Friday 30 March 2018

Democracy delineated, re-delineated and reviewed.

Read this news three days ago.  Oh dear, I thought.  More hot flush from the Yellow T-shirts.

Where were these avengers, the voice of the people, by the people, for the people, when we needed them; to articulate and represent us at the dire and sorry state of our water supply in Selangor, when in early March we were deprived of water for 4 whole days plus plus?  How can the ordinary rakyat  remain bersih without our supply of water?  For the two geriatrics, we only found out about the water cutoff when we brought our two cats to our vet and Aida the receptionist inquired if we were affected by the closure of supply in our area
Got home, checked the letter box, there was no  letter informing us of the disruption. Checked with our neighbour - she was just as much in the dark.  Checked with my sister at Bukit Mulia, she was uncertain too as she had had no warning in the post.  So just two days before our departure, the two geriatrics rummaged for all the water containers they could find to store enough water for upstairs and downstairs - both for our use and for Osman our house and cat sitter who would be taking over when we leave. Was this due to a drought like a few years back?  At least then we had a respite when water was turned on at night. Has global warming affected Selangor more than any other part of the country? No, it's due to a typical Malaysian malady - just sheer mismanagement on the part of our corporate and political leaders.

Anyway AsH is just letting off steam about life in our sultry and torrid tropical Selangor.

I found out later what was involved in SPR (see the image above).  SPR is the Suruhanjaya Pilihan Raya or Election Commission (EC) - who is responsible for constituency re-delineation, which has to be conducted every 8 years.  It was done in 2003 for Malaya and Sabah, and in 2005 for Sarawak.  Thus it was due for the coming General Election.

This review has everything to do with the theory and practice of  DEMOCRACY, a system of government we inherited from the British who in turn had taken its mantle and practice from the Greeks. 

However laudable democracy is, I applaud H.L. Mencken's view "Democracy is a form of worship.  It is the worship of Jackals by Jackasses".

I must declare my ignorance of the practice of delineation and reviews of electoral boundaries in various democracies.  Sometimes it's described as gerrymandering.  At  times it is claimed to resolve electoral bias and to equalise electoral constituency sizes.  But in the light of the hi-tech collusion of Cambridge Analytica and Facebook to target the voting and the voter during the Presidential election of the  planet's richest and strongest democracy, redelineation and re-jigging looks quite anaemic.

Nevertheless on 28 March, Malaysia's Election Commission's redelineation report was passed in the Dewan Rakyat - despite a great deal of  robust outcry from the Opposition and their Yellow Legionnaires.

Well, Singapura in 2015 also conducted a similar exercise.  It had a different appellation, it was called the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC).  Amongst the changes made; there were more Single Member Constituencies (SMC).  Two SMCs, Joo Chiat and Whampoa  and the Moulmein-Kallang GRC(Group Representative Constituency) vanished.  Naturally all incumbent governments will find sound, solid reasons for their manoeuvres.  The tamperings with the SMCs and GRC were regarded by the Opposition and their supporters as a move by the People's Action Party to "cut their losses".  But outpourings of anger and dissent in Singapura were muted unlike in Malaya. Perhaps this can be attributed to a shortage of supply and demand for Yellow T-shirts in Singapura !

As for the electoral system in USA, it was quite acceptable and legal for a Presidential candidate (Hillary Clinton) to win the popular vote by a 3 million vote margin, lose the Electoral College by 74 votes and yet she had to concede victory to Trump!  That's democracy?

The Electoral College is made up of all the states in the Union. Each state, large or small is granted three electoral votes - from the two Senators and one representative.  There was one delineation, the 23rd Amendment, whereby the capital Washington got at least three electoral votes.  The Census Bureau attempts to balance the number of representatives for a changing population (what Americans describe as 'census-based reapportionment' )  but despite this, Hispanics and Asians remain disadvantaged  in the size of their representation.  If this is democracy in the USA, why do we coloured practitioners have to be whiter than white?

In UK, the Conservatives have been complaining about the pro-Labour electoral bias. I shall not attempt to delve into the mechanics of the bias.  Factors like abstention (which is supposed to help Labour to get more MPs for its votes than the Conservatives)  and the effect of having a third party like the Lib-Dem seem to play a part in the 'mismanagement' of democracy in UK.

I find it interesting that  some members of the Opposition in Malaysia advise voters to abstain from voting in the coming General Election.  I reckon this is part of a voting strategy for victory in an election in a democracy.  I am certain all our political parties have their in-house  (or maybe external too?)  electoral mechanics to service and manipulate the pokery-jiggery necessary to win the next and all other elections.

While we poor sods, the rakyat are brought up on the milk of Abraham Lincoln's platitude of  "Democracy is the government of the people, by the people, for the people" this cynic prefers  to include this caveat by Oscar Wilde.  His version is: "Democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people, by the people, for the people".

And on the prospect of being further bludgeoned, also beware of these 'hurrah words' like Freedom, Equality, and  Human Rights.

