Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Ilyas and Emir and the Archbishop

Got a much needed ray of sunshine when Abang Long, my brother-in law, sent me this photograph of his "Cucu No. 8 and 9" on their first day at school.

Ilyas (on the left) and his cousin Emir all geared up to face the world of learning - for the next  12-15 years.
I know my sister will  thump me for showing this : Tok Wan in Primary 1 circa 1949.





Maznah first went to St Anthony's Girls' School  (top photo) when we were living at Kampung Chantek, Dunearn Road. The family then moved to Kampung Abu Kassim at Pasir Panjang Road and she had to have a change of uniform for Pasir Panjang English School.

Though Tok Wan looked like a frightened rabbit during her first year in school, her grandsons are full of smiles and confidence.  Could it be because they are wearing long pants and not just shorts?  In the old days long trousers were only for the big boys in secondary school  (except for Jurong Secondary School, Singapore).  Little squirts in primary school were only allowed shorts!  But then little boys (and big ones) are good at hiding their fears and their mischief.  They may look like butter won't melt in  their mouths but they do have a remarkable, innate talent for driving you up the wall and round the bend.

It wasn't too long ago when they were just two little nuisances and a pain in the ears!

Dennis the Menace and Roger the Dodger in 2008
Thank you Bang Long (and Maria) for keeping me in the loop - and for giving me a kickstart to get on with writing.  Most of the time for the past few weeks my head had been feeling  like this spinning carousel at Leicester City Centre.


video

I put it down to these series of medication (not the book though) - three so far - for a geriatric blogger with a dodgy pulse rate.


On the other hand, the fatigue and breathlessness could be due to a deficiency of sunshine, blacan and sambal pedas petai/ikan bilis?

Elyas, his old man Nadzim, his big brother Ariff, and Emir are privileged to have attended  St. John's Institution or Sekolah  Kebangsaan St. John, one of the oldest schools in Malaysia which was opened by the La Salle Brothers in 1904.  For more information, check   http://malaysiafactbook.com/St._John's_Institution,_Kuala_Lumpur

This Catholic missionary institution has developed in tandem with the country's post-Independence education policy designating  itself as Sekolah Kebangsaan St. John without the letters 'Ç' and 'T' in brackets.  In 1969 St John took pride in organising the annual English and Bahasa Malaysia public speaking competition.  "Public speaking became part of the English and Bahasa Malaysia curriculum and was compulsory for all students".  St. John maintained its Christian heritage and autonomy in management even though it has become very popular with non-Christian students and their parents - making it a multi-ethnic and multi-religious Sekolah Kebangsaan.  "Though the school land is owned by the Roman Catholic Church .....  much of the school funding is received from the Government of Malaysia".

In May 2010 it was declared a National Heritage Site by the Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage.  It was one of the first schools to be recognised as a Cluster School of Excellence where it was granted autonomy in   'administration and adequate funding to excel in specialised fields such as academic, sports and extra-curricular activities".  St. John can be proud of two other aspects of their CV.  They provide for visually-impaired students who attend normal classes like the other students.  They are taught by specialist teachers and given extra tuition by student-volunteers.  Also this school is blessed with generous contributions from former students and other benefactors together with a dedicated Staff and PIBG.  If only other Sekolah Kebangsaan in the country could replicate the dedication and standard  of Sekolah Kebangsaan St. John.

Like any other parents, Maria and Nadzim, Hidayah and Faiz - the parents of Ilyas and Emir respectively - wanted a school where their children could thrive and grow - in  Bahasa  Malaysia and English -  in both the academic and non-academic spheres.  Their other priority is that their children should study and grow up with other  (non-Malay) Malaysian children.  In the classroom, in the canteen, in the playing fields, their children together with others who make up the Malaysian rakyat will get the opportunity to work as a team, to quarrel and bicker as children do, to share and compete, to laugh and cry together and most important of all - despite their differences in skin and faith - they will  learn to respect - and not to just tolerate - one another

And so I was quite distressed when I read this in The Malaysian Insider on Christianity's most holy day.

See :   http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/archbishop-packiam-prays-that-the-pm-will-remember-where-he-came-from

Here's an extract with the most telling parts marked in green ......

  
And so it came to pass that on one Christmas Day, a day for "peace on earth and goodwill to all men", Archbisop Emeritus Murphy Packiam  decreed that .......




Is this payback time because a Muslim boy studied in a Catholic school?  What about non-Muslims who live and prosper in a Malay-Muslim Semenanjung and Southeast Asia?   In fact, Catholic and Protestant/Anglican/ Methodist Missionary schools, vernacular Chinese and Tamil schools  have thrived much more than Malay schools from the time of the invasion of the Malacca Sultanate by  the Catholic Alfonso de Albuqurque in the early part of the 16th century - through Dutch and especially British Imperialism and right up to 1957.  With such generous support and handouts from the Colonial Government it is rather the  Christian Mission schools who should show gratitude to the  natives for letting the Christian white overlords to act as they please in the Semenanjung for their benefit.




What can I say?  Big deal!  For this semi-divine favour, should Tun Rahah be obliged to instruct her PM son to forego his responsibilities to the rest of the country and give  Archbishop Packiam  his perceived "pound of flesh".   It seems that the Prime Minister of Malaysia owes him ( and his cronies) a helluva debt!  Does that also include all the Malay-Muslim children, past and present, who attended Catholic and other Christian schools?

O mighty Caesar! dost thou lie so low?
Are all thy conquests, glories, triumphs, spoils
Shrunk to this little measure?     (Shakespeare : Julius Caesar , III. i. Ib.148 )

But I do believe that this school where my father's great-grandchildren will spend the next 12-15 years of their lives does not subscribe to the same ethos as the good Archbishop.

However I think we should also consider another aspect of the Malaysian Insider's title, "... that the PM will remember where he came from".  It is crucial that we must not forget to remember how we got to be Malaysians and how we got to be where we are now - and that includes Prime Ministers and Archbishops.

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



This song by that true-blue anak Malaysia Andre Goh,  has accompanied me (via a cassette tape) wherever I wandered away from my shores.  It kept me company when I was in Brunei, as an anak dagang mencari rezeki di negeri orang, as a student in London, Colchester and Leicester and as the spouse of Donald Iain Buchanan in Leicester.

Bahagia lah dikau di merata negeri,
Jangan lupa asal mu tetap sejati.

And so for Emir and Ilyas,  one day, perhaps in the 2060s when you will reach my age, you will remember to hold dear your family and especially the two lines above.



Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Foot in Mouth Disease - Part II

This posting is dedicated to each and everyone of my Followers - with much appreciation for your support.

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

Last night some one took a potshot at AsH.  Because it was located at a remote corner of my previous posting "Whither the Malays  and Wither the Malays?"  ( See the Sidebar)  I decided to do a posting and give this cyber-warrior the oxygen of publicity.

This was the comment from AK47.





   And this was my "response" - short and sweet compared to the first Foot in Mouth posting.

Read :  http://anaksihamid.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/foot-and-mouth-disease.html




To add meat to AK 47's angst over 'decapitated craniums of bovines'  I suggest he look up my posting "For Jagdish" 2 September 2009.
 Check   http://anaksihamid.blogspot.co.uk/2009/09/for-jagdish.html


Ahem.... sorry to be a bit finicky.  A cranium is just the bony framework.  Those idiots - in 2009- decapitated the head and the cranium within - of that innocent cow!



Bertepuk tangan, amboi tangan, tanda berani.
Tiada gentar, ala sayang, hai membela diri.






Sunday, 8 December 2013

PERFIDY

I do apologise.  For the moment, my posting of  "A Collective or a Cult?" has to be on the back burner - just for a while, as I have to publicise and thrash this little ignoramus.

