Saturday, December 25, 2010

The (attempted) murder of joy

For years I have had an ambivalent attitude towards Christmas. It would require a 3,000-word essay to clarify why I tend to feel a deep sense of futility and weariness whenever the “jolly season” rolls around.

Last year I managed to survive the “jolly season” by taking a two-week vacation in Sungai Buloh Hospital. It wasn’t much fun for my folks, I realized, so I won’t do it again. Besides, you only get to experience resurrection once, right? Unless you happen to be a coward with a habit of dying a thousand deaths.

This year I have indisputable cause to feel depressed.

Somebody murdered my dog in cold blood. Roger Putra wasn’t just any dog – he was more like a second son to Anoora and me.

We both doted on the chubby little tyke who celebrated his second birthday in November and was in the prime of health and beauty. Roger was the only dog – apart from his father the late illustrious Mr Wong – allowed into the house. Some nights he insisted on sleeping in the bedroom, curled up beside me on the floor. In the morning I would awake to see him smiling at me – and if I decided to laze around too long, Roger would jump on the bed and make himself comfortable next to me until Anoora shooed him off. Then he would leap over my horizontal body and run outside to lie in the sun.

Roger Putra was the embodiment of joy around here. Whenever I felt irritable, weighed down by the density and abominable quality of some people’s consciousness, Roger would magically appear with an ear-to-ear grin on his face and I would instantly cheer up.

There is a particular rock under a shady tree I enjoy sitting on and watching the river flow, with Roger beside me. I would run my fingers down his neck, looking for ticks I could flick into the river for the fish. It was a daily ritual, almost, that never failed to fill me with a profound sense of contentment. Roger Putra was good medicine for my soul.

Roger's Rock where I often sat with him, contemplating eternity

Today I sat on that same rock and felt him as a familiar presence. My hand involuntarily reached out to stroke his thick fur… but found only thin air. I thought about the man who killed Roger, not with anger but with unfathomable sorrow. What a nightmare it must be for him to even live each day. Only a soul devoid of any self-esteem and zest for life could descend to such depths of depravity and gratuitous violence.

So who killed Roger Putra and why?

A friend had gone for a long walk early on the morning of 14 December. Roger had followed her, accompanied by two female dogs. When she returned an hour or so later, Roger wasn’t with her. My heart sank. “Where’s Roger?” I asked. She assumed he had gone home ahead of her. I was unable to go look for him right then because I had visitors, so she took off again with another friend to try and retrieve Roger. After my visitors left I drove down the trail as far as I could and headed to a spot about 20 minutes’ hike from where my friend has last seen Roger. I called for Roger over and over again, my voice echoing around the hills. At a river crossing I called again and within moments a figure appeared… it was Anoora’s stepfather Rasid.

“What are you doing here?” he asked.

“Looking for my dog, have you seen him?”

“Yes, not long ago, running through the rubber forest.”

“He seemed okay? I’m concerned about boar traps around here.”

“He’s probably on his way home,” Rasid said.

I felt a surge of optimism. My main anxiety had been the jerat or wire snares set by Orang Asli to catch wild boar. A year ago Roger had been caught on one of those horrible devices and it took him three days to gnaw through the wire and liberate himself. He managed to limp home with his right leg almost cut through at the shoulder. Took him a month to heal but he was completely fine.

Mary & Ahau taking Roger to the vet after he almost lost his right leg to an Orang Asli snare

Rasid’s report gave me a surge of optimism. I was praying hard that when I got home a familiar furry thunderball would be charging down the grassy slope through the undergrowth to greet me. Instead, I found both my friends standing at the top of the steps looking forlorn after a fruitless search. Over the next few days I kept going back to where Roger was last seen, hoping to find him busy licking some horny bitch’s bottom, lost to the world. The best case scenario was that he had found a willing playmate in the vicinity and decided to stay close to her – out of sight of Mary’s dog Baggins, who would never give Roger a chance to mount any female found in heat within his territory. Bitches remain in heat a least a week. And male dogs in love tend to forget about food. Roger, I figured, had enough body fat to last at least that long.

