Saturday, October 19, 2019


COMMENT This is the first time in 38 years I have actually found myself in agreement with (former) prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his recent, although rather belated, queries in respect of the Altantuya Shaariibuu murder saga.

These questions make sense. These are the same questions a very large portion of the Malaysian population has been asking for over eight years now.

Khalid Abu Bakar (right), our beloved (former) inspector-general of police (IGP), has in the meantime, been performing backward somersaults trying to avoid the entire issue and instead, appears to have dedicated his entire career to tracking Twitter messages on social media.

'Twitter Khalid' has even had the audacity to threaten (which he is very good at) anyone who dares to bring up the issue of 'motive' in the grisly murder of an innocent female foreign national at the hands of two of Malaysia's best trained commandos.

The excuse Khalid has given is that the Federal Court has made a decision and any questioning of the reasons behind that decision would be tantamount to contempt of court.

What Khalid has failed miserably to appreciate is the fact that no one is 'questioning' that decision. Everyone agrees the decision is correct.

However, it is the question of motive which has never been addressed in any of the three courts this murder trial has progressed through. In fact, evidence in respect of motive was never tendered by the prosecution.

Therefore, as far as I (and Mahathir) are concerned, it is still open season on motive.

So instead of terrorising twitterers, perhaps Khalid may see fit to revisit this issue with a little more fervour than he has shown in the past.

Despite the press releases being launched from the IGP's office, none of them detract from the fact that convicted murderer Sirul Azhar Umar has categorically said no officer from the Polis Di-Raja Malaysia (PDRM) has visited him in Sydney to interview him.

If Khalid disputes this, all he has to do is release the names of those officers who ostensibly attended to Sirul (left) and the exact date and time they clocked in with the detention centre authorities. Inspector Tonny Luggan (the investigating officer in Altantuya's case) says he was not sent to see Sirul in Sydney, so who was?

Khalid is also reported to have said that "Sirul's remark showed the fugitive was doing his utmost to bring disrepute and cast doubt over the investigations into the murder case, his involvement and the criminal justice system."

Yes. That is correct, because it is obvious to everyone that your investigations are incomplete.

As the current series of events appear to translate, Sirul is not disputing his involvement in the murder. All he is saying is that others were involved and they haven't been brought to book so why should he take the rap?

One need not have successfully completed an in-depth course in criminal investigation at Pulapol (Malaysian Police Training Centre) to be able to decipher the glaring holes in this entire saga.

A cursory viewing of a couple of episodes of Miami Vice or CSI New York would suffice in providing a clue as to how the matter ought to have been professionally addressed.

The established facts

Azilah Hadri and Sirul have been convicted of the murder of Altantuya by the highest court in our land. This has therefore been proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

Azilah Hadri
In the circumstances, there can be no question that these two gentlemen were in fact responsible for lodging two bullets in this poor lady's head and thereafter detonating some military grade explosives placed on her body causing it to be dissipated in the vicinity of some secondary jungle on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur.

Sirul, who has, rather astutely, sought refuge at the Villawood detention centre on the outskirts of Sydney, has candidly admitted he was acting under orders and that he has been made a scapegoat for others who had not been brought to court.

In other words, he has tacitly admitted to the crime and confirmed that there may have been others behind it.

The question is why would Sirul and Azilah (right) have done this for no apparent reason? The courts have been interested only in whether an offence of murder had been committed and not why it was committed.

The prosecution failed to seek or put forth an explanation.

This is really the question which the IGP can provide an answer to if he is so inclined. He certainly has the resources. As long as he possesses the will, he most certainly will find the way.

Khalid, for goodness sake, please, just do your job. At the moment the general public perceive inactivity on your part as yet another ubiquitous and notorious Malaysian cover-up.

May I suggest you simply haul up the following characters and ask them these simple questions:

Azilah - Why did you and Sirul kill someone you didn't even know?

DSP Musa Safri (left) (then aide de camp DPM Najib Razak) - What exactly did you tell Sirul and Azilah to do to that poor Mongolian lady and who exactly asked you to engage their services?

Nasir Safar (Najib’s special officer) - What were you doing driving around in front of Abdul Razak Baginda's house on the evening of Oct 19, 2006, watching Azilah and Sirul abduct Altantuya?

