Tuesday 27 December 2011

As Time Flew By

AsH will be closing shop for a week to spend a good end-of -2011 holiday with the Rainbow Band.

We have all been ravaged by time but the heart and spirit is still strong and sweet.    The old days and the present have been well woven into a mellow and mad tapestry.

It's now time for a laugh and a cry.

I hope you lot are prepared to look after Darby and Joan.  We usually have tea in bed in the morning, a kip in the afternoon - so you had better be quiet after lunch.  Do remember our bedtime is at 10 and a mug of  Milo is a must.

And for everyone else have a happy break and may you  enjoy your cups of  Milo for every night in 2012.

Saturday 24 December 2011

The Pot and the Kettle

Remember this bit of news in November 2008 when Malaysia banned Muslims from practising yoga?  Even the venerable Telegraph recorded the news.  Another stick to beat the Muslims with!

Read  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/malaysia/3509070/Malaysia-bans-Muslims-from-practicing-yoga.html

"The edict reflects the growing influence of conservative Islam in Malaysia, a multi-ethnic country of 27 million people."

According to the director of the Sivananda Ashram in Delhi, "chanting during yoga is to calm the mind and elevate our consciousness".

Well, on 25th November 2011 Father Gabriel Amorth, ..............

.................... the Vatican's Chief Exorcist (appointed by the late Pope John Paul II)  declared that 'Practising yoga brings evil as does reading Harry Potter.  They ......both deal with magic.

Yoga is the Devil's work.  You think you are doing it for stretching your mind and body but it leads to Hinduism.'

Vanda Vanni of the Italian Yoga Association  said, 'Yoga ia not a religion.  It is about freedom and a search to find one's inner self.'

'Giorgio Furian who runs the Yoga  Academy in Rome said:  There are some paths of yoga which do lead towards Hinduism but other paths are more philosophical but there is no direct link with religion and certainly no link with Satanism'

Read http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2066289/Yoga-work-devil-says-Vaticans-chief-exorcist-doesnt-like-Harry-Potter-either.html

Any sign of outrage from the liberals in our part of the world?

When I was in secondary school at Crescent Girls' School there was a lass whose English was superb and we were all in her shadow.  We were told this was because she was an avid reader of the Bible.  Well, for most of us fed on a diet of Beano and Dandy and Enid Blyton in our primary school years and romance writers like Denise Robins and Hermione Black and Georgette Heyer ( she's more pukka than the first two)  during secondary school, we hadn't a hope in hell of catching up with our Bible-reading classmate.  However I must confess I love Zane Grey's  'cowboy' books, but they cannot match the prowess of the Bible.

So I was astonished when on 26th November 2011 it was reported that 'The Prime Minister will send every school in Britain a copy of the King James Bible - complete with a foreword by the Education Secretary Michael Gove'

Mr  Gove .....
....... said the Bible was 'the most important book written in the English language'  and will be distributed to over 20,000 schools to mark the 400th anniversary of its translation.  A spokewoman from the Department of Education had this to say.  'We want all pupils to be able to access and understand the great literary and historical image of our nation...... It will help pupils - of any faith or none - understand and take pride in the history and culture of this country.'

What happened to William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens and Jane Austen and D.H. Lawrence and ......Enid Blyton (please!) ?

Here we are in Malaysia , taunted and accused of being an Islamist state.  We have Maznah Mohamad writing in the Guardian on 21 September 2006 ...

...... pondering if Malaysia is an Islamic state,  of  'efforts to islamicise the state'.   This topic is a hot issue both at home and abroad.

Yet, here's Britain, the mother of all secular states,  touting and giving away to children a free copy of the Christian Bible.  I wonder, can you still get Gideon's Bible in the hotels in Britain?

On this note I'd like to recall an incident some years ago.  At the Multiple Sclerosis Charity Shop at Evington Road Leicester I watched this Muslim lady volunteer worker (in fact she was the manager) picking up Bibles, big and small. from the boxes on the floor and placing them on the top shelf.  She turned to me and said, "This is a holy book and should be respected like the Quran."

Then a lady (native Brit) came in and blithely asked , "Can I take these bibles to my church?  After all they will never sell!'  And she was rewarded for her gumption and left with a stack of Bibles for free.

And go to most Charity shops, you can find plenty of secondhand Bibles for sale!   Or you could a few years ago.     Perhaps they have a system, like they have for old spectacles, of sending them to the poor coloured countries.

Sunday 18 December 2011

An Exercise

He has been described as an English author, poet, playwright, composer, linguist, translator, literary critic, librettist, broadcaster, autobiographer, reviewer, a sometime sergeant-major, a school teacher and Manchester's finest author.

It was said he spoke fluently in 8 languages - Malay, Russian, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Welsh and English  and some Hebrew, Japanese, Chinese, Swedish and Persian.

Just because he was a teacher in MCKK (Malay College Kuala Kangsar) and Kota Bharu Teachers' Training College from 1954 to 1957 and he wrote the 'Malayan Trilogy' after his 3 years sojourn in the Peninsula, he has been accorded quite a celebrity status by our literati class.

From 1958 to 1959 he was teaching in SOAS  (Sultan Omar Ali Saifudin) College - a very brief stint - because he 'collapsed' in his classroom and was sent home to England supposedly diagnosed with a brain tumour.  But he carried on living and writing for another 34 years and when he died he left behind quite a handsome property portfolio - a villa in Provence, in Callian of the Var, France and an apartment off Baker Street, London and some other locations.

When I was teaching in Brunei, I met an elderly English Language lecturer who worked with him when he was in Brunei.  She said the collapse in SOAS College was a ruse so that he could escape teaching on medical grounds, without losing his perks.  I checked on this.  In the late 1980s  he admitted that it was a "a willed collapse out of sheer boredom and frustration".

This 'contrarian' was John Burgess Wilson ( 1917-1993) otherwise known as Anthony Burgess, an illustrious son of English literature and culture.  In some circles he's regarded as a  20th century version of Byron.

