Saturday, October 10, 2020


The unmistakable stench of goblin and orc pheromones continues to linger...

Self-portrait @ sixteen: perhaps I 
accidentally invented the selfie?
I was only 16 when I met Azizah at a "grownup" party where couples were slow-dancing and drinking alcoholic beverages. My classmate Suhaimi had invited Johnny Khoo and I to the party. As a fifth form student in Batu Pahat High School I was still a Walt Disney kid and as naïve as Dumbo the Flying Elephant.

One afternoon I saw Suhaimi sitting alone in the school canteen, busy rolling a balut (reefer). "What's that you're smoking?" I asked. Suhaimi winked and said conspiratorially: "We call this ganja." I had no idea what he was talking about so Suhaimi explained that in English it was known as marijuana. He pronounced it "mari-jew-anna."

I was horrified. "Suhaimi, you're my buddy and I care about you, so please listen to me and stop this dangerous habit before it destroys your life."

Suhaimi grinned and nodded amicably but didn't bother arguing with me. Nor did he offer me a toke on his glowing reefer. Two years later when I had my first joint I thought back to this early encounter with "illegal substances" and felt like a complete twit. What a namby-pamby twirp Suhaimi must have thought I was! But he was kind enough not to mock me and I'm still grateful for that.

courtesy of Sabrine
But I digress. Coming back to the party where I met Azizah: I remember her grabbing me by the hand and dragging me to the dance floor. Though I felt awkward and shy I managed to pretend to be cool and sophisticated. I was on cloud nine dancing with the vivacious and extremely friendly Azizah. To top it all she was very pretty too. Before we parted she told me she lived in the Gunung Soga government quarters. She even gave me her address and invited me to visit anytime.

About a week later I found myself driving around the Gunung Soga area with Johnny in tow. My dad, bless his soul, trusted me with his car even though I was too young to possess a driver's licence.

"Hey, let's see if we can find Azizah," Johnny suggested. It only took a couple of turns around the neighborhood to locate her house. We walked up to the front door and boldly knocked. Azizah opened it and broke into a big smile when she saw us. She began chatting with us but made no move to invite us in. A moment later we understood why.

A heavyset bloke sporting a policeman-style mustache suddenly emerged from a bedroom and sauntered to the front door. Azizah appeared a tad nervous as she introduced her fiancé Azlan to us.

Azlan gestured to Azizah and she gave us a weak smile as she disappeared into the kitchen, as if to fetch us some drinks. Her fiancé's hunky body blocked the entrance. "How do you know Azizah?" he asked curtly.

"Oh, we met at a party and she invited us to visit," I began... but Azlan wasn't listening. He took a step forward and kneed Johnny in the groin. Johnny reflexively got into fighting stance but I put a hand on his shoulder to calm him down. "Let's leave. I don't think we're welcome here."

That was my first experience of testosteronal overdrive, territoriality and the Malay male. It was such a rude and unpleasant shock I quickly blotted the incident from memory.

Thirty-three years later I was reminded of Azizah and her possessive lover Azlan when I saw Huzir Sulaiman's dramatic monologue, Election Day, wherein he played three housemates named Francis, Dedric and Fozi. The narrator is Francis (a freelance copywriter who could be either Indian or Eurasian) and the plot revolves around "the beautiful and enigmatic Natasha" (a rich girl who is neither seen nor heard at any point but for whose affections all three housemates end up vying). Dedric is a Taiwan-educated Tian Chua type human rights activist and Fozi is a fashionably bohemian architect and one-time PAS member in Perak.

At the start of the play Natasha is Fozi's girlfriend and she has just left the house after a spat with him. The action takes place on Election Day, 29 November 1999. As the drama unfolds we discover that Dedric has a crush on Natasha and thinks Fozi isn't worthy of her. Cleverly interweaving acerbic sociopolitical commentary into his narrative, Huzir concludes his one-hour neo-existentialist drama with a chilling revelation: one of the three housemates is actually a Special Branch officer who manages to set up the other two guys for arrest and detention without trial so he can get the girl - and possibly a promotion for services rendered towards the maintenance of the status quo.

