facts and circumstances surrounding the latest controversy would enable one to readily conclude that Bala has the upper hand, for the simple reason that Bala’s accusation is buttressed by precise facts and details that can be easily debunked if false, while Najib and his group have chosen to remain silent in spite of the serious nature of the accusation.

If Bala’s statement is false - and with the immense power and resources at the disposal of the Prime Minister - there is no possible reason for Najib not to have instantly ordered an investigation, and bring Bala to face the consequences for having so openly and repeatedly defamed the Prime Minister and his family.

If Najib could have Raja Petra Kamarudin - webmaster of Malaysia Today - charged with criminal defamation for the publication of an article in his website that said Rosmah was present at the crime scene, why can’t he do the same with Bala?

In fact, Bala’s case is even more serious, as he has signed two contradictory affidavits – a clear offence of false declaration – besides accusing the Prime Minister and his family of involvement in murder.

And why should the Prime Minister, his family, and the various law-enforcement agencies be so kind and forgiving to Bala as to leave him untouched, while the nation suffers the humiliation of its Prime Minister being openly defamed and ridiculed?

FROM ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE

Viewing the case from another angle – Bala’s perspective, it appears even more compelling that Bala was not likely to have lied.

Why should a family man like Bala falsely accuse the Prime Minister of involvement in the most heinous of crimes, knowing its serious consequences as an ex-police officer? What possible gain could he get, keeping in mind that he couldn’t have extorted any money, since the allegation is untrue?

Even if it is true that Bala had falsely accused Najib, that he had repented and retracted his allegations in a second affidavit, and run away to another country to escape retribution, there is no conceivable reason for him to make a come-back to invent another pack of lies, thereby exposing himself for the second time to the risk of serious punishment. Unless, of course, he is a lunatic, which is clearly not the case.


GROUNDS OF SUSPICION ABOUND


Evidence of justice being aborted to protect Najib is found in the numerous irregularities that have occurred before and during the trial of the Altantuya murder.

Why was Najib not investigated since the first two accused, who were his bodyguards and took orders from him, had no apparent motive on their own to commit the murder, and the third accused was his confidant?

Why were the judge, prosecutors and even a defence lawyer abruptly replaced without credible reasons shortly before the trial?

Why was the motive for murder never raised during the trial?

Why did prosecutors and defence lawyer join forces to prevent critical evidence being pursued in court such as a certain photograph showing Altantuya and Najib taking meals together and the mysterious erasure of immigration entry records of Altantuya and her Mongolian companions?

Why was Bala’s affidavit barred from the court without credible reasons?

Since the third accused, who was charged for instigating the murder, was released without his defence being called, then who had ordered the killing?


It is clear that unless these troubling questions are dealt with satisfactorily, there is no way Najib can clear himself of suspicions that have surrounded him, least of all by waving away inquisitive questions by a curt reply like what he did in the said press conference.

In fact, such conduct only betrays his weaknesses. For it is plain commonsense that if Najib is on the side of truth, he would have welcomed reporters to ask questions – instead of crudely shutting them up – so that he has a chance to exonerate himself. And he would also have taken action against Bala ages ago, instead of inaction for so long – perhaps with the hope of the scandal fizzling out in due course?

The latest Bala revelations have constituted a solemn challenge to the integrity and legitimacy of Najib’s premiership, for which he must now solemnly account to the nation.

And the only way to do that without dishonoring his oath of office is to commission a truly independent panel to uncover the truth and account to the nation.

If Najib is a responsible Prime Minister, he should have felt duty bound under his oath of allegiance to the country to clear his name through a proper inquiry by an independent and reputable panel, now that the perception of his involvement has been so entrenched and pervasive - nationally as well as internationally.

Image courtesy of Counterpointer

Sunday, December 6, 2009

RECOLONIZING THE NATIVES


I UNDERSTAND the colonial mind extremely well. That's because the memory of having been a series of megalomaniacal empire-builders remains vividly imprinted in my deep psyche and prompts me to do everything in my power to warn the present generation against the insidious dangers of attempting to impose a rigid control grid over forces beyond our comprehension.

Perhaps this explains my visceral rejection of all forms of bureaucratic arrogance and misguided efforts to "civilize and domesticate" the natural world. Much as I love my sister, daughter #1, son-in-law, granddaughters, and all my beautiful nieces, nephews, cousins and grandnieces in Singapore - I'm always loath to visit the so-called Merlion City with all its infamous restrictions (no smoking in public places except where specially designated; and, in the old days, no longhaired men which necessitated my buying a shorthair wig just to gain entry).

Last month I had a close encounter with bureaucratic heavyhandedness which left a slightly sour taste in my mouth. It all arose over the hoo-ha a local businessman raised about the illegal road upgrading project in Pertak Village. This guy happens to be a member of PPP (People's Progressive Party) and a close friend of Dato' T. Murugiah (left), deputy minister in the Prime Minister's Department who oversees the Public Complaints Bureau.