I had heard of AB but I must admit I'm not too fond of fiction.  When I was doing my Masters in Leicester, I came across this article by AB,  "From Kampong to Computer" in the Sunday Observer of April 1984.  As part of my coursework I had to prepare a Comprehension Exercise for EL2 students and this was what I did.

My passage for the exercise was AB's article in the Sunday Observer.  Here is an extract from that article.

As the reproduction is not too clear - the script is after all 27 years old - I thought it would be best if I type it out.

The Malay for Malaysia,  Tanah Melayu, means 'Malay Land'.  It is Eurasian,  Sikh and Chinese land as well, and you can add to the deeds of proprietorship other, smaller races, including Buginese
and such aboriginals as the Temiars and Negritos.  But the Malays call themselves the  bumiputra or sons of the soil, and they call their language the bahasa negara or national tongue.  Malaysia is confirmed as the country of the Malays, and this is causing trouble among other Malaysians.

I served in Malaysia (which the British then called Malaya) in the 1950s, when what had been a British protectorate was moving towards independence.  I went back two years ago to make a television film.  I noted changes, and these had much to do with the new assertiveness of the Malays.  But the physical impact of that lovely country remained much what it had always been - hot, humid, green, jungly, fruity, snaky, the yodelling of the bilal on his minaret, punctuating loud pentatonic Chinese song on the radio, the ringing of the trishaw bells, the hawking and spitting of the long fasting day of Ramadan, the cry of the fever bird.

In the days of Somerset Maugham, Malaya relaxed in the warmth of a May afternoon that seemed likely to last forever.  It was wealthy then as it is now.  Rubber had been taken from Brazil to Kew Gardens, and from Kew Gardens to the state of Perak, where it flourished and bled endless latex to be processed into tyres and contraceptives.  In that same state of Perak (which means silver), tin proved more abundant than the costlier metal.  Tamil immigrants worked on the rubber plantations; the Chinese came to mine the tin.  Both industries supported a commercial structure which fed cultural transplantations from India and China.

The Malays had nothing to do with either industry or commerce: they stayed in their kampongs, growing rice, catching fish, training beroks or rhesus monkeys to hurl down coconuts.  The British took care of secular government for all the races.  The Malays, whom Arab traders had converted to Islam, gave sultans and rajas to oversee the administration of Muslim law.  Islam and British paternalism supported each other in a bizarre compromise which worked.

I divided my exercise into four parts.  Section A dealt with  "How are you going to read?",  Section B with "Language Work".  Section C looked at "Using and Deriving Information from the Passage",  and Section D with "Making Judgements about the Passage".

This Comprehension  exercise was meant for EL2 advanced learners at Sixth Form, University and Teachers' Training Colleges.  I stated in the Teacher's Notes that the purpose of the Exercise is to "develop critical reading skills ..... so that the student will be able to evaluate and make critical substantiated judgement about the quality, value, accuracy and truthfulness of what they read".

In Section B, I  inserted a part on 'The Use of  Words'.

A question  in Section C served to illustrate the relationship between statistics and statements and its interpretation.

The question :

3.  Look at the table below which shows the composition of the people living in Malaya.
     a.  What are the main races in Malaya according to (1) the writer's interpretations and  (2) the statistics?

For Section D, 'Evaluation'  I stated in the Teacher's Notes :  "This section deals with an analysis of the passage beyond the syntactical and semantical stage of comprehension, an aspect of reading which has not been given sufficient attention at the ESL (English as a Second Language) level.  The paralinguistic elements of any language that is used as a medium or object of instruction has to be included within the scope of reading, a level of reading  'between and beyond the lines' ........ to help the student to evaluate and understand the writer's intent, however noble or ignoble."

                                                      SECTION  D - EVALUATION
Making judgements about the passage.

Part I.  Recognising the difference between a  FACT and an OPINION.

A FACT reports what has happened or exists.  Its truth can be tested or verified.  Example : Tottenham Hotspurs beat Liverpool City 5-0.
An OPINION does not aim to report but to classify and persuade.  It expresses a feeling of approval or disapproval.  Whether the opinion is true or false cannot be demonstrated.  Example: John drinks too much.

Which of these statements are facts and which ones are opinions?  Write next to the sentence F for facts and O for opinions.

Paragraph 1
1. The Malay for Malaysia,  'Tanah Melayu' means Malay land.
2. Malaysia is confirmed as the country of the Malays and this is causing trouble among other Malaysians

Paragraph 2
3. I served in Malaysia in the 1950s.
4. I noted changes and these had much to do with the new assertiveness of the Malays.

Paragraph 3
5. In the days of Somerset Maugham, Malaya relaxed in the warmth of a May afternoon that seemed likely to last forever.
6. Rubber had been taken from Brazil to Kew Gardens and from Kew Gardens to the state of Perak.

Paragraph 4
7. The Malays had nothing to do with industry or commerce: they ........monkeys to hurl down coconuts.
8. Islam and British paternalism supported each other in a bizarre compromise, which worked.

Part II.  There are several ways by which a writer can give a slanted account of his subject.

1. By using emotionally-laden words, e.g. Yesterday, four brave and courageous policemen braved gunfire to capture the ruthless gangsters.  CLUE: look for the adjectives.
2. Implication by association so as to give his statement authority. e.g. A politician who never talks about his war experiences but makes certain that he tells stories about them to his audience.
3, By generalistion, e.g. To commit murder is wrong under all circumstances. CLUE: Ask yourself the question, "What is the evidence?"

Write down an example for each style of slanted writing from the passage.

1. Emotionally-laden words

2. By association

3. Generalisation

Part III.  You are a Malaysian Malay student. Write a letter to the author explaining why you disagree with some of his views.

Part IV.  You are a TV film producer and you want to make a short film about Malaysia with the intention of promoting tourism in the country.  Write brief notes about the scenes you would like to show after reading this passage.


1. As to the part about making 'critical substantiated judgement about the quality, value, accuracy and truthfulness of what they read',  Brian Harrison - my lecturer - commented,  "a tall order".  I disagreed with him then.  But 27 years later, looking at the unquestioning imbibement and imitation of material from the print, electronic and celluloid world I have to admit Brian was right.

