Sunday 17 November 2013


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 : 

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

Read :

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)


Anonymous said...

Yes fully support a bunga raya donation campaign for minggu pahlawan!

anak si-hamid said...

Thank you Anon.

I think we need another "Total Population of Malaysia minus two" votes. The two are just you and I!

This country is not UNITED and will never be GREAT as in United Kingdom and Great Britain. Thanks to the Malarabs and the Ingrate-Opportunists.

koolmokcikZ said...

nice dream. am sharing it

anak si-hamid said...

Thank you koolmokcikZ,

That makes three of us!

Remember that song "Where have all the flowers gone"?

cannonkapit said...

Wow it was a poppy! A pretty flower that turns poisonous drugs in the early 70s.

Can't remember if I had a paper poppy during my primary school days back in the early 60s.

Anonymous said...

Count me in Mdm.
On different subject, I wonder if you know this allegedly enslaved lady Ms Siti Aishah? She is about your age and was in London too. Please share with us what happened back then that could totally brain washed a young intelligent woman ?
Anak md deris.

Anonymous said...

dedicated to Madam Cikgu:

In Your Silence ......

anak si-hamid said...

Firstly apologies to cannonkapit, Anak md deris and Anon 30 Nov 1054am for my tardy posting of your comments and the slow reply.

I appreciate them all very much.My only excuse is, my laptop and health have not been in good nick.

anak si-hamid said...

Dear cannonkapit,

Thank you.

I think by the 60s, with Independence, Poppy Day became defunct. Also the opium poppy is not of the same variety as the common poppy.

But ask your parents (if they lived in S'pore) if they recalled when kas-kas or poppy seeds were banned together with that lovely song "Puff the Magic Dragon". All signs of 'yellow culture'.

anak si-hamid said...

Dear Anak md deris,

Thank you and welcome to the club!

As for that sad case of Siti Aishah, yes I was there in London at more or less the same time; although when she was about to begin her studies in London in 1968, I had already graduated and started my career as a Che'Gu in S'pore. When I finally managed to save the dosh for my postgrad study at London Univ I was already a mature(??) 30-year-old in 1974.

BUT, I do remember this Malaysian Chinese girl ( who was studying Librarianship) who came to join me at my table in the Refectory inviting me to a 'forum' organised by a Society made up of Singapore and Malaysian students. She also asked if I could contact my former lecturer from S'pore Univ to come and give a talk! I must admit I was quite shocked - she seemed to know more about me than I did of her!

I think by that time, after my experiences of living and working in S'pore; and of what was going on in Malaysia I was a bit more street-wise than Siti Aishah. After all, she was just 24 when she got mixed up in this "radicalism" of S'pore/Malaysian students in the late 60s and 70s. I have had other overtures from such "radicals"- in London, Colchester - and from 'sweet' Christian evangelists, both British and at that time, non-Malay S'poreans/Malaysians. What 'saved' me from all the above predators was the way my parents brought me up. It was not strictly religious but they taught me not to listen and be taken in by strangers and to "look before I leap". And when all seems difficult and painful I must turn to just One, to Allah. It was all very basic and uncomplicated.

Furthermore, I have no appetite for getting involved in groups and associations, be they religious or secular - in socialising so to speak. "Like father, like daughter". I have this built-in instinct of always being a 'square peg in a round hole', in fact any holes of any shape or size. It doesn't make me a nice person but it made my life simple and peaceful.

Watch for my next posting - in a couple of days'time.

anak si-hamid said...

Dear Anonymous 30 Nov 1054 am,

Bless you for the dedication. It reminded me of those old days when we used to write (not text!) requests for songs to Radio Singapore, both the Malay and English sections - and then await with bated breath for the response!!!

Madam Cikgu thank you very much.