PM Najib - Did you know that four of your staff were involved in this? If so, then why were they?

Deepak Jaikishan (businessman with close ties to Najib’s wife, Rosmah Mansor - Who asked you to shut private eye P Balasubramaniam up and get him and his family out of Malaysia immediately after he released SD1 (first statutory declaration)? (This should be easy as Deepak has already confessed to all of this).

Rosmah - Was it you? If not, then who?

Johari Razak (Najib’s younger brother) - Did you telephone senior lawyer Cecil Abraham on the evening of July 3, 2008 and ask him to prepare SD2 for Balasubramaniam to sign? If so why, and on whose behalf?

Cecil - Did you receive a telephone call from Johari Razak on July 3, 2008 to prepare SD2? If so, did you?

Sunil Abraham (Cecil’s son, who is also a lawyer) - Did you or did you not, assist your father in preparing SD2 and did you then personally deliver it to the Hilton Hotel, KL Sentral on the morning of July 4, 2008?

Zainal Abidin Muhayat - Were you a commissioner for oaths in 2008 and did you have your office at Zul Rafique and Partners, Lorong P Ramlee, Kuala Lumpur? If so, who sent you to the Hilton Hotel, KL Sentral on July 4, 2008 to attest the signature of one Balasubramaniam on SD2?

Nazim Razak (another brother of Najib) - Were you and your wife at the Curve, Mutiara Damansara late in the night of July 3, 2008? If so did you meet one Balasubramaniam (right) next to the VW showroom?

And if so, did you or did you not, threaten Balasubramaniam to follow the instructions of one Deepak Jaikishan and leave the country with his family immediately, otherwise his family's safety could not be guaranteed?

Najib - Did you instruct Johari and Nazim to arrange, respectively, for SD2 to be prepared and Balasubramaniam's subsequent departure from Malaysia? If so, why was that necessary?

Hamzah Zainuddin (Umno MP for Larut) - Did you, in 2011, offer Balasubramaniam safe passage back to this country and a cash inducement if he pleaded guilty to affirming a false statutory declaration (SD1). If so, why and on behalf of whom?

Khalid, may I also suggest that you contact a senior investigation officer from the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) by the name of Abdul Rahman Bachok. He is a very diligent officer and has the entire file on investigations into the circumstances under which Balasubramaniam affirmed SD2. I am sure he will lend you his file and assist you in any way he can.

I believe he is a little annoyed that his file has been closed by the Attorney-General's Chambers. He had put a lot of effort into his investigations.

You may also care to contact the Brickfields police station and ask them why they have not followed up on the police report I lodged on July 8, 2008 in respect of Balasubramaniam's disappearance. I have sent them reminders but there has been no response.

All the above 'persons of interest' and their answers to the questions posed may possibly assist in revealing a motive for the crime. Is there any reason why you, Mr IGP would be disinclined to pursue the matter further and if so what are those reasons?

AMERICK SIDHU is a senior lawyer and counsel for late P Balasubramaniam and his widow, A Santamil Selvi. Reproduced courtesy of Malaysiakini.

[First posted 6 April 2015]

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Meditation on the Muse (revisited)

Van Gogh painting stolen in Cairo: [22 Aug 2010] A Van Gogh painting worth an estimated $55 million was stolen from a Cairo museum yesterday and after reporting it had been recovered, the state news agency quoted a minister as saying it was still missing.

VINCENT VAN GOGH (1853-1890): During his brief career he managed to sell one painting (to his younger brother Théo, an art dealer). Van Gogh's finest works were produced in less than three years in a technique that grew more and more impassioned in brushstroke, in symbolic and intense color, in surface tension, and in the movement and vibration of form and line. Van Gogh's inimitable fusion of form and content is powerful; dramatic, lyrically rhythmic, imaginative, and emotional, for the artist was completely absorbed in the effort to explain either his struggle against madness or his comprehension of the spiritual essence of man and nature. [Source: The Van Gogh Gallery]
If you happen to be involved in the arts, you'd probably be familiar with some of the downsides of being a producer rather than a consumer of artifacts.

