Monday, February 27, 2006

A tale of two Umnos & Dato' Onn Jaafar

Dear Din: The Umno founded by Dato' Onn Jaffar in 1946 was already declared illegal and banned by court in 1988.

The "Umno" now was actually registered as "Umno Baru" in 1988 and it was founded by Dr. Mahathir Mohammad.

Umno and Umno Baru are therefore two entirely different entities and it is very dishonest to claim that Dato' Onn Jaffar founded the present Umno Baru in 1946.

As a matter of fact, after quitting the original or 1946 Umno he founded, Dato' Onn had never rejoined it until his death in 1962. Dato' Onn certainly could not have joined Umno Baru in 1988.

Moreover, after the original or 1946 Umno was buried in history in 1988, Tunku Abdul Rahman and Tun Hussein Onn opposed to the formation of Umno Baru by Dr. Mahathir Mohammad. They never joined Umno Baru. In other words, the Tunku and Tun Hussein Onn died as partyless citizens.

Tun Abdul Razak who passed away in 1976 also could not have joined Umno Baru in 1988.

By the way, Dato' Onn Jaafar was not as uncontroversial as it is now re-packaged by Umno Baru's propaganda. His slogan Hidup Melayu! was considered by the then progressive forces, including the broad Malay Left (some inside Umno) and the Communist Party of Malaya, to be parochial, conservative and reactionary and they succeeded in changing the popular slogan to Merdeka! which is more inclusive.

On the question of independence, Dato' Onn was also considered too pro-British or as a darling of British colonialism even by people like Tunku Abdul Rahman. Read-lah the memoirs of Abdullah CD, Rashid Maidin and Abu Samah to understand another or less glorious side of Dato' Onn Jaafar. Pak Rashid's memoirs, for example, have some sarcastic and not very positive references to Dato' Onn Jaafar.

Of course, Dato' Onn is also remembered as one who advocated the opening up of Umno (1946) to non-Malays. But then, after his multiethnic Independence of Malaya Party (IMP) failed, he reverted to a position trying to out-Malay Tunku's Umno. His opportunism caused his credibility to be questioned by all and led him nowhere in the end.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Zam "softened"; Kalimullah stages soap opera

Dear Tai Soh,

Have you read former NST chief editor Kalimullah Hassan's long-winded and cry-baby piece today in p.19 of Umno's English-language mouthpiece? Any rookie in true journalism knows it is an abuse of power to waste one precious full page for an ex-editor to vent his personal frustraion and anger under the guise of 'Opinion'. For Umno's party hacks, propagandists and scribes to preach the virtue of friendship is like crocodile trying to convince us to be good vegetarians and the evil of meat-eating.

No, I don't think Kalimullah has ever read a page of Edward Gibbon's The History Of The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire.

Don't forget: next Wednesday, we shall meet in Kuala Lumpur for foot reflexology. Cheers.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

NST report: ZAM " softened dramatically " ...

Zainuddin calls for details from RTM
Koh Lay Chin KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 24, New Straits Times

Information Minister Datuk Zainuddin Maidin said today he had directed Radio Televisyen Malaysia to provide the necessary information to the authorities on the airing of a news clip which showed the controversial caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.

Close-ups of the caricatures were displayed on RTM TV2’s Mandarin news on Feb 3.

Zainuddin said he had taken steps to ensure such incidents would not happen again.

"And I think what has happened in this short time has made us more aware about freedom of the Press with social responsibility," he told a Press conference after launching Fiesta Merbuk 2006 at the KL Tower.

Zainuddin softened dramatically his earlier scathing views about media which depicted caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.

RTM had been in the forefront seeking action against the New Straits Times for publishing a cartoon which, although not one of the 12 caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad which has inflamed the Islamic world, was seen by some sections of society here as offensive.

The cartoon that the NST used was published in the International Herald Tribune which is printed in some Islamic countries, such as Lebanon, and distributed widely in the Islamic world.