The demise of one of the 20th century's bravest freedom fighters, Nelson Mandela, saw a great outpouring of love, sadness, sympathy and respect in the world's electronic and print media.  Today, I looked through the Daily Mail's article on the passing of Nelson Mandela ......

See :  http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2519666/Nelson-Mandela-dead-95.html

and at the top of the Comment Section was this sordid piece by davidlee52, swanscombe, 15 hours ago (as of the time of this posting at 18.09,  7 Dec 2013).    The piece struck me as typical of an increasingly vocal campaign against Malaysia, now being waged (often by 'Malaysians") on the global Internet.

davidlee52 wrote:

The only country left in the world with its own version of apartheid is Malaysia and the country needs a great fair government and a leader that could walk in the shoes of Mr Nelson Mandela.

What magnanimity to utilise the passing of an African leader and freedom fighter to score points against Malays and Malaysia and to slag off his 'motherland" !!!   That's assuming that  (1) he is or was Malaysian, and (2)  that  as a Malaysian he is possessed of an undying loyalty to the land of his Passport.

Yes indeed. Malaysia needs a 'great fair government' especially  to balance the disparity of wealth between the Chinese of immigrant stock and the native Malays and Others.  This huge wealth gap in Malaysia - well institutionalised by historical, political, and cultural forces - is very similar to that  between the immigrant whites in South Africa and the indigenous blacks during and after the so-called end of Apartheid in South Africa.  Of course the political realities are different, but the skewing of wealth distribution is much the same. And remember, there are rich "natives" and poor "ïmmigrants" in both cases but they are few and far between.

Certainly, it will need more than the wisdom and fortitude of  a Mandela to sort out this economic injustice in Malaysia - as it clearly still does in South Africa!

 In many ways, davidlee52's  accusation  can be easily binned in the light of these statistics.

1.  According to Malaysia Today, reporting Nanyang Siang Pau's research; the 10 richest men in Malaysia are (in descending order)   T. Ananda Krishnan, Robert Kuok, Teh Hong Piow, Lee Shin Cheng, Lim Kok Thay, Quek Leng Chan, Yeoh Tiong Lay, Mokhtar al-Bukhary, Azman Hashim and Lee Oi Hian.  So the tally is : 1 Indian, 1 Arab, 1 Malay and 7 Chinese.  Doesn't this look like the list of South Africa's 10 richest men with the immigrant whites hogging the wealth?  Just as a matter of interest, in Apartheid South Africa, during the 1970s, the Chinese were classified as 'honorary whites' and by the 1980s , together with the Japanese they were treated as 'whites'.

If davidlee52 is calling Malaysia an Apartheid country, where one dominant non-indigenous group, the Chinese (like the whites in South Africa), control and  hold the reins of wealth  -  then there is Apartheid in Malaysia!   You see, you can't possibly make and accumulate such wealth and clout if you suffer discrimination and segregation like the blacks in the United States and in South Africa. But then , this domination and control also exist in Indonesia and the Philippines. So here are two more apartheid regimes in Southeast Asia!

2.  Let's look at Indonesia's Top Ten Croesus.  There's Budi Hartono (Oei Hwi Tjong), Eka Tjipta Widjaja (Oei Ek Thong), Anthony Salim and family (no Chinese name available), Susilo Wonowidjojo and family (Cai Doping) and two other Chinese as in Mochtar Riady and Sukanto Toto.  Chairul Tanjung  and Sri Prakash Lohia are certainly not of this tong pao.   As for Boenjamin Setiawan and Peter Sondakh - I cannot find the information.

3.  As for the Philippines, her Top Ten included amongst others, Henry Sy and family (No 1 - net worth $12,000million), Lucio Tan and family, Andrew Tan, George Ty and family.

You see, if people like davidlee and scores of others want to play the racial card about inequality and imbalances and democracy, I find no reason why I should not follow through their line of argument and look at the most crucial ingredient of power and justice and equality - namely wealth.

4.  Just to add grist to the mill, outside of China, Malaysia is the only country that caters for vernacular Chinese education.  Singapore, with a population of over 75% Chinese only gives room for the top flyers in vernacular Chinese education - in the SAP school where they are treated as anak mas..  Furthermore here are some  'enlightening' aspects of  "Apartheid Malaysia" from Wikipedia referring to a Chinese PI Cohort..  In terms of admission to post-secondary institutions the proportion of  Chinese rose from 65% (1990) to 96% in 2005.  Very interesting is the increase of ethnic Chinese in publicly funded tertiary institutions from 13% (1980) to 69% (2005).

I suppose davidlee52  could shrug this off as, "Well it's because you Malays (and Indians) are backward and lazy!"   Aaah, a tactic straight from the White Colonialists' hymn book..  My experience as a teacher in Singapore tells me that it takes more than colour and culture to excel in school.  Those from a comfortable middle-class background especially the ones who live in the urban areas have the right ingredients for educational success, not only in terms of motivation but also of health and facilities.  The Chinese have always, always been the denizens of mainly urban areas where the British provided the best facilities, services and infrastructure for education, employment and health - an enduring legacy of their built-in advantage.

For more statistical details about this urban-rural apartheid do look at :
http://anaksihamid.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/atap-genting-atap-rumbia-kak.html

5.  I think people who reckon that the Malays have an unfair placing in the power structure of the country should familiarise themselves with the matters that really count - wealth!  Malaysians of all shades of hue should be proud to know that in the list of the world's billionaires Robert Kuok is at number 33 ( though Ananda Krishnan may have topped him in 2013), Lee Shin Cheng (189), Quek Leng Chan (277), Teh Hong Piow (277) and Yeoh Tiong Lay (421).  So what are the Sino-cybertroopers whingeing about?

And while checking on the news of Malaysia a week ago I discovered this helluva codswallop - this time from the Kelantan Malay Datuk Zaid Ibrahim - about how the Chinese were the true patriots because they paid the most tax!!!!  Of course this silliness will be used by the likes of davidlee52 to show what good Malaysians they are .

People who are not rich enough to pay a lot of tax have other priorities to cater to, like paying their rent, the children's schooling and putting food on the table.  People who pay tax are exactly the sort who have more than they need and want for a good life.  In any country in the world these sorts have to fulfill their responsibilities to the country that made them what they are!    But then they also can afford accountants who can help them to siphon their extra dosh to escape the tax man!

So, is there another indicator of loyalty?  Will davidlee52 of Swanscombe and all the other cybertroopers of his ilk out there in the ether acknowledge and respect those who pay with their blood to protect the sovereignty of "Apartheid Malaysia"?    Is there any chance that one day, people like davidlee or his grandchildren and great grandchildren will be willing to reciprocate this sacrifice?   But maybe they might think, what for?  We've paid enough tax.

It is a shame that davidlee52  chose not to direct his comment in The Daily Mail to paying respect for a great son of Africa in the Mail's Mandela tribute.  Instead he used it as a platform to shout his chauvinism and slag off Malaysia.

I picked this beautiful flower from near Motherwell, a township where the blacks live.  I brought it home, dried it and preserved it in my special box to remind me of  the disparities of wealth and poverty - anywhere in the world.


In 2000, the spouse and I went on a little visit to South Africa.  In Port Elizabeth we were advised by our Boer host not to take the local Pawancha or Teksi Sapu to get into the City Centre because they were run and used by blacks.  We disregarded that advice and on both trips we were treated no different from the other 'local' passengers..  We got back to our host's house safe and sound, body and possessions intact.  Later we took a coach trip from Port Elizabeth to Capetown.  We shall never forget this.  On that coach, we observed a white woman giving a can of drink to a black South African - who obviously looked far far poorer - in the seat next to hers.  You would think, there's a good lady - she has shed her sense of superiority in a South Africa that has cast off the chains of Apartheid.

