Monday, 23 November 2015

Irene and Jailani

Jailani and Irene, my 'two middle aged' youngsters from Singapore braved an eight-hour bus journey from Boon Lay (Singapore) to Setiawangsa for an overnight stay last weekend.  What a lovely sight it was - to hear Salam Aleikum from  these two faces peeping over our gate -  clutching a brown paper bag.

On opening the gate we got hugs and kisses that reeked of hot pisang goring that they had bought from the Abang Goring Pisang at Setiawangsa LRT Station.  But their capacity for sharing was quite commendable.  " Have some pisang goring - it's really yummy," said Irene to Uncle and Miss Hamid!  What more could we ask for eh??

I know this blog is almost comatose.  Like the parrot in Monty Python's sketch, Ash is not "quite dead, demised, passed on, ceased to be, bereft of life, not quite pushing the daisies".  AsH is "resting, stunned and pining" buffeted by the winds of a Kafkaesque bureaucratic drama in the land of my father, my grandfather, great grandfather, great great-grandfather and perhaps right into the ooze and slime of the origins of life on earth.

At times all I can appreciate in my Tanah-Air is the Tanah and the Air. Anything else (other than the wildlife) is pathetic and oppressive.  It has worn me out - wafer-thin.

Well, Jai and Irene were like a breath of fresh air  ( and the aroma of pisang goring).  Not only that, they (especially Jai) nagged and  tormented our dear neighbour - Zarina and Ken  - for "ikan tiga rasa" and Aik Cheong kopi O!  We call such Singaporeans kaki menginding.  Jai has polished this very fine art of mooching (like our cat Rusty) with us when he was a student in Glasgow - hinting at roast chicken with stuffing, sambal pedas ikan goreng and acar ikan kurau.

Zarina succumbed to the harassment and here are two very happy Singaporeans and the two diddies. And just the night before they gave us really succulent Satay from AU3!

Smiles and Smiles of Food! This included a bonus dish of Kurma Ayam.

Here they are: our long-suffering Zarina and Ken and their two boys Haiqal and Daniel.

Jai  has invited Zarina and family to stay with him whenever they visit Singapore.  We know Jai is a very hospitable host. Zarina will have full use of his kitchen and Irene will prepare the Menu  for each day of their stay.

I must say I felt so much better after this weekend because I can now paint six wonderful people onto the landscape of my Tanah-Air.  Thank you all.


Last, but not least there's Lely.

One day Lely, one sweet day, we will revive those halcyon days at Setiawangsa - to a Setiawangsa "cluttered with books and buffered by greenery" , according to Jai.

You are always here , in spirit - with us.

Friday, 30 October 2015

The Ideal Chinese Ambassador - Assoc Professor Huang Shih Ying

For us - the two geriatrics - the past  10 days have seen an excruciatingly frustrating nail-biting series of doings and undoings with the bureaucracy in Malaysia.  "Some third person decides your fate: this is the whole essence of bureaucracy,"  - Alexandra Kollontai 1872-1952.

But more upsetting for us is the loss of  Assoc Professor Huang Shih Ying - our acupuncturist from Tung Shin Hospital - when she returns to Taiwan at the end of October.

For the past three years,she has treated and mended my joint and respiratory maladies.  She has always managed to tweak me back to normalcy over my insomnia and fatigue syndrome. Part of her treatment comes from her caring and kind demeanour.  When she enters the room, you get a bright smile. With her hands folded close to her chest she gives you a courteous bow.

She remembers the problems you had the previous week and makes an inquiry about your progress.  Always very encouraging,    Prof Huang  reassures you with "I will try my best".   And she has never failed to do so for the spouse and AsH!    And after inserting up to 30 needles all over the parts of you that western medicine cannot reach, she leaves you with "Now you rest, Aunty" or "Uncle, you rest now".