I was surprised to receive a phonecall from T. Murugiah's personal assistant, a very pleasant lady named Shamini Bhaskaran, asking me for some background to the situation. So I wrote her a long email detailing the scenario and, before I knew what was happening, was informed that Dato' T. Murugiah was planning a visit to Pertak Village to see for himself what was going on. But before he could do so, he required a formal complaint to be lodged with his department, so I accepted the role - since Murugiah's businessman friend was unwilling to expose himself to the risk of losing the support of local bureaucrats who largely remain loyal to the Barisan Nasional.

On 15 September I had been visited by three Special Branch officers who informed me they were investigating a police report lodged against me by one Rapi Bata Abdullah - an Orang Asli Muslim convert and Umno member who had written a letter to Kuala Kubu Bharu state assemblyman Wong Koon Mun (right) requesting that the old logging trail through the Pertak forest reserve be asphalted.

To legitimize his request, Rapi had persuaded Bidar Chik, Batin of Pertak, to sign the letter. According to the SB officers, Rapi Bata had accused me of "obstructing" his road upgrading project (and thereby opposing "development" for the marginalized Orang Asli). He also alleged I was an agent of Western environmentalists and was harboring "Mat Salleh" activists - that's right, who are all jealous of Malaysia's success (yup, Mahathir has certainly left his indelible mamark... oops, I mean, mark on an entire generation of civil servants)!

This was followed by a visit from several high-ranking officers from the Selangor JHEOA (Orang Asli Affairs Department) who gently reproached me for bypassing them and going straight to the Public Complaints Bureau. I told them to their face that if it were up to me I would shut down their department without hesitation. Of course, I'd ensure that the people who worked in JHEOA would either be reassigned to other departments - or be given a generous payout so they could start their own businesses or acquire some useful skills.

Murugiah is crowned King of PPP in a party coup staged in May 2009

Dato' T. Murugiah's visit, originally scheduled for 30 October, was postponed for a week (his p.a. called up at the last minute and apologized on behalf of her boss, saying he was under the weather). My cellphone began ringing non-stop on the morning of 6 November. Reporters from the national news agency Bernama and Utusan Malaysia (Umno's much-maligned mouthpiece, famous for its acute ethnocentric halitosis) called up asking directions to Pertak Village.

It was amusing to see the media circus surrounding Dato' T. Murugiah's official visit. YB Wong Koon Mun was there accompanied by a cadre of MCA flunkeys in their North Korea-style paramilitary uniforms, along with reporters from Sin Chew Jit Poh and possibly Nanyang Siang Pau too. The New Straits Times was represented by a friendly but understandably jaded hack, while NTV7 sent a mobile unit and a very gung-ho crew to cover Murugiah's historic visit.

Even the district police chief, Supt Norel Azmi Affandi Yahya, was present with a platoon of senior officers (including the delectable Inspector Yusnita Samsudin who had "interviewed" me at the KKB police station at 11pm the night before, having sent a vanload of bullies-in-blue to summon me to her office).

When I was given the chance to speak, I voiced my indignation at the rude behavior of the policemen who had arrived at my residence at 10:30pm, demanding that I go down to the station to record a statement - and threatening me with arrest if I didn't comply.

They had clearly exceeded their authority in so doing, since I had commited no offence - and the urgency of the matter was entirely due to their dragging their feet on this case till the very last minute. They could have telephoned me anytime over the course of six or seven weeks, politely requesting that I come to the station at my own convenience to tell my side of the story.

In response, Supt Norel could only brag that the police in their zeal to perform their duties do not observe office hours. Such a smug and pompous old-school cop, he certainly would look the part better with a 19th-century-style handlebar mustache.

All in all, I estimate a total of 90 people were involved in this public relations exercise which was essentially an attempt to justify the RM200,000 roadworks through a forest reserve - and demonstrate how caring and generous the Barisan Nasional government was towards rural voters like the Temuan of Pertak Village.

My original complaint focused on the possibility of hanky-panky involving the misuse of public funds. YB Wong Koon Mun is, after all, a contractor and entrepreneur with fingers in many pies; and his Umno cronies have never been known to be overly concerned about how the Orang Asli are faring (indeed, the only thing that interests them is whether there are any logging concessions or resort projects they can apply for). Furthermore, Wong had instructed his contractor to start digging without obtaining the necessary permits from the District Office and Forestry Department.

When the Selangor state government learnt about this, a stop-work order had been issued through district councillor Chua Yee Ling - but, as to be expected, that only delayed MCA Wong for 3 or 4 days - the time it took for him to erect an official signboard announcing the road upgrading project.