Well, she had 'donated' a can of drink which she herself could not finish - she gave away her leftovers.

The late Nelson Mandela pushed the door a little for justice for his people but his followers and the younger generation among his people will have to work even harder.  "Freedom and liberty" is not too hard a sacrifice to be given away by the powerful and the rich.   But giving the people Justice, - the opportunity to enable people to ' duduk sama rendah dan berdiri sama tegak', to redistribute the share of the pie, would be  anathema for those at the top.

Ditto Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.




    


Friday, 6 December 2013

Siti Aishah and WIMLMZT

For the last ten days, the weather has been a wee bit chilly and insalubrious for a geriatric tropical flower like AsH.  I decided to do something unchallenging like tidying up the folders in My Document and My Pictures. But then the Brixton slavery case hit the headlines and when it was revealed that one of these women 'slaves' was a 69 year old Malaysian it became more interesting than reading 'Fictionalized History: Initiating Changes in the Malaysian Identitity' by Sim Chee Cheang.  And when the identity of the the Malaysian turned out to be Siti Aishah Bakar you could have knocked me down with a feather.  Here is someone the post-modernists would describe as a  'Malay-Muslim Woman Subaltern' who, for over 30 years, had lived a life in a 'Maoist' Collective in London with an agenda of subverting the  'authority and hegemony' of the existing power structure. (I do enjoy playing the post-modernist lingo!)  I am curious as to how our post-modernist critics, crypto-Marxists, liberal intellectuals and academics in the Talking Salons and Ivory Towers in Singapore and Malaysia will interpret this phenomenon.  I suppose one can expect a flood of papers, treatises, seminars  from our radicals and liberals and (male and female) feminists in the near future!

I have however  discovered two articles.  One is by Maria Begum from the Malaysia Chronicle: BIG SLAP FOR MALAYSIA : Siti Aishah REFUSES to return, STANDS by her Maoist mates. the words indicated in capital letters are the author's.   The other is  "Forgiving Siti Aishah'  by Jeswan Kaur of FMT news.  Both of them are  plying the same tired argument purveyed by  the cult-like Friends and Fans (FAF) of Lim Chin Peng - that this Malay, this member of the "Supreme Race" was not to be punished, that she is allowed to come home while the ashes of their Supreme Freedom Fighter was denied re-entry into the Peninsula's soil,  etc etc.  I think they are getting their  "knickers in a twist" -  when they chose to interpret this tragic-comical  'Singaporean-Malaysian Collective' in terms of their self-serving racial politics.

The CONTEXT - that is what I always get back to.  

Anak Md Deris in her comment on my previous posting, asked me if I knew anything about Siti Aishah as we were born in 1944 and were in London at about the same time.  Actually Siti Aishah came to do her degree in London in 1968.  In that year I was into my second year of teaching at Yusof Ishak Secondary School  and I did not pursue my postgraduate studies in London University till 1974.  What we had in common other than 1944 was our  urban Malay-Muslim background.  We were both single,  English educated, and had the privilege of a tertiary education.  That was all.

London in the 1960s and 70s was awash with revolutionary student activities and activists belonging to groups of Marxists, Marxist-Leninists, Trotskyites, Stalinists,  International Socialists, International Marxist Group (of Tariq Ali)  Communists and Maoists.  This was also the time of the Civil Rights Movement in the USA.  Also the Imperialists'  involvements in the Vietnam War were at its most ferocious and bloody.( USA ended its presence in 1975).  Anti-war protests in London, organised by the young revolutionaries was particularly regular and well-attended.  However another battle of resistance by Palestinians against Israeli Occupation remained somewhat invisible, even after the 1967 Six day War.  In fact Yasser Arafat's PLO was formed in 1964.

As for Britain, the 1970s were marked by industrial strikes by coal miners in 1972 (under the Conservative Government)  and a variety of other minor strikes.  I remembered the 'bread' strike in 1975 when all the shelves in the shops were emptied of bread.  There were also frequent and unannounced strikes on the London Underground and buses.  I recalled a group of students coming to our lecture room in 1975 asking us to leave the room and join their protest.  This was at the Institute of Education, Malet Street. There were about nine of us but we ignored their call.

In comparison to university students today, British university undergrads then were living the life of Larry.  They were given very generous student grants.  They could stop and start and change  their courses as they pleased without suffering any financial penalty.  During University vacations they were well taken care of by registering for the dole.  This was a grand time to be young and radical.


My father organized for me a college in the East.
But I went to California, the sun-shine and the beach.
My parents and lecturers could never understand,
Why I gave it up for music and the free electric band.

By the late 1960s the Communist Party of Great Britain  (CPGB)  was reckoned to be  too moderate by the young revolutionaries. Mao and Mao's China was regarded as the 'model for the socialist revolution'.  The 1966 Cultural Revolution in China  gave fire and spirit to these Maoist factions.  They were mainly small groups making inroads into student movements in the late 1960s.  Many were overseas students and according to Professor Steve Rayner of Oxford University they "refused to recognize the legitimacy of the state .... and maintained a hostile attitude towards the establishment and towards the rest of the far-left in Britain at that time.  Their ideology was profoundly detached from reality."

One of these 'Maoist' leaders, Aravindan Balakhrisnan  - who was arrested with his wife Chanda for holding the three women as slaves for 30 years - was reported to be a product of Raffles Institution, Singapore's pukka English school and an undergrad in Singapore University in 1960.  Some sources reported that he came to study at SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies), London University in the 60s.





As for Siti Aishah , according to her sister, she came to Britain on a Commonwealth Scholarship to study surveying in 1968 and  was "attracted by an organisation called the Malaysian and Singaporean Students Forum which had a reputation as one of the more extremist Maoist groups operating in London."

 Comrade Bala and his wife Chanda  organised many meetings and protests in the late 60s and early 70s - giving talks and distributing pamphlets in the streets and University Campuses.  Siti Aishah was so bowled over by Comrade Bala's charisma and ideology that she broke her engagement and steered her loyalty towards Chairman Ara or Comrade Bala.  She eventually moved in permanently with Comrade Bala's cell, turning her back on her family and dedicated her life to the Revolution

In 1974 Balakrishnan  broke away from the  CPGB and set up the Maoist splinter group WIMLMZT or Workers' Institute of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought.  On Mao's death in 1976 the group erected a Mao Tse Tung Memorial Centre at 140 Acre Lane Brixton.  In 1978 the Centre was raided by the police and as a result, some students who had overstayed their visas were deported.  In the same year, Balakrishnan's cell, together with Siti Aishah and others went 'underground'.

By the 1980s Balakrishnan's  WIMLMZT went off the screen. They were regarded as non-violent and were simply maintaining a low profile, waiting for the Great Victory.   And in some ways the Maoism of the group is irrelevant: their key features are those of a cult rather than those of a Leninist party.  ( Lurdan  writes ....
"Looking at their writings now they seem to exhibit all the indicators of a classic millenarian sect based on an apparently literal belief in the immanence of global revolution.")

Whither the Revolution? 

My next posting :  "A Collective or a Cult? "

It is far from unprecedented to find people attracted to an individual who promises them a way to change the world  and add meaning to their own lives.  They are then encouraged to gradually increase their commitment to the group's activities. so that eventually it monopolises their time and their thinking.  This appalling example warns us all of the need to retain our ability to think for ourselves, and never to imagine that any one person or small group has all the answers to our problems.   -  Dennis Tourish, Professor of Leadership at the School of Management, Royal Holloway, University of London. 







Sunday, 17 November 2013

Poppy

From this .....

A field of common poppy (Papaver rhoeas)

........ to this.