We have had a couple of very revealing  and insensitive statements about Malaysia from His Excellency Mr  Huang Huikang, the Chinese (PRC - Peoples' Republic of China) Ambassador to  Malaysia.  (See my previous posting on 11 October)

However, Prof Huang from Taiwan (ROC - Republic of China) offers the best that Chinese medicine and Chinese culture can offer.   She takes away the nasty odour that Ambassador Huang Huikang and his Malaysian Chinese brethren leave in the mouth.

We will miss her very much: Professor Huang the acupuncture specialist and the ideal Chinese Ambassador.

The spouse made this farewell card for our "Taiwan niece".

She had to run back to her office while exclaiming "this is very unprofessional conduct" because the card left her in tears.  She came back a minute or so later to attend to us and left us with the usual comforting "Rest now, Uncle/Aunty".

Sunday, 11 October 2015

China's 'Daughter' in the Pariah State.

Baba Huang asks Malaysian Chinese "Allow me to love all of you, alright?"
"As the Chinese Ambassador to Malaysia, I will continue to play the role as a friend of Chinese education."

So His Excellency sees himself as the "minder" of Chinese education in Malaysia.    But China's commitment to Chinese education in the Malay Peninsula goes a long way back - to 1922 - and maybe even earlier.  That ambition had cast a long shadow over Malaysia's past, present and future

The beginning of the Brave New Middle Kingdom - the "future masters of the Malay Peninsula."

The Ambassador also assured Malaysian Chinese of their 'family ties'.

The strong ties of the TONG PAO - of the same womb

For more heartwarming details of this special relationship, do look up .......


If only, oh if only the Malays - the Malaikwai (Malay devil) - could find protection and succour in the arms of "an economic superpower" like our fellow Chinese citizens.  If only we had the formula to enable us to put our bums on two stools.

What do we have?


For as long as this septuagenarian can remember, three words were never to be used to describe Indians in Singapore and Malaysia.  They are Keling and Pariah and P*****.  Such utterances would - in my mother's eyes - deserve a red hot chili rubbed hard against the lips.

From the Internet: pariah is a social outcast, a member of a low caste in South India.

"1610s, from Portuguese paria or directly from Tamil paraiyar, plural of paraiyan "drummer" (at festivals, the hereditary duty of members of the largest of the lower castes of southern India), from parai "large festival drum."  Especially numerous at Madras, where its members supplied most of the domestics in European service" [OED].  Applied by Hindus and Europeans to any members of low Hindu castes and even to outcastes.

Last year Tun M declared my bangsa as "shameless".  In 2015 he called my "tanah tumpah darah ku"  a pariah state.

Malaysian Chinese can take refuge in Baba Huang's Middle Kingdom.  Indians can return to the Indian sub-continent.

Malays can only putih tulang and putih mata. 


Nana, nana. Lekas pulang.
Aci takut tinggal sa orang
Belakang rumah ada jembalang.
Mata sepit, hidung-nya belang.


Friday, 2 October 2015

Malaysia's National Anthem

Malaysia, tighten your seat belts please.

We know that the ringgit is down in the dumps - that puts paid to shopping for imported foodstuff and prezzies for the coming festivities.  Our little darlings -  Kevin, Suu Lin, Farhana Faezah, Arul Armand will pout and scream because overseas holidays will have to be put on hold.

Right now, the nation's name and reputation is mud!

We're all at each other's throats claiming moral superiority for our divided loyalties and our choice of heroes and  villains.

Well, here's something else to worry about.  Did you know that the arch-English composer Benjamin Britten was paid a handsome fee (for a 1-minute song) to compose our National Anthem in 1957 and our then leaders. rejected it !!

"The great English composer Benjamin Britten once wrote Malaysia a national anthem - only for it to be rejected in favour of a cabaret tune.  Did the government make a horrible mistake, asks Alex Marshall, author of a new book on the history of anthems."

For more titillations to feed another fracas in Malaysia, read :

I shudder to think about the disgruntled voices arising from this news item.

