Hornbill Unleashed

February 27, 2010

Malaysian CNY…Politics as usual

Filed under: Human rights,Legal,Politics — Hornbill Unleashed @ 12:00 AM
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By Bunga Pakma

“I was in Philadelphia once, but it was closed.”

—attributed to W. C. Fields.

The week before CNY was chock-a-block with work that exhausted me. Every duty was a last-minute demand. I filed my piece on the Friday and hoofed my way home and put a big pot of chili con carne on the fire for the hungry teens I was to put up for the holidays.  Then I wilted, and looked forward with relish to the prospect of doing nothing for a while.

Saturday nothing happened. I slept through the midnight fireworks. Sunday even less than nothing happened. Traffic vanished. A little old lady could have crossed Jalan Ampang on foot any time she pleased.

Monday nothing happened. My son and his friends had played as much on the computer they could take. The sun burned and the frightfully intense heat had killed all appetite. By afternoon I had three half-naked 18-year-olds prostrate on the marble floor of the house, the ceiling-fan roaring on full. They looked like shipwrecked sailors drifting in a lifeboat somewhere in the endless ocean. They draw breath slowly, with sighs. Involuntary tears trickle from their eyes.  One tries in vain to rise. He sinks back to the floor and feebly waves his limbs like the metamorphosized Gregor Samsa.

At last the long day wanes. A bit of a breeze arises. The kids find they have the stomach to order a pizza and soda. Terminal boredom goes into remission and death is cheated once again.

Malaysia boasts plenty of holidays, and each year contains two weeks in which the country closes. This household contained two Sarawakians and two Koreans stuck far from home, family and friends. Each ethnic group has its own lengthy festival, but there is really no holiday for all Malaysians.

None of us can grudge our fellows workers a day off. There’s nothing to do here but work. For those who fall through the cracks of the racial sorting-system, enforced idleness hangs heavy upon them.

Another consequence of the patchwork allotment of leisure is that while one—I’ll avoid the “R”-word—bloc takes a well-deserved rest, another is doing business as usual.  The very least that the régime’s upper echelon could have done for us during CNY would have been to give us a break from their insane political antics.  But no, the sewage rolled down the drain as torrentially as any other day of the week. When all there is to do is sit in front of a screen and hunt for novelties to amuse a half hour, it’s gruesome to meet nothing with some piece of outrageous lunacy… and we can’t even talk about it because the coffeeshops are closed!

The moon had barely passed her conjunction with the sun when we read that three women had been caned, in secret, for extramarital sex. The day after, we learned that DSAI had failed in his attempt to have his trial judge disqualified. On “Back-to-Work Monday” Rosmah Mansor denied she was playing Lady Macbeth. These are the spikes in a background of chronic pain.

That same day Datuk Sri Shahrizat of the Women’s (etc.) Ministry announced the organization of an international conference on caning. That bit gob-stopped me, and nudged me towards an understanding.

Over the decades I have become used to Malaysian politics as a one-issue deal: Who gets the money? Various personalities in the scramble for obscene wealth have kindled and exploited race-resentments with remarkable profit to the plunderers, and a decreasing share of the wealth to those who do the work, regardless of their race.

The working and middle classes have found that their economic and social interests unite them far more than race divides them.  In consequence, we in Malaysia are seeing for the first time the forming of a mainstream political left whose goal is social justice.

In reaction, a political right wing is coalescing. They are concerned with conservative social values and privilege.

The right is further polarizing into a moderate mass and an extreme wing. Hard political rights are exclusionist, rigid. The extreme right views morality solely in terms of black and white, absolute right and absolute wrong.

Extreme rights are xenophobic.  Hence a faction of UMNO can call non-Malays “immigrants,” demand that “Allah” be reserved for Malays only—“Malays only” because a Malay must be a Muslim. Only a hard right-winger can summon the callousness to defend the barbarous punishment of whipping.

I once knew a man, a bigoted Brit lawyer, inveigle himself an invitation to witness a man’s hanging.  He didn’t like it after all.

Hard right-wingers have only contempt for facts and reason. One cannot argue with them, for they are always right. If right-wingers are handed a religious scripture, they will interpret that religion’s morality in the narrowest and most merciless way.  Hard right-wingers believe that the “Big Lie” is a morally justifiable means of keeping their citizens under control.

Dozens of commentators have pointed out that Malaysia has a big image-problem in the world outside.  Even the régime concedes that. It’s always been their hope to keep Malaysia on the good side of the liberal democracies, because they have the money.