Royal  British Legion paper poppy


Each year, when I was in Pasir Panjang English School  (1951-1957), around November, we were so delighted to be given the above paper poppy  - in exchange for a donation placed into a tin.  In those days the poppy had four petals, but no leaf.  It was one of those so-called freebies which kids loved to get.  It was just like those cake and drink coupons you get on Sports Day.  Mind you, even the smallest donation of five cents meant a lot to us because a plate of mee siam cost fifteen cents at the school tuckshop.  Did we care, or were we told about the significance of that poppy? No.  But it marked the beginning of my love for the poppy. My whim of running across a field of common poppy has yet to be realised although my dream of my favourite kampung flower, the bunga tahi ayam ( lantana camara) blooming in my garden did come true.

Lantana camara 
The paper poppy is worn here and in the Commonwealth (especially the white Commonwealth nations) on the weekend of 9-11 November to mark Remembrance Day and Armistice Day as a symbol of recognising the sacrifices made in past Wars.  Scarlet red poppies grow naturally on disturbed land.  It's quite heartwarming  to observe tiny parcels of red poppies dotting the construction site along a motorway in spring and sometimes summer.  In fact the seeds of the poppy can remain dormant in the soil for almost eight years.

After the Napoleonic Wars of the early 19th century, fields which had been trashed during very fierce fighting - between the French on the one hand and the  English and various other European countries on the other -  were transformed into fields of red poppies growing around the bodies of the dead soldiers.  This was seen again in the fields of Flanders and Northern France during the 1914 First World War, a bitter bloody battle that was described as "a war fought by lions and led by donkeys."  Almost 37 million perished.  However no lesson was learnt as the Second World War (1939-1945) followed, not much later.

These two "World Wars" which started in Europe were basically tribal wars between rich, powerful, imperialist European nation states ( and Americans) , no different from the "civil wars" raging in the continent of Africa and in the Middle East today.  The underlying causes and the nature of these wars were very similar except that the two "World Wars"  dragged in the rest of the non-European world.  It's not to say that the "civil wars"  during the late 20th and early 21st century developed in isolation.  This time it also involved the Western world in terms of  their   " interferences",  the gains they could make from selling weapons of destruction and profiting from playing one side against the other.   However, there are no poppies growing in the fields of Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Rwanda, the Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Somalia, Libya, Egypt and most recently Syria, - to mark the bloodshed!  (As for the opium poppies grown in Afghanistan and parts of Southeast Asia, they are of the Papaver somniferum variety)

This Poppy Appeal in November has however brought criticisms from those who feel that the occasion has been used to justify wars of aggression by Great Britain  against other nations - where there was no threat of an actual invasion like during the First and Second World Wars.  The most telling view was expressed by a 90 year old survivor of the Wars, Harry Leslie Smith.   On wearing the poppy, he wrote ......

"...... it will be the last time that I bear witness to those soldiers, airmen and sailors who are no more, at my local cenotaph.  From now on, I will lament  their passing in private because my despair is for those who live in this present world.  I will no longer allow my obligation as a veteran to remember those who died in the great wars to be co-opted by current or former politicians to justify our folly in Iraq, our morally dubious war on terror and our elimination of one's right to privacy. "

Read : http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/08/poppy-last-time-remembrance-harry-leslie-smith 

This year about one million Muslims will be wearing (and donating )  Remembrance Poppies to demonstrate their patriotism to Britain, their country of adoption.

Read : http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/one-million-muslims-will-wear-remembrance-poppies-despite-extremists-opposition-say-researchers-8924933.html

The community had been castigated (and threatened) for not participating in the Poppy Appeal, for mocking Remembrance Day and Armistice Day because some amongst them refused to support  the establishment and the soldiers who had invaded and caused so much bloodshed in Muslim countries like Iraq and Afghanistan.  By the way, for many years, Irish Catholics also boycotted the Poppy Day Appeal because of the British Army's involvement in the 'Troubles' in  Northern Ireland but understandably they were not pariah-rised like the Muslims.

So, as far as Muslims are concerned, all's well that ends well for Remembrance Day - at least in Great Britain.  Their loyalty and patriotism is unquestionable.

What about Malaysia?  Will we have a Bunga Raya Appeal to remember the sacrifices of our soldiers during the Second World War, the Emergency, Confrontation and Lahad Datu?  There was no question that they died defending their country - their multi-cultural country!  Should we remind our children by asking them to wear the paper or plastic bunga raya each year and make a little donation to support the veterans and the family of those who died?  We, the schoolchildren of the 1950s, did it when we were ruled by the British Empire.

Just 10 cents from each student for each year will go a long way.  It's not too much to ask, is it - from all Malaysian children and all Malaysian adults?  If Malaysians are committed enough to various causes by buying and wearing pink and red and green ribbons, surely pinning a little bunga raya  on your shirt is no great sacrifice.  It would truly be a wonderful demonstration of patriotism,  integration and unity if all our religious organisations, political parties, NGOs, Media and other concerned Pressure Groups will participate in a one-minute-silence to remember  "our glorious dead" in the centre of Kuala Lumpur, Georgetown, Kota Kinabalu, Kucing and every city and town up and down the country.

Pardon?  Did I hear someone say, " Forget it, this is Malaysia.  This is not the UNITED Kingdom or GREAT Britain!!!"   Oh well!  One can dream, can't one?

Operation Daulat -Lahad Datu :  Bearing the body of fallen soldier Ahmad Farhan  Ruslan in Kota Baru, 13 March 2013.  (Image from New Straits Times)


Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Darihal Rokok - The Road to Sekolah Menengah Yusof Ishak

Picture this.  In 1967 an Indian graduate and a Chinese graduate from the University of Singapore, both holders of a Teaching Bursary were directed by the Ministry of Education (MOE) to take up their posts as teachers in the Tamil medium and Chinese medium schools, respectively.  No, they would not be teaching in English ( their language of instruction since primary school), but in the vernacular - or their mother tongues!

I do not think any policy maker or bureaucrat in the MOE would have dared to suggest such an undertaking. It would have ended in tears, both for the graduate-teachers and especially for their students.  

Within a week of leaving University in 1967, I received a letter asking me to report to the MOE.  I knew it would be about my posting, my first school, my first job!!  At last I would be a bona fide working member of society.  It meant we could now persuade my Abah who had had a heart problem since I was in Sixth Form, to retire. 


At the Ministry, I was told which room to go to.  I met this bureaucrat, a Malay man somewhere in his fifties, I think.  His reaction to my presence verged between severity and haughtiness.  We spoke - in English - about the usual details, of my previous schools and my subjects in University.  Then he dropped the bombshell.  I was to report for duty at Sekolah Menengah Yusof  Ishak the next day.  I must have looked very bewildered so he added that I would be teaching in the Malay medium.  I looked even more aghast and I exclaimed, "How am I to teach in Malay?  Malay is not my medium of learning.  I have been in the English medium from Primary One!"

He was then standing by his office window.  "Senang", he said as he nonchalantly removed a packet of cigarettes from his shirt pocket, "Just say 'Ini rokok!' to your class".

"But, Che'gu, I'm not teaching about 'Rokok', am I?"

That was the first sign of my bolshie attitude, my rebellious make-up and that did not bode well for me and my future career in the Ministry of Education.  Call that what you want, but I don't suffer fools.  His posture and his behaviour were very, very unprofessional and unbecoming for an Inche Guru.  That was my introduction to my first Malay bureaucrat and Malay language professional.  With that nasty taste in my mouth I started my teaching career in the Malay medium of Sekolah Menengah Yusof  Ishak in February 1967.

So, I duly reported for work and here I have to confess that I did not make a good impression on my new colleagues.  I drove into the school  in my new, second-hand MG Midget.  Nothing remarkable because there was another teacher Che'Gu Suradi who had an  Austin Sprite and the Principal Mr Charles Lazaroo drove a Triumph Spitfire.

