Raja Petra Arrested!

In a shocking, but almost true to his element turn of events, Raja Petra the editor of the grand daddy of Malaysian political blog Malaysia-today.net was arrested after he refused to post RM 5,000 bail after being charged in court today under the Sedition Act.

It is indeed a sad day for freedom of speech in Malaysia. Charges were brought against him after one of his recent “No Holds Barred” series that touched on the Altantuya murder trial asked that her murderers be sent to he’ll for their henious crime.

In terms of “seditious” quotent, that article was mild when compared with his other fiery articles. What is true, in my opinion, is that Raja Petra had put down in words what most thinking Malaysians had already suspected but dared not give voice to.

This is really a bad political move for the ruling party.

Just when the Pakatan Rakyat ranks are slightly rattled by their own partisan philosophies and people were wondering if they can get their acts together, UMNO has given a new lease to the anti-government ground swell sentiments. Bloggers and the general populace are now reawakened to the feeling of injustice that they had felt which gave life to the anti-government marches and people uprising of last year.

If the intention of the government is to silence a vocal voice of truth, their latest action will indeed backfire. Raja Petra’s reluctance to post bail has created a situation where he has become more famous than he is already now. The “seditious” post will be replicated and distributed more widely. People will tend to believe the content of that article even more as people would think that there is truth in it else why would he be arrested for writing it?

What happens now is interesting to see. Indeed, Raja Petra’s move has elevated him to a sort of Malaysian Mahatma Gandhi.

And we all know what happen to that story.

Shoot the Dog or the Messenger?

An office colleague of mine recently sent an e-mail soliciting signatures to stop Guillermo Vargas, a Costa Rican artist from repeating an installation that he did in 2007 of a starving dog. The event was scantly reported in the local press but it seems the installation involved tying a dog up in a corner of the art gallery and allowing it to starve to death by withholding food and water.

Starving Dog 1

 Starving Dog 2

On first reading of the e-mail, I was outraged. But I did a little digging.

Peta and other reports on the web indicated that the event could be a stunt and the dog was actually fed daily and released quietly at the end of the installation.

The the artist said that the “art” was performed to show the hypocrisy of people. We treat abandon animals no better and yet we get outraged when one of them is displayed on the stage for all to see. We see his act as an abuse of the animal but yet we are no better when it comes to the treatment of strays when we see them loitering near our houses. Neither do we shed any tears when they are carted off by the city councils and shot.

I brought this to my colleague and she was angry with the artist. She sees the artist as being inhumane, exploitative and inconsiderate. I don’t blame her and the multitudes who signed the protest petition as I believe that everyone can take out different messages from an “art”, especially those that are meant to provoke.

I do not know whether the artist truly planned it that way but it did raise my consciousness towards our hypocrisy towards issues bigger than just stray dogs. If the BBC has not highlighted the plight of the unknown war in Congo that has killed more people than World War II, will the world care about it? Or are we so fixated on the global war on terror not because it has killed more people but because it is more shocking and received more airtime coverage?

 Has art evolved to a point in our modern world that artists have to resort to shock art to get their messages across? Is this an example of the relativist nature of art?

7 days later…

For a week, I had resisted from writing my comments because I do not want my unaccustomed feeling of electoral euphoria to taint my views on the biggest event that has ever happened in our politically sterile country.

After 7 laxative days of countless mamak and paty poker net5card draw pokerpoker superstars 2 spielendraw poker rulespoker texas holdem strategiepoker spielen mit geldtexas holdem handtexas holdem reihenfolgepoker net comonline poker netpoker regeln splitpoker live spielenpoker online macpoker 5 drawper giocare a pokeritalian poker tourpoker sexi gratisgioca pokergioca a poker on linestrip poker da scaricare gratisonline gamesgioco di pokerstrip poker livegioco strep pokerscommesse internetpoker gametexas holdem online gratis,texas holdem online,texas holdem poker onlinepoker online italiastreap poker gratispoker giochi scaricaregame pokergioco d azzardo pokerpoker su internetscarica gioco pokerpoker carte gratispoker tour gamefree omaha pokerpoker game online gratisgioco poker italianocasino poker gratisgioco poker per pcgiochi 7 card stud inlinearegole pokergiochare omaha pokervc pokertornei poker gratisplay omaha poker onlinecarte giocopoker non onlinepoker room lunch discussions, unfolding human drama of the swearing-in sessions and endless media coverage of the DAPPKRPAS historic gains in the 12th General Election of Malaysia, I’ve purged all the exuberance from my system and I’m ready to pen my observations:-

1. The non-BN parties didn’t win, BN lost ground.

This is the observation that I grudgingly had to concede. Almost everyone that I spoke to had enough of BN and people just wanted to protest by voting the other person. The joke was that people were so fed up that the Malays voted DAP, the Chinese voted PAS and the Indians voted anyone without a BN logo.