In the next few months in Malaysia, expect more sightings of the likes of Snoopy and the Red Baron.  But despair not, lying in wait are several Great Pumpkins to help whoever with their old and new battle plans.

It is a general popular error to imagine the loudest complainers for the public to be the most anxious for its welfare.  (Edmund Burke, 1729-1797)

Thursday 15 March 2018

It has been an eyeful ......

There has been a long, long hiatus since my last posting. It's a silence due to a quandary of vision.  

Firstly there was the issue of a geriatric's eyesight.  An eye cataract is part of the baggage of old age.  The pre- and post operation frustration and discomfort stretched from over 6 months ago to March 2018.  But that's to be expected and AsH should not whinge too much - others from her peer group have it worse.  I was once asked, "Do you prefer to be deaf or blind?"   God's gift of vision is certainly uppermost in my decision. 

Secondly my ire with vision has more to do my weakness, with a failure to judge and discriminate about people who I regard as honourable friends.  One never stop learning, one cannot escape being (metaphorically) slapped in the face by "good friends" even at 74!!!  This time not by one, but by three mates. The scales have been removed from my eyes, so to speak. As my mother would put it: "seperti menelan hempedu".

Hempedu - a beautiful but bitter herb.

And now I am back home .....

Life with crumpets and tea.

 ........ in our other abode away from the sultry, torrid Tropics.  I can try and place my toe once again in the waters of my blog.

But every cloud has a silver lining,  My brother Mus and I were talking about cataracts and he remembered how it started with Mak's.  Too much reading and computer activity have not helped my eyes.  But with Mak, she only realized she had trouble with her vision when threading a needle became a sore problem.  We took her to hospital to remove the cataract in one eye in 1981 and the other one in 1989.  Following my mother's footsteps, I will have the other eye drained sometime. 

And during that conversation I realized what an avid and skilful seamstress she was.  She sewed ALL of our clothes including school uniforms.  She learned the art of tailoring men's outfit from Pakcik Rahim, a Minang tailor and a very good friend of my father.

Pakcik Rahim (right) with Mus circa 1947.  On the left was another family friend Pakcik Mat.

Wise words from Pakcik Rahim for my sister's autograph.

Too much reading and computer work did no favour for my eyes.  But as for Mak her eyes paid a price because she did too much sewing for her family.

I have stored very lovingly all the baju kurung she sewed for me.  They were all sewn by hand.  And most remarkable of all was her fine skills in embroidering the neck line with her tiny and delicate tulang belut.  No wonder she over strained her eyes.

About a month ago, I asked Mus to drop in at Setiawangsa to take these photographs.  Here are the results of that exciting rainy afternoon when Kamisah's son and daughter got to work and immortalised her loving craftsman(woman)ship.

She produced no dissertation, doctoral or otherwise.  But this was her contribution to Malay culture.  It is all the more poignant because I doubt if there are any of my generation or younger who can replicate what she has done.

Dear Mak, on that rainy afternoon Mus and I reminisced and celebrated your life.  We both acknowledged we took you for granted, we never really delved into the ways and purpose of our mother.  You were just and always there but we failed to appreciate your art, your loving gift - you are an artist in your own right.

Mak - always sewing away.

Mak and her brood.

Here are the results of your artistry,  stored in these pictures for posterity - for all of your surviving children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren to treasure.

Every inch of my baju kurung was stitched by hand.

Note the very delicate tulang belut stitches on the neckline.

Mak only sewed Baju Kurung Teluk Belangah, which had a pocket on the left for tucking in a handkerchief, not tissue paper.

When we were in our early twenties Abah bought for his two daughters kain songket material, red for me and a gorgeous black for my sister Maznah for our baju kurung.  And of course Mak sewed it all!  We both have them in our keeping, 50 years hence!

I prefer this version by Rokiah Wanda because she kept to the lyrics "Kain songket buatan Malaya" and not turned into the politically correct "Kain songket pakaian budaya".

Here are more of my hand-sewn baju kurung.

The next is Mak's very own baju kurung which I often wear because it is very laboh  (spacious) and very comfortable for a geriatric who has developed a wider girth.

This 'silky' batik material was a present from my sister. It was not an easy material to sew because it is very floppy.  The stitches are not as fine because of her failing eyesight. It was the last baju kurung that Mak sewed for me.  I wore it for all the weddings of her grandchildren.

AsH in her baju kurung and Maria wearing her grandmother's baju kurung at Lincoln's Inn, 1994.

That's AsH (wearing the above baju kurung ) asking the cook for a plateful of his culinary delight during the double wedding for  Maria and Nadzim and her brother Mahzan and Sabrina at Jalan Jengkeng, Batu Pahat, 1996.

A year later Mak passed away peacefully.  Al Fatihah.

For the past six months, life could have been more peaceful.  But I was given the time to be philosophical and wistful and re-think about my incredible Mother.
Indeed it  had been an eyeful .........  and very, very heartfelt .