Doesn’t anyone in the inner circle understand that the whole concept of a Caning Conference is a tasteless, cruel joke to the civilized world? If the Women’s Ministry insists on going ahead, I urge them to get in touch with a number of leather-goods firms in San Francisco, Toronto, and elsewhere. They specialize in equipment for professional torment and they will be happy to rent booths for their merchandise.

The “charm offensive”  circus mounted in Washington two days ago clearly failed miserably.  We have had an account of this debacle from Malaysians, but I have yet to read any report on this seminar from an American observer.  I can guess the American reaction: “Malaysia sent over a bunch of lying scoundrels who tried to bullshit us.” The sentiment that Malaysian officialdom is not to be trusted is growing abroad.

A wise ancient author wrote that political parties seal their fate when they begin to believe their own lies. Beware then, when most people don’t believe them.


  1. Metamorphosis certainly represents this horrible imagery of an ethic of lucidity.It is also the product of that incalculable amazement man feels at being conscious of the beast he becomes effortlessly.In this fundamental ambiguity lies Kafkas secret.These perpetual oscillations between the natural and extraordinary,the individual and the universal,the tragic and the everyday,the absurd and the logical,are found throughout his work and give it both resonance and its meaning..
    This is why samsa,the hero of metamorphosis,is a travelling salesman.this is why the only thing that disturbs him in the strange adventure that makes a vermin of him is that his boss will be angry at his absence.legs and feelers grow out on him,his spine arches up,white spots on his belly and it causes him a slight annoyance.

    Comment by Frank — February 27, 2010 @ 9:57 AM | Reply

  2. On 4th feb,Mahatir,was invited by vincent tan to visit Wang Chuanfu,the richest man in china(warren buffet of china,BYD car manufacturer owner) in Shenzen,didnt turn up.He was said to be unwell.There are now more cars and no bicycles in china.No wonder the earth is heating up.
    sarawak did not escape from modern times festives morbid syndrome.Home town boys from outstation throned the roads and eating outlets to the brims.Relatives,closed friends and family members left kuching for a sojourn in Kl.CNY always turned up to be melancholy time for someone who never felt at home,and always at odds with the environment,inconsolable about the past,bitter about the present and the future.
    There is a lady macbeth in every woman ,and Hamlet ,Gregor Samsa in every man.
    So the question is,is there hope in this absurd world?In Kafkas THE TRIAL,Joseph K. is accused.But he doesnt know why.But he does not neglect to love,to eat,or to read his paper
    So there is hope and hope.There is humility that hope enters in.And embrace God to give you hope in his absurd world.

    Comment by Edward Sarawak — February 27, 2010 @ 9:21 AM | Reply

  3. I agree with Pak Bui. We must get rid of UMNO and their BN stooges in Sarawak.

    With Taib, PBB and their BN gangs, whether UMNO is here or not it makes no difference. The people are continually divided and oppressed.

    In Semenanjung, a strong opposition presence (and PR ruling 4 states)makes sure that the UMNO gangs are kept in checks. In Sarawak, Taib’s dominance allows him to do as he pleases. Business opportunities monopolized, native communities increasingly landless …

    All Sarawakians have a mission in the coming state election: Vote against the BN, for our fellow Sarawakians.

    Comment by Bumblebee — February 27, 2010 @ 9:00 AM | Reply

  4. […] Saturday 4th February 2006 the undisputed shortest Supreme Council meeting of any political party attended […]

    Pingback by “4 years On.Saturday & February Again..??” « Audie61’s Weblog — February 27, 2010 @ 2:10 AM | Reply

  5. When I was growing up, we all used to celebrate festivals together. We’d make kuih together at Raya, play with firecrackers at CNY, visit houses and longhouses at Gawai. I remember visiting friends in Lawas during the year when Raya and CNY fell within a day or two of each other. Neighbouring houses were decked out in lights, green and red, lampu minyak and lanterns. There were genuine smiles and blessings exchanged.

    Festivals used to bring us together, now PKR and Umno idiots in Penang, Malays and Chinese, play politics on the eve of the holidays, trying to achieve greatest impact. Their children will grow up selfish, isolated and narrow-minded, just as our parents’ generation tended to be more community-minded and inclusive.

    Malaysia is going through a metamorphosis. Just as Kafka’s hero/antihero Gregor Samsa turned into an insect, we are turning into a nation peopled by more and more chauvinists and charlatans.

    Sarawak is still largely spared, but we’ll be infected soon enough, unless we get rid of Umno and its stooges in Sarawak BN.

    Comment by Pak Bui — February 27, 2010 @ 12:28 AM | Reply

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