Today, some newspapers revealed that RTM itself had screened clips prominently showing the offending caricatures on TV2 on Feb 3.

Asked about his criticisms of the NST on the issue when RTM’s faux pas was more serious, Zainuddin said he would not be repeating anything that he had said in the past.

The Information Minister had conciliatory words and plenty of smiles and laughter.On NST’s explanation and apology on the Non Sequitur comic strip, Zainuddin said: "I think that’s a good response to the reaction that came out. And I welcome the statement by the Prime Minister in Penang which views the apology as resolving the publication of the cartoon."

Zainuddin said the whole affair had been "good for the country" as it meant a continual process of learning about Press freedom and its do’s and don’ts.

Was he still upset with the NST? "No, no, I am not," he said.

Instead, Zainuddin said the NST would be the first newspaper he would visit as Information Minister.He wanted to see old and new friends as he "missed journalism very much".

Asked who he wanted to visit specifically, he said: "Many, I have many old friends. (Former NSTP group editor-in- chief Datuk) Kalimullah (Hassan) is my friend. He wrote a very nice piece when I was promoted to become the adviser of the Utusan Malaysia".

He refused to comment on past statements where he had expressed disappointment with the NST and was critical of Kalimullah, saying that he did not want to talk about the past.

"I don’t want to repeat anything. It’s the beginning of a new era. I welcome what Datuk Seri Abdullah said, it is selesai (resolved)," he said.

"We look to the future, for harmony in the Press, for good relations, you know."

When asked by a reporter if he had called for the sacking of the top editors of the NST Group at a closed-door Umno information bureau meeting a day before he was appointed minister, Zainuddin deflected the question with a laugh and said: "You are naughty."

At 66, ZAM has finally grown up

Friday, February 24, 2006

Zams' Final Solution ?

Zam encounters stiff resistance in civil war

Two Umno mouthpieces, namely the English-language New Straits Times and Malay-language Berita Harian today publicly named, among other people, the Malaysian Information Minister Zainuddin Maidin in not-so-friendly terms over NST's cartoon controversy. Does PM Abdullah feel hit by "stray bullets" or "friendly fire" because it was the prime ministerial him who promoted Zam to be a full minister in the recent Cabinet reshuffle?

What is Zam's next tactical move? Will he resort to the use of "weapons of mass destruction" (RTM) under his direct command?


Thursday, February 23, 2006


Anti-colonial fighter for true Merdeka and husband of Makcik Shamsiah Fakeh, Pak Ibrahim Mohd passed away at 5.00 am today in Kuala Lumpur at the age of 81.

Rest in peace and may God bless your soul.


* For arrangments of Pak Ibrahim's funeral and other information, please call Sdri. Siti Nor via 016-2834746*

I bought a copy of NST this morning

This morning, I bought a copy of the New Straits Times although I know I can still be very well informed without reading it. I also called up some personal friends working for the newspaper early this morning although we often disagree with one another very passionately. We are now all adults who know the difference between what is petty personal grouses and larger public interest. Adults should not be mixed them - and mess more things up in the process of unintended chain reactions- in the name of 'justice' because the ultimate winners in the tit-for-tat mess are Zams (it's plural, not singular). I really don't think we need first to read The Earth Is Flat to understand the minds of ZAMs.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Archival image of a great Muhammad

Muhammad Ali was a great boxer in the 1960s and 1970s when I was still a school-boy in Ipoh.

My street buddies and I used to keep many pictures of Muhammad Ali which we cut out from newspapers and magazines.

Sometimes, we also exchanged the pictures.

In those days, almost all the pictures we kept were of black-and-white type. This archival image, which I have found in the cyberspace, shows Muhammad Ali in a match with Sonny Liston in 1965.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Ghost Wars

Steve Coll's Ghost War (London, Penguin, 2005) is indeed a good book that should be recommended to friends who are interested in the origin and development of Osama bin Laden's network streching from the 1979-1989 Afghan War to the 9/11 attacks in 2001. It is best to read it together with George Friedman's less journalistic and more analytical America's Secret War: Inside the Hidden Worldwide Struggle Between America and Its Enemies.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Another proxy war in progress ?