A whole week passed and I forced myself to remain hopeful that Roger was merely undergoing his rite of passage into full adulthood. There were times when I felt Roger didn’t like being pampered too much – his male pride, perhaps. He possessed a strong sense of the dramatic and heroic, always standing on a high rock gazing into the distance, beyond the treeline, nose twitching at the scent of monkeys and other assorted fauna. It was as if he was always listening for the call of the wild…

On the lunar eclipse solstice of 21 December, we were at a restaurant having lunch when Karim the deaf mute appeared, intoxicated as usual. He rubbed thumb and index fingers together and showed me five fingers. I opened my wallet and found only four ringgit in small notes to offer him. He took the money and went off, only to reappear a few seconds later. Karim pointed to my van, indicating he would like a lift back. I gestured to a chair and he sat down. Using his hands and inchoate noises from his larynx, Karim managed to communicate that Roger had been slashed by somebody wielding a parang. He saw a little dog run whelping towards the river and collapsing. As Karim acted out his story I saw an image of someone in my mind. I uttered his name and Karim nodded – but only just. A few days earlier I had chanced upon this man at the river crossing and asked if he had seen my dog. He said no in a nonchalant tone and carried on his way. There had been a slightly surreal air to this encounter but I decided not to make too much of it at the time.

It was at that point that the gravity of the situation hit home.

I noticed Anoora had moved away to another table to join Ahau. She heard but didn’t want to understand. Her face was impassive but I saw her breathing heavily and there was a flash of silent fury in her eyes. What had once been a tranquil, relatively crime-free Orang Asli village had now become unsafe. Anyone who can murder a dog in cold blood can easily murder another human being.

The heavenly hologram we live in appears to have been infiltrated by the legions of hell whose headquarters are now located in Putrajaya. Demented sadists and killers abound within the corrupt law enforcement agencies – that much is clear – but to see this emotional plague spread to the fringes of the forest and infect even the Orang Asli is deeply troubling.

Since 1998 the Orang Asli psyche has progressively deteriorated. The older ones with a memory of their ancestors’ teachings have mostly died, leaving a lost generation raised on low-grade TV dramas and subjected to systematic brainwashing through the Jabatan Hal Ehwal Orang Asli which openly espouses Umno’s Us-versus-Them ideology. Being rudely thrust into the cash economy has made the Orang Asli insensitive to their own environment. They not only throw rubbish everywhere like the majority of Malaysian picnickers, but now they, too, have become greedy. Harvesting bamboo for the Chinese towkay is a way to earn more cash – but in recent months the amount of bamboo cut down has increased almost tenfold. The Orang Asli don’t seem to have enough foresight to realize that in four or five years, the riverbanks will erode with so much bamboo being removed so carelessly - and the streams will be badly polluted. This will undoubtedly degrade the entire rainforest ecosystem.

Under the influence of Saruman, the Orang Asli males are visibly transforming into Orcs. The same subhuman species that gravitate towards the police, volunteer militia and armed forces. Devoid of empathy, compensating for their own feelings of emasculation by treating with heartless cruelty anyone or any creature they perceive as weaker than themselves.

Remember Nurin Jazlin Jazimin, the lovely eight-year-old girl who disappeared on the evening of 20 August 2007 after she went downstairs from her apartment to buy something from the night market? Almost a month later her body was discovered in a gym bag outside a shophouse. Nurin had been brutally violated by sexual perverts and murdered. The perpetrators of this hideous violence against a totally powerless child have never been identified and caught.

Nor have the perpetrators of an equally nauseating crime against all sense of decency ever been identified and brought to justice. I refer to those who ordered the abduction, torture, and shooting of Altantuya Shaariibuu, a Mongolian translator who got herself entangled with unsavory characters from the defence ministry over some shady arms deal – topped off by her corpse being blown to smithereens with C4 plastic explosives in the wee hours of 20 October 2006.

And, of course, we haven’t forgotten 22-year-old Kugan Ananthan, arrested because he was reportedly rude to a police officer, accused of being involved in a car theft syndicate, and savagely tortured and beaten to death in a Petaling Jaya police station in early January 2009.

Six months later another young man named Teoh Beng Hock was tortured by Anti-Corruption interrogators, and found dead the next afternoon, having apparently fallen from the 14th floor Selangor headquarters of MACC.

On 26 April 2010, a 14-year-old boy named Aminulrasyid Amzah was shot in the back of his head by policemen on patrol for absolutely no reason at all, apart from the fact that he was speeding and driving without a licence. A few weeks ago, several teenagers were executed in cold blood by the police in an incident shrouded in mystery. The authorities are not at all interested in investigating these cases – only in covering them up and hanging on to power.

The mindless, utterly meaningless murder of my beautiful, brave and beloved Roger Putra has made me feel a deep sense of kinship with the family and friends of all those who have encountered a similarly cruel fate at the hands of the demented, the despairing, the degenerate debris of humanity - many of whom moonlight as public servants, as security guards or soldiers, policemen or even prime ministers' wives.

