Hornbill Unleashed

May 18, 2010

Five surprises for Najib in Sibu

By Pak Bui

Sibu has voted for the politics of hope over the politics of fear and greed. All Sarawakians ought to applaud these courageous voters.

PM Najib Razak made three flying visits to Sibu, desperate for a BN win, but he was taken aback when the May 16 Sibu by-election did not exactly go according to plan.

We may now challenge some of Najib’s assumptions.

1. Every voter has a price

It was raining cash from the sky in Sibu, to the tune of over RM20 million in federal “projects”. There were reports of cash windfalls in broad daylight, 100 to 200 ringgit per vote. Cash flowed up the Rejang river too: RM600 per pintu or longhouse family. (more…)

May 8, 2010

Bad politics shares guilt for Aminulrasyid’s death

By Pak Bui

A Chinese gangster friend used to rear “little devils” in a bottle, or so he said. One evening at dusk, as we sat fishing for prawns beside the murky Sarawak River, he told me how he had inherited these tiny demons from a medium, hailing from a neighbouring country. He used these supernatural creatures to protect him, and to ward off harm from rival gangs who also possessed similar dark powers, he explained.

He never elaborated on what he fed his little servants, and I dared not ask. Eventually, as he grew older and held a baby son in his arms, he mellowed, and gave up his life of violence and stopped employing these “little devils”. He gave up the dark arts for his family. (more…)

February 16, 2010

A word in defence of the Judiciary

By Pak Bui

So Zambry the Frog Prince is now secure with his three pet frogs, Jamaluddin Mohd Radzi, Mohd Osman Mohd Jailu and Hee Yit Foong. Frogs are officially a protected species in Perak.

Zambry’s frogs have been protected by no less than royal decree, and by the Federal Court, the highest court in Malaysia. The judges have earned their many decorations, datuk-ships and tan sri-hoods, and now they have won the grandest title ever: High Protectors of All Frogs.

Most Malaysians are incensed over the unanimous (and pusillanimous) 5-0 whitewash Federal Court verdict in favour of Umno’s Perak stooges (MB Zombie and his crew). Some Malaysians have even written letters to the press, complaining it is a waste of time to pursue justice through the Malaysian courts. But this is a silly reaction.

The decision made by the Federal Court panel was, of course, not unexpected. The Famous Five judges, Alauddin Mohd Sheriff, Arifin Zakaria, Zulkifli Ahmad Makinuddin Mohd Ghazali Mohd Yusoff and Abdull Hamid Embong, were expected to agree with the Appeal Court. (more…)

February 7, 2010

Sarawak BN Battered in Publicity Wars

By Pak Bui

The Sarawak Barisan Nasional (BN) government is struggling to cope with the new media revolution. In the not-too-distant past, it could always count on KTS and Rimbunan Hijau and their stable of newspaper mules: the See Hua Daily News, the Borneo PostSinchew Jit Poh and Nanyang Siang Pau, to carry its propaganda.

But the tides of battle are changing. Sarawak BN has been battered by blow after blow in the publicity wars.

First, Chief Minister Taib Mahmud was infuriated by Malaysiakini’s reports of alleged RM32 million kickbacks to his family from the Regent Star timber shipping agent in Hong Kong. Last year, Taib’s lawsuit against Malaysiakini was set back when the Kuala Lumpur High Court threw out his application to ban parts of the news portal’s legal defence.

The Sarawak newspapers then made up a story about “foreign instigators” being responsible for Penan blockades in Long Bangan, Long Belok and Long Nen, only to end up with egg on their face when the “foreign instigators” turned out to be AFP journalists.

Perhaps the biggest defeat for the BN propaganda machine was the scandal over the crimes of rape visited on rural communities by logging workers. (more…)

January 29, 2010

An appeal against the death penalty

Filed under: Corruption — Hornbill Unleashed @ 12:00 AM
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By Pak Bui

The first anniversary of the death of young M Kugan Ananthan was marked with solemn and tearful prayers at his family’s house.