Loose-mouth ZAM, who is popularly identified with former PM Dr. Mahathir Mohammad's agitprop machinery, has reportedly struck back at long-winded Kalimullah, who is seen as a dedicated scribe for PM Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, by calling Kalimullah's criticism of him in the New Straits Times, "rubbish".

At this stage, I think 7 in 10 mainstream journalists I have met and talked to are sympathetic to Kalimullah but, of couse, the alignment may change as they listen to more from both sides of the presentations. Unlike my blogging sifu Jeff Ooi, I myself is at the moment pro-Kalimullah and anti-ZAM but, like all others, I may change my position if more contrarian infomation and arguments come to light.

Zam: I won’t entertain rubbish

Zam, you are not 'editor of the Malaysian media'


Saturday, February 18, 2006

ZAM in the news again ...

Controversial Information Minister ZAM reportedly apologised for RTM's shocking failure to report live the prime ministerial annoucement of the recent cabinet reshuffle. What's new? When the media of world had been busy reporting on the terrible tsunami strikes on 26 December 2004, RTM was also caught sleeping macam biasa.

Rombakan Kabinet: ZAM pohon maaf RTM gagal buat siaran langsung


Thursday, February 16, 2006

Anwar is more moderate than Abdullah

Former DPM and Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) advisor Anwar Ibrahim said the government’s suspension of two local dailies for reproducing the offensive caricatures of Prophet Mohammad was ‘unreasonable and repressive’. Expressing disagreement with the indefinite suspension of Sarawak Tribune and the more recent two-week suspension slapped on Guangming Daily, he said this contradicted the principle of press freedom. (Subscribe and read full article in malaysiakini)

Anwar slams suspension of dailies over cartoon

Anwar: Time to suspend NEP

PM: NEP still relevant

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Guess now what're ZAM's tricks for GE 2008 ?

" Foreign threats"? " Western conspiracy "? " Zionist destabilization "? "Chinese chauvinism "? " Iran-style Islamic Revolution" ? "Communist resurgence" ? " Rise of Hindu fundamentalism" ? " Indonesian northward expansionism" ? " Another May 13" ? " American neo-conservative infiltration into Malaysian media" ? " Fundamentalist Christian plots " ? " Freemasons in NGOs" ? " Danish Grand Design against Malaysia" ?



Conspiracy Theory

Joseph Goebbels

Malaysian row over TV 'propaganda'

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Welcoming ZAM to herald M'sian Renaissance

Dear Mo,

As unintended results or consequences of the promotion of Zam as a full Minister for " Information", intellectual development in Malaysian civil society may paradoxically and dialectically be accelerated because many more Malaysians would strongly feel the need to turn to foreign (East, West, North and South) and alternative media or read more good books to keep themselves and their children in sync with new ideas or modern ideas in normal societies out there.

May be it is Pak Lah's very subtle or indirect strategy to use Zam to occasionally (and unconsciously or sub-consciously) insult our intelligence with hilarious or outrageous utterances so that we read more quality books and foreign media to rebut him. And, in the dialectical (Yin-Yang and/or Hegelian) process of challenges and responses (thesis-antithesis-synthesis), Malaysia may develope intellectually to eventually become a First World country like the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Britain and Australia.

Meanwhile, two key terms I suggest for your Googling times in the next few months are "propaganda" and "psychological warfare". Remember: a sense of humour for ironies, contradictions, follies and absurdities as well as the psychological ability to control anger and to resist being incensed by agents provocateur are vital to remain sane and cool.