Natasha in Election Day represents the ultimate reward: the land itself, a trophy bride to show off to the whole world and in whose fecund and erotic soil the conquering hero can plant his seeds.

Was Huzir Sulaiman cynically implying that the old adage - all's fair in love and war - holds true and that only the completely amoral stand a chance of winning the game?

Anyway, as I began to recall that long-forgotten run-in with Azizah's jealous fiancé Azlan, many complex issues emerged for me to ponder. First of all, why did Azizah invite me to her house? Okay, assuming she found me rather cute and was keen to befriend me, why didn't she warn me about Azlan? Those were the days before cellphones and SMSes, so it would have been a bit harder to plan secret trysts, even if she had passed me her home phone number. Yet Azizah struck me as a free-spirited, fun-loving girl who enjoyed a wide circle of friends and didn't see anything wrong with befriending other guys even if she already had a steady boyfriend or fiancé.

Perhaps Azlan and Azizah had very different views on this subject. I wonder if she eventually married the fellow - and whether she would have been happy being under the thumb of such a control freak who obviously believed it was fine for him to have four wives, but strictly a no-no for a woman to have four husbands.

I made an effort to imagine myself as someone like Azlan, who would shoot first and talk later if he felt his boundaries threatened. A man of action rather than contemplation who probably dismissed people like me as lily-livered bleeding hearts just because we're capable of a measure of empathy - and are therefore more likely to welcome the unexpected rather than barricade ourselves against the unknown.

If I were Azlan and one day found a couple of strange men at the door asking to see my girlfriend, what would my response be? First, I'd ask her if she knew these guys and whether she wanted to see them. If she acknowledged them as friends and was happy to welcome them to the house, I'd probably regard them as my friends too. They'd be served tea and cakes and after a bit of conversation I might find I enjoyed their company and vice versa. Even if they initially had plans to date her, they would probably be glad just to be accepted as family friends.

After all, if I'm fortunate enough to have a really hot girlfriend or spouse, she's bound to be a big hit with almost every guy she meets and they would all wish they could make out with her. And if I didn't attempt to put her on a short leash and respected her sovereignty as a conscious and mature individual, I'd trust her to always be honest with me.

It's absurd to force your partner to vow NEVER to be attracted to any other. However, it's not difficult at all to swear eternal love to somebody - as long as it's not exclusive, since one never knows what inner changes one will undergo over an extended period.

For instance, you may believe you're absolutely besotted with somebody when you're 17 years old, only to realize four or five years down the line - or perhaps even after four or five months - that it was a purely superficial attraction, and that it's time to move on. Even so, one must always be grateful for love and good times shared. It's a very positive thing to continue loving the ones you have mentally and emotionally outgrown or detached from - like your own parents or former teachers, for example.

Do you see what I'm getting at? Azlan is a metaphor for Umno's values of pseudo-nationalism, ultra-ethnocentrism, and erotophobic bi-polarity manifesting as an obsession with sex and power. Azizah symbolizes Malaysia.

As a traditional, patriarchally programmed Malay male, Azlan/Umno believes it is his God-given right to possess and control Azizah/Malaysia. The thought of somebody else - what more a pork-eating Chink? - wanting a share of his prized possession Azizah is enough to trigger a violent knee-jerk reaction.

All very basic, really: without wasting his breath by going into a discussion about the matter, Azlan instinctively knew what Johnny and I were after - his girl! - and since he was a much more mature guy than either of us fifth-formers, he simply turned into a bully-boy to dissuade us from ever approaching Azizah again. Just protecting his own interests, that's all. Nothing personal.

But there's the rub. Azlan saw Azizah as his property - not as a living, thinking, feeling, evolving, autonomous entity. Johnny wanted to punch Azlan in the face but I felt it was prudent to just walk away from an unnecessary fight. It wasn't as if either of us was seriously in love with Azizah. We only wanted to explore the possibilities of befriending this feisty, friendly girl. All very innocuous stuff, really, and it was stupid of Azlan to react so brutishly.