Who is ultimately responsible for this state of moral degradation?

The King, of course, and all his fellow rulers. When monarchs and icons of leadership fail to uphold equality, integrity and justice – entire nations begin to morally implode and eventually fall into ruin. The Chinese character for king - 王- reveals a great deal about the nature of rulership: the three horizontal strokes represent heaven, humanity and earth, while the vertical stroke which holds the celestial, existential and terrestrial realms together and apart symbolizes the upright, honorable and noble qualities required to maintain balance and harmony on all levels. When the central pillar of justice, compassion and truth is rotten to the core and devoid of courage and integrity, we are faced with inevitable collapse and disaster.

In February 2009 the Sultan of Perak sacrificed honor and justice when he succumbed to greed and connived with Najib to wrest control of the state government from the popularly elected chief minister, Nizar Jamaluddin. Two months later, the Yang Di Pertuan Agong acceded to the official installation of Najib as crime minister, knowing full well that here was a man indifferent to all notions of integrity, burdened with a long history of corrupt practice and profligacy, and ineluctably linked to a high-profile murder. The King failed to heed the warning signs – a petition bearing thousands of signatures had been sent to 141 members of parliament urging them not to endorse the appointment of such a morally tainted figure to the nation’s highest office. Especially one not even popularly elected to the post but pushed up the ranks by political manipulators.

Only a complete idiot or outright villain would plead ignorance in such a matter of national importance. In less than two years of Najib and Rosmah’s enthronement in Putrajaya we have seen the negative outcome of this ill-fated endorsement and exaltation of moral putrefaction. The spiritual cancer has spread fast and not even the rural psyche has been spared.

Since 3 April 2009, evil has permeated like an obstinate infestation of ticks every nook and cranny, every dark crevice across this once fair land. Most people I meet seem to be in despair. The pernicious poison the Wicked Queen of Putrajaya has injected like a black widow spider into the collective psyche has precisely that effect – it demoralizes, enfeebles, and paralyzes.

What is the antidote?

Courage, perseverance and clarity of purpose. The black widow’s venom works fast and will weaken even a healthy body - but it cannot kill and wears off within hours. So, people, despair not. Now is the time to renew your resolve and upgrade your operational software – reassess your life priorities and ennoble yourself rather than succumb to the cowardice of pragmatism. Embody your own ideals and hold your head up high as you make your way through the stench of entrenched and institutionalized corruption. Quit being petty and unnecessarily quarrelsome, especially with your allies and comrades-in-arms. The Mother of All Battles draws near – not only for us in Malaysia but across the political spectrum of planet Earth. The old cycle is over and a new one is ready to emerge, never doubt this.

Roger Putra was the embodiment of joy for me. You have murdered only the embodiment – but not the joy itself. Roger’s spirit will be appeased when those who embody deceit, greed and hypocrisy are finally banished from the realm, hanging their heads in shame and endless regret. That day is not very far off. Be it so.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Fuck Yourself ~ A birthday tribute to Zappa


A composer is a guy who goes around forcing his will on unsuspecting air molecules, often with the assistance of unsuspecting musicians.

All the good music has already been written by people with wigs and stuff.

Art is making something out of nothing and selling it.

I never set out to be weird. It was always other people who called me weird.

If you want to get laid, go to college. If you want an education, go to the library.

It isn't necessary to imagine the world ending in fire or ice. There are two other possibilities: one is paperwork, and the other is nostalgia.

Most people wouldn't know music if it came up and bit them on the ass.

Most rock journalism is people who can't write, interviewing people who can't talk, for people who can't read.

Music is always a commentary on society.

Music, in performance, is a type of sculpture. The air in the performance is sculpted into something.

One of my favorite philosophical tenets is that people will agree with you only if they already agree with you. You do not change people's minds.

Politics is the entertainment branch of industry.

Some scientists claim that hydrogen, because it is so plentiful, is the basic building block of the universe. I dispute that. I say there is more stupidity than hydrogen, and that is the basic building block of the universe.

The computer can't tell you the emotional story. It can give you the exact mathematical design, but what's missing is the eyebrows.

The United States is a nation of laws: badly written and randomly enforced.

Without deviation progress is not possible.

Without music to decorate it, time is just a bunch of boring production deadlines or dates by which bills must be paid.

You can't always write a chord ugly enough to say what you want to say, so sometimes you have to rely on a giraffe filled with whipped cream.