Defending Zam's right to free speech

Dr M backs online alternative media

Soros: My best publicity agent Dr M got it wrong

Unveiling the hideous perils of propaganda

Spy-catching, Utusan style

The propaganda connoisseurs

Media customisation and the propaganda of ‘love’

Personality cult behind Economist controversy

Terrorism and civil liberties: a German lesson

When an Umno newspaper criticises RTM, TV3

The rage against foreign rags

Kit Siang: Money ‘wasted’ on Zam

No space for opposition on RTM, says Zam

RTM must ensure balance in news content, say media experts

DAP seeks air-time to rebut RTM’s ‘Bahaya Chauvinisme’

Kit Siang slams RTM over propaganda ‘news’

RTM programmes cost over RM30m the past six months

Criticism of controversial ‘propaganda’ clip distorted: Kit Siang

CNN video doctored for BN propaganda, claims Kit Siang

Reel propagates ‘culture of fear’ via gov't media

PAS wants offensive political broadcast taken off, threatens suit

Justification of RTM broadcast ‘blatant, brazen’: DAP

We Love the Iraqi Information Minister


Noh Omar now in charge of Enlightenment

The good news is that Noh Omar has been transfered out from the armed services, although not as Malaysia's ambassador to Zimbabwe as I proposed to PM Abdullah earlier in this blog at the height of the Squatgate Crisis.

The bad news is, however, that Noh Omar is now made a Deputy Education Minister under Hishammuddin Hussein. So, parents of Malaysia, good luck to you all. Fortunately or unfortunately, I don't have children to worry about it.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Western oil paintings of Islam's prophets

(Top; with red robe) Abraham or Nabi Ibrahim, (Centre; with stone tablet of the Ten Commandments) Moses or Nabi Musa, and (Bottom; crucified at the centre) Jesus Christ or Nabi Isa. All of the three prophets in Islam depicted above were Jews.

Another prophet in Islam depicted in cartoon

Moses, who provided poslaju service for God to transmit His Ten Commandments from Heaven to Earth, is regarded by Jews, Christians as well as Muslims as one of the great prophets in the Abrahamic tradition of monotheism or the religions of One God.

Among Malay-speaking Malaysian, southern Thai, Singaporean and Indonesian Muslims, Moses is known as Nabi Musa. Jesus Christ (or Yesus Kristus in Malay-language New Testament) is respectfully addressed as Nabi Isa.


Sunday, February 12, 2006

Depicting Lee Kuan Yew in cartoon form

Dear Ah Keong: Since Mr. Lee Kuan Yew is self-evidently not God or any of His prophets, we can certainly depict him in any forms, including cartoons, without being attacked for blasphemy. But, to be safer, before publishing any of his depiction, it is also advisable for you to consult lawyers on whether it could be construed by him as libellous or defamatory.

S'pore won't allow publication of prophet cartoons, Lee says

Exploring a theological question

Dear Mo,

Let me answer your question now.

What if my God is " insulted " ?

My answer is clear and unapologetic: I believe my God is so self-confident, great and perfect that He cannot be insulted by any mortal human beings as well as His other creatures on earth even if they intend to do so and I trust He is so powerful and wise that, even if He really feels insulted, He alone knows best how - and when and where - to deal with those who insult Him. Moreover, I believe He is also merciful and forgiving enough not to punish any real (according to His own judgement which mortal human beings may not fully comprehend) offenders who have already said sorry.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Sharing Chinese New Year's joy multi-racially

Last night, Parti KeADILan Rakyat (PKR) held a Chinese New Year public gathering and cultural performance at the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (SCAH) in Kuala Lumpur.

(TOP) When its President Dr. Wan Azizah Wan Ismail (second from left) and her deputy, sociologist Dr. Syed Husin Ali (second from right) arrived, they were welcome and greeted by two traditional lion dance troupes at the main gate. Its publicity chief Tian Chua (left) and supreme council member Low Chee Cheong (right) were also there.

(BOTTOM) PKR's vice president and Ipoh heart specialist Dr. Lee Boon Chye delivered his speech to a multiracial and multireligious audience, including foreign diplomats from, among other countries, Singapore, New Zealand, the Netherlands and Finland.