2. We are very proud that literacy rates have improved tremendously.  Today, more people can write and read, not like some of our parents (like my mother) and especially our grandparents.  We claim that many of our youngsters are bilingual and trilingual.  But how many of them are capable of reading between and beyond the lines?  How many of our schoolkids are actually just 'barking at print' and getting more and more  mesmerised by electronic communication?

3. Anthony Burgess was described as " a man who loves and knows language so well he can twist and reinvent it to his own purposes."  There are now many wordsmiths like him - both local and foreign.

I shall end with AB's words:  It is one thing to use language; it is quite another to understand how it works.

Monday 5 December 2011

South of the Border

This will be our first  'overseas'  trip in nine months since we got back to KL.  It will be a well-deserved little holiday and would enable a  test drive of  the cobalt-titanium hip.

Come Wednesday we shall cross this strip of water at Selat Tebrau.....

..... to get to the island Republic of Singapore.
Oh dear this 1963 map is outdated because Singapore has grown to this.
Singapore circa 2010
Note the expansion especially in the south-west corner.

The Rainbow Gang ..... sans Irene.

.......  will treat us like royalty - I hope?

As usual Jai will put us up - or - have to put up with us.

We shall be feasting on mee rebus, rojak mamak, lontong, air batu kacang, cendol, murtabak from Arab Street cooked as only Singapore's hawkers can!

We hope to meet up with Canary aka Irene at Ruqxana's Saturday lunch date.  The last time we saw Irene was when she did this little art work on my name.  We miss you, you mad artist!

Getting about in Singapore will be easy.  Other than the buses and the MRT,  Singapore's taxis are especially reliable and efficient.  They will  - unlike KL taxis -take you in whether your journey is for 1km or 20kms!!!!

But we are spoilt for choice where transport is concerned.  We can pick up Jai's top-notch VW

or Ruqxana's grand old lady coffee percolator.

We hope to be back by Sunday - sated, satiated and satisfied.

Friday 2 December 2011

The Great and The Small

I've been caught up doing a room clearance - checking out dusty boxes and files - and found an article on the Great Mosque of Paris,  the first mosque to be built in Paris in 1926.
It's the largest mosque in France and the third largest in Europe.

However this ranking pales in comparison to its other credentials.

The Mosque was built to honour the soldiers from the French Arab Community (meaning those countries colonised by the French)  that perished in the First World War - sometimes called The Great War or what I prefer to term as the 'First European Tribal War" that engulfed the rest of the world.  Many of them died in the Battle of Verdun (in France) in what was considered the 'greatest and the lengthiest (battle) in world history'.  The battle covered less than 10 square kilometres and stretched for 10 months from February to December 1916.  Over 700,000 died, or were wounded or  missing in action.
The dead at Verdun
The Mosque also played a very significant role during the Second European Tribal War.  I wish some renowned Hollywood director like Spielberg would note this.  The Mosque provided shelter and safe passage and even fake Muslim birth certificates for Jewish children.  (Are you listening Netanyahu?)  It became a secret haven for those on the run from the Nazis.

And recently, Sarkozy, the French President of Jewish descent banned the right of Muslim women to don the burqa and the Hijab.  Sacre bleu!!

Sometime in the 1980s or 1990s (?) I attended a Conference on the Muslim Parliament of Britain in London.  I heard mention that London's Regent's Park Mosque .......
was built on land donated by King George VI in 1944  in exchange for a site in Central Cairo on which to build an Anglican Cathedral ( All Saints Cathedral).

 You see, 'there's no such thing as a free lunch'!  The British establishment regarded this as a tribute to the Muslim soldiers who died defending the Empire during the Second European Tribal War!

By the way what did we get in exchange for all the Cathedrals they constructed in Singapore and Malaya?

But there are also the little mosques - little havens of faith and peace.  I took this photograph .........
........in Penang last year, of a little mosque hemmed-in between two high buildings.  I regret I did not note the name of the mosque or  the street name.
This image is almost symbolic of the fate of  Malay-Muslims in DAP's Penang.

Two years ago, I went on a nostalgic trip to my old haunts in Singapore and was delighted to discover that this mosque, Masjid Hussein Sulaiman, had survived the onslaught of progress and development.
During my teen years I used to cycle to the Post Office........
.......... which was just next door to the Mosque - to buy stamps and to post letters for the family.  I would take this opportunity to cycle right to the end of Pasir Panjang Road - just for the fun of going at 'high speed' on top gear  on my trusty Rudge.  There was hardly any traffic and it was flat terrain all the way.  Wheeee!!!

As for this precious book written by Hadijah Rahmat ......
.......... it speaks for itself.  Geraldene Lowe, a good friend of Ruqxana, kindly gave me this book.  It's so poignant and sad to see the heart ripped out of the kampung.  Well, the kampung itself was dismembered.  Thank you Geraldene and Hadijah Rahmat.  This will be the only permanent  symbol of what we have lost.  I very much hope that Kuala Lumpur's Kampung Baru will not suffer the same fate.

And so, while we extol the grandeur and beauty of our grand mosques, let's remember and protect the little ones.

Thursday 24 November 2011

Desert Storm

It had a long run in both the printed and celluloid media - a story of a (sometimes) doomed relationship between a white 'goddess' and a hot-blooded, sultry non-white male, usually Arab-Muslim.

We know of Shakespeare's Othello the Moor and Desdemona the Venetian.

Then in 1924 E.M. Forster wrote "A Passage to India"  about Adela Quested's  fantasy of Dr Aziz Ahmed's sexual attraction for her.

From Hollywood in the 1920s we had the smouldering sex icon, the 'Sheik' and  'Son of the Sheik'  starring Rudolf Valentino.

Another movie  'Island in the Sun' (1957) touched on the delicate story of a black activist (Harry Belafonte) and a blonde beauty (Joan Fontaine).

So, I was quite chuffed to discover this same motif in my 1934 Woman's Needlework Magazine.

By the way, this was the period in-between the two massive European Tribal Wars aka the First World War and Second World War - when there was rampant unemployment and poverty of the lower classes (or the Great Depression) somewhat like today after the Banks' Crisis.

