By Pak Bui
In the spirit of the new year, and looking back at the year gone past, I have put together some of the most prominent local news stories of 2009 and my favourite Hornbill Unleashed (HU) posts from each month.
One weakness of such “Top (whatever) Lists of 2009” is the frailty of our human memory. We tend to place recent events on a pedestal and chuck older memories into the recycling bin of our memories.
Even in our daily lives, we often forget the happy moments we have spent in the past with our spouses or children, in the heat of some dispute or other.
Malaysia slipped into recession. We Sarawakians felt the pinch too. But then again, we have been under the CMS thumb for so long that the economic boom-and-bust cycle has been replaced by a chronic bottom-of-the-barrel economy.
There were devastating floods in Bau, Kuching, Sibu and other towns. We can look forward to this again in 2010, and every other year, until we elect a proper government.
Parti Keadilan Rakyat and Pakatan Rakyat leader Anwar Ibrahim was arrested outside his house for alleged buggery. The police used force in arresting Anwar, although he had agreed to go to the police station himself. This never-ending court saga was designed to occupy Anwar’s time and energy, and demoralise him and his supporters.
Anwar’s celebrated drive to build up PKR in Sarawak, with support from former PBDS stalwarts Daniel Tajem and Gabriel Adit, ground to a halt. Gabriel Adit’s departure from the party later in the year was described as ditching a “toxic asset”.
Malcolm Mussen anak Lamoh, from Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS), wiped out Jawah Gerang from the PKR in the Batang Ai by-election. This BN win was their only by-election win at the time, after a string of defeats to Pakatan Rakyat.
Maggi Mee and “instant development” rained from the skies in Batang Ai. The PKR ran a shambolic campaign and deserved the crushing defeat.
Hornbill Unleashed began life! “Termite Infestation in Sarawak” by SKY “Full Recognition for Native Customary Rights now!” By See Chee How and “Damn the dams: they only make the First Family richer” by Apang.
Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Alfred Jabu trumpeted the payment of RM52 million in Salcra dividends to farmers. Angry questions were asked in the State Assembly, why such a small sum had been paid over so many years, to so many farmers. The earnings per family amounted to an average of RM11.50 per family per year!
Opposition Assembly representatives accused rich companies of cheating Dayak landowners of their land under “Dasar Baru”. Jabu’s excuses were embarrassing.
I enjoyed “My State, my Government, My Business” by See Chee How, “Alice in Cancerland” by Keruah Usit, “We are Malaysians, but do we know Malaysia?” an interview with YB Ong Chin Wen , “An Open Letter to Alfred Jabu” by SKY and “Letter from America: A Tale of Two Towns” by Bunga Pakma
The Penan of Ulu Baram received, jointly with Hindraf, the Suaram human rights award.
Sarawak started to suffocate under the haze again, and struggled under the onslaught of hand, foot and mouth disease.
I liked “Sayang Sarawak… sungainya sempit” by Baharuddin Mokhsen, “What next in Perak…on a lazy Malaysian Sunday?” by SKY, “Painting Penan Reality” by John Riwang and “Big Bullies in Sarawak” were all excellent pieces.
The coup d’etat in Perak sparked anger all over the country. Hee Yit Fong’s parents faced verbal abuse, we are told, in her hometown, and market stallholders refused to sell vegetables to her family.
Members of Parliament from Sarawak were hammered in the national press, for cowering in Parliament and rarely speaking up.
I enjoyed “Thinking about not migrating” by SKY, “Happy Father’s Day, Datuk Seri Shahrizat” by See Chee How, “Outside Encroachment and Internal Dissent” by Bunga Pakma, “What is the Meaning of Your Life?” by SKY, and “ISA and the Panopticon: the Anatomy of Fear” by SKY (my favourite essay of the year)
Teoh Beng Hock’s death under MACC custody struck a chord in all Malaysians. He was an average Malaysian, subjected to extreme treatment by a cruel and corrupt agency.
Will his death and his family’s suffering soon be forgotten?
Essential reading included “Sarawak’s Hydroelectric Dam Megaproject EIAs in Limbo” by Zhang ML, “People First? Najib, meet the poor Malays when you are in Kuching” by See Chee How, “Malaysians continue to die” by Apang, “The MACC failed: A Betrayal of the Native Ethos” by Bunga Pakma and “MACC: Damn this racist thing” by SKY.