How the spouse remembered me from the old days.  But he was an atypical male who knows nowt about cars!  He cannot tell the difference between the kopiak  Morris Minor for learner drivers and my terror-on-four-wheels, the MG Midget.

But I faced a problem.  I was female!   Not only that, I was young, drawing a salary second only to the Principal's, and a free and blithe spirit to boot!    Of my two Principals in YISS,  Mr Charles Lazaroo was the best.   He understood me and helped me in adjusting to a  teaching career that was rife with prejudice, double standards and indiligence.   Mr Lazaroo was a pianist, a composer and a musician and he had no over-riding ambition for himself.   He wrote the school song for YISS and when the kids sang that song after his departure, I could not hold back the tears.

In his time I was called twice into his Office.   I had been supervised by an Inspector from the MOE for my confirmation ( in my post) and he made a  complaint to Mr Lazaroo about me.   I explained to Mr Lazaroo that this Inspector told me off from his seat at the back of the class that teaching my students to measure the length of a river on a topographic map by using a thread or a string was not good enough.  I said to Mr Lazaroo that any School Inspector worth his salt should not reprimand a teacher in full view of the students in the class.    He should call the teacher aside privately.    That was what I learned when I was doing my teacher-training.    In response to his crassness, from the front of the classroom I asked Mr Tan,   " Can you advise me on another method?"     Mr Tan had nothing to contribute.    On hearing  my version Mr Lazaroo smiled and assured me that I have nothing to worry about being confirmed in my teaching appointment.

Just after I had completed my NCC Officer's Training at Maju Camp, I had to make another visit to the Principal's Office.  Mr Lazaroo had a piece of paper in front of him and he said,  "Do you want to know your Final Report?"  I nodded.  He continued, " It says you would make a very good Officer but you're not obedient."  He gave me a knowing smile as if to say,  "So what?"   He's a good egg, dear Mr Lazaroo.    When - in 1970/ 1971(?) - he was transferred to be Director of Music at the MOE, I knew he would be happier than he was as a School Principal.    But for me, YISS would never be the same again.  There came a new order, a new regime of ambitious men and women.   And as I came to learn, there's nothing more pathetic and nasty than a bunch of opportunistic and ambitious teachers/educators - of both the male and female variety.     Self-serving opportunism may work in corporate politics; it's not good when you are responsible for bringing up impressionable children.

The next part will be about my time at the Teachers'Training College and about how I was 'trained' - jumping through silly hoops and dancing to all kinds of demanding tunes..

P.S.  Just to mention an interesting addendum in my career.  A colleague expressed interest in what I did at the University especially with regard to my favourite subject Political Science.  He asked if he could read some of my essays.  I handed over a couple.  A few weeks later he asked, "Hey Maznoor, would you like to join the PAP?"   I gave him a look which said, "Over my dead body!".  He walked away.  I never got back my essays.  He had a brother holding quite a responsible post in the Singapore Government - a sort of Political Secretary, a safe post for a Malay in the PAP.    Did I make a mistake then?    Should I have taken this golden opportunity?    Imagine what I could have made for myself!  I wonder what Mr Lazaroo would say to that!

Perhaps this was the  Rokok  that I had to draw from my pocket.  Burn, baby, burn!










Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Sekolah Menengah Yusof Ishak - In the Beginning

I did an earlier posting on the school bearing the name of Singapore's first and (so far) only Malay President just about 2 months ago ....  http://anaksihamid.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/the-yusof-ishak-years-preamble.html .  But I think I did too much ambling with the preamble.

My thoughts about the first school I taught in, about the first set of students that I was responsible for, about my first encounter with colleagues (teaching and non-teaching), about my first job at 23 after University, were all too complex and difficult to relate.  It's like recalling a first marriage, full of hopeful happiness ......

Rookie teacher in the Art Room of Sekolah Menengah Yusof Ishak, 1967

....... but it ended like in  P.Ramlee's song :  Ku sangka panas sampai kepetang, tetapi hujan ditengah hari.




In 1968 during my second year as a rookie teacher , I was given an extra-curricular duty that most teachers avoid like the plague.  Koh Sei Hian and myself were the only graduate teachers in YISS and the old guard in the school reckoned that these two must be made to jump the hurdles and  climb the ropes - just to teach them a lesson : nudge, nudge, wink, wink???   We were given the onerous task of producing the School Magazine. It involved having to organise articles from the students and getting reports from the teachers running the school's various activities.  These two jobs were comparable to extracting blood out of stone. Then we had to go with begging bowl in hands to extract donations and advertisements. I learned how to grow a thick skin while doing that.  Choosing the printers and supervising them (and the cost) needed the executive skills of a CEO.  Arranging the photo sessions for the Staff, all the classes and all the School's activities for the morning and afternoon sessions required the dedication and tenacity of a sheep dog rounding up a flock of errant sheep in the wilderness of Wales. 

When the Magazine was finally produced we were  bombarded by tetchy queries like "Why didn't you do this? or that?  What a lousy photographer! The students' articles are hopeless - can't you get better ones?  The printer must have cheated you - it's such poor quality paper!" Blah! Blah! Blah!  Koh Sei Hian and I did this thankless job for year after year until one year I decided to join the Army and run the Girls' Unit of the school's National Cadet Corps (NCC).  

Below is the 'dummy'  cover of the 1968 school magazine JASMANI ....






....... and the members of the Editorial Board.
The Editorial Board 1968.  Seated from left to right: Che'Gu Maznoor and Che'Gu Shukur (Senior Assistant Malay Medium)  representing the Malay Medium,  the Principal Mr Charles Lazaroo,  Mr John (Senior Assistant English Medium) and Mr Koh Sei Hian from the English medium.

I liked the starkly simple design of the Cover,  the 'Jawi" font  and especially the two 'lines'  above and below the title.


That design incorporated the structure of YISS.  It began in 1965 as Jubilee Integrated  Secondary School, comprising of the Malay and English mediums.  It was tucked in between West Coast Road, Jubilee Road and Upper Ayer Rajah Road.  In 1966, the then Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew officially opened Yusof Ishak Secondary School - a more respectable designation than the run-of-the-mill  Jubilee Integrated Secondary School.  

In terms of  the development and demise of Malay education in Singapore, the context has to be understood. During the Colonial period, education  was never planned to be a leveller - as a means of improving the life and fostering the unity of the so-called "multi-racial" population.  Education in English was provided by the Colonial Government with the 'co-operation' of Christian missionaries. Their function was to oil the machinery of the Empire and as a bonus, especially for the latter, to enlarge the Congregation.  The Chinese mercantile community had always been very regardful  and supportive of Chinese education.  They were willing and able to put their money where their mouth was.  All for the tong pao.  The 'graduates' from  Chinese schools faced no problems in getting gainful employment because of their community's domination in Singapore's economy.

Education in the Malay language was never regarded with much seriousness by the Colonial Authorities other than to perpetuate the Malays' ghettoization in the unprofitable, primary economic activities like farming and fishing as can be seen in their curriculum.  In 1959 in Singapore, there were only 26 Malay primary schools and the highest level was up to Standard VII.  "Graduates" from these Malay schools ended up in the lower levels of the administration - as peons, soldiers, police and postmen.  In the private sector they were mainly  employed as drivers, gardeners and servants for the upper and middle-class European  and Chinese employers.  Although there was a request for the provision of English language lessons way before the Second World War, the Colonial authorities did not oblige until after the War itself.