1. Our aficionados of classical western music would be wringing their hands in despair. This only proves how crass and stupid the Government was - to reject this great British composer. Just think - how proud we would feel when our national anthem - composed by the Benjamin Britten - is played at our local and international soirees.

2.  100 guineas?? This is corrupt cronyism. The Government must get back their money with interest - it's been 58 years.  Check the bank accounts of the politicians , the bureaucrats and the Minister of National Anthems.

3.  Our uber-Arabised brethren will be foaming at the mouth when they realise that Negaraku was once a hit number  "at parties and cabarets  ..... and went on to be a popular Hawaian song".

Do read the BBC article.  It cheered me up no end.

                                            *                                 *                                    *

And now do enjoy the Top of the Anthems.

1. Britten's 100 guineas composition. That's 2100 shillings or GBP105 in 1957.  That would be a helluva dosh today. And when you take into account that the exchange rate is 1 GBP = 6.7 MYR  !!???

2.  The ancestor of Negaraku - not a great pedigree - but still a "gently stirring"  and endearing melody.


Monday, 28 September 2015

Little China and Big China - a Malaysian ordeal?

WARNING :  Some parts of this posting is written in Nanyang-style (Nanyang = Overseas Chinese) English/Singlish. Some readers may find the vocabulary, sentence structure and phraseology confusing but most Singaporeans and Malaysians, except for the Westernized and Arabised,  can follow the gist of the article.)

Aiyah! this Malaikwai (Malay devil) so fed-up man!

Why the Cina bukit ( a particular species of Nanyang Chinese) act so tua kee  (big shot) one?

After the yellow T-shirt and Red T-shirt game shows - now the desper-rate Ah Kows and Ah Lians must look for Big Brother in Big China for  help.  They used to sakar (flatter)  all those gullible and greedy Malai with so many gimmicks to be their kaki  for Ali Baba consortiums - and get their support for money-making business. 

Now I hear about the China Ambassador's walkabout in Petaling Street .  He  say "China is against any form  of extremism, racism or terrorism and will not sit idly or tolerate them."    Oh boy. Malaysia better be careful man.  This is no Ah Beng speaking - he represent the top Big Shot on the Asian Block!  Sure the Tow Kays, Ah Kows and Ah Lians feel very  kambang  now, because they can feel they have bigger clout in MalaikwaiLand.

This will make very good Chinese soap opera - "Flying Dragon and Crouching Lizard".  The Malai can be the lalat.  And there will of course be some privileged and well-connected flies - we will call them "the Lords of the Flies".

But I wonder, what if Malaysian Ambassador in China go to Xinjiang and Tibet and  repeat the same statement??    Wah, he wouldn't dare!    Even though the people of Xinjiang and Tibet are not so free and not so rich as the lucky Chinese in Malaysia.

So maybe the Chinese Ambassador in Malaysia should also visit all those Chinese schools and Colleges, and all the Chinese company headquarters, and all the temples, and all the high up land with good feng shui - now full of exclusive condominiums.....and Chinese cemeteries.

Hong Kong, at least, got real problems in that department:.

South China Morning Post - 15 Oct 2011
So come on, Malaysia.      Dead or living, where there's opportunity (loads of it in Malaysia), there's got to be money.

                              * * * *                     * * * *                      * * * *

So let's think about it.   If we follow the logic of the scenario, we may have to resort to the tactics of yore.

1. The bunga mas was presented by the Sultans of Malacca to the Emperor of China every year  as a token of vassalage to the Middle Kingdom.  Today, the price of gold is not too steady and petroleum and natural gas is not too exciting - so maybe Malaysia could sell the latter (with the connivance of the Lords of the Flies) at a very discounted price (as they say, 'we all kam cheng  (kawan) lah' ).

Furthermore, what else can we sell at a discount?  Land for polluting industries, for property developers and facilities for entrepreneurs in the tourism industry who can then  market our Malay culture, our beaches, offshore islands and hilltop resorts for cheap tourism and plenty of gambling. Nothing new?    Well think of the huge huge market up there!   Especially for the gambling!