2. Malaysia is still not color blind.

This is so obvious that people, though they’ve always wanted a color blind utopia, had never actually thought of the sacrifices they have to make to break 50 years of racialists politics. Lim Kit Siang of the DAP demonstrated that he is still the firebrand leader by asking for a boycott of a swearing-in ceremony in Perak due to the appointment of a Menteri Besar from PAS. The problem here is that he had forgotten that his party is the one who had won the lion share of state seats and they are a major partner in the state government.

3. The opposition parties, never in their wildest dreams, thought that they would win so big.

MB issues in Perak and Deputy MB issues in Selangor could easily been solved had the 3 parties agreed on a power sharing formula before hand. The 3 parties have really different ideologies and now, after the rakyat bought their promises and chose to give them 4 more states to govern, they have to find a working formula. This means that DAP would have to stop thinking that it is an uber-MCA, PAS would have to de-talibanize itself, PKR would have to find out what it standing for. Practically, PKR has the easiest job because it has the least luggage and also a secret weapon, Anwar Ibrahim, one of the most polished and charismatic politician in the land.

All in all, the 12th General Elections was a great achievement for all Malaysians. We have managed to prove that democracy is alive and well in our country. As to whether the opposition coalition can sweep into federal power 5 years from now, it remains to be seen. But the first step is that they need to come up with a name for their coalition. After all, it is such a mouthful to be calling them the DAP-PKR-PAS (or PAS-PKR-DAP, if you are a PAS supporter- one never seems to get the combination of DAP-PAS-PKR or PAS-DAP-PKR because DAP and PAS are natural polar opposites in the equation) coalition every time we mention the coalition.

Election Season 2008

I observe, with great interest, the active and often dramatic Presidential Primaries that is unfolding currently in the United States. Leave it to the Americans to make a topic as contentious as politics to become something akin to a spectator sports. But then, it is often the most contentious issues that make for spikes in ratings for the media.

In light of all this active political drama, I can’t help but compare this to our coming Malaysian General Election. While it is no surprise that the General Election will be called sometime this February/March, the mode here is relatively somber and the lively debates about issues are all but present here. We like to hear issues debated openly and not confined to just small housing estates.

I consider myself to be a libertarian and I believe in free market economy. What is interesting to note is that in Malaysia, we only have 2 types of people in politics- those in power and those who are not. Those who are in power decides on sometimes reactive policies without much care to the will of the people. Those who are not ranges from frothing extremist, bent on turning Malaysia to an Islamic state to aging socialists who can’t come up with compelling alternatives to the present political party in power.

The state of politics in Malaysia, sadly, is broken and highly predictive. We can predict for a fact that the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition of race-based parties will sail to victory once again. The question is, by how much. Unfortunately, this is as exciting as it gets: predicting by how much the present government (who will be re-elected when the dust settles) will lose. Even the opposition parties are “realistic” about their chances. I do hope that I’m proven wrong in this regard but sadly, I know that I will be proven correct.

The reason why the political state of affairs in Malaysia is so sad is that we do not have enough savvy voters. In a county that has never seen a change of Federal Government, the voters are so numbed by years of political indoctrination that they believe (and sometimes rightly) that there are no viable alternative party to govern the country well. Take for example the most successful opposition political party in Malaysia, PAS. Its brand of hell fire Islamic politics will never go down well with the mass electorate because they can never dominate urban and sub-urban voters. After years of seeing how Islamic states around the world had operated, the moderates and liberals can’t be bought by promises for eternal salvation when PAS can’t seem to move with the times. It still harps on turning Malaysia into a conservative Islamic state ruled by Shariah law when Malaysians can see and read about how similar conservative Islamic states around the world has failed miserably in providing for an equitable (in terms of commonly accepted social values like sexual equality, freedom of worship, freedom of speech) and economically vibrant society.

On the other hand, the socialist rooted opposition party of DAP has an uphill battle to remove the perception that it is a Chinese chauvinist party. Though having a multi-racial charter, DAP is mostly successful in Chinese majority urban and sub-urban Malaysia  and has never been able to break out from its critics claim that is nothing more than an alternative for frustrated Chinese voters who are fed up with MCA, the Chinese-based party in the ruling coalition. While the DAP has a formidable team of seemingly intellectual members, it has never presented, in my opinion, a viable blue print or plan for Malaysia that is viable nor credible.

Another opposition party, PKR, lost its bubble after Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim was released. Once formidable, it hasn’t proven itself yet on what it will do now that its struggle to release Anwar from dubious incarceration has been achieved. Supporting PKR is like supporting a group of scientists who continues to argue that the Earth is round. Move on, everyone already knows that the Earth is round so find a new issue please.