According to a report in the Chinese-language online newspaper Merdeka Review today, Dr. Wan Azizah Wan Ismail told the media after the function was over that the suspension of the Sarawak Tribute indefinitely is "excessively stern". She reportedly said that, although the Sarawak Tribute was "wrong" and "insensitive to Muslims' feeling" in republishing the controversial cartoons of Islam's prophet Mohammad, public apology offered by the newspaper should suffice to close the case.

The Ireland-trained eye specialist and wife of former DPM Anwar Ibrahim also reportedly said that the global controversy over the Danish cartoons should not be exploited by the government as a pretext to curb press freedom.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Great Renaissance art of liberated Europe

Not all portrayals or depictions of naked human bodies are pornographic or indecent.

Chinese culture is more than Confucianism

Dear Ma: Although Confucius (see cartoon) is still respected as a foundational teacher for the Chinese people, he is but only one of the great thinkers. There are also Lao Tzu's philosophical Taoism (Tao Jia), Han Fei Tzu's Legalism (Fa Jia), Sun Tzu's Military School (Bing Jia) and other lesser schools. Later, Buddhism from India and Christianity and Islam from the Middle East also went into China to become important elements of the Chinese culture. There have even been a Jewish community in China for, at least, the last 900 years. I think it is the cultural inclusiveness, not exclusiveness, of the Chinese civilisation that makes it lively, vibrant and enduring.

This guy is a great thinker, philosopher

Socrates was a great philospher in ancient Greece. His passionate advocacy of rational reasoning paved the way for the quantum leap in the Western civilisation from bigoted and muddle-headed superstition to progressive and scientific thinking.

All courses of Western philosophy and political science in First World's universities today begin with Plato's and Aristotle's records of Socrates's thoughts and activities. Of course, one can still question and challenge with pens, not swords, the Socratic school of thought.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Ministers, police on earth can be criticised

Dudes, don't ever think of exploiting the Danish cartoons incident to make yourselves immune from public scrutiny and criticisms for the management of earthly affairs. We are not that credulous.

Umno Youth rejects IPCMC proposal

IPCMC: Don’t blink, PM told

Cops must accept IPCMC, like it or not!

Dzaiddin drives home deterrent value of IPCMC

What went wrong ?

Trying to make sense of the love-hate relations between the European and Islamic civilizations? It is not just Crusades alone. There are many other factors and the grand old Jewish scholar of Islamic and Arabic studies in the Anglo-American world Bernard Lewis, 90, has offered some answers in What Weng Wrong ? The Clash Between Islam and Modernity in the Middle East.

Of course, one enjoys the freedom of not reading Bernard Lewis just because he is a Jew but I do read a lot of his books without having, or feeling the need, to apologise to anyone. Anyone who has contrarian opinions against this or that observations or conclusions of Bernard Lewis are welcome to present them here or elsewhere publicly and, above all, PEACEFULLY. My mind is open to both (or more) sides of argument on the subject because I am not an expert.

Bernard Lewis

Was the Cabinet decision really unanimous ?

In the Cabinet meeting yesterday, which minister proposed the Sarawak Tribute to be suspended indefinitely? Which minister seconded it ? Which minister supported it? Which minister, if any, opposed it? Grassroot of non-Umno component parties of the 'National' Front should find out the answers from their 'representatives' in the Umno-dominated Cabinet.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Searching for images of Jackie Chan ?

Dear John: I have found a good collection of Jackie Chan's images in the Internet by googling with the right words "images of jackie chan". Remember, it is Jackie, not Jacky and it is Chan, not Chen. Here is a sample of our movie hero's image. You can also use the same simple method of googling to find the images of Jet Li and Bruce Lee. But I really don't think you can locate the images of 'Dr. Ng Seng' anywhere in the cyberspace.

Two more days to go before Thaipusam ...