You can't be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline. It helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer.

FRANK ZAPPA (21 December 1940 - 4 December 1993) was a massive influence on me. I first heard about Zappa and his band at the time, The Mothers of Invention, in 1967 when I spent a year in New Jersey as an exchange student. In 1968, shortly before I returned to Malaysia, I attended a Zappa concert at Billy Graham's Fillmore East in New York City, and had the singular honor of shaking Frank Zappa's hand and chatting with him for about 3 minutes. I also nodded at Jimmy Carl Black ("the Indian of the group") and crossed the street with Ian Underwood (keyboardist with the Mothers) to buy a few beers. We had a nice little chat, though I can't remember what about.

Before he excused himself to pack his gear, Frank presented me with a chocolate teardrop wrapped in foil. I ate it on the latenight bus heading home - and have never been the same. I realized, over subsequent years, that I had encountered one of the Most Intelligent Humans on Earth. Forty-two years after that initial meeting in New York, that still remains true for me. Thank you, Frank. You live on in my heart and in my neural circuitry.

P.S. Upon my return from the US, I actually wrote several letters to Zappa. Imagine my joy and delight when an envelope arrived on 29 April 1977 bearing Frank Zappa's personal logo. Frank would have been 70 today. I'm sure he won't mind my sharing this letter with you ;-)...

Would you believe I have been meaning to answer your letter since I first received it and just now got around to doing it? Well, you'd better ... anyway, yours was perhaps the most interesting piece of correspondence of the year (was it two or three years ago?)

Who are you? What the fuck are you doing over there? Why are you "almost Chinese"?

Hope to hear from you again.

Your friend,
Frank Zappa

P.S. The photo with the simulated green complexion was most amusing.

Monday, December 20, 2010

1Choice for Malaysia ~ by Mariam Mokhtar

Another punchy piece from Mariam Mokhtar I read on Malaysiakini today. I'm cloning it as a community service to those who can't or won't subscribe. Sorry, Malaysiakini. This is for the national good! :-)

Malaysia's upcoming general election offers the country its most significant choice for several decades.

The political tsunami of 2008 was an eye-opener. At the second Pakatan Rakyat convention in Kepala Batas, PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang acknowledged the weaknesses in the opposition pact and urged party member to unite and remain focused.

The nation faces enormous challenges in the years to come. The economic demands are tremendous. The next government needs to stabilise the economy and stimulate growth in the private sector. It has to deal with its burgeoning debt, cut subsidies and rein in borrowings if it does not want to risk bankruptcy.

Our probems are not just economic. We are faced with a rising tide of extremism from Malay groups, borders which are porous, a rise in Islamic fundamentalism, a rise in racist incidents, problems in our schools and hospitals, the destruction of the police and judiciary, babies being abandoned, high levels of corruption and a weakening of civic society.

These problems demand a robust solution and a strong government to tackle them. The burning question is: Which party is best suited to lead us out of this quagmire?

PKR recently held elections, whilst BN and the other component parties have deferred theirs. DAP and Gerakan have followed suit. This is indicative of the pressures these political parties face. All want to mount a strong challenge when the country goes to the polls.

The parties have resolved to capture the imagination of the voters and the differences between them are obvious. BN believes that only it can solve the country's economic and social ills. Its slogan 1Malaysia remains just that - a slogan because in practice, certain races are held back by an invisible wall - the ketuanan Melayu (Malay supremacy) concept.

In contrast, the Pakatan coalition believes that it can do a better job. It realises that the public mindset is changing. Race-based politics is a thing of the past. It is convinced that Malaysia is an increasing enlightened nation which believes in justice, the recognition of the rights of everyone regardless of race and that each Malaysian desires to be a part of the nation and be able to contribute towards its future.

The future of Malaysia, according to the BN administration, is to capitalise on mega-projects to boost the economy, just as during the Mahathir era.

In his Budget 2011 debate, Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim said the BN's obsession with “grandeur” will presage its fall.

He said: “This rush for symbolic mega-projects, supposedly to portray pride for the country, is being repeated now under the present prime minister. Here I would like to question the wisdom of Permodalan Nasional Bhd's order from the government to involve itself in mega projects.”

One of these is the 100-storey Warisan Merdeka skyscraper which is expected to cost over RM5 billion. When completed, it will be the tallest building in Malaysia.