There was this icy-cool English brunette ....

 .........who was irresistibly attracted to ......... the Dark Cavalier.......

who actually turned out to be ...  An Arab ......... Sidi Zarouk ben Mohammed ben Amor Metlaoui!!!

...... from a noble and royal Moroccan pedigree!  (Well, it had to be aristocratic enough for our fine  English lass, hadn't it?)

"You see they are really still living centuries ago - they have their brutality and splendour, the magnificient qualities and the terrible faults of another age."   (Hold on mate, you're only making it more exciting for the English rose!)

Well, these words  (the ones in italics) could have come from our present-day journalists, academic and social commentators and of course Cameron and Sarkozy and  America's super-hero.

The one difference is this: present day magnificent savages have ... OIL!

Well, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, if only you and your father had played the game right.  Instead of  feasting and feteing  sultry western maidens like you did ......

...and English political scroungers like your father did .......

..... and donating loadsofmoney, to the tune of  Sterling 1.5 million, to the London School of Economics ...... you should have spent it on more worthy causes, if not in your country but to other poverty stricken people.  But rich Muslim potentates seem to have a penchant for throwing money at institutions in the West.  Shouldn't charity begin at home?

Undoubtedly your father provided Libya with an impressive education and health system that put Cameron's to shame - but other issues seem to have been neglected or made to look more dire.

Your father tweaked the Judaeo-Christian's tail once too often and he had to be run into the ground -in fact lynched by a mob while the self-righteous mullahs in the West looked away.  (Remember, they allowed  Chilean dictator and murderer Pinochet to get away with his "crimes against humanity"). 

And so, poor Saif, finally in your blackest moments you donned your traditional Arab robes.....

..... but you will not be a heartthrob like the 'Sheik'  (Rudolf Valentino) and other glamorous male Arab-Muslim 'heiristocrats'  for the trophy collectors in the West.

Perhaps , your father might have lasted longer if he had fostered this image of the Arabs  - as seen in this video "Ahab the Arab".  Long live Coca Cola and McDonalds and cheap oil!!!

By the way,it was not until the 1967 US Supreme Court decision that US-based inter-racial marriages were allowed.

Thursday 10 November 2011

Seksualiti Merdeka

If I was born in 1997 I would have a tough time right now coping with the pressures of being a female Muslim teenager, especially my sexuality.

There are all these early photographs of me ......... especially this one looking like a cool dude in my dad's shades, at the Singapore Botanical Garden when I was 4/5.

According to LGBT ideology this is most likely an indication of a non-female sexuality trying to 'come out' of the oppressed female/feminine Muslim's sexual ethics.

Should my parents be hauled over the coals for repressing my 'true sexuality'?  I think this is probably what they will say.

PARENTS:  Sometimes, in our culture .........

VICTIM-FEMINISTS'  WATCHDOG  (VFW):  You mean the oppressive Patriarchal Culture !!!

PARENTS:  ....... in the hope that it will catch, parents will dress up their daughter in boys' togs (mind you, not for all of the time) so that the next baby might turn out to be a boy.

And hey presto, it worked!  Mustakim was born giving them an ideal number of two girls and two boys.  Of course it's not as certain as going for a scan and then aborting the foetus if it's not the desired type.  After all, abortion is another much-vaunted human right like the right to happiness and freedom.  It has even been resorted to as a form of birth control for some busy women in Britain.

VFW:  What about this then? 

The scruffy kid on the right (front row) looks like a Hari Raya 1948/1949 version of Richmal Crompton's 'William'.

PARENTS:  Well, we can't stop her as she loves her boy's outfit.  We know she feels a little left out being the second child, stuck between the special first-born sister and the first son and the youngest one, you know, the second child syndrome.
But she seems comfortable and happy - we think she will grow out of it.  Children do go through such phases of wanting to be different, to demonstrate their distinct identity.

VFW:  What do you mean by that?  So you think that her dressing like a macho-male female is only a phase.  You believe that she could or would grow out of becoming a feminist/lesbian/transgender - that she will recover from this - like getting over a nasty flu?

PARENT (ABAH):  Hey, hold on a minute.  Where did you get the idea that a girl who likes to dress up as a boy is a budding lesbian?

PARENT ('MAK):  Abah, lesbian 'tu apa?

ABAH:  Nanti Chah. Nanti abah terangkan.

VFW:  How about this picture then?  She's now 15 and she's still trying to express her true sexual identity - to escape this patriarchal cultural agenda.
Above is the Kampung Abu Kassim 'samseng' at Jardine Steps sporting her butch hairstyle.

15 YEAR OLD TEENAGER (pleading) :   Stop it everybody!  Let me have my say.  I was born a girl and I'm happy to be one.  I love wearing those comfortable 'boy outfit' because I lead an active life riding bicycles, running around the backyard chasing the chickens in the evening to get them into the hen-house, wandering around the kampung with Mus cutting grass to feed the geese, cleaning the goose-house and uncovering their eggs  as well as cleaning the rabbit-hutch.  Also I love climbing up the hills along South Buona Vista Road (or The Gap) with my brothers - you can't do that wearing a frock or a baju kurung, can you?

Sometimes I dress up in the same girly attire as my sister which my dear ole mum had sewn for us.
Admittedly till today,  my sister Maznah always, always looks prettier than me.  And she's a better cook too!

By the way Abah, what is a lesbian?

ABAH:  It's ... it's a girl who ....likes girls ...ummhh ... prefers girls to boys.  And don't tell your mother.  She might throw away all your shirts and shorts!

But Abah, I like boys too.  Did I tell you about my boyfriends when I was in Primary One?

FRONT ROW:  Au Guat Eng (2nd from left), AsH (5th from left)
BACK ROW:  My boyfriends, Tan Aik Chuan (5th from left) and Ang Hock Kee (8th from left)

When I was thirteen, I fell in love with Ng Kian Ann.  It was a love that dared not speak its name because he was Guat Eng's paramour.  Guat Eng and I were always placed in the same team whenever we played netball.  You see, one day she fainted during PE.  When our teacher lifted her up, I had to tell the other kids to keep quiet (in those days, us demure girls never use the word 'Shaddup') and behave themselves - because they were all yelling, 'her knickers .... see her knickers!"

