Thursday, May 1, 2014

Living on Fresh Air, Sunshine & Love (revisited)

As the year 2007 rolls to a bumpy conclusion I can't help but reflect on the events that have impacted on my attention over the preceding 13 moons. Since news first broke of the macabre murder of the pretty Mongolian woman, Altantuya Shaariibuu, the national karma appears to have taken a dramatic dip into a deeper darkness, precipitating a groundswell of discontent and dissatisfaction with the BN government - which has been responsible for governing this country since 1957.

When times were good many turned a blind eye to the clear signs of misgovernance witnessed during Mahathir's 22-year reign as prime minister and president of Umno. While those who ought to know better commended him for his Vision 2020, I found myself diametrically opposed to Dr M's worldview and values. I saw my fellow Malaysians systematically seduced by the promise of western-style industrialization and consumerism ("Look East," Dr M exhorted us, conveniently forgetting that if you look far enough east you'll eventually find yourself looking up your own rear end).

I was totally opposed to his policy of "development" at the expense of our natural heritage and humanitarian qualities. Even as Malaysians became more engrossed with the trappings of material "success" they began to lose sight of humbler virtues. In a community of crooks, liars and hypocrites, an honest soul quickly gets left behind as one unfit to survive - such was the Zeitgeist of Dr M's Neo-Darwinian Malaysia.

We get the leaders we deserve, they say, and the truth of that seems to have been borne out by the disappointing results of the 1999 general election when BN managed to retain its two-thirds majority - despite its brutal, malicious and vindictive handling of Anwar Ibrahim's sacking and the massive Reformasi Movement that it triggered. The shameful manner in which the Anwar Ibrahim trial was misconducted made it crystal clear that the Malaysian Judiciary was abjectly beholden to the Executive - and that this had been so since the inauspicious and unceremonious sacking of Lord President Salleh Abas in 1988.

And yet the people voted BN back into power in 1999. In fact, it's common knowledge that Anwar Ibrahim wasn't very popular with the Chinese business community - and the Indian voter is easily swayed by anyone who appears to be a strongman - in this instance, Samy Vellu had proven his mettle as a vicious streetfighter over a very long career in the politics of pragmatism. Well, in retrospect, Malaysia would have done well to enter the new millennium on a clean political slate. Instead, the unresolved issues of the previous century continue to plague our overfed bureaucracy.

However, it's never too late for change. And going by the renewed resolve of many young Malaysians to continue pressing for a clean-up of the electoral and judicial machinery - without which no other reforms can be successfully implemented - I'm optimistic that a New Dawn is in the offing. Meanwhile, it's extremely depleting and depressing to keep harping on the obscene excesses and the insufferable arrogance of BN politicians. Besides, a few of my fellow Malaysian bloggers have already cornered the market on political scandal. And so I shall change subject completely and share with you a few images that bring genuine joy and a sense of celebration to my heart.


Emma (14) and Sunshine (13) have been friends since kindergarten days.
Emma happens to be the only daughter of a very dear friend of mine, John Puracal, who was my classmate in 1967 (when I studied at the Muar High School for six months). Sunshine (whose actual name, Hsing Shan, I find impossible to spell or pronounce) is Emma's best buddy. They recently celebrated the tenth anniversary of their friendship at Magick River. They both passionately love the river and whenever Emma returns from Perth where she's enrolled in high school, she insists that her dad chauffeur them to visit their Uncle Antares.

My favorite bathing beauties in all the world!
I remember the first time Emma and Sunshine showed up at Magick River. Emma was initially apprehensive about playing in the strong currents and felt impeded by her spectacles - without them she was extremely insecure, and with them on she was constantly afraid the river might steal them. Sunshine was the complete opposite. Without a moment's hesitation she followed my example and jumped 15 feet into the Baby Fall (wonderful fun once you've overcome your fear, but for those who haven't, the prospect is nothing short of terrifying). I was so impressed with Sunshine's wild spirit and her natural ease in the water I immediately adopted her as my goddaughter.

The wetter the better!
With each river visit Emma began to release her fear. These days she confidently moves around in the water without her glasses - and as a consequence has so much more fun with the natural jacuzzis that abound. Recently she's even begun to leap into the rushing current holding her buddy Sunshine's hand. Believe me, there are few greater pleasures in life than seeing somebody transcend the self-imposed limitations of fear. There's a huge lesson there for all of us: the less fear we carry the more joy we'll feel.

Emma and her Daddy, my ancient classmate John Puracal.
Well, Sunshine called me last week from Bidor, where she's spending the year-end holidays with her aunt and uncle. She tried persuading me to visit her in Bidor - and I certainly would have driven up to see her; but her next SMS informed me that her aunt and uncle said they'd drive her over instead. And I just had a chat with Arif who announced that Emma is due back next week. Now that I know I'll soon be seeing my beloved undines, Emma and Sunshine, all I can ask for is a clear blue sky when they're here :-)

My golden boy, Mr Wong Beng Oi, loves Emma and Sunshine too.
[Happy photos by Antares; the rest pinched from various internet sources. First posted 6 December 2007]

Monday, April 28, 2014

Do we really want to march to Putrajaya? (revisited)

Heart-shaped cloud over Putrajaya. Was it Photoshopped? (Pic by Saeed Salem)

I've been to Putrajaya a total of three times. The first time out of sheer diabolical curiosity. I was on the highway and spotted the Putrajaya exit; decided to make a brief detour just to see for myself what the hoo-ha was about. I parked in front of the PM's office and noticed the Egyptian-style obelisk outside his window. I couldn't believe the rococo lampposts and idly wondered how many there were and how much each cost (after mark-up).