Greetings to all Hindu relatives, neighbours and friends from James and family.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Visiting a Buddhist temple

After my visit to the Chinese-language books' exhibition in Kampung Baru Jerom the day before yesterday, I went also to a nearby and newly-built Buddhist temple with my wife to see for ourselves the various expressions of the Holy by followers of Buddha. Although I am not a Buddhist by faith, I always find some rather universal teachings of Buddha, like the ancient Greeks' Stoicism, about detachment from worldly materialism and self-transcendance of greed, jealousy, resentment and vindictiveness very enlightening.

While Jesus Christ had never acquired any princely power and wealth on earth, Buddha himself, as a former Hindu prince, set a very high standard of personal example by giving it all up in order to be a moral teacher of mankind. Both Jesus Christ and Buddha taught believers and followers to be peaceable and forgiving.

A universal message of Faith, Hope & Love

Jesus Christ delivered Sermon on the Mount to His disciples and the multitude, as painted by Carl Heinrich Bloch (1834-1890).

Sermon on the Mount

Carl Heinrich Bloch

Monday, February 06, 2006

Straightforward Teng now operates his blog

My very good friend, former comrade, DAP's Selangor State Assembly Representative and lawyer Teng Chang Khim has started to operate his personal blog Straightforward.

I think the name he has chosen for his blog reflects his character and personality very well because since I first knew him in 1990, he has always been straightforward even to friends. We may disagree passionately on some issues but we enjoy exchanging ideas with each other. In Australian slang, Teng is, to me, a fair dinkum buddy.

His Bahasa Malaysia and legal knowledge is certainly much better than mine because he worked as a court interpreter before but I think he accepts that my political science and general knowledge of the world is superior to him.

We are both anti-feudal and very argumentative for productive and larger purposes. We share the joy of laughing, over teh halia kurang, kurang, kurang manis at mamak stalls at seemingly powerful people with high sense of insecurity and petty minds - and their stupidities. Normally, we also do not write or issue press statements on the Eve and the first two days of the traditional Chinese New Year because we always have better things to do.


Social liberation from ignorance, superstition

At the invitation of a relative, I visited a Chinese-language educational books' exhibition yesterday in Kampung Jarom in Jenjarom near Klang. Although not surprised, I was still delighted to see that many parents and their children interested themselves in titles ranging from Chinese classical writings to translated American and Western literature like Ernest Hemingway's Old Man and the Sea and Jane Eyre's Carlotte Bronte, biographies of Buddha, Jesus, Confucius, Lao Tzu, Men Tzu, Lu Xun, Issac Newton, Albert Einstein and Karl Marx, etc.

Looking back over the last 150 years, I think the most critical factor in liberating the minds of the Chinese people from feudalistic lethargy, conformism, ignorance and superstition has been the spread of secular and modern education, both formal and informal (social) since the late 19th and early 20th century. As the result, the 5,000-year dynastic cycle was broken in 1911 by a republican revolution (just 7 year before the final defeat of the Ottoman Empire in 1918 by Western powers), cultural discrimination and institutional oppression of women were ended, orthodox Confucianism as a hegemonic ideology of the unproductive or parasitic ruling class was widely critiqued and discredited, and modern and secular sciences was made subjects in schools and universities.

Translation of foreign-language books (not only from English but also French, Spanish, German, Russian, Arabic and Japanese) is now an established institution and industry in Mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

As I revealed earlier, the first thing one of my semi-literate aunts thought of after she struck empat ekor in early 1970s was to buy me a good world map.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

World history in the " short " 20th century

It has always been my personal habit to carry a book or two with me for leisurely reading during holidays because I never waste time on gambling. This Chinese New Year was no exception and the selection was British historian Eric Hobsbawm's Age of Extremes - The Short Twentieth Century, 1914-1991 (London, Abacus, 1995).