This really brings us to the crux of the problem. I am not a supporter of the ruling coalition and I implore Malaysians of all walks of life to vote for the opposition in protest. Our opposition may be disorganized but we have to mount a protest to the Badawi Administration that we, the people of this beloved land of Malaysia, cannot and will not, stand for unchecked government that can usurp the will of its people anytime they want.

I think the BN coalition have steered the country well when we our country was at its infancy but of late, they have lost their direction. Even during era of the iron grip rule of Mahathir when social liberties were curtailed,  he had the vision and the tenacity to ensure that any Malaysians who are hardworking has a stake in the growth of the country’s economic pie. The Badawi incumbents of today have grown into a comfortable lull, dulled by the surety of always staying in power without the benefit of a sharp poke to always do better for fear of being elected out of office.

They remind me of the emperors and rajahs and sultans who have succumbed to the complacency of thinking that whatever they do, they’ll remain in power. But history teaches us that these rulers are eventually removed, often by force or by coercion from a greater power. It is inevitable because they have lost touch with the common citizen and do not know for certain the pulse of the people and what they really want. Benign dictatorship often lasts no more than a couple of generation before the malignancy of human greed and wanton waste creep into the government. In this era of the connected global village, totalitarian regimes are removed by force or suffer the crippling shame of international isolation. (Unless of course, if that said regime is a financial powerhouse like China- a free-market loving communist country).

Let’s hope that when Badawi sweeps back into office in March that he acknowledges this and really do something that would make his administration remarkable. So far, his first term has been nothing more than slumberous complacency and blinding apathy towards issues like corruption, the economy, equality, crime, climate and education. He has to wake up and as a gesture of goodwill to start working for the people (as opposed to the rhetorical “working with them”) because they have lost so much faith in him.

Goodbye 2007, Hello 2008!

I always do not know what to do when it comes to a  year end. When people ship off like sheep to a slaughter to countdown parties, I would be comfortably sitting in front of my glowing TV set, reminiscing about the year and what I should have done.

I think that it is quite therapeutic to pile regrets upon regrets on what one should have done when there was still time to do it. It makes me feel guilty. Now, don’t get me wrong. For someone who doesn’t have much cares, feeling guilty gives me a sense of much needed urgency. As Cheryl rightly pointed out to me: I have cares but I just don’t care about what I’m supposed to care about.

Take my weight for instance. For years, I’ve been working hard to maintain a bubbly personality as well as a bubbly figure. Honestly, the later doesn’t require much work which is the point that I’m trying to get at. Unlike Dr. Phil who breaks people down by calling them fat cows and then making them feel all the much better in their bovine physical state, I’m the opposite. I really do feel good about my large frame.

I’m already at a Nirvanic state when it comes to weight, ie. All fats are an illusion and no one enters heaven (or an atheist equivalent) feeling good about themselves by not eating well.  Which is my biggest problem. How do I feel bad about myself in order for me to something about it?

I guess I could look at the signs:-

  • No one gets a hernia when they try to tie their shoe laces
  • Fitting into a pair of jeans doesn’t require a crane.
  • XXL T-shirts don’t need to expanded on a large chair frame 12 hours before wearing them
  • Running out of breath when I’m typing this.

Okay, maybe I exaggerate. While I’m not large enough to attract heavy bodies by my sheer gravitational force alone, I am coming close.

So it is with this great sense of guilt (which is good) that I regret all of the delicious meals that I had had this year. I regret eating lightly toasted caramelized foie gras. I regret drinking great tasting fruit-nosed, full palette Pinot Noir that comes with a slightly spicy end note. I regret engaging in juicy blood filled medium rare stakes. And most of all, I regret downing crates of sweet bubbly sugared non-diet Coca-Cola.

Mostly, I think that my biggest regret is not moving my lazy ass to exercise. And no, running and jumping in a Playstation 3 game as great as Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune doesn’t count (even though it requires one to swing the controller from time to time due to the SIXAXIS functions). I also regret, as does my wallet, that I have wasted RM 150 per month to sign-up for a gym membership that I do not go to. I regret relegating my dumb bells to become expensive paper weight. I regret too that I wear my running shoes as fashion wear and have bastardized it from its utilitarian purposes.

Now that I’m a broken man, I’m going to built myself up again. I’m resolving to lose the excess weight so that:-

  • I don’t have to buy 2 tickets for myself to watch Indiana Jones 4 (coming memorial day 2008, yay!) and Star Trek (end 2008, another yay!)
  • AirAsia doesn’t charge an extra fuel surcharge on my cheap flight tickets
  • The proprietor of my favorite restaurant doesn’t have to double up in washing the piles of dishes every time I go there for a meal
  • I don’t cause a solar eclipse when I step in front of someone during sunrise or sunset

Ah…I must say that I do feel good (but not too good) about myself now and I’m ready to face 2008 with this new resolve.

Have a Great and Happy New Year!