There was an outbreak of cow-head stupidity in Selangor, and PAS leader Abdul Hadi called us Sarawakians ‘cawat’ wearers.
PAS, DAP and PKR continued to bicker publicly over trivial issues, heedless of their common goal of toppling BN.
Sarawak suffered its first death from H1N1. Dengue infections n Sarawak continued to surge upwards.
Recommended reading: “Dayaks: victims of Sarawak crony capitalism” by Bloomberg’s correspondent, Yoolim Lee, “We are all immigrants: a thoughful Malay citizen”, “A Long Hard Journey to School” by See Chee How, “Ten Years of Public Uprising in Malaysia” by Apang, “The End of Beer” by Zhang ML and “The Bagan Pinang buy-election” by SKY, “What now: Jabu, Taib and James Masing?” by the HU Editor and “The MCA Crisis” by SKY.
A leaked Cabinet paper in Malaysia Today revealed sordid details of the corruption scandal. The stink from the Port Klang Free Zone scandal reeked up to the highest levels of government. Sarawak’s own Tiong King Sing remained buried up to his neck in the scandal, but still defiant.
The Women’s Ministry finally released its task force report, confirming that loggers had raped Penan girls in Baram. Some survivors were as young as ten. Eight incidents were described after a brief ten day mission to Baram in October the previous year.
The report was first made available online on Hornbill Unleashed.
The MCA, a founding member party of BN, went into convulsions of in-fighting, with its top leaders displaying insatiable hunger for power and myopic vindictiveness.
Police moved in to break up peaceful blockades by Penan communities in Tutoh, Baram. Fifteen indigenous people protesting the loss of NCR land were arrested on Malaysia Day outside the Chief Minister’s office.
Reports in HU included: “Jabu unwilling to open door to ladies”, showcasing the Sarawak authorities’ cynical denial of the sexual crimes, written by Rosita Maja, “Penans with big cars and houses?” by SKY), “Why the Penan blockades?” by Harrison Ngau Laing.
Baru Bian was appointed chief of PKR. He is a respected land rights lawyer and a worthy leader. Sabah PKR, on the other hand, continued to implode under the weight of Jeffrey Kitingan’s games.
Articles from HU included “PKR struggling in Sabah and Sarawak” by SKY, “Religion: John Hicks’s Rainbow of Faith” by SKY, “Adat and Land Rights neglected in Sarawak” by Apang and John Riwang, “A Sarawakian, by whatever colour” by Bunga Pakma, and “Do as I say, but not as I do” by Maximus Koh.
PM Najib withdrew oil royalties from Pakatan Rakyat held Kelantan, promising to give ‘wang ehsan’, or charitable donations, instead.
Notable articles included “Our Earth is gravely sick” by SKY, “Is BN gaining on Pakatan?” by Kenny Gan, “There is no such ‘thing’ as a race” by SKY, “To me, all these reports are not true” by Rosita Maja and “I can eat with you at the same table” by SKY.
The Kuala Lumpur High Court declared the ban on the use of the word ‘Allah’ by non-Muslims illegal.
The Registrar of Societies threatened to shut down Sahabat Alam Malaysia for “acting extremely”.
The Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) lost two jet engines, worth millions. Only three junior RMAF employees were arrested.
The Pakatan Rakyat (PR) produced a common policy framework, promising to return 20% of oil royalties to Sabah and Sarawak, protect NCR land, and respect the basis of agreement with Sabah and Sarawak during the formation of Malaysia.
Do read “An Iban political fable” by Bunga Pakma and “The Pakatan Rakyat common policy platform got substance” by SKY.
What difference can a year make?
The new media, including news portals and blogs like HU, have opened up information and debate, and the PR has offered an alternative.
Teoh Beng Hock’s death, the Perak putsch, the PKFZ black hole, and the ongoing rape of our natives’ land and the rape of our rural schoolgirls by loggers will not be easily forgotten.
The difference the year 2009 makes will depend on how much we remember, and what decisions we make based on the events we have witnessed. In short, the answer depends on you and me.
Happy New Year, dear readers.