No matter how shy you may be - and whether you're a visual artist, dancer, photographer, writer or musician - there comes a point when you have to present your efforts to an audience. That's when every self-doubt you've ever encountered (and thought you had overcome) returns to haunt your waking hours.

Many of my painter friends are extremely reclusive by nature and recoil at the thought of being in the limelight. Yet they realize they eventually have to make their private obsessions public and exhibit their work. After the invitations to the opening have been posted, there's the nagging anxiety that only a handful will bother showing up - or that the usual incestuous clique will turn up for the free wine, stand around "networking" amongst themselves, and then adjourn for dinner somewhere chic after a cursory, non-commital glance at the work you sweated for months to produce. And, of course, there's always the scary thought that your exhibition may finish its run without a single piece being bought.

Lying in a hospital bed at the start of 2010, I had a flash of inspiration. Rather than wait till some miraculous windfall dropped a huge amount of money in my lap, enabling me to produce a 7-CD boxed edition of my music archive, I would reissue my 1986 second solo album as a stand-alone CD and flog it on my blog!

It would be a relatively painless exercise, requiring only minimal physical exertion on my part (meaning, no more than 3 or 4 trips to KL). The music had already been painstakingly digitized by Daniel Tang of AddAudio from 27-year-old open-reel masters and required only minimal tweaking by my audio wizard friend in Koh Phangan. I could scan the original cassette cover and program notes and resize it for the CD package. No problem persuading a few hundred curious souls to order the CD by post, I figured, so long as it was reasonably priced. And that should cover production costs, with enough profit to pay for services rendered along the way, and perhaps even cover expenses for a 10-day retreat in Bali...

The original 1986 release of 2nd Coming on compact cassette

As it turned out, the scanned cassette cover proved unusable. A totally new cover design and layout was in order as the original photos and artwork no longer existed. Not a major problem, especially when a helpful artist friend had kindly offered to take care of the technical details.

Finally the CD master arrived by express courier. My audio wizard mixmaster, Sanuk aka Daniel Schwörer (left), had done three versions - one with no equalization or processing, original tape hiss and all; another with souped-up dynamics; and a "mellow" version with a less aggressive personality. His feedback on the 2nd Coming project is well worth documenting in a separate post.

No Commercial Potential

After the excitement of listening to various versions of the mix (through loudspeakers as well as headphones) had subsided somewhat, I began to feel a twinge of anxiety about how the music would be received.

The way I create music in the studio is so uniquely idiosyncratic the results don't fit into any familiar categories or genres. Since early childhood, I have been exposed to an eclectic spectrum of different styles of music - ranging from schmaltzy big-band post-war dance music and Afro-Cuban cha-cha to totally far-out experiments by envelope-pushers like Conlon Nancarrow, Terry Riley, Sun Ra, John Cage, John Coltrane, Soft Machine, Captain Beefheart, and Henry Cow. I even owned an LP of George Harrison's little-known experiments with electronic music. Apart from this offbeat diet, I also listened a lot as a kid to soundtrack albums (my favorite film composers were Jerry Goldsmith and Elmer Bernstein).

One of my early musical heroes, Frank Zappa, was fond of mocking record company executives by describing his own prolific output as having absolutely "no commercial potential." Zappa never aspired towards mainstream acceptance, but his genius as a composer, producer and guitarist made him a living legend, respected by musicians of all genres - classical, jazz and pop alike. I wonder if Frank occasionally suffered from bouts of self-doubt about the ultimate artistic worth of his oeuvre.

The Acid Test

Well, I do. That's why my music undergoes stringent laboratory tests before being released. For instance, I would play rough mixes of 2nd Coming on various friends' sound systems to check the dynamics under different atmospheric and spatial conditions - and one evening, under the mind-expanding influence of lysergic acid diethylamide, I listened to the whole of Sting's 1985 debut solo album, The Dream of the Blue Turtles; and immediately afterwards played 2nd Coming all the way through. Both albums sounded perfect  to me, even though the musical idioms were worlds apart.

When Sting came out with The Dream of the Blue Turtles, I had been awestruck by the amazing artistic and technical heights the man had achieved. The recording sounded gloriously fresh and every one of his sessionists contributed a magical ingredient to the mix that was truly inspired. Apart from that, Sting's songs were remarkable in their beauty of construction and maturity of expression.