And then in 1957, on our last day in Pasir Panjang English School, before we all went to separate Secondary Schools,  Kian Ann waited for me at the bicycle shed ......

ABAH:  All right, all right. That's enough!  

31 August 1957, Tengku Abdul Rahman called out "Merdeka, Merdeka, Merdeka"  and I saw my father's tears.

Now, if I had been born in 1997, I would have to ask these questions.

Abah, what's this "Seksualiti Merdeka"?  Has Merdeka got a gender?  Is it because freedom must be made more sexy?  Or is being sexy and doing all kinds of sexy stuff, freedom?  You said Merdeka has to do with seeing our country free from British Colonialism, of working hard and being responsible for our country's safety, well-being and freedom?

  Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan mentioned the "marginalised LGBT"  in the campaign for "Seksualiti Merdeka".  Can  the 'marginalised'   include the poor, the orphans, the single mothers, the drug addicts, abused children and women, the OKU, the alcoholics?  Will there be a "Merdeka" campaign for them as well?

I know now that 'L'  refers to Lesbians.  What is the meaning of Gay (G), Bisexual (B) and Transgender (T)?

The dictionary says  'gay' means mirthful and cheeky.  I am always a happy and cheeky little sod.  Does that mean I am Gay too?

ABAH:  Look, I've got a headache.  Please get on with your homework and then help your mother with the laundry and the gardening.

That's yucky work.  Can I wash the car instead and Mus can do the laundry?

ABAH :  Just go!!!

Am I glad I was born in 1944.  Life was so much simpler for tomboys then, with no worries about being deconstructed by the Post-Modernist brigade.


Of course, Hamid's daughter Number Two had many girlfriends like Tai Ann, Geetha, Sumijah, Soh Khim, Maimunah, Asmah, Yvonne, Jeya, Dorothy, Ann, Aysha Bevee and a string of boyfriends stretching from Singapore to Brunei, Leicester and Penang.

When Hamid's daughter Number Two had enough of her wonderings and wanderings, Iain Buchanan managed to clip her wings (only with her permission of course) and got her started on wifely duties like cooking and marketing and sewing.  Strangely enough, she likes it.

But she still wears the trousers.  Here's the middle-aged Dominatrix, boots and all,  happily married  to the unflappable cameraMAN.

Mus, you refused to give me any chance to wash the car but you made up for it - years later - by introducing me to David Armand.  Thank you.

Saturday 29 October 2011

Between the Python and the Cobra (CsH)

This posting is dedicated to our Pahlawan,  past and present.

Ya Ilahi Tuhan-ku Rabi!
Pokok yang rendah menjadi tinggi!
Sa-lama kuching tidak bergigi,
Tikus tidak bersopan lagi.

Pileh2 melipat kain,
Jangan termasuk baju kemeja.
Pileh2 tempat bermain,
Jangan di-patok ular yang bisa.


54 years after Merdeka and 63 years after the declaration of insurrection by the Malayan Communist Party (MCP) we are once again being taunted - this time by a rising clamour from Friends of Chin Peng (FOCP) for the canonization of the terrorist Lim Chin Peng (LCP), the leader of the MCP since 1940.  Some of the voices are hesitant and timorous; others are loud and self-righteous.

The champions are both local and foreign.  Sharing the same bandwagon are academics, historians, Salon-Lefties, dinosaur Marxist-Leninists, 'radical' writers, young wannabe revolutionaries, slick journalists, opportunistic politicians and a motley crew of Political Fashionistas.

They have woven a fabric of myths around LCP and his Party.

1.  The first myth is that LCP, who led the bloody insurrection from 1948-1960 and again from 1967-1989 is a national hero who deserved the status of Malaya's foremost, if not the first freedom fighter, our liberator from British Imperialism.  Dr Chen Man Hin  (DAP Life Advisor)  for one, regards LCP  as a 'freedom fighter'.  LCP's champions all agree his return to Malaya should be granted and lauded.

Really?  Let's look a little more deeply into the matter.  Let's examine the context of that critical period after the Second World War.

In February 1946 Stalin declared that for as long as capitalist societies existed, wars were inevitable.  Then in March 1946 Churchill coined the term 'The Iron Curtain' and asked that all English speaking countries should stand together against Communism.

And Mao Tse-Tung, whose Chinese Communist Party  (CCP) did not gain victory until 1949 responded; "world war should be avoided but there should be no compromise towards internal conflicts". 

The Cold War had begun.

In Malaya, of course, 1946 also witnessed a huge protest by the Malays against MacMichael's Malayan Union, which would have reduced the Malays to a minority people in their homeland and lose them their political clout as well.  This period also saw the formation of UMNO.  As in other colonial territories, the worm was beginning to turn, but not without severe complications.

During WW2, LCP and the MCP fought with the British against the Japanese.  Their participation in the MPAJA  (Malayan People's Anti-Japanese Army) has often been extolled as the Communists' unstinting loyalty and sacrifice in Malaya to expel the Japanese.  Indeed, after the War the British awarded medals to LCP and other CPM leaders for their services.

They were not of course the only ones who deserved such recognition for defending Malaya and Singapore: remember Lt. Adnan Saidi and his platoon from the Malay Regiment who paid a heavy price with their lives fighting the Japanese at Pasir Panjang Ridge, Singapore.  It took some time before history text books in Singapore were willing to acknowledge the Malay Regiment's ultimate sacrifice.

However, there is one difference between this and the MCP's commitment in the MPAJA.  The Malay Regiment were in battle for the sovereignty of their tanah air LCP was not fighting as a patriot of Malaya but as a revolutionary inspired by the wider world vision of Communism and by the humiliation that smaller Japan had inflicted on  larger China from the 1930s.