As a matter of interest, the Colonial Government gave a grant of $30 per pupil  for the English schools.  In the Malay schools, it was only $17 per pupil!  We hear a lot about the massive contribution of  Christian Mission schools to education in Singapore and the Peninsula  but it should be noted that their collaboration with the Imperial Order was well-rewarded.  They were generously subsidized and granted a hefty leg-up by the British Colonial Government to the tune of $30 per pupil.

My career as a teacher began in Sekolah Menengah Yusof Ishak  in 1967.  From  Primary 1(1951) to University I was educated in the English stream, quite a rarity for a Malay, especially a female.  My exposure to learning my mother tongue in Primary and Secondary School  was very limited and sometimes non-existent at all.   Yes, I took the Examination for Malay language during my Senior Cambridge - and I got a mere Pass at S7.  I'm not too proud of that today but in the 1960s, Mathematics, English Language and Literature, Physics and Chemistry took priority.  After all, my preparation for my Senior Cambridge Malay Language paper began only in the latter part of  Secondary 4 (Form V).  We Malay girls from Crescent Girls' School were directed to a weekly class at Gan Eng Seng Secondary School on a Saturday afternoon.  We met up with other Malay pupils from several English schools who were in the same boat as us.  For my first Karangan we were told to write about any topic we wanted.  So my title was Darihal Kuching!    

Six years later, I was given a simple idea on how to teach in Malay.  This time it was Darihal Rokok.

That will be in my next posting.














Wednesday, 16 October 2013

The Canonisation of Lim Chin Peng - Blood or Ideology?

"The sense of still belonging to China is shown in this Victory Day celebration at Kuala Lumpur below the portrait of Dr Sun Yat -sen, founder of the Kuomintang and Father of the Chinese Republic."


A commemorative plate to celebrate V-Day .  The spouse discovered it  in a shop in Chinatown, Singapore in 1987.

Now that I'm at the cusp of my seventh decade, and having started on a regime of pill-popping after  breakfast, lunch and dinner, I thought I'd give myself a break and take a sabbatical leave from writing.  So, I looked up my embroidery books, my boxes of silks and aida fabric with the idea of getting back to a more placid domestic activity like sewing.

I'm still bemused by a comment made a couple of years ago by someone (obviously a male) who was  so narked with me for challenging his opinions that he ordered me to get back to my wifely duty of ironing my husband's shirts!  But AsH doesn't do ironing.  At least not shirts.  Instead she got tempted into ironing out crooked thinking - after she'd caught sight of an obituary on General Vo Nguyen Giap  in the Guardian, 4 October 2013.  Why?  Because it reminded her of Giap's contemporary Lim Chin Peng who'd died just a month earlier - and the question of context.

Giap (1911-2013) was a lawyer trained at the University of Hanoi.  "As a child," said the obituary, "his sense of nationalism had been nourished with stories of heroic Vietnamese generals and their victories against the Chinese and Mongols".  He was a brilliant general, "well-versed in Marx and Mao Zedong's writings on guerilla warfare".  But he often said, "We fought our wars in a Vietnamese way.   My only influences were the great strategists of Vietnamese history". Together with Ho Chi Minh, with the support of the Vietnamese Kinh, largely regarded as the 'standard Vietnamese'  identity, Giap orchestrated the defeat of the French in 1954 and of the US and its puppet South Vietnam in 1975.

South Vietnam was not only strongly Catholic. It had a concentration of the Hoa or Sino-Vietnamese, who'd migrated to Vietnam after the fall of the Ming Dynasty in 1644.  Before the fall of Saigon in 1975, these people had dominated Saigon's business and commerce.  Inevitably they also made up the bulk of the 'boat people' who subsequently fled Vietnam. Today, however, the Hoa make up only a small percentage in an economy which is now run mostly by Vietnamese.

ANOTHER WAR : SAME IDEOLOGY, DIFFERENT CONTEXTS

History, as we know, is written by the winners. So, our analysis of history, its events and personalities, needs to be considered within a clearly-stated context to be understood.  In particular, who stands to benefit from the writing?  And who defines the terms: who defines the crooks and the heroes, the monsters and the saints, the terrorists and the freedom fighters?

Take those last two labels.  They have been bandied about, and manipulated (implicitly and explicitly) to fit into many different agenda by accredited academics and other opportunistic 'rogues, rascals, and scallywags'.   "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter"- how many times have we heard that cliché?  Often, no doubt, when talking about Palestine. And increasingly, nowadays, when talking of our own recent history here in Malaysia.

Now that LCP has departed, there seems to be a revival of the urge to rewrite Malaysia's history - most especially that of the period from 1930, through the Japanese Occupation and the 'Emergency' to Merdeka. And especially the role of LCP.  So how do we make sense of the various events and personalities that make up that history over that time?  Perhaps we need to look at the context - the context of both time and space.

In particular, the time of the post-1948 Emergency (or perhaps 'Insurrection" is a better word) coincided with the demands and wars for independence from European imperial powers.  It was also the period of the Cold War between two competing ideologies, Communist and the (so-called) Free World - and it especially saw the rise of Communist China and the war in Korea.  But the 'Emergency' had a longer  (and more particular) formative history than this.

In any analysis of the 'Emergency' the context of space is crucial.  It was the space of the Malay Peninsula or Semenanjung Tanah Melayu, not just such British appellations as The Straits Settlements, The Unfederated Malay States, The Federated Malay States, The Crown Colonies, Malaya or the Federation of Malaya.  And this space of the Malay Peninsula, with the onset of colonialism, was not a void, any more than Africa was a 'dark continent' to be discovered, carved up and exploited. No, the Malay space was already a complex cultural and political reality.

It was made up of several sultanates each with a long history of its own.  Of course it was feudal, just like Britain, France, Holland, Spain, China, Russia, India and many others once were. These sultanates had systems of government that presided over their society and economy.  If academics and liberals in Malaysia and overseas, choose to describe this part of the Semenanjung's history as decrepit, corrupt, piratical and unrepresentative, well, so were all other feudal (or not so feudal) societies.  And let us remember: the history we were brought up with abounds with Malay pirates - but is very shy of talking about the many white ones (like Sir Francis Drake, Henry Morgan and other "privateers")) who crowded the colonial past.

Anyway, from the 16th century on, our space was invaded, 'carved up and exploited' by Christian Portuguese, Dutch, and British soldiers, adventurers, merchants, carpetbaggers and missionaries. These people came, they saw, they conquered - they  ravaged the landscape for profit.  Not only that, they (and especially the British) re-designed and manipulated the original demography of the Peninsula.......

British Immigration Policy very almost made the Malays a minority in their homeland.
........ creating a landscape of entrenched economic disparities, language and educational  exactions and toxic issues of race and religion.

The Peninsula was like the Goose that laid the Golden Egg. Naturally the ones with the right tools and better techniques and loadsofmoney, those from the Metropolitan nest, got the best. In the middle were the 'enterprising' immigrants - loaded with business acumen, thrift and a good dose of what the Brits saw as the good old 'Protestant Ethic' of diligence and hard work.  They knew what, when and how to harvest the benefits, playing the role of the deserving and dependable middle man.  It was an economic playground where the native denizens were outside the fence looking in - picking what they could - except, that is, for a few carefully cultivated members of the elite.  

So, this was the situation, just after the Second World War.  Soon, almost all colonies in Southeast Asia were involved, in one way or another, with fighting for independence.  And the 'Cold War', of course, was always there.  The Malay Peninsula, like Vietnam, was sucked into a bloody conflict fuelled by Communist ideology - each with its leaders, its victims and its heroes.  Each had its own particular context - or versions of context, as defined by the observer.

It is the context that defines the heroes.  And this is what I thought when I read about General Vo Nguyen Giap - and Lim Chin Peng.  Each man is considered to be a hero and a 'freedom fighter'.  Now, I can understand giving Giap such a label: after all, the Vietminh and the Vietnamese people fought a long war of independence from first the French and then the Americans.