Kugan died at the age of 22 on January 22 last year, after having endured a savage beating in police custody.

Only one policeman, V Navindran, ended up as the fall guy, charged with ‘causing grievous hurt’, and not murder. The initial charge preferred by the Attorney General Abdul Gani Patail in the heat of public censure, melted away like ice cream.

Meanwhile, ten other policemen, who had initially been reported as having been involved in Kugan’s torture, escaped scot free.

N Indra, Kugan’s inconsolable mother, said to Malaysiakini, “All eleven must be punished. They must face the death sentence for committing murder, so what happened to my son will not happen to others”. (more…)

January 15, 2010

Inside the “mastermind” of church and temple attacks

By Pak Bui

Imagine you are the UMNO “mastermind” of the attacks on Christian churches and the Sikh temple.

Suppose you want to incite the Malays to rage. Suppose you wish to distract Malay voters from the vast amounts of money stolen from them, and future generations, through the PKFZ and other scams.

Perhaps you can see that Malays have become exposed to a greater breadth and depth of information, thanks to internet news portals, blogs, sms-es and the rise of a true alternative option in Pakatan.

You may have noticed that Pakatan governments in five states, for all their faults, ran smoothly and were far less corrupt than previous UMNO-dominated incarnations.

You note that MCA, Gerakan and MIC have been reduced to puny political midgets, and are absorbed in factional fighting.


January 4, 2010

What Difference Can a Year Make?

Filed under: Alternatives,Politics — Hornbill Unleashed @ 12:01 AM
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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. (more…)

December 26, 2009

Dreamers of all lands unite

Filed under: Alternatives,Human rights,philosophy,Politics — Hornbill Unleashed @ 12:00 AM
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By Pak Bui

To call someone a “dreamer” has become a grave insult in our pragmatic society, only marginally better than to call someone an “idealist”.

A close friend mused yesterday that life is empty without dreams. We must all have a dream of our own, to give us hope and meaning in life, my friend told me. I have ruminated over this, and I have decided I agree with this sentiment whole-heartedly.

Dreaming may be the natural state of affairs for human beings, as Zhuangzi, the revered Chinese poet and philosopher, postulated. One night, he dreamt he was a butterfly, flying carefree. When he awoke, he wondered if he was a man dreaming he was a butterfly, or if he was a butterfly who had just begun dreaming he was a man (莊周夢蝶).

Dream sequences have played major roles in religion, art and literature. Dreams played critical roles in the stories of Noah and Moses, common heritage to all three major monotheistic religions. Dreams also play important roles in Buddhism and Hinduism, and in the creation myths of the Ibans , Native Americans and the Australian aboriginal peoples.


December 23, 2009

Three jeers for Mahathir

Filed under: Politics — Hornbill Unleashed @ 12:01 AM
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By Pak Bui

Hornbill Unleashed writers detest character assassination and name-calling. We prefer trying to shed what light we can on Malaysian society and politics, rather than slinging insults at public figures.

Knowing the good is doing the good, we argue, paying heed to the words Socrates spoke 2,400 years ago. The only good is knowledge and the only evil is ignorance, we remember.

So we will not immerse ourselves in the torrent of virtual curses hurled at Mahathir Mohamad in blogs and internet chat-rooms. I would argue that whatever evil Malaysia’s fourth Prime Minister has done, during and after the long winter of his reign, does not spring from some demonic possession, but from ignorance.

A friend and mentor was one of Mahathir’s victims in the ‘Operation Lalang’ Internal Security Act (ISA) sweep in 1987. He suffered unspeakable pain and humiliation in solitary confinement in Kamunting for two dark months. My friend, an intelligent and humane social activist, left prison scarred for life.

October 2, 2009

Police torment rape victim – but ignore rapists

By Pak Bui


Penan IR 01-10-2009-borneopost (3)The Sarawak Police have cemented their reputation of being humble servants for rich timber towkays, and their patrons in the State Cabinet.

