Saturday, June 9, 2018


During the months leading up to Malaysia’s 14th General Election, I was often asked, “Who do you think will win, what’s going to happen?”

My response would be: “Anything is possible these days. I’m not a prophet.” Sometimes I would add: “If BN remains in power, your children will probably have to migrate. Najib will see to it that all opposition is systematically eliminated. Guan Eng will be found guilty and sent to jail, along with Rafizi, Tony Pua, and anyone who poses a threat or even asks too many questions. Kit Siang they will probably not dare imprison, but they might find a way to accelerate Mahathir’s demise. Najib and Rosmah have committed too many crimes to take any more chances, so this could be the final election.”

I felt, on the whole, emotionally disengaged from the political drama. I continued to monitor developments via online news portals (haven’t been subscribed to newspapers since the late 1980s or early 1990s) and was dumbfounded whenever I saw Najib’s paid apologists attempt to blinker voters to the serious damage his rogue regime had inflicted on the rule of law and all decent values. How could anyone possibly take on such a hideous task as to serve as a professional wormtongue to such a debauched, degenerate kakistocracy? Surely it can’t just be for the money, these people must be morally (or amorally) aligned with the power elite. They must all be suffering from Terminal Cynicitis with their unshakeable faith in Might as Right.

May 9th, 2018, was like any other day for me. I got out of bed in the late morning as usual, ignoring politicians’ pleas for voters to get to the polling stations early. Had a leisurely brunch then drove 13 minutes to the secondary school where I was registered to vote. It was a sunny blue-sky day and I felt totally at peace within and without. When I got to the polling station, there was hardly a crowd and  and when I entered the classroom for my voting stream, I was the only voter. I was in and out in less than 3 minutes. On my way out someone wearing an EC pass greeted me – a local guy helping with the logistics. He said something like, “What do you think?” I replied, “Things need to change!” – and he smiled.

When I got back to my car I remembered the BN flag I had impulsively ripped from its pole on my way out of the village. I had tucked it under my seat and wondered what I should do with it. I decided to stop by a public trashcan, stuff the flag inside and snap a photo. Back home I set fire to the BN flag, watching with grim satisfaction the plastic melt into a toxic looking residue. Just casting my one vote for Pakatan Harapan somehow didn’t feel like it was enough, so I was compelled to perform this private ritual and photograph it. Posted both images on my facebook timeline with the caption:

Sometime in the late afternoon, I heard a large tree crashing down in the distance. About an hour later my wife rushed into my study and broke the news that somebody had died. She was rather incoherent so I went out and checked with our neighbor Nuak from whom Anoora gets all the local gossip. “Anoora says there’s been a death in the village, what happened?” Nuak said it was Ali Juhri, the Indonesian contractor married to a local who lived up the hill. Apparently, the tree I had heard falling had killed him.

Amidst the excitement of Election Day, the freak accident that killed Ali didn’t fully register. I decided to go to his house and ascertain what had befallen him. As I approached the steep road leading to Ali’s house, I found the road blocked by police cars and an ambulance. Half the village was gathered there, including the Batin (headman). I recognized the ambulance attendant as the same guy who had removed the stitches from my son’s surgery wound last year. We had a chat and he told me Ali had recently bought a chainsaw and decided he would cut down a big tree and get some timber to build something around his huge compound. Too bad he ran in the wrong direction as the tree came tumbling to the ground and got pinned underneath. They were waiting for the police forensics team to arrive and photograph the body in situ before removing it. Not much I could do except go home and monitor the election results as they came trickling in.

Ali’s dramatic demise somehow felt like an omen. I had heard from another Indonesian guy married to a villager that Ali Juhri had been a covert agent of Jakim (the Islamic Missionary Institute), working through Jakoa (the Orang Asli Development Agency) who had over the years helped to recruit converts for which he was financially rewarded and given many perks. Since 2010 there had been a record number of Temuan converts to Islam. It was quite a contrast to see village kids gleefully frolicking naked in the river one day and demurely covered up the next on their way home from school.

These were some of the disturbing signs of an insidious psychic and cultural colonization of the down-to-earth indigenous soul that has been the primary focus of the Barisan Nasional government since the 1990s. In the words of an academic dissertation by Alice Nah published several years ago, the Umno-led government felt compelled to systematically assimilate all indigenous pagan tribes into mainstream Malay-Muslim culture, in order to legitimize their own spurious claim to indigeneity, at the same time reinforcing their demographic and political dominance.

On a macro scale this is pretty much what befell Barisan Nasional in the wee hours of May 10th as it became clear that their 61 years of political hegemony had finally ended. The very earth had cracked open and swallowed them up. Or, to return to my earlier metaphor, the monolithic tower they had erected to aggrandize and gratify their own inflated egos (not to mention their atavistic robber-baron ids) had collapsed on them, crushing their megalomaniacal dreams of Heute die Welt, morgens das Sonnensystem ("Today the world, tomorrow the solar system!").

[To be continued...]