The place was utterly soulless. A monumentally overpriced concrete fa├žade. Like a colossal movie set for very boring and unimaginative epics involving millions of demure concubines and uncomplaining slaves. Only an evil emperor with massive delusions of grandeur (or terminal ego insecurity) could have conceived such an anachronistic monstrosity - and the man who launched the Putrajaya project was indeed an evil emperor wannabe, albeit of pathetically mediocre caliber. Unsurprisingly he left us with a cumbersome and morally diseased mediocracy to dismantle.

The second visit was with my ethnic fusion group Akar Umbi. We were invited for a gig in Putrajaya in conjunction with something or other. We even overnighted in a local hotel there. Luckily, the presence of giggling Orang Asli neutralized the robot city vibes of Putrajaya. It wasn't too bad an experience and we even got paid for our efforts.

Four years ago I went to Putrajaya to assist my friends with their application for a visa extension. Our visit to the Immigration Department turned out to be rather surreal and decidedly unpleasant. My friends were only given two weeks when they re-entered Malaysia after a trip to Singapore. However, the immigration officer at Tuas reassured them they could apply for an extension at the nearest immigration office and led them to believe it was a routine procedure.

Well, it was hardly routine. We were made to wait nearly 5 hours, only to be told the application for an extension was rejected. No reason given. But judging by the smug unfriendly tone in which the betempurunged and betudunged immigration officer pronounced that my friends had to leave the country, it was only too clear that our immigration policy discriminates against citizens of certain countries, in this case, China. If we had been treated with courtesy and not made to wait fruitlessly for hours, not getting an extension would have been much easier to accept.

The cold unhelpful treatment we received at the Jabatan Imigresen in Putrajaya merely confirmed what all of us have known all along: that BN slogans like "Performance Now" and "People First" are just a huge load of Najis (absolute crap, for the uninitiated).

Ironically, my friends had been seriously considering investing in Malaysia and making it their second home. Now I'm not so sure they would want to live in a such a rabidly and crudely racist country - even though all the Malaysians they have encountered - outside Putrajaya - have been very friendly and hospitable.

This foul-tasting encounter with post-Mahathir bureaucracy has prompted me to question the wisdom of wanting to take over Putrajaya - an architectural abomination which carries the reek of an accursed kingdom, something only a reptilian warlord like Sauron could relish.

Every structure in Putrajaya is designed to dwarf and diminish the common man and exalt the abstract notion of financial and political clout. It flatters the megalomaniacal ego and sneers at the whole idea of the soul. The architecture of Putrajaya insults all notions of human warmth and peremptorily dismisses the idea of democracy. Instead, we are browbeaten into submission to whomsoever operates the machinery of government from within those imposing stone fortresses.

If Pakatan Rakyat succeeds against all odds at vanquishing the Barisan Najis, the new federal government ought to seriously reconsider moving into Putrajaya. I'm convinced that just occupying those cold unfeeling premises will swiftly turn the newly elected government into an ugly replica of the old guard. Very bad fengshui, in other words.

Hard to imagine putting on the clothes of a moral leper - and not getting infected almost immediately.

Putrajaya is the concrete and glass manifestation of Mahathir's megalomania - which is really no different than that of Josef Stalin, Adolf Hitler or Benito Mussolini. In an earlier age, Mahathir could have been Atilla the Hun or Genghis Khan. These would-be world-conquerors are essentially cut from the same crude cloth. They have no time for the simple and the wholesome. They curl their lips and snarl in contempt at those who show compassion, forgiveness and mercy. They are prepared to do whatever it takes to seize earthly power and hold on to it with a vice-like grip. Their egos crave abject adoration from their disciples and followers - a sure sign that these personality types are descended from fallen angels and false gods.

Only false gods enjoy being feared by those who worship and unquestioningly serve them. The corrupt Umno priesthood established by Mahathir to serve his unholy ambition are the ones who typically work in ideological think-tanks and indoctrination agencies like Biro Tatanegara (National Civics Bureau). Just as Hitler's Third Reich was founded on a perverted sense of racial pride and prejudice, Mahathir built on Abdul Razak Hussein's Ketuanan Melayu agenda and infected two generations of Umno Malays with the dangerously divisive notion of racial supremacy.

Imitation of false gods is what prompts potentates to construct monuments and palaces to their own vainglory. In Malay the word raja (king) constitutes the root of the word for government - kerajaan. This suggests that government officials represent the rulers.

Instead of serving the public, the bureaucracy believes its primary purpose is to serve the symbols of Malay power, the sultans. That's only in theory, of course. In practice, most bureaucrats are programmed to serve their political masters, while helping themselves to the goodies at every opportunity. The upshot of this unhealthy practice is that we invariably end up with a tin can of overfed maggots in public office and greedy, grasping, dragons of debauchery in the palaces.

Which means the common people, the rakyat, don't really feature at all in the power equation - except as a source of revenue and labor. This may have been the prevailing pattern in which power has been misused for millennia - but this sort of top-down hierarchy is no longer viable and should have become extinct along with the belief that the Earth is flat.

Oppressive and authoritarian misrule is the primary cause of mediocrity. The docile, obedient, unimaginative and uncreative get promoted to positions of authority while "cultural creatives" - the innovators, mavericks and real talents - get sidelined or persecuted till they go into voluntary exile.

I hope the next government of Malaysia takes very careful note.

[First published 23 November 2010]