The police provide, unquestioningly, the muscle needed to allow the tycoons and politicians to succeed in business. Sarawakians seeking security and justice for the weaker members of society need not apply for relief.

Sarawak Deputy Commissioner of Police Hamza Taib announced on September 30 that the police will question four people, who helped a Penan woman from Long Item, Baram, escape to safety in Kuala Lumpur last October.

The Penan woman was known by a pseudonym “Bibi” in the national task force report on rape, while her alleged rapist was called “Johnny” (known locally as Ah Heng, according to Penan villagers).

From his pronouncements, Hamza appeared adamant that the police report, made by “Bibi” in Long Lama on September 28, was genuine. At the Long Lama police station, the 22 year old woman claimed she had been “conned” by an unnamed Penan man, into going to Kuala Lumpur to make a report of rape against her so-called husband, “Johnny” or Ah Heng, a mechanic in an Interhill timber camp near Long Item.


September 19, 2009

East Malaysia beats West – in concern for the sick

By Pak Bui

Doctors and nurses“It may come as a surprise to you, but Sarawakian and Sabahan nurses are, on the whole, streets ahead of West Malaysian ones,” a doctor friend told me.

“Honestly?” I asked. “The hospitals I’ve seen here always look overcrowded, much worse than the ones in KL. Except the private ones, of course, which are nice and quiet – like hotels, smelling of disinfectant.”

“Well, in fact, most of my friends in government hospitals agree with me,” my friend insisted. “Doctors and nurses seem more dedicated – and more inventive, too – than in the West. The buildings and equipment in Sarawak and Sabah aren’t adequate, of course, but many of the people working there try hard, at least.”

“Have you worked all over Malaysia, then?” I asked the good doctor.

“Yes, various places, in Sabah, Sarawak, West Malaysia, I’ve seen private healthcare and government hospitals…but the mindset in many Sarawak and Sabah doctors and nurses is different from those in West Malaysia.” (more…)

September 6, 2009

Why Sarawak’s emergency airlift service matters

By Pak Bui

cut footJau, a 19 year old Penan man from a remote village, was chopping open a coconut one day, using his foot to steady the coconut. Jau’s foot slipped and he suffered a cut on his left foot.

The wound was small and shallow, but painful. James bound it to stop the bleeding, and bore the pain, as the stoic Penan usually do. He went on farming and hunting. Hunting is Jau’s greatest love, as well as his means of making a living.

Two days later he noticed his wound had become infected. Jau walked five hours to the nearest government clinic. The medical assistant there gave him some painkillers and penicillin tablets, saying he had no other antibiotics. (more…)

August 30, 2009

The Police give us food for thought

By Pak Bui

lcct_airportA fortnight ago, as I was waiting in transit at a local airport, I found the small snack counter at the departure gate had closed. I was hungry, having endured a glass of mystery fruit juice on my previous flight, and not much else the entire day.

I approached the police officers on duty at the security checkpoint, and asked for permission to leave the gate for a few minutes to buy some food. The two police officers sitting at the X-ray machine, a man and a woman, appeared relaxed, and were chatting with each other.

“You want to go out?” the policeman asked. “Are you leaving the terminal?” (more…)

August 28, 2009

Newspapers smear Teoh Beng Hock and “foreign instigators”

By Pak Bui

Utusan ShitIt’s confirmed! The newspapers are full of propaganda and they stink to high heaven!

Malaysian newspapers have been falling over themselves to fawn over Umno and the Sarawak BN.

The mainstream media in KL have published endless claims of Teoh Beng Hock’s “likely suicide” and his being “on the take.” The whitewash has vacillated between trying to bury the story on the inside pages, and trying to publish the MACC’s version of events, at the same time.