The MPAJA were motivated by their hatred of the Japanese and what they did to China after the 1937 invasion.  And when the Chinese in Singapore and Malaya were picked upon by the Japanese during Occupation, it was a continuation of the violence and hostility already evident in China.  The bitter enmity and violence of the Sino-Japanese War had been transplanted to Occupied Malaya, to Ma-Rai-Ee.

After all, the Nanyang (Overseas) Chinese had rallied to the call of the Motherland from both the nationalist Kuomintang and the CCP  for help and aid.  Anti-Japanese supporters ranged from ordinary people to millionaires like Tan Kah Kee, known as the Rubber King of Malaya and Singapore who managed to get enough funding for the Chinese Air Force to buy 13 fighter planes.  Incidentally, Tan departed for Indonesia to escape the wrath of the Japanese.  The Chinese in Singapore boycotted Japanese goods and even Chinese trishaw riders refused to accept Japanese passengers.  Committees like the China Salvation Movement were set up to collect donations from rich merchants and ordinary workers who were committed enough to give regular monthly contribution.  Some even volunteered to leave their jobs and families to serve as motor mechanics and drivers in transporting war materials.

But if loyalty to China was a matter of blood, it was also a matter of ideology.  And when LCP and MCP 'served' in the MPAJA and later turned to armed insurrection in 1948 to begin the People's Revolutionary War, he was fighting as a soldier in the service of both blood and ideology.

So, when the British decided to team up with the Communists in the MPAJA, they became in effect, the patron and godfather of the coming 1948 Emergency.  Both had the same war objectives but different post-war intentions.  By 1943, the MPAJA-cum-MCP already had a strategy to set up the People's Republic of Malaya; and by 1945 there were already 10,000 well-trained, well-armed and disciplined Chinese Communist soldiers in the Malayan jungle.

2. A second strand of myth claimed by the FOCPs is that the insurrection precipitated Malayan independence.  If it wasn't for the Emergency the British would not have given Malaya her independence in 1957!!  This was also LCP's adamant stand.  And so to that extent, they say LCP should be recognized as the father of Malayan independence.

Well, British interest in Malaya was part of a larger design than merely responding to Lim Chin Peng.

Britain may have won the Second World War but 1945 marked the start of the decline of "the Empire on which the sun never sets".  It had been bombed-out, the country's infrastructure was damaged, there was not much left in the coffers.  One by one the colonies got an independence of sorts: India/Pakistan in 1947, Ceylon in 1948, Malaya and Ghana in 1957, Tanzania in 1961, Uganda 1962.  Only Kenya's independence was preceded by rebellion, to thwart the agenda of the White Settlers.  The leader of the Mau Mau rebellion Kimathi, was captured, executed and buried in an unmarked grave.  That was how the British dealt with their coloured dissidents.  Even their home-grown traitor Lord Haw Haw was hung for his pro-German broadcasts during WW2 and buried in an unmarked grave.

But imagine, if the MCP had succeeded in establishing a People's Republic of Malaya - it would be similar to the American War of Independence when the non-indigenous white colonists fought the British for independence, to the considerable disadvantage of the Natives.  There would be one big difference of course; Malaya would become a dollar-earner satellite state (or another province) of the People's Republic of China.  We would have to practise the adulation of the great leader Lim Chin Peng and Lim's Little Red Book would be in every home.

3.  A third strand of the myth is that LCP and MCP had strong Malay support.  Few academics could deny that one major reason for the failure of the insurrection in Malaya was the refusal of the great majority of the Malays to participate, either physically or spiritually, with Communism and the MCP.  Even that pioneer of Indonesian Communism, Tan Malaka gve up trying to recruit the Malays in the 1920s.

Basically Malays do not relish being led by 'foreigners'.  British Colonial authority was tolerated only because the Council of Malay Rulers backed British Administration.  There were of course many Malay nationalists and leftists who were anti-British but they did not see the MCP as an ally.

The lack of Malay support is a weak link in the FOCP's attempt to legitimise LCP and the MCP.  They needed to find ways to suggest that the insurrection was multi-ethnic.  They wrote articles like........
...... to support their cynical agenda.  For every Abdullah CD one can easily locate thousands of  Malays whose fathers and brothers and husbands were killed fighting the Communists.

But there is one fact that LCP's champions are loathe to accept and expand.  Membership in the MCP and the Malayan Peoples Liberation Army (MPLA), the militant wing of the MCP was unquestionably over 90% Chinese.

So too was the Min Yuen (the People's Movement), a most potent wing of LCP's insurrection.  These were Commmunist soldiers without uniform and wages who played a crucial role as a support network, living and working for their ideology among the general populace.  Out of 30,000 to 40,000 members, 90% were Chinese, made up mainly of the labouring and squatter classes with the rest from Chinese school teachers and students and professionals.

The Chinese squatters played a decisive role during the Emergency.

At the beginning of the insurrection there were about 500,000 Chinese squatters (15% of the Peninsula's population in 1951) living on the fringes of the jungle, especially on the west coast states of the Peninsula.  In Johor for example, squatters occupied 40,000 acres of land growing vegetables for Johor and Singapore.
This is from my Primary School Malay Language textbook. What is most revealing are sentences 5, 6, 7 and 8..
These squatters  "established settlements on land not set aside for that purpose" and even in the Forest Reserves and Malay Reserve Land.  They came to the fringes of the forest during the post-1929 recession when unemployment was high.  During the Japanese Occupation they did the same to escape repression and also because of a dire shortage of food in the urban centres.

There were also  Malay and Indian squatters among them but their numbers are negligible.  Of course, not all 500,000 were keen on aiding the insurrection but the 'strong-armed' tactics of Min Yuen in extracting food and money and information for the MPLA made certain that the squatters kept the guerillas ticking over.  Also these squatters were not sure that the British could win this 'war' and hence decided 'to go with the flow'.  So effective were the Min Yuen in sustaining the Revolution that by 1951, 200 police and civilians were killed each month - the authorities were fighting a war with shadows they could not pin down.

The Briggs plan to resettle such squatters into New Villages was a device to break the hold of the Communists on their major source of survival.  The objectives and implementation of this scheme make up another story.  Most versions relate to the ruthlessness of the scheme and the impositions on the squatters.  However, rural Malays of that period also had their woes but they were largely untold.