By obeying his own primitive, unthinking, territorial imperatives he had shown himself to be merely a humanoid biped not much more evolved than a gorilla equipped with basic linguistic circuitry. If he had had the good sense to break into a broad grin and quip: "So you guys want to chat with Azizah? Well, I'm her manager and it's going to cost you 50 bucks an hour... each! Actually, I'm engaged to be married to Azizah in three months and if you turn out to be nice fellas, we'll invite you to the wedding."

Well, such an approach might easily have won Azlan two new friends. Instead, he left me with a permanent bad taste about unwarranted jealousy, petty-mindedness and the sheer stupidity of being a habitual control freak. Indeed, I'm convinced that people like Azlan - unless they mature and mellow rapidly enough - won't qualify for admission into the heavenly realms, because we can't have such coarse and loutish souls clogging up the free flow of good feelings in those rarefied frequencies.

Nevertheless, Azlan's violent behavior was undeniably effective. I never attempted again to contact Azizah, though for me she will always represent the beauty, nubility, hospitality and infinite promise my country holds for me - and everyone else who regards her as home. And ever since that time the name Azizah has always held a mysterious appeal for me.

Azizah would be past 60 by now, probably a grandmother several times over. I fervently hope she wised up and dumped that reactionary Umnoish boyfriend of hers and married a Mat Salleh instead. In any case, I wouldn't be at all surprised if one of these days a vibrant, vivacious and extremely attractive young woman named Zamila added me as her Facebook friend, and I later discovered her paternal grandma Azizah was born in Batu Pahat and lived for many years in the Gunung Soga government quarters...

Halfway through writing this post it occurred to me that the syndrome I've been discussing is certainly not defined by ethnicity or nationality, nor does it entirely apply to the male gender. It so happened that in this early encounter with "the territorial imperative" the antagonist happened to be a Malay male. He could also have been Italian, Mexican, Japanese, Albanian, Filipino, Zimbabwean, Chinese or Portuguese. Possessiveness is a fairly common trait amongst females too. 
Ego insecurity and jealousy are hardwired into our reptilian brains - the most basic, most ancient and primitive component of vertebrate cerebrospinal neural circuitry. In most species the territorial imperative serves the long-range objectives of specific genetic programs in a Darwinian selective process. 
Stands to reason that under the harsh, hostile conditions of a prolonged Dark Age, the masculine, warlike qualities would become prominent survival features. However, in an Enlightened Age, this truculent, hooliganistic, shoot-first-talk-later behavior swiftly becomes countersurvival.  
Brain supersedes brawn and heart overrides gonads as sentient beings evolve. In effect, the Azlan syndrome is really a residual behavior accumulated over thousands of years when physical might improved procreative odds. In an era when metaphysical vision becomes more relevant and significant as modifiers of human evolution, the gorillaman faces abrupt extinction as the godman takes his place as prime progenitive preference.
Just as Umno has yet to integrate the deeper existential implications of its massive losses after the 8 March 2008 election, a large portion of humanity has yet to acquire the more advanced software that will enable us to constantly be aware of the Big Picture - the larger context of our interactions with other aspects of our constantly expanding selves. Those able to swiftly redefine themselves and their own ego boundaries may be classified as "Cultural Creatives" or civilizing agents.
[First posted 9 May 2009, reposted 10 December 2011, 23 August 2015 & 9 October 2016] 

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Abducted, raped, robbed, tortured & C4ed (reprise)

These are indeed extremely troubled times. I don't recall any other era in Malaysian politics when the situation felt so hopelessly mired in a morass of moral murk - apart from the May 13 period, and just before Mahathir launched his cynical Ops Lalang on 27 October 1987, effectively turning Malaysia into a rogue police state.

More and more I find myself struck dumb, numb and speechless by the sheer audacity of those who cling desperately to power. The vicious cruelty and sheer wickedness that have insidiously crept into the national psyche and taken possession of our collective soul, holding ransom our public conscience, our sense of decency and justice.

The horror stories wafting like the stench of putrefaction from our refugee camps.