For a long time, Blue Turtles was my measure of absolute perfection in the annals of recorded music, along with the Beatles' ground-breaking Sergeant Peppers Lonely Hearts Cliub Band. Now, I'm not comparing myself to Sting or the Beatles. The music we produce is totally different. What I'm saying is that I was able to enjoy my own stuff as much as I enjoyed Sting's album, without feeling a sense of letdown. That's what I call passing the "Acid Test"!

Not Exactly Easy Listening

I'd be the first to admit that the music in 2nd Coming doesn't qualify as "easy on the ears." I was going through a pretentious phase, so the music is extremely cerebral and demands the listener's full attention. At that point in time I didn't have a strong interest in rhythm, so anyone looking for funky grooves will probably be disappointed. It's not the sort of music you might hear on FM radio or put on at a cocktail party. Unless, of course, you've added a few exotic ingredients in the punch.

1986 ink portrait of E. Manu Eel (now known
as Antares) by Ahmad Fauzi
Why on earth do I make music? That's a question I often ask myself. Of all the activities I have indulged in since my childhood days - writing, cartooning, taking photos, acting, directing, videomaking - making music is perhaps the most intimate expression of my soul.

The hours I spend in the studio laying down multiple tracks in rapid succession, one after another - usually working all through the night - can be counted as my happiest, freest moments. Leaning back on the sofa and listening to the playback of a fresh mix through the recording studio's giant JBL speakers is more gratifying to me than sex.

I did the layout for the cassette inlay myself

It so happens that I have a rather low tolerance for campfire songs and instantly accessible music (such as has made composers like Bollywood whizkid A.R. Rahman and instrumentalists like Kenny G immensely rich). I can admire (and sometimes envy) the catchy hooks and saccharine melodies that constitute the main ingredients of mainstream pop music, but I guess I'm too much of a snob to ever be caught churning out such formulaic stuff.

Or, at least, I was. As one matures, the powerful desire to come across as "different" begins to diminish - perhaps because youth is the appropriate time for us to explore and express our uniqueness as individuals.

Antares (right) plays pots and pans on Chaos at the Supermarket with Rafique Rashid and R.S. Murthi (pic by Syed Zainal Rashid, 1984)
I believe that with my early musical output I went as far out on a limb as anyone possibly could to be totally individualistic - which, alas, automatically disqualified me as a candidate for Top of the Pops. Much as I admired the Beatles (I still do and always will) and at one time yearned to be as rich and famous as the four lucky and talented lads from Liverpool, the influence of Saturn in my Leo makes me distrust popularity and commercial success. This trait can be a serious liability, I know. Another reason why I could never be a politician - I'd lose my deposit at every contest.

I'm not counting on selling a million CDs like Michael Jackson or Cold Play. In fact, I'd be delighted if even 500 people on Planet Earth show enough curiosity to give 2nd Coming a fair hearing - since only 500 copies of this CD exist. And if they find my musical explorations thought-provoking, neurologically stimulating and mysteriously instructive, I'd be positively over-the-moon.

Click here for more background info.
Click here to listen to 2nd Coming.

[First posted 22 August 2010, reposted 10 November 2013]

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Monday, October 14, 2019

The Nazgûl Rule in Malaysia! (revisited)


The Nazgûl, or Ringwraiths, were Sauron's most terrible servants. They were originally mortal Men. Sauron gave them the Nine Rings of Power in order to enslave them to his will and they became Wraiths.

Little is known of the original identities of the Nazgûl. Three were said to be great lords of Numenor. One was an Easterling named Khamul. He is the only one whose name is known.

At first the Men who received the Nine Rings used them to gain power and wealth for themselves. They became great kings, sorcerers, and warriors. The Nine Rings made the Men invisible and prolonged their lives.

But eventually, the Men bearing the Nine Rings fell completely under the control of Sauron. They could not disobey him and no longer had wills of their own. Some of the Men were quickly enslaved, while others who had greater native strength or goodness took longer.

The Nazgûl were condemed to exist only in the Wraith-world. Their lives were stretched out until their very existence was torture. They were permanently invisible except when they wore black robes to give themselves a visible shape. Sauron and anyone who wore the One Ring could see them in their Wraith forms, as pale figures with burning eyes, grey hair, grey and white robes, and silver helms.