I read the book before in the mid-1990s but I decided to re-read it because I strongly felt I missed something important during the first reading. Indeed, re-reading contemporary history with newer observations and experiences often sheds new light on some old - but still unresolved- questions or problems. Howsbawm, for example, had already observed some ten years ago that "(t)he end of the Cold War suddenly removed the props which had held up the international structure and, to an extent not yet appreciated, the structures of the world's domestic political system" and "what was left was a world in disarray and partial collapse, because there was nothing to replace them" (p.255).

On the resurgence of religious fundamentalism as a factor in international and domestic politics, Hobsbawm remarks that "(F)undamentalist religion as a major force of successful mass mobilization belongs to the last decades of the twentieth century, which have even witnessed a bizarre return to fashion among some intellectuals of what their educated grandfathers would have described as superstition and barbarism" (p.202).

An old Ipoh street story re-told to the world

After I came back from Ipoh, the first major activity was to watch the movie Fearless starred by Jet Li who plays sifu Huo Yuanjia. The real story of sifu Huo Yuanjia (1867-1909), founder of the first Chin Woo Martial Art Association, was first told to me and many of my childhood buddies in the streets in 1969 by a shopkeeper selling toys nearby.

It excited us and led us to ask more questions that gradually opened our up our minds to inquire more about the modern history of China and the world as well as their love-hate relations.

Fearless, in my opinion, is not only just another commercialised kung fu story of the Jacky Chan or Bruce Lee type. Rather, like the legends of sifu Huang Fei Hong, it epitomises the Chinese people's quest and struggle for dignity, equality and modernity in the crumbling Qing Dynasty beginning with the aftermath of its defeat in the 1839-1842 Opium War.

Fearless is also not a simple eulogy of Huo Yuanjia (which he deserved) but also a subtle critique of individualistic, feudalistic and adventuristic heroism, personified by the younger Huo Yuanjia, that serves no larger and higher (secular) purpose than the mere satisfaction of personal ego, vainglory and vindictiveness.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Farewell to anti-fascist patriot Liang Xi Yuan

Liang Xi Yuan @ Ah Yuan, a former commander of the now disbanded Malayan People's Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA), Malayan National Liberation Army (MNLA) and Malayan People's Army (MPA), passed away on 29 Jan, 2006 in Ipoh at the advanced age of 85. The memorial service held in Kampung Baru Bercham on the evening of 1 Feb, 2006 was attended by some 80 of his comrades, friends and relatives from all over Malaysia. Liang Xi Yuan was cremated next day on 2 Feb, 2006 at 10.00 am. Rest in peace.

Liang Xi Yuan's comrades and fellow soldiers, males and females, of the Anti-Japanese War of Resistance and the anti-colonial armed struggle stood attention solemnly before delivering to him their final salute by vertically raising clenched fists on the right hands.

After the simple but solemn ceremony was over, everyone sat quietly to listen to narrations of the life of Liang Xi Yuan by those who worked closely with him in different stages of his struggle. There was no mahjong session.

My STS 101 in social psychology, politics

During my walk-about in Ipoh's New Town during the Third Day of the Chinese New Year, I certainly could not allow myself to miss the opportunity to visit my old house and coffesshop at No. 24, Clare Street. The shop, located at the center of the most vibrant part of the town for many years until the collapse of the tin-mining industry in the Kinta Valley in mid-1980s, was sold in 1986 because none of my parents' children were going to continue the business after we had more modern endeavours to pursue as the results of higher education.

It is now a photo studio, although the essential structure of the building remains unchanged.

It was in that shop that I lived, studied, worked, played, debated, fought street 'battles' with bullies and socialised in a multiethnic society from 1962 to 1981. There, I learned many things in life not only from school textbooks but also real-life moral-reasoning stories from my grandmother who was an active leader of women organisations in town (only after her departure in late 1970s that some elderly neighbours recalled that she was associated with the leftwing faction of the banned Kuomintang Revolutionary Committee in Ipoh in 1930s), and my parents as well as some of their customers-cum-buddies like Mr. Chan, Mr. Loh and Encik Shafie