Why was membership in the MCP, the MPLA, the Min Yuen strongly Chinese dominated?  Perhaps we need to look into the cultural make-up of the emigrants.

Even before the 1920s and up to the present, the Chinese in Malaysia and Singapore and in the rest of Southeast Asia had  a remarkable and admirable (depending from which end of the telescope you're looking at) sense of oneness, of a common identity wherever they were in their 'diaspora'.  Only recently (1 Oct 2011) Joceline Tan wrote in The Star , " Chinese from Malaysia and Singapore may see themselves as cousins......"  in the wake of Lim Guan Eng's disparaging remarks in Singapore about another state (Johor) in his own country.

They regard one another as tong pao or 'of the same womb'.  And in that context, in Southeast Asia especially, the umbilical cord between the MCP, KMT, and CCP then, and the Nanyang Chinese and PRC  (Communist China) and ROC (Taiwan) today cannot be severed.

The economic prowess of the Nanyang Chinese and their kin connections in Southeast Asia are almost legendary.  This blood loyalty between colonial emigrants - and between colonial emigrants and mother-country - has been a strong factor in the economic success of the Nanyang Chinese.  But it was a matter of networks rather than genetics alone, as Joe Studwell suggests in his Asian Godfathers: Money and Power in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia. He 'dismisses the common assertion that being Chinese confers an unusually high potential for economic success, showing that the predominance of ethnic Chinese among the godfathers devolves from the colonial era and emigration patterns rather than genetics'.


Lim Chin Peng as Malayan Hero :  A Malay View

In this crusade for the resurrection of LCP, his adherents are keen to quote past Malay PMs and other senior Malay voices to bolster their cause. These Malays speak for themselves.  Malays reckon they are being harried to adjust and change their opinions to fit into the FOCPs box  - to have to cut their coat according to other people's size and cloth.

Just think for a moment.  Malay feelings about the Chinese Communists and the insurrection have a lot in common with Chinese feelings about the Japanese in the 1920s and 1930s.

The ousting of the Communists cost the deaths of 1,346 Malayan troops and police (albeit including a minority of non-Malays).  In comparison,  British and Commonwealth fatalities were about 519.  The Malays were not incidental casualties - they enrolled in the Police Force, the Special Constabulary, the Home Guard, the Malay Regiment and as British Army Malayan Soldiers (BAMS), making a stand to defend the tanah pusaka.

All the insurrection did was to aggravate the tension between the two races and intensify the hostility and mistrust.  It is not up to only  the Malays, but also the Chinese and others to face and talk squarely about the causes, the effects and the repercussions of this dark, bloody history.
Promoting the wishes and woes of one man, without consideration of the wider tapestry of   lives blighted during the insurrection  aggravate the dissensions  and serves only to 'menanggok di air yang keroh'.

Malaysia's big neighbour Indonesia often scorns the way Malaya's/Malaysia's independence was seemingly handed on a silver platter.  They tend to ignore the bloody price paid by this country's people and especially the  Police and Armed Forces  to uphold its peace and sovereignty during the Emergency from 1948-1960, from 1967-1989 and during Konfrontasi.

My father and his students from the Malayan Police Force attending the Hygiene Assistant's Course at Nee Soon, Singapore, circa 1950s/early 1960s.

For the Malays in the Uniformed Forces, fighting the MCP during the Emergency was not a simple matter of taking sides.  It was a battle against two outrages in their land - by the Chinese Communists and the British Imperialists.

Turun ka-sawah memakai tudong,
Padi di-huma layu lengkesa;
Sa-ekor sawa (ular) sa-ekor tedong,
Bersama2 mengadu bisa.

Then of course, came the sequel, another insurrection between 1967-1989, (which had the encouragement and blessings of  the People's Republic of China's  Chairman Deng Xiaopeng) which was fought almost entirely by Malaysians.


This campaign to resurrect LCP, so that he can expire peacefully in his bed in his 'hometown' and be buried next to his father, will most certainly persist.  We are fed selective  pictures of a smiling, jolly-looking, rotund elderly man, looking like our taukeh kedai runcit who has been living just next door to us for the last 40 years.  How could anyone have the heart to deny this simple wish of a man who "at the tender age of 18"  (Susan Loone's paean to LCP) joined the CPM, conjuring an image of an innocent choir boy?

There are many men with fewer bloody culpabilities who would not dare to hope for such a benign end.

When the man finally meets his Maker, I predict Friends of Chin Peng and especially the Political Fashionistas will be parading in T-shirts, or ribbons or wrist bands or bandanas adorned with Lim Chin Peng's image and words like Che Chin Peng, a la Che Guevara.  Green caps decorated with a red star (or 3 red stars) will be the latest 'must-haves' to demonstrate solidarity with their cause celebre and to vaunt their liberal humanitarianism.

But then perhaps it is all to the good this way.  What an ignominious fate it would be for the man who wanted to be Chairman Lim Chin Peng of the People's Republic of Malaya - to end as a mere fashion statement.

NB:  All three pantun were taken from Kalong Bunga Buku 1, oleh Za'ba, 1964 (DBP) 

Sunday 23 October 2011

The Romance of History (CsH)

I hated History.  When you were in the Arts Stream, history was a must to make up the 8 subjects required for the Cambridge School Certificate and the 4 subjects for the Higher School Certificate.

This Examination Time Table shows the nature of the History Papers for the School Certificate. very telling of the times.  They were History of the British Empire and Commonwealth and History for Candidates in Malaya.

Earlier Primary School history was mainly made up of the history of English Kings and Queens and the achievers in the British Empire.   I recall how my my history and geography lessons throughout Primary and  Secondary School referred to the Peninsula -  what is now  West Malaysia -  as Malaya.