Human beings routinely and arbitrarily forced to endure hellish conditions - even painful and meaningless death - when their only crime is to be driven by economic necessity to find employment as domestic help in a foreign country seemingly inhabited by wannabe tinpot despots.

There is no way we can escape the conclusion: a land where even a market vendor displays such ruthless tyranny and inexcusable cruelty must have had a long history of raksasa rule. What are raksasa? Wikipedia defines raksasa as "supernatural humanoids who tend toward evil. Powerful warriors, they resort to the use of magic and illusion when unsuccessful with conventional weapons."

Magic and illusion, otherwise known as voodoo and media spin.

I'm at a complete loss for words, seeing what has become of our once promising nation, and utterly appalled by the fact that - going by the percentage of pro-BN comments left on blogs and news portals - some 50% of the population remain blind to the evil nature of the power structure they prop up with their ethnocentric ego insecurities. Below are some snippets gathered from news portals and forwarded emails that amply demonstrate that "peace and stability" are unsustainable and illusory in the absence of justice and freedom...

Posted on ArtisProActiv, 28 Oct 2009:

Unbelievable! All within a week...

Unbelievable #1 - Tian Chua sentenced to jail because judge was convinced cop who admitted punching Tian Chua told the truth about his biting.

Unbelievable #2 - Lingam case dropped because no evidence of judicial interference notwithstanding the Royal Commission findings.

Unbelievable #3 - Anwar Ibrahim's case against Tun Dr Mahathir thrown out because filing was not in Bahasa.

Unbelievable #4 - Gobind Singh Deo's challenge against suspension denied because court has no jurisdiction although the opposite was said in the Perak fiasco.

Unbelievable #5 - Local pathologists completely overlooked body injuries that point to homicide as revealed by Thai forensic expert Dr Pornthip Rojanasunand.

Unbelievable #6 - At Najib's instigation Ong Tee Keat and failed porn star Chua Soi Lek shake hands suddenly after months of bitter fighting.

Unbelievable #7 - Loss of over RM 1.4 billion in Rawang-Ipoh double-tracking project.

Unbelievable #8 - Mara paid RM84,640 for two units of Acer notebooks plus millions for other overpriced computer equipment.

Unbelievable #9 - Government guarantees failed Prasarana bonds of over RM 7 billion.

Friday, 30 October 2009 11:44

BN must make up its mind once and for all. Does it still want to put up the pretence that Malaysia is a democracy? If it does, should it continue to bombard our senses with such disgusting scenes and bare to the world the ugly truth of what Malaysia truly is?

By Kim Quek

After the nonsensical assembly sitting in Perak on Oct 28, Barisan Nasional should deeply reflect whether it is worthwhile to prolong its farcical rule in the Silver State.

To say the least, the session was a complete wash out.

First, police control and intervention inside and outside the assembly was so heavy and so overpowering that it has completely destroyed the image of our legislature as an independent and the highest institution in our system of government.

Second, the slipshod manner with which BN’s budget motion was rushed through makes us wonder whether the budget was legally approved.

Let us start with the budget approval.

BN’s Mentri Besar Zambry Kadir started his budget speech at 1120 hrs, and thirty minutes later, he had not only completed his speech, but had moved his budget motion through three readings, each time approved by the BN assemblymen present, under vocal protests from Pakatan assemblymen. There was no debate and no one seemed to have heard any detailed figures – if figures were read out then, these were not carried in many newspapers the next day anyway. Pakatan assemblymen walked off the assembly immediately after the approval of the third reading.

A budget proposal is a statement of revenues and expenditures as well as major policies that encompass the entire government which is made up of many departments. So, it is normally a lengthy speech, followed by debates that take place during each of the first, second and third readings. It is hence a real marvel how the assembly could have compressed such elaborate process of proposal, deliberation and decision in all the three stages in the short interval of half an hour.

Through such shotgun approval, the voices of the people who speak through their representatives are muted. Isn’t this a mockery of our democratic process and betrayal of the trust of the people?

Was the budget legally approved?