But  Lim Chin Peng is a different kettle of fish. For LCP, the Malayan Communist Party, the Min Yuen, the Malayan People's Liberation Army, the Chinese squatter-supporters and the Chinese language teachers and students, it was not just a matter of ideology - of a revolution to overthrow the capitalists and install Communism, to replicate the victory of Mao Zedong in China in 1949, or a struggle for (Malayan) 'national' liberation. It was, as much as anything, a matter of race.  The table below tells enough.

-

It has to be made clear that LCP's and the MCP's agenda did not begin with the insurrection of 1948 . Chinese nationalism - both in China and in the overseas territories where Chinese migrants had ventured, and whether inspired by the Kuomintang or the Communists - was born in the early 20th century as a result of foreign incursions into China, the collapse of the Manchu Dynasty and China's humiliation in the wars with a smaller Japan in the 1930s.

In the Malay Peninsula, LCP's much lauded service in defeating the Japanese ( in alliance with the British imperialists) was not fired by love or loyalty to the Semenanjung : to Kedah, Perlis, Kelantan, Pahang, Trengganu, Johor, Selangor, Perak, Penang or the island of Singapore.  Crucially, their spiritual fount for participating in the MPAJA  was their Middle Kingdom - and the desire to kick the hated Japanese in the teeth.

Responses to Japanese advance in Southeast Asia
Likewise the goal of 'liberating' Semenanjung Tanah Melayu from British imperialism was to a large extent a a fig-leaf to hide the intention of setting up a 'People's Republic of Malaya' which would to all intents and purposes be Chinese-inspired and Chinese-dominated - an Ali Baba revolution and republic.

But these days, such things are conveniently forgotten by many a well-heeled (and hardly leftie!) commentator. The Friends of LCP now use the Japanese defeat and the achievement of Merdeka to rewrite history - with a particular eye to justifying the consecration of their hero from 'terrorist' to 'freedom fighter'.  They claim that LCP was traduced by the authorities and other Malaysians (especially the Malays).  Even before his demise, a noisy  'agitprop' had been organized among the DAP, MCA and some 'holier-than-thou' academics.  There were, of course, some liberal Malays jumping on the bandwagon - sporting fashionable ideas without giving them much thought.  These are the proverbial 'kacang lupakan kulit' and in  Belacan Malay parlance we call them Pak Torot.

Yes, we all know that in its attainment of Merdeka, the Malay Peninsula was uniquely ( and boringly) devoid of fiery, charismatic leaders - of  'National Freedom Fighters' - like Mahatma Gandhi, Sukarno, Ho Chi Minh and Nelson Mandela.  Now, some want to fill the gap.  But with Lim Chin Peng??

For many, like myself, the choice seems bizarre at the very least.  Until, that is, we ask one or two pertinent questions.  And perhaps the key question is about the motives of LCP's  present advocates.

Had LCP and the MCP come to power, the urban "bourgeoisie" (middle class) of financiers, merchants, academics, lawyers and other professionals would have had a pretty hard time - in theory at least.  If LCP had won, the compradors would be out of jobs - in theory at least.  And yet some of LCP's most ardent advocates are precisely such people.  LCP, they say, was a 'nationalist' and a 'freedom fighter'- but whose nation, and whose freedom was he fighting for?  So, another question poses itself: is LCP's promotion, by people who cannot possibly share his ideology, more to do with political opportunism and the tangle of racial politics in Malaysia - and rather less to do with honouring our national heritage?

And that raises more questions.  Have they taken into account those Malaysians  (mainly Malays)  whose fathers, husbands, brothers and sons - and other civilians - were victims of  Lim Chin Peng and his ethos that "political power grows out of the barrel of a gun" (Mao Zedong, 1938)?   In addition, is there any reason whatsoever why Malays should celebrate LCP as a 'freedom fighter'?  This, I think, is the nub of the issue about "context".

'WHAT IF?'

Of course LCP and the MCP  despised the British capitalists and their presence in the Semenanjung.  But would they have been averse to using the same tools that the British used to run the economy - and to 'manage' the native Malays?  Imagine LCP in power in Malaya.  How would the Peninsula's wealth have been re-distributed according to the Communist ethos of  "no private ownership of the the means of production and "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need"?  There would be no taukehs, no tycoons, no rubber king, no rice king, no property developers, no stock exchange speculators.   You'd get jobs through a Politburo.  You may even have to serve in the Army - and/or suffer National Service to boot.

Or would you?  Perhaps LCP, as the son of a petit bourgeois (self-employed) from Sitiawan, may have come to realise that you do not kill the goose that lays the golden egg.  Perhaps his Communism would have been re-oriented to enable the bourgeoisie (shopkeeping and mercantile middle class) to "have its cake and eat it too"- as with Hong Kong.  Furthermore it would be very easy to achieve and sustain because the Chinese-based economic/capitalist infrastructure had already been secured during the period of Imperial British Capitalism.  Perhaps LCP's modern advocates know this was his intention - or at least what he'd end up doing.

And what of the Malays?  Culturally of course, the Malays and the Chinese are as different as chalk and cheese - and a Communist ideology largely inspired in China would hardly have bonded the two on fair and equal terms. Besides, strictly speaking, the Malays were the wrong kind of proletariat: they were not wage earners and industrial workers, they were mainly yeoman small-holding peasants, self-employed on their own  or rented land growing rice and small-scale cash crops.  Certainly padi-farming would be nationalized and national rice targets would be imposed.  Would the kampung survive?  Or would private property like kampung houses be replaced with some sort of communal barracks?  As for all the other native 'running dogs' of imperialism (especially those in the police and armed forces) - well, such 'traitors' would naturally have to be 'encouraged' to recant and abandon their ways.

For the Malays it would have been merely a Changing of the Guard, from a White Christian Britain to a larger Sino-Communist Order.  But there would have been nothing like the arrangement back in the time of the Melaka Sultanate, when - despite the tribute of Bunga Mas - China left the Malays to rule themselves, and to flourish or fall within their own system.  No, this New Order would have all the trappings of a much more rigid subjugation.

An irrational fear?  No, not then.  Remember, the 'Emergency' had come hard on the heels of the aborted (by the Malays) Malayan Union - which had already shown the Malays a measure of how their 'patrons' would betray them, given half a chance.  And Malays had seen too what had happened to Muslims in the Soviet Union - and what was happening in China.  Let us not forget this context.  For my grandfather's and father's generations, there was real fear that LCP and the MCP were on the side of those who wanted to turn their Tanah Pusaka into something very dreadful.  Malays would end up like the First People of North America, or like the natives of Taiwan.  They would be a people who "Hidup Segan, Mati tak Mahu", (too embarrassed to live, but unwilling to die).

The first cut was when Christian Europeans came to exploit and subjugate their world.  LCP and MCP would have given the finishing stroke.

An so, to the admirers of LCP, to those who want to consecrate him as a 'national hero' and a 'freedom fighter' who deserves to "come home", I say this: just consider the context of your self-serving whimsy - and be a bit more sensible.

Remember, it is not only Malays who would have suffered.  If the Peninsula had been turned into the People's Republic of Malaya, we might be celebrating LCP's birthday on 19th October.  Chairman Lim Chin Peng's Little Red Book would be a compulsory text in all schools - where Malay would certainly not be the language of instruction.  (Remember how Malays and everyone else had to learn Japanese during the Japanese Occupation?)  Religion, as the "opiate of the people", would be banned - no Hari Raya or Ramadan (like in Xinjiang), no Deepavali or Thaipusam, no Vesak Day or Easter or Christmas.  Luxury western products, holidays to Disneyland, gambling at Genting would be banned.  The Internet, Twitter, Facebook and the whole IT caboodle would be closely regulated.  As for Campaigns like Bersih and Seksualiti Merdeka - dream on, babe!