To hell with the wildlife, the Orang Asli and the fishermen!!

2.  To foster the relationship between  the Malacca Sultanate and China, Princess Hang Li Po was given away as a bride for Sultan Mansur Shah.  In our modern setting, perhaps a grand marriage between a celebrity in China (maybe a tycoon or a pop star - there are no more princesses in modern China) and Royalty or top Celebrity in Malaysia might cement much goodwill??

Writing about democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville ( 1805-1859) wrote : We get the government we deserve.

Here's my variation on the above quote,

Poor, dear Tanah Air Ku - You don't deserve the government or the people you've got. 

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Confessions of a Veteran Street Protestor

PART ONE: My Lady doth protest too much

 I was young, I was naive. I had unbounded self-confidence (or arrogance?), thinking that I knew just what my country needed and how!  With gusto and hauteur, my fellow undergraduates and I in 1966 marched in protest at the Singapore University Campus against the Suitability Certificate  (a condition for admittance into University) and the right for Academic Freedom and Autonomy.

AsH the Samseng 'freedom fighter' - 4th from left.  (Note the scooters on the right.)  One of the placards carried this indignant message : Politics NO!  Integrity YES.  Some of the leaders and participants on that march - when they graduated and moved into the real world - took no part in either politics or  integrity!!

Out of that single Campus protest I recall  one of the most radical and vociferous voices against the system, who became a member of a political club - no, not the Democratic Socialist Club (a sort of wishy-washy pal of the PAP) but the more radical Socialist Club.  After we all graduated in 1967, this  hard-core 'leftie'  (by Singapore standards) got himself a plum job in the Ministry of Culture, Singapore.  It's all about the fox in the hen-house!  Or the proverbial 'heart on the left and pocket on the right' !!

So you see, protests of the young and not-so-young against the system are nothing new.  Although it's quite impossible to see this scenario in Singapore  nowadays (no wonder several of our politicians and social commentators are dead keen on emulating Singapore)  protest  movements in Malaysia are almost like an annual festival, in all shades of colour, gaiety and agenda.

Another fascinating feature of these Malaysian "Springs" is the network created, extending over national and international landscapes -and even occurring in one of the world's youngest states, Timor Leste.  This, of course, is partly because (compared with the dinosaur-technology of  the 1960s) communications today are much more advanced, with the internet and the social media making connections more pervasive and widespread.  But I often wonder why this 'spring' has not sprung in Malaysia's own backyard in the  rural and poorer parts of the nation.   Could it be they don't have mobile telephones?    Of course they do.      So could it be other things are more important??

Then there's the matter of leadership, and who it is that inspires.   Well, every cause and protest movement must have a leader - a charismatic and articulate leader who can wield the arm of unity of belief and purpose.  And such a leader there is, according to a reliable source: one who crossed the globe to make a  "special guest appearance in London to meet Malaysians ..... kindly agreed to give a talk this Sunday 23rd August in Central London."  And who then "flies home to take part in the main KL march but she will be with us in spirit."       The leadership's clarion calling sounds almost messianic.

But let's not forget that there can be other external guiding leaders and mentors like the Oslo Freedom Forum, organised by Thor Halvorssen Mendoza's Human Rights Foundation (HRF).


Here are extracts from the above post:






PART TWO: The burdens of youth

George Bernard Shaw had this to say about Age: Youth, which is forgiven everything, forgives itself nothing: age which forgives itself anything, is forgiven nothing.

I do envy the young Malaysians who, on the 29th and 30th August (with non-Malaysian support) had the means, the reasons and the opportunities to go into the streets of London, especially at Belgrave Square, to demand the resignation of the Prime Minister of Malaysia.