The MACC officers seem to be convinced they can smear Teoh Beng Hock’s name without fear, because they are playing for the side that controls the ball and the referee. They do not see any injustice in accusing a dead man, who cannot defend himself, or sue the MACC – as long as the MACC get off the hook. (more…)

July 31, 2009

In Sickness and in Health

Filed under: Alternatives,Medical — Hornbill Unleashed @ 12:01 AM
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By Pak Bui


Blood vessels Medcurator“Once I was working overnight, as a junior doctor,” a friend told me, “when I was called to see a man in his 70s. He was at death’s door. He had a bleeding aneurysm in his abdomen.”

“What’s a bloody aneurysm?” I asked, patiently.

“It’s a swelling in the biggest blood vessel in the body. It’s usually caused by high blood pressure. The vessel had started to leak. The old man was already unconscious. I was asked to break the bad news to his wife,” the doctor explained.

The doctor and I were sitting in a cement car park outside a coffee shop, at dusk. The traders were laying out their plastic furniture. Smoke from barbecue stalls rose in the air. It was a peaceful time of day, in between the hectic daytime bustle and the alcohol-fuelled nocturnal clatter. (more…)

June 27, 2009

Malaysia, truly Asia’s bully

By Pak Bui

refugee1A few years ago, I watched an unregistered, or “illegal”, Indonesian timber camp worker, taken to a small district hospital, with a broken body. The young man had been injured badly in a logging accident. He had died during the two-day truck drive from the logging camp.

I stood among a small crowd of onlookers, watching the Indonesian’s body being removed from the logging truck. One burly hospital attendant lifted the young Indonesian in his arms, as one might carry a sleeping child, or, as Michelangelo depicted, the Madonna might have held her son’s body. (more…)

May 4, 2009

Swine, Flu and Fortitude

Filed under: Alternatives,Media/Press,Medical,Politics — Hornbill Unleashed @ 5:01 AM
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By Pak Bui

flu_und_legende_color_cSwine or pig flu has been given a new name by the World Health Organization (WHO): Influenza A H1N1, or H1N1 Flu. The change reflects the WHO’s warning that H1N1 is now a human flu virus, even though it originated from swine. Like other human flu viruses, it can spread from human to human, causing fever, muscle pains, cough, sore throat, runny nose, diarrhea or vomiting. It cannot be spread by eating cooked pork.

Most people with this H1N1 flu have had mild illness, and have recovered. But this strain of flu is very contagious, and can cause lung infections and severe illness as well, especially in people whose defence is not very strong. The WHO points out that elderly people above 65, and young children below 5, have weak defences, as do people with HIV, those who have undergone chemotherapy and pregnant women. People with lung disease, too, caused by long-term smoking, or asthma, tend to get lung infections more readily with flu. The WHO has advised these groups to see the doctor straight away if they have flu symptoms or fever. (more…)

May 1, 2009

Crime, Punishment and Torture

By Pak Bui


My car window was smashed by a man on a motorcycle, outside a coffee shop at dusk, one evening. A passerby gave chase on his motorcycle and saw the thief’s licence plate, but the thief escaped. I went to the central police station to make a report. The policewoman on duty wrote the thief’s licence plate number down. Then she asked “Jadi, mengapa mahu buat laporan ni?” I explained patiently that I wanted to prevent future crimes.

I was referred to another police station. The detectives on duty there were nothing like the intelligent, glamorous types we see on television. An elderly man’s bag had been stolen while he was practising tai chi. One detective joked the old man should have used some other martial art to stop the thief. My tour of the stations, in my car with newly improved ventilation, took three hours. The report came to nothing: the licence plate was a fake.

Violent crimes increasing nationwide

Violent crime rates, of far more concern than a broken car window, are increasing. Even in Sarawak, traditionally a tranquil place, most people know someone whose bag has been snatched, or whose house has been broken into, or who has been robbed.