On top of that is the questionable legality of Ganesan’s position as speaker. His election as speaker on May 7 was deemed a fake, as the assembly session on that day was so chaotic and violent that it was not possible to conduct any business except the delivery of the opening speech by the Regent. Compounding this now is Ganesan’s breach of the Perak Constitution Article 36 A (5) which stipulates that a speaker must relinquish his private practice immediately or in any case not later than three months after his appointment, failing which he shall be disqualified. So, even if Ganesan’s appointment on May 7 was legal (which is not at all the case), he was already disqualified on Aug 7.

With an illegal speaker presiding in the assembly, can any business be conducted legally, least of all the all important agenda of the state budget approval?

No doubt, BN may be least worried about matters of illegality, confident of its iron-grip on the entire government machinery to serve its parochial interests. After all, isn’t BN Mentri Besar Zambry, who was appointed while incumbent Mentri Besar Nizar Jamaluddin was still serving, also illegal if the courts have been upholding the constitution? Isn’t the entire state cabinet, which was selected by Zambry, also illegal?

But can BN afford the massive loss of popular support every time the police manhandle and bully elected representatives from the opposing camp or judges dishing out blatantly unconstitutional rulings?

Barbaric police intervention

According to PR assemblymen, the scuffle was violent and turned into a fist fight as some in the group of 28 attempted to protect Sivakumar from being harassed. Simpang Pulai assemblyman Chan Ming Kai was dragged on the floor when two policemen grabbed on to both of his hands and tried to pull him away. (The Malaysian Insider, 29 Oct 2009; image from

Take the ridiculous scenario of the Perak assembly of Oct 28. The entire assembly compound was turned into a virtual war zone, with the entrance being protected by the kind of barbed wire seen only in war time. Hundreds of policemen and riot squad who had been milling inside and outside the building manned the five checkpoints stretching from the gate to the door of the assembly hall. Pakatan assemblymen complained of harassment every inch of their way to the last check point where they were subjected to the humiliation of a body search and metal scan and their personal effects of hand phones, laptops, cameras. etc., being forcibly removed before they entered the hall.

On his way to the assembly hall, Speaker Sivakumar was lured to an area not visible to reporters and the public where he was pounced upon by scores of police personnel who forcibly disrobed him. In the melee, he was punched and strangulated with an arm lock, and his colleagues roughed up for trying to protect him.

Image from

Pray, where in the world can you see such barbaric acts? Not even in the pariah state of Zimbabwe!

The picture inside the assembly hall is not any prettier. Scores of police personnel were there to man the entire assembly, with twenty of them forming a protective wall in front of the BN speaker Ganesan. And video cameras were transmitting live the activities of Pakatan assemblymen to the state police headquarters and the national headquarters at Bukit Aman, according to a Malaysiakini report.

Now, isn’t this the ultimate humiliation and insult to the highest and the most sanctimonious institution of a democracy, with the police contemptuously treating our Pakatan law makers as a bunch of criminals?

BN must make up its mind once and for all. Does it still want to put up the pretence that Malaysia is a democracy? If it does, should it continue to bombard our senses with such disgusting scenes and bare to the world the ugly truth of what Malaysia truly is?

[First posted 30 October 2009]

Monday, October 5, 2020

Why Robber Barons Love Building Dams... (repost)

The accursed Bakun Dam (brainchild of Mahathir and Daim) is doomed to fail.

Imagine we’re gathered in some holy place. An architectural wonder. Like St Paul’s Cathedral in Rome or the St Sophia Mosque in Instanbul. Or perhaps the Gateway of the Sun in Peru or the Giza Pyramid Complex in Egypt. And we’re here to knock this whole place down and build a megamall right here because it would make better economic sense.

Let's have Wal-Mart and McDonald's at this popular tourist location.

Imagine the tremendous outcry against such an outrage. We’re talking about demolishing a cultural and spiritual artifact – a monument to a whole religious tradition. We’re talking about trading in our prophets for profits. Absolutely unthinkable, right?