Risky strategy

PM Najib Abdul Razak's plans for mega-projects to stimulate the economy is risky as it fails to consider the country's current economic standing and the need to lower the budget deficit and improve competitiveness.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Idris Jala has said that Malaysia's debt would rise to 100 percent of GDP by 2019 from the current 54% if the government does not cut subsidies.

He said: “We do not want to be another Greece. We do not want to end up like Greece with a total debt of EUR300 billion. Our deficit rose to record high of RM47 billion last year.”

Malaysia's foreign direct investment (FDI), he said, dropped 81 per cent from RM23.47 billion in 2008 to RM4.43 billion in 2009, in comparison with Thailand which recorded an FDI of RM19.01 billion and Indonesia with RM19.08 billion.

Pakatan has warned of an economic crisis due to crony capitalism and corruption; a social crisis due to narrow racial policies; and a political crisis due to democratic fatigue arising from the BN's abuses of power.

Corrupt practices only bring benefits to cronies and hefty losses to the people. Malaysia's failure to attract foreign investment shows a desperate need for change in the management of the economy. Both good governance and a need to improve its competitive edge are vital.

Pakatan has decided to uphold a joint policy and welfare programme to defend the people based on four basic principles:

* A transparent and real democracy
* A high and stable economic performance
* Social justice and human development
* A close relationship between state-federal and international policies

Armed with these principles, Pakatan is determined to make Malaysia a better place. The three parties may have their roots in different ideologies – PAS (Islamic credentials), DAP (social ideology) and PKR (liberal ideals).

Perhaps you would prefer to have a government which relies on the Internal Security Act to stifle criticism, one in which corruption goes unchecked and where the judiciary and police are mere stooges of the state.

In order to make the necessary changes to this country, Anwar and his coalition must have a clear mandate to govern.

The best choice for Malaysia is in your hands. Vote wisely! May all your wishes come true - Happy Christmas!

MARIAM MOKHTAR is a non-conformist traditionalist from Perak, a bucket chemist and an armchair eco-warrior. In 'real-speak', this translates into that she comes from Ipoh, values change but respects culture, is a petroleum chemist and also an environmental pollution-control scientist.

Herbie Hancock's Imagine Project

Crank up the volume, folks!

Tomorrow Never Knows

Turn off your mind, relax
and float downstream
It is not dying
It is not dying

Lay down all thought
Surrender to the void
It is shining
It is shining

That you may see
The meaning of within
It is being
It is being

That love is all
And love is everyone
It is knowing
It is knowing

That ignorance and hate
May mourn the dead
It is believing
It is believing

But listen to the
color of your dreams
It is not living
It is not living

Or play the game
existence to the end
Of the beginning
Of the beginning
Of the beginning
Of the beginning
Of the beginning
Of the beginning

Inspired arrangements of two outstanding John Lennon songs by Herbie Hancock, whose Imagine Project was brought to my attention by Heiko Niedermeyer. Thanks, soulbro!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Dictators love nuclear power

[A cogent and well-written essay by An Engineer from The Malaysian Insider, 19 December 2010]

DEC 19 — I am not at all surprised that the Barisan Nasional government has decided to build a nuclear power plant. After all, despite what environmentalists might like to think, the primary case against nuclear power has always been its economics.

When you take into account the lifecycle cost of nuclear power — from feasibility to construction to operation and, finally, decommissioning — it is the most expensive conventional method of producing electricity.

Add to that the inherent risks of nuclear reactors, plus the still unresolved question of what to do with spent fuel, and it is no surprise that the nuclear power industry has seen some very tough times in the past three decades.

Over the past few years, however, high prices of oil, gas and coal, coupled with concerns with carbon dioxide and global warming, have given nuclear advocates a new lease of life. Under current conditions, provided we are prepared to ignore the safety and environmental contamination issues, it is possible to make a conceivable economic argument for nuclear power.

Nuclear power requires tremendous up-front investment followed by relatively low operating costs. Thus all you have to do is assume an unrealistically low interest rate and continually high prices for fossil fuels. Project these assumptions over decades and you can show that nuclear energy is less expensive than using fossil fuels. However, you must carefully avoid all comparisons of nuclear with renewable energy — hydro, wind, solar and biomass — which are undoubtedly superior in terms of economics, safety and environmental protection.

Paradoxically, the characteristics of nuclear power so feared by its critics — enormous capital cost, open-ended escalation clauses and the oligopolistic nature of the industry — makes it a very attractive proposition for corrupt practices, provided you can ride roughshod over the opposition. This is exactly what happened in the Philippines, more than three decades ago.

Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP)

The story of BNPP, Southeast Asia’s first and only nuclear power plant, illustrates some of the points above perfectly. In 1971, Ferdinand Marcos decided to build a nuclear power plant for the Philippines. However, at that time he was still the democratically-elected president and was unable to convince his people of the need to go nuclear.

By 1973, conditions were in place for him to push through his choice. The opposition had been eliminated by his declaration of martial law in 1972 and the quadrupling of oil prices because of the Arab oil embargo during the Yom Kippur war of 1973, made nuclear easier to sell to the public.

The tragic tale of BNPP has been carefully and comprehensively documented by the conservative business magazine, Fortune, in a remarkable 1986 article entitled “The $2.2 billion Nuclear Fiasco.” Initially Marcos delegated the responsibility for the plant to the National Power Co, the government-owned electric utility, which began negotiating for the supply of two 600MW nuclear plants from General Electric. By 1974 negotiations were more or less complete, with GE offering to supply two 620 megawatt reactors for US$650 million (RM2 billion at prevailing rates).

Westinghouse was late to the game and decided to leapfrog GE by dealing personally with Marcos. Westinghouse appointed Herminio Disini, a golfing buddy of Marcos whose wife was a cousin of Imelda Marcos, as its agent and he was able to arrange for the latecomer to present its pitch directly to Marcos and his cabinet at Malacanang Palace. After the meeting Marcos directed National Power to stop negotiating with GE and deal only with Westinghouse.

In 1976, after many rounds of fruitless negotiations and interference from Marcos, National Power announced that Westinghouse would build the BNPP, with one 626MW reactor, for US$722 million. The intervention of Marcos meant that the Philippine people had to pay a higher price for half the power! In addition, Disini, although he had no prior experience in construction, formed a new company which was awarded major BNPP subcontracts by Westinghouse.

Volcano and earthquake zone

Although the site was contentious, work began quickly, even before seismic and other on-site tests by the government regulator, the Philippines Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC), were completed. Just 100km from Manila, BNPP sits on Mount Natib, a dormant volcano and within 40km of three geologic faults.

Alarmed by these facts PAEC called the International Atomic Energy Commission (IAEA) for help. In 1978, two years after construction had commenced, the IAEA concluded that the volcanic and earthquake risks were “improperly addressed” and recommended that construction be stopped until more tests were done.

The PAEC chairman, Librado Ibe, was under tremendous pressure to ignore the IAEA report and issue a construction permit for work on the reactor itself to commence. Unable to resist any further, Ibe signed the permit in April 1979 and, four days later, emigrated with his family to the United States. Ibe explained to Fortune Magazine that he felt it was unsafe to resist Marcos’s lieutenants any longer.

A few months later Marcos himself halted construction because Filipino opposition to BNPP has grown substantially after the Three Mile Island accident in Pennsylvania, US. Marcos appointed a new ad hoc commission to study the plant and they concluded that it was unsafe and would have to be modified to meet new US safety standards.

After two further years of haggling, Westinghouse agreed to upgrade the design, at an additional cost of US$700 million. By then the total cost of BNPP had risen to USD$1.8 billion.

Westinghouse rushed to complete BNPP amid growing opposition from Filipino activists. Construction was completed in January 1985 and BNPP was handed over to National Power. Westinghouse collected its money and the last construction worker left in May 1985.

Not a single watt

However, the plant was in no state to be fuelled. Inspections found more than 4,000 faults arising from poor quality control by the main sub-contractors, Disini’s company, and another controlled by a brother of Imelda Marcos. The main problems were attributed to poor welding, faulty pipe support brackets, substandard valve installations and leaking underground conduits and vaults.

In 1986, Marcos was overthrown in the People Power Revolution. Marcos and his family fled to Hawaii while Disini bolted to his villa in Vienna, where he apparently still stays.

Subsequent investigations by Corazon Aquino’s government found evidence of massive commissions paid by Westinghouse to Disini, which he shared with Marcos. The new government attempted to sue Westinghouse for corruption and restitution for faulty construction. In 1996 Westinghouse agreed to pay the Philippines government US$100 million in an out-of-court settlement.

Further studies have indicated it would cost an additional US$1 billion to correct all the defects in design and construction. Rather than throw good money after bad, the Philippines government decided to mothball the plant.

BNPP has been scrupulously maintained for more than 25 years, costing millions of dollars per year. It has not produced a single watt of electricity. The final price rose to US$2.2 billion, three times higher than the original estimate, and the final instalment was paid by the Filipino people in 2007, thirty-two years after construction commenced.