Just think of the 'creativity' which would have been stifled.  Think of those arty salons and liberal talking shops in Georgetown and Kuala Lumpur.  Think of the joys of Central Market for our younger (and freer) generation.

You can be sure that there would be no such thing, in Chairman Lim's Malaya, as "The Emergency Festival".
And I wonder too: would Alvin and Vivian dare,  or even want,  to show their faces (?) - and mock Chairman Lim enjoying his caviar, pate de foie gras and his Dom Benedictine?

The prospect would be too awful to bear, wouldn't it?  Think of the exodus there would be. Think of all those (including our liberal Malay Friends of LCP)  who would be scampering to get on the first boat out of Malaya - with or without gold bars.

So, really, it's not about ideology at all, is it?  If it was, most of LCP's latter-day advocates would be switching off their mobiles and running for cover.  No, in the end, this farce about LCP's legacy is really about blood.  Tong Pao. Race. And it always has been.  And when blood trumps ideology, principles, justice ..... there is always a cause for serious worry.

.... And the Moral?

Today the Peninsula is a part of Malaysia - a federation comprising the southernmost fingertip of Eurasia and - a thousand miles away - two chunks of the largest island in Asia. Geographically, it seems absurdly disconnected.  It has some things in common: most especially, it was all once part of the British Empire. But   I cannot think of any political configuration that is so complex and so diverse in terms of its geography, its people, culture and religion.

In the Semenanjung itself, the Empire left us with a vulnerable economy and an easily-combustible demographic structure. One huge explosion was put out in May 1969.  Since then our fire-deterrent system has been quite effective - but only because the residents were more keenly aware of the peril of another fire. We all have a lot to lose if that happens.  Some of us, of course, can afford to get on a boat/plane and like other earlier migrants make a better life elsewhere.   But many can't or won't -"hujan emas negri orang.....". This Tanah-Air is all they have and for people like our two road sweepers, Man and Aisha  - they will stay put, and live and die where they were born. There are millions more, of different shades and hue, like them in Malaysia.
[Just to save us all the hassle of snide comments later: I happen to be in England just now because it is my husband's homeland and he needs to be here.  I have not acquired a British Passport and I am no Mayonnaise Malay - just an old-fashioned  Melayu Belacan.    End of story]

When Winston Churchill talked of giving  "blood, sweat and tears"  his nation was facing a dire situation. We have shed enough blood and tears in this country of ours.  Because of more than a hundred years of self-serving British immigration policy, we cannot now have the luxury of a homogenous population like Japan, or one where one group forms a large majority like in Singapore. It's comparable, maybe, to a ''marriage of inconvenience"!   Keeping together involves a lot of hard work in the spirit of "give and take".  This is a blessed, bountiful country - let's do a lot more giving instead of taking.  Let's be more "timbang rasa" - to balance and to feel - for others.

So let us all be thankful.  Be thankful and think : "There, but for the grace of God, go I - and my country."  Be thankful too for the older generation of patriots, who were willing to put their lives on the line for a freer and more inclusive "Malaya" - and to secure the "good life" most Malaysians now enjoy.

And, for all our sakes, leave  Lim Chin Peng alone.  As terrorists go, he didn't do too badly.  He lived to almost 90, died in a hospital bed, and was duly cremated with family and friends and admirers around him. If we consider the fate of other terrorists/freedom fighters in recent times, LCP in the end was a very, very lucky man.

That is the final context.

 

Happy the people whose annals are blank in history books.  (Thomas Carlyle 1795-1881) 

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

For more details regarding the activities of the Kuomintang, the Min Yuen etc. , read the Unrepentant Malaikwai's posting   http://anaksihamid.blogspot.co.uk/2011/10/between-python-and-cobra-csh.html

Malaikwai or Malay devil is a derogatory term for Malays used by the Chinese in Singapore.  In similar manner they also use Kalingkwai and Angmokwai.  These terms are not much articulated nowadays but the underlying spirit of contempt is still there, albeit in  different formats.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Our Jordan

Every time we come back to Leicester we would bump into Denise and we would ask about her three boys :  Tony, her  husband and Elliott and Jordan her sons. She would smile and say "They're all fine - just a bunch of lazy gits", she would joke.  Denise and Tony were our neighbours when we were living at Oxford Avenue.  It's a tight little community - two rows of terrace houses facing each other and sharing a large garden in-between. We all knew each other quite well - just well enough to be helpful without being nosey and keeping our privacy despite the layout of the mews-style avenue.

In 1991, we had a street party to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the Avenue and we managed to get ourselves into the Leicester Mercury - our local paper.    And here we all are, me, Iain, Denise and Tony, dear old Eva, Philip and Celia, old Doug, and everyone else:


Nineteen years ago in 1994,   this lovely boy - Jordan - was born and he still remains the youngest member of Oxford Avenue's Community.

He was such a joy - a bubbly and happy little boy, with a mop of curly hair and bright, intelligent eyes, who always had a smile and a greeting for the older denizens of the Avenue.  I recalled summer days when we had our front door opened - just like Jordan's, whose house was just opposite ours.  He was about 4 or 5 when he would wander to our door and asked me "Where's your Da?"  (Da is Dad for Jordan). I pointed to our backyard to where the spouse was doing a spot of gardening and Jordan decided to check on my "Da".  Denise of course would be reminding Jordan to behave and not get in the way.

He was such an endearing child and always had some interesting questions to ask. When my nephew Shah came to visit, Jordan would be tailing him - wanting to know what Shah was doing with pieces of wood, and bits of wire and strings.  When the oldest member of the Avenue stepped into her little garden, Jordan would ask,  "What are you growing Eva?"   When he got a little older, we lent him some books because he was interested in planets and the Solar System.

Jordan was a loving and lovely part of the Avenue's life and our life too.  When he was 12 we moved out of Oxford Avenue but we lived near enough to still keep in touch with our former neighbours.

About eighteen months ago, Iain met Jordan at Evington Road.  He had grown into a strong sapling ... and he remained the same gentle and friendly kid that we knew from long ago, and still remembered to ask , "How's Maz?"

About two weeks ago, Iain met up with Denise and she told him Jordan was in jail. We were shocked and upset - what could this gentle lad have done to deserve this?  We were told by our former neighbour that in May 2013, Jordan was imprisoned for four-and-a-half years for trafficking drugs.


He was not the only one.
15 of the 34 dealers above have Muslim names.


"The Child is father of the Man" - a saying attributed to William Wordsworth.  The sort of upbringing one is given as a child will determine the kind of adult one becomes.  However, I think this cannot be applied to Denise's and Tony's son - they brought him up in a very loving family environment to be a caring and courteous person.  Somewhere along his growing up years other agencies like the schooling system, the social environment,  and the mass and consumerist culture took over Jordan.   According to the local newspaper, Jordan "became addicted to cannabis at the age of 12 after being bullied at school".     Yes, Jordan was gentle, Jordan was bright - the perfect object for bullying by the hard and streetwise majority in a city school.

But it gets worse.    After all, mainstream bankers and financial consultants,  corporate international drug dealers, crooked and corrupt businessmen, politicians with blood on their hands all get away from the arms of the law.   Or, like that big global bank that launders Mexican drug money, given a pittance of a fine they can laugh at in board meetings.    A small fry like Jordan (and his loving, hard-working family) pays a far, far higher price.

It's heartbreaking for us and I cannot imagine how Denise and Tony must feel.  It's just one young life.    But Jordan's is such a gentle and sweet life.



Dear Jordan "Golden slumbers fill your eyes.  Smiles awake you when you rise".