The Nazgûl perceived the Unseen world, but much of what they saw were phantoms and delusions created by Sauron. They could not see well in the physical world of light, and in the noonday sun they could see nothing. They saw people as shadows. However they could see one another clearly even in daylight and from far away. In the darkness they were most dangerous because they could perceive things that ordinary people could not.

Their sense of smell was acute. They could smell the blood of living things, which they envied. They could also sense the One Ring, and they could see the person wearing it even though he was invisible to others. In turn the Ring sensed the Nazgûl. Frodo Baggins was tempted to put on the Ring when the Nazgûl were near so that the Ring could return to Sauron.

The Nazgûl were able to speak to people using the Common Speech, though their voices sounded strange and unpleasant. They called to one another with piercing, blood-curdling cries. They could hear one another across great distances.

There was a sense of fear and dread around the Nazgûl and the air around them felt cold. People could feel the presence of Nazgûl without even seeing them. In fact, the feeling of fear was strongest when the Nazgûl were invisible, without their black robes. The terror was also greatest in the darkness and when all nine of the Nazgûl were together.

Terror was the main weapon of the Nazgûl. Few people had the willpower to stand against them. The Nazgûl exuded a miasma known as the Black Breath which caused illness and even death in those who were exposed to it.

Animals were also terrified of the Nazgûl. The black horses that the Nazgûl rode were trained to endure them. The horses were born in Mordor, but they may have been bred from stock stolen from Rohan. Later in the War of the Ring, Sauron gave the Nazgûl new mounts - terrible winged creatures known as Fell Beasts.

The Nazgul did have some weaknesses. The eight Nazgûl excluding the Lord of the Nazgûl feared water, and they did not like to cross rivers except over bridges. They could endure the Sun, but the eight lesser Nazgûl tended to become confused in daylight when they were alone and their power was diminished. They also hated fire.

Elves were among the few beings the Nazgûl feared, particularly the High Elves who had lived in the Undying Lands because they had power in the Unseen world. The Nazgûl also feared the Powers known as the Valar, especially Elbereth who created the Stars and was revered by the Elves.

The Nazgûl did not have great physical power against those who did not fear them. However, they could not be killed by ordinary means. Most weapons could not harm them, and any blade that touched the Lord of the Nazgûl disintegrated.

It took a special sword - forged by the Dunedain and wound with spells - to strike the blow that rendered the Lord of the Nazgûl powerless. Flames from the eruption of Mount Doom destroyed the other eight Nazgûl. But ultimately it was the destruction of the One Ring to which they were bound that ensured that the Nazgûl would never arise again.

Banish the Nazgûl... Return to Lothlorien!

[First posted 16 October 2008]

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Planet Earth is a Buddha Factory... (reprise)

Xandi Hoesch aka Puma Woman meditating in a Buddha factory in Krabi, Thailand (photo: Antares)

Buddhahood simply means to be awake, enlightened, derobotized and rehumanized. In other words, to be fully conscious.

Planet Earth is actually a Buddha Factory. That's why so many varieties of souls choose to incarnate here - to plunge into physical embodiment and experience the bewildering world of forms, where pain and sorrow are as likely as pleasure and joy to befall you.

Think of Earth as a giant sieve for evolving souls. We arrive as coarse lumps of condensed matter... and depart refined as conscious humans. No doubt, it often takes many, many incarnations to complete the refinement process. But what are a few lifetimes in the cosmic context of eternity?

[This beautiful image was taken sometime in 1987 when my beloved Puma Woman and I were holidaying in Krabi, Thailand. In those days, it hadn't yet exploded into a tourist town and there was only a tiny handful of guesthouses. We rented a motorbike and explored the vicinity, doing a bit of rock climbing and checking out the awesome limestone outcrops. On the outskirts of town we spotted a Buddha factory... and that's how this memorable portrait came about. I didn't notice until afterwards that Xandi had tied her hair in a topknot just like all the Buddha statues! Scanned from a fading 8R print (luckily I had it laminated or nothing would have been left after 25 years) this portrait adorned my High Hut for many years and survived a massive mudslide in October 1999.]

[First posted 22 February 2013]