 It was in fact a term manufactured by the British to 'create' an image of  a single political entity of the Straits Settlements, the Federated Malay States and the Unfederated Malay States.  Malaya not only referred to the indigenous Malays but also the non-Malay immigrants.  In this way the British did not have to account for the  nefarious (or otherwise) tactics and subterfuge they employed to take over the Peninsula and its resources - in the guise of bringing peace and prosperity to the country.  The 'treaties' they made with the Malay Rulers in their bid to expand their political control became mere details in this larger picture of developing Malaya for the 'benefit' of all.  Also their cynical policy of promoting the entry of millions (from China and India) of what in today's terms would be described as 'foreign workers' to 'develop' and enhance the Imperial coffers would be rationalised and  legitimised.

If the climate had been agreeable to them as in Zimbabwe (the old Southern Rhodesia named after the arch-Imperialist Cecil Rhodes) they might have set up permanent settlements in all the choice spots on the hills, in the most fertile areas or by the seaside and renamed the Malay Peninsula Rafflesia  or  Edwardia!

I have spent all week reading and digging into versions of the History of 'Malaya' from the 1920s to post-World War Two.  What a minefield it was. 

The earlier narrators were mostly British and Australians; more recently they have included a number of non-Malays, some Malays, more Australians and now the addition of some colourful Malay fashionistas  (most  of them, it seems, emanating from institutions in Singapore).  With copious footnotes and citations and reference lists, they excel in presenting a linear history of pre-War and post-War British 'possessions' in the region.  Instead of Kings and Queens  it was all about Sultans ( emasculated and compromised - my description), Residents and Governors and High Commisioners.  There were the European Captains of Industry and Agriculture and Merchant Houses and their immigrant counterparts and the tale of how these were the people who made Malaya then and Malaysia what it is today. 

They hold the view that  'the Malays might have lived in it (the Peninsula) longer, but no one had done as much to develop it as the Chinese'.  This point however, has to be considered.  Although "the vast majority (the Chinese) arrived as labourers, many soon found in the stability and order of  Malaya opportunities for demonstrating their entrepreunerial talents.  Becoming the largest element first in the urban centres and then in the country as a whole,they came to dominate the retail and commercial life of Malaya".  There were no barriers, no competitors , no hazards - success was almost handed on a plate.

As for the natives,  left on their own, the Malays would have remained backward serfs - a sweet but sorry looking lot of  Mats and Minahs who would happily dive into the sea for coins thrown into the water by the wealthy and civilized Others.  The context of Malay culture, political suzerainty, economic activity and  sustenance -  the existence of  Malay peasants and fishermen, small Malay craftwork and industry as well as regional and localised forms of political organisations were marginalised and ignored.  It seemed that the  Malays contributed almost nothing except to allow all and sundry to exploit and profit from the resources in  their homeland while they remained protected  and 'nurtured on subsistence-level' paternalism. Keep them quiet and sedated - that was the ploy.

Words like immigrants, bandits, terrorists, Emergency, communists, nationalists, freedom fighters and liberators  pepper the texts.  The 'left-wing intelligentsia' have done a good job in questioning the choice of words used by the British to describe the post-war insurrection by the Communist Party of Malaysia. Terms like 'bandits' to describe the Communists were later discarded because they give the connotation of MCP guerillas as being 'small fry' like pesky flies that can be easily swatted and worse, that could make them seem almost semi- heroic, like the Robin Hoods of Malaya. Certainly the ambitions of the MCP were stronger than that.

Now the word 'Emergency" was regarded as a typical British understatement of a critical situation.  It's a nifty word because it promises only a temporary hiccup. It also enabled  the owners of the plantations and tin-mines  to claim insurance  for their temporary losses.

But, most of all, this word 'immigrant' fascinates me. Here are its various meanings.

1. a person who comes to a country where they were not born to settle there.
2. one who comes to a foreign country to live there permanently.
3. someone who leaves one country to settle permanently in another and
4. a plant or animal that establishes itself in an area where it previously did not exist.

But the term 'immigrant', as used in texts concerning the history of Malaysia from the 1920s, is a misnomer.

In the first place, the large scale movement of Chinese (and Indians) into Malaya and Singapore was orchestrated  by the imperialists' hunger for cheap labour to work the tin mines and plantations, to construct the buildings, roads, railways and ports, to clear the jungles and later to be the clerks and petty bureaucrats (after a good dose of education in schools run by missionaries) and more importantly to play the role of middlemen traders and conveyancers of lucrative exports (especially) and imports with the cosmopolitan hub, to lubricate the wheels of imperialism.

Secondly they came as transients.  They did not come to settle permanently and  were not, for the most part, immigrants. They were foreign workers allowed entry and permit to make a living and for some fortunate ones, a fortune, by the British Colonial Rulers.  They were sojourners - making a temporary stay in a foreign country amongst people who were not of their culture.  They came to escape  poverty and unrest in their own country.  To 'balek Tongsua ' was a common attribute of the Chinese attitude when I was growing up in the Fifties.

Throughout the 1920s to the 1950s, and even after Independence, the Chinese ( except for some of the Peranakan) did not regard these British outposts as home.  China was their Motherland.  Up to 1948, the 2 million Chinese, many second generation born in Malaya gave their loyalty to their family, their clan and to China. The land of the Malai Kwai  (Malay devil) had no significance for them except as the goose that laid the golden egg.  Furthermore, China allowed them Dual Nationality enabling them to eat their cake and keep it as well.

The concept of "Dimana bumi di pijak, disitu langit di junjung" remained primarily a Malay folly.

Given such a background, it would be very glib to suggest that racially based politics began with the Alliance of UMNO, MCA and the MIC as of the 1957 Independence.  One could safely claim that it started between the 1920s and 1950s when the Kuomintang and the Chinese Communist Party competed for finance and support from Chinese coolies and taukehs and nationalists in Singapore, Penang and Malaya.

Among the notable personalities of this period was Sun  Yat Sen, memorialised as the Father of modern China in the Sun Yat Sen Museum at 65, Macalister Road, Penang and in the previously named Nanyang University at Wan Qing Yuan which 'has been preserved and renamed the Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall, and gazetted as a national monument of Singapore on October 28, 1994'.

Another notable personality is Lim Chin Peng.  Now there's a cry and a campaign to remember him as a kind of Father of Modern Malaya.

And this will be the subject of my next post.