Now: imagine you’re living in a small house you built yourself, beside a clear stream in a beautiful, forested river valley. Your ancestors have lived here for a hundred generations. According to your folklore, the landscape is the living flesh of divine progenitors whose essence condensed to form familiar features - like the mountains, the rivers, the rocks and the trees - and who are integral aspects of a Great Spirit inhabiting all forms, a unity in astonishing diversity. To you, the fact that the land is sacred – endowed with meaning, significance, and intrinsic spiritual value – is so obvious, no one needs to put it into words.

Imagine we’re here to log this magnificent forest, blow up the hills, dig up the rocks, turn a green sanctuary into a giant construction site, seriously pollute the water basin, cause massive erosion in a water catchment area, and dam up one of the few remaining free-flowing rivers in the country. Why? Because economic growth demands greater water consumption - and water supply is a growth industry. And because we have been grossly insensitive in the way we use and manage our water resources.

Sungai Luit by Doreen Ong


We are born into cultural perspectives that become imperceptible to us - until we find ourselves outside of them. Like fish that never wonder what water is, we grow up with assumptions about reality we rarely question. For instance, we rarely question the need for governments... or armies... or landlords... or caste systems (whether hereditary or monetary).

When we hear the word “development” we assume we know what it means. We experience the flow of time as linear, just as the world looks flat to a lowlander. When conversing with people from a different cultural and linguistic background, we assume they aren’t as clever as ourselves – because they’re not very fluent in our language.

When urbanites encounter country folk, they unconsciously assume an air of superiority. Surely our sophisticated way of life is far better than theirs! Surely they’re better off becoming more like us (no way they could ever become just like us, of course, since we have too far a headstart on them!)

Civilization creates art, it’s true, but art creates artifice and artificiality. Industrial man sees the wilderness as a vast resource that can be converted into private wealth. Recklessly, ruthlessly, we go about building our national aspirations by tearing down our natural heritage.

Morally, this is no different than a cannibal eyeing an infant as a delicious and convenient source of protein. The wilderness, like a baby, has only beauty and innocence as its defences. When Darwinian notions of “survival of the fittest” form the basis of modern society, the total extermination of entire species becomes justified in terms of Them or Us.


Unfortunately, some of us don’t truly appreciate anything until it’s gone forever. Hardwoods can be converted into hard cash. Ignorant savages can be converted into consumers, taxpayers, mindless believers, obedient slaves of the System.

Filthy heathens have no souls and feel no pain - unlike us civilized God-fearing folks.

Some of us have tried to warn the others about the folly of such shortsighted behavior – and the dangerous consequences lurking ahead. For the most part we have been ignored.

The Earth fights back by getting feverish. When her flesh is torn apart by man’s rapacious machines, she shudders and quakes and sweats profusely, releasing a deluge of mysterious plagues upon us.

The Earth coughs and we realize we're living on the back of a gigantic whale.

At the fountain of knowledge, we drank too thirstily, only to become drunk with a false sense of power. We thought we could manipulate the masses with fear and greed. But the fear and greed enslaved us instead. Now we find ourselves powerless to alter our destructive course. We’re on the fast track and can’t stop the mindless runaway train of economic growth. Our materialistic definition of growth has limited us to the physical world, and excluded us from the limitless realm of the metaphysical. This growth has now taken on the form of a cancer that is about to kill us all – unless we redirect our attention to growth in mental and spiritual terms.

Cash crops bring fast bucks - and fast bucks is what drives "progress."

For a start, we can apologize for the hideous damage we have inflicted on the wilderness and indigenous ways of life. Then we could focus our efforts on helping the wounds heal. Only in a quest for renewed wholeness can we find our collective way home. And only through the heart can we know the universal love that redeems tragedy and transforms it into a higher truth.

Damnation is the fate of those who would turn the Earth into a living hell where everything is measured in terms of buy and sell. Our salvation can only come from regaining our lost innocence and restoring the beauty of our wildernesses.

We don’t really have a choice: win-win or lose-lose are the only options left.

Written in June 2001 in response to the Selangor Dam project; but still topical in view of all the destructive dams currently under construction, or under consideration. First posted 3 November 2009, reposted 30 June 2014 & 30 May 2019]