In 1975, at the London University School of Education (Malet Street), I was sitting in a classroom with my other classmates waiting for the lecturer to turn up. Then a couple of students stopped at the door, calling us to join them in a demonstration downstairs.  One of them  gave me an intense look as if to say "what about you?".  I had to respond,  " Sorry, I'm here at my own expense. I intend to get the education I paid for."  Some of my classmates shook their heads to indicate 'no', the others simply ignored them.

You see, I couldn't afford to expend my energy and time supporting "good causes".   I was living week to week on my meagre allowance.  By the weekend, I would have just enough  milk and bread to see me through till Monday when I began my next allowance.  For 'entertainment', my good friend Loo Lee and I would pack a meal of sandwiches and milk and go for lovely, long walks in the various beautiful parks in London or venture to the free British Museum and National Gallery.  For transport we had our monthly season ticket on the Underground.

Furthermore, my father did not have the benefit of a pension or an accumulation of  property and financial reserve to subsidize my one year at London University.  In fact, my parents were dependent on my siblings' and my financial support.  For this post-graduate course I was supporting myself on my savings and my six-months half-pay.  I had my budget finely tuned so that it would last right through the Examination and I could then seamlessly get back to teaching when I had the additional piece of paper.  I toyed with the idea of spending another year at the School of Education to get to the Masters-of-Education - I reckoned I could get by for the extra year with part-time jobs. (I already had an evening job clearing tables at the ULU Refectory).   But three months into my course, on 21 December 1974, my father passed away and I knew I had to go home and stop at the Academic Diploma. The Masters degree had to wait - for another 10 years.

PART THREE: Growing old ... and angry

Jai came along with us for this demonstration against the war in Bosnia in 1995.  The brown bag contained our drinks and food for lunch and pre-dinner comestibles.

Since the mid-1980s, the spouse and I have been to umpteen protest marches in England.  It involved travelling nearly 100 miles from Leicester to London and another 100 miles to get back home. Sometimes we took the National Express coach, or we drove and parked the car at Golders Green. At other times we travelled with the local Anti-War or Support for Gaza coaches.

 We also attended several marches in support of the two Intifadas - in 1987 and 2000.  This was where I saw what grief for your homeland can look like ; a grief that is quiet, enduring and painful. There was no music, no dancing, no enthusiastic sounds from drums and horns that usually accompany a demonstration.  There were mums and dads pushing their little ones in buggies.  But the most poignant and heart-rending was this Palestinian family.  The father had his 5 year old daughter on his shoulders and the mother held the hand of their 8 year old son and they walked and chanted in a tone only audible to anyone immediately next to them, "Palesteen .... Palesteen ....Palesteen".  (The Palestinians do not pronounce the last syllable as tyne.)

 At the turn of the 21st century there were two huge demonstrations against the War on Iraq.  My sister and brother-in-law, Mak Haji Maznah (60) and Pak Haji Harun (67), - two retired cikgus  from Batu Pahat -joined us for the 400,000 anti-war demonstration on September 28, 2002. That was a day they will never forget.

We were on our own for the largest ever protest march - over 1 million - on 15 Feb 2003.  We were all expressing our worry and concern over a second attack on Iraq (following the First Iraq War of 1990-1991).  This anti-war protest took place all over the world.   Of course, thanks to the arms manufacturers, the oil-thirsty industrialists, Israel, the Islamophobes, the power-mad leaders like Blair and Bush (AND with the tacit and not-so-tacit agreement of the Arab states) Iraq was shredded to pieces.  But this was just part of the bloody dismemberment of the Muslim world (from Iraq, Libya, Yemen, and Syria, to Palestine, Somalia and Afghanistan) led by the world's two most powerful Judaeo Christian nations.

The Anti-War Protest of 15 February 2003.

Such is the strength of "people power" that one month later - after and despite this huge demonstration against the War -  on 19 March 2003, Bush invaded Iraq.

The protest against this war was expressed not only by Muslims (well, some Muslim nations) but across every colour, creed, religion and nationality.