This was clear proof that the Pakatan Rakyat state government is being undermined every step of the way by deadwood bureaucrats who haven't yet understood that Barisan Nasional wasn't appointed by Allah to forever misrule the country and enrich itself at public expense. It's a very serious issue that must be addressed. But how? Only a complete change of government at the federal level will resolve the problem.


Nevertheless, if an expensive "infrastructural upgrade" could be conjured out of thin air, these Barisan Nasional types become suddenly very anxious to help their indigenous brethren assimilate into the modern world (never mind lah that most of them remain stubbornly heathen) And, of course, what better emblems of modernity than asphalted roads (complete with speedbumps), cellphone towers, and - serunai fanfare plus a brief burst of kompang, please - STREETLIGHTS! Yes, the very things one requires to live comfortably at the edge of a forest.

MCA Wong described my protest as Greenpeace-inspired activism. Thanks for the compliment, Wong!

Rapi Bata Abdullah was the featured guest star of the day - a showcase Orang Asli with all the correct-correct-correct attitudes. First he had become a Muslim (at least in name); next he had joined Umno and seen the light. He understood all about commissions and cost overruns and how to instigate environmentally ruinous projects. Above all, he was loyal to the Barisan Nasional government and was aware that "militant tree-huggers" like me are the Enemies of Progress (as measured in the shallowest and most superficial terms).

In his desire to be seen as "progressive" Rapi had unwittingly turned himself into the Orang Asli version of an Uncle Tom. For a few official favors (and some quick bucks by way of payoffs) he had severed his own ancestral connections to the sacredness and inviolability of the land and was proud to be paraded before the crony media as an Orang Asli ready to embrace "modern values" - as represented by physical trappings such as asphalted roads, piped water, electricity, satellite TV, mobile phones, streetlights, neatly-mown lawns - and endless bills to pay.

The way the mid-level bureaucrats fawned and fussed over the visiting deputy minister, one would have imagined him to be at least a royal emissary, if not a king.

A century ago, T. Murugiah would probably have arrived on elephant back, with a full panoply of ceremonial guards and a bugle brigade. He would have been carried in a gilded palanquin to inspect the roadworks whilst being fed exotic tidbits by native girls bedecked with multicolored hibiscuses in their perfumed hair.

This is precisely what's wrong with the Barisan Nasional misgovernment. They're too enamored of pomp and circumstance. They love a splendid display of extravagance (city streets festooned with flashing lights and giant ketupats every Hari Raya) and, of course, the demonstrations of almighty grandeur and worldly power the Sultans have made their royal trademark.

(courtesy of SabriZain.org)

Can I blame the Brits for this, I wonder? After all, it was they who handpicked the most corruptible and compliant amongst the contending Malay chiefs to be crowned as Sultans (an honorific conveniently borrowed from the Turks). It was in their own interests to cultivate a narcissistic, self-serving species of native leader who would be so aloof and detached from their own subjects they would pose few problems for the colonial masters, who would then supplant the Sultans as the real government of the land.

When the Brits created a Malay political class to take over the lower echelons of bureaucracy, they taught them how to keep the hoi polloi at arm's length and present an unassailable façade of divinely ordained authority. Indeed, if you observe how Barisan Nasional ministers like to be fêted and fawned over wherever they go, you will certainly conclude that they all believe that being voted into public office gives them the divine right to be treated like pseudo-royalty. Hence, they view it as their religious duty to squirrel away massive amounts of non-declarable lucre in some offshore account whilst keeping just enough to set themselves up in palatial style.

And now, some 50 years after the Brits have returned to their swiftly shrinking, once-great imperial home, their political heirs, the Umno fat-cat bureaucrats, are faithfully maintaining the colonial legacy by recolonizing the original natives of this fair and bountiful land.

If the Orang Asli Affairs Department is allowed to continue existing, it wouldn't surprise me to find a future generation of Orang Asli behaving as corruptly, myopically, and arrogantly as their Malay mentors. By then they would willingly have exchanged their Orang Asli status for the dubious privilege of being lumped together with the Sumatran, Javanese and Bugis descendants of brigands, pirates and refugees from tribal wars.

As for Dato' T. Murugiah himself, I found him fairly intelligent and suave, oozing with effortless charm and self-confidence - but, alas, too typically a Barisan Nasional politician to be taken seriously as a human being. A few weeks after his visit to Pertak Village, I read in the news (online, of course) that Murugiah was in the process of being thrown out of the PPP. Should that happen, he would become a partyless deputy minister, and therefore vulnerable to vicious attacks from his cannibalistic colleagues in the increasingly irrelevant, insufferably arrogant and irredeemably corrupt Barisan Nasional.

Indeed, Murugiah might even lose his cabinet seat. Well, if that does occur, his p.a. has my phone number. I'd be happy to offer him some counseling on how to regain his human core and child-like spontaneity - and charge him ten times my usual fee.