Crime rates have long been on the rise, too, in Peninsular Malaysia. Last month, in Cheras, Selangor, a young woman was abducted at noon in front of a bank, and bundled into a Honda CR-V, while her husband sat waiting in a car. The woman was released five hours later. No ransom was mentioned in the Star newspaper report. District police chief, Assistant Commissioner Ahmad Amir Mohd Hashim, was quoted as saying “We do not have much information yet but we will make some arrests soon.” Perhaps a lack of information is no obstacle to making arrests in Cheras: the police might simply round up the usual suspects.

Crime statistics are malleable (more…)

April 29, 2009

A crime against Tania’s humanity

Keruah Usit | Apr 29, 09 10:08am @ MalaysiaKini

Tania was in Form Four when she first visited a timber camp. She was a lively girl of 15, well-liked among her schoolmates. Like all her friends, Tania enjoyed swimming, playing netball and making fun of boys in her small rural school in Sarawak. Like many teenage girls, she was impatient to grow up, see the world, meet the man of her dreams and start a family of her own.

the antidote article sarawak native logging school children 280409 06At the end of one school term, four years ago, when all the children were returning to their far-flung villages, Tania was picked up by a 4×4 truck.

A large timber company, which was operating a concession in her village’s area, owned the truck. The driver should have sent Tania back home, three hours’ drive by logging track. Instead, the driver took her to one of the timber camps about an hour’s drive of her school.

Almost all of Tania’s schoolmates were boarders at their remote secondary school. The students’ villages were spread out far and wide – a day’s walk, or even further, from the school. To get home for a term break, or go back to school, they climbed into three-tonne monster logging trucks, or they squeezed like blue-and-white livestock, into the open back of a 4×4 logging vehicle.

April 26, 2009

Finding Our Own Way

By Pak Bui

Any future, enlightened Sarawak Chief Minister will have to crack his or her head for a workable blueprint for Sarawak’s economy, after the wrecking job done over the past three decades. Most discussions on Sarawak’s economic future boil down to following a richer country’s model, notably Singapore and China.

We are reminded that China has produced GDP growth of greater than 7% every year since official figures were released in 1992. In 2009, during the most painful recession in memory for every other major economy, China’s massive economy is still expected to grow, albeit at a slower rate. The latest quarterly figure shows impressive GDP growth of 6.1% for China, even if this is the lowest since official records began. However, before we are carried away by annual growth rates, it is worth bearing in mind that China’s GDP growth began from a low per capita baseline in 1992 – the only way was up, in fact. Even now, the per capita income in China is lower than in many developing nations, despite impressive growth statistics. (more…)

April 19, 2009

My Recipe for Our Beloved Sarawak

By Pak Bui

I would like to share this home-cooked recipe in response to SKY’s posting “What would you do if you were the Sarawak Chief Minister?”

I am sure many of you have your own variations on this.


1. One new Chief Minister (white hair discarded)

2. One new State Cabinet (fresh)

3. One large, new Police force (with shells and slime removed) (more…)

April 14, 2009

Why Don’t the People of Sarawak Have a Better Cabinet?

By Pak Bui

Our Federal Cabinet has its fair share of deadbeats. Mukhriz Mahathir’s inclusion, for example, brings to mind the picture of a clumsy loser, only allowed to play mixed doubles for a school badminton team because his father knows the headmaster.

There is an email doing the rounds, setting out one explanation why Malaysia lost to Singapore in a dispute over a rock, Batu Puteh, in the Straits of Johor. The email listed out the many academic qualifications of Singaporean ministers (Masters degrees from Harvard, Yale, Cambridge) and comparing them with Malaysian ministers’ qualifications (Bachelor degrees from University Institut Teknologi Mara, Politeknik Ungku Omar, the University, ex-Polytechnic, of Staffordshire).

Academic degrees mean little in real life. And Singapore is a ridiculous, soulless hamster cage, not a democratic Athens we can look to for inspiration. But the list provides a little insight into our executive branch of government. (more…)

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