Then in November (18-21) 2003, Bush made a formal visit to Great Britain.  He was granted a Royal audience.  The establishment knew of a looming anti-Bush and anti-war demonstration and decided to keep Bush's route a secret so that the American President would not be embarrassed by those tens of thousands of the British populace lining his route and calling him a war criminal and shouting at him to go home.

November 2003 - the spouse holding our very own home-made and home-designed placard.  It was inspired by that very popular 1960s song, "Yellow Rose of Texas".

By then , of course, the British public were weary, disheartened and disillusioned.  The main issue of the war against the Muslim world was less popular - although people did at least maintain a sense of loyalty to their "boys" who were fighting in a war that they did not want or believe in.  (Which made me wonder: would most Malaysians feel and act the same way in supporting our "boys"?  The history of the Communist Insurgency from 1948 to 1960, at least, suggests not.

After 2003, in Leicester and London,we attended several other activities in support of Palestine and Gaza.   We got no buzz and no kick from such demonstrations.      In fact, if anything, we went with a sense of gathering despondency at the way so many hundreds of millions of people were being made to suffer..

And I would always remind myself of a basic truth: as a Singaporean and later a Malaysian, I had been so very fortunate in never having to suffer or fear mayhem and bloodshed because my country had been attacked and occupied by the Big Boys of the world.
                                     .....                    .....                    .....                    .....

For one who's a loner and a maverick, I don't expect overt support for my unconventional and bolshie viewpoints.     But I do try to remember the victims.     Of all kinds.      I hold very dear this memory from 1978 when I was sent to teach at Anglo-Chinese Junior College, Singapore's most pukka missionary Sixth Form College.

See :

Of course, the world is much wider than this.    In the end, I can only hope that our (and so many others) presence at all those street protests will transmit to the voiceless, neglected, unrepresented victims our empathy for their sufferings.   And the knowledge that they are not alone - albeit it's just cold comfort.

The news cries out for more empathy.    Take the plight of refugees risking their lives to escape war and violence in their now-demolished homelands.     The sound of (near) silence is almost deafening.

Good Luck Syrians, Iraqis, Palestinians, Yemenis, Libyans, Somalis, Eritreans, Afghanis, Rohingyas  ......

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Will the last Anak Melayu to leave the room please switch off the light?

Fifty-eight years ago, on 31 Aug 1957, at 691 Pasir Panjang Road Singapore, the whole family were sitting around our radio, listening to the commentary of the declaration of Malaya's independence.  Came the part when the Union Jack was lowered and the Malayan flag took its place.

I saw the tears rolling down from Abah's eyes. I was only 13 and I just had to ask Abah "why?"

"I cry because my country is free (of the British).  But I also fear for the future of my country and my people."

 Today, in my father's Tanah-Air, his fears have come true.  Allahyarham Usman Awang's lament  ..

 ...... returns to haunt us again.

The shameful and shabby shenanigans of  Malay leadership - past and present -  only serves to prove George Santayana's (1863-1952) quote :

Those who do not remember the past are condemned to relive it.

We are becoming or have become a condemned race.

When the longest serving 4th Prime Minister of Malaysia gave his blessings for the Chinese/Indian-dominated Bersih 4, and their agenda  ...

...... then indeed we are condemned.  I fear for the lower-income Malays living in the kampung and on the margins of cities like KL, JB , Ipoh and Pulau Pinang.  All, if not a majority of them have been loyal to UMNO and all its leaders.

When Bill Clinton was asked if  he smoked marijuana, he confessed he experimented with it, but he did not inhale!  I suppose our 4th Prime Minister could also declare that he did not participate in Bersih 4, he only visited the site after it was over.

Tomorrow is the 58th anniversary of Malaya's independence.  What independence?  Whose independence?

Osman, our road sweeper friend said to me. "Alah Kak.  Merdeka apa ni?  Merdeka kepala otak!"

Indeed  'Man - tis only Merdeka for those who are using their kepala otak - for selling their  bangsa down the river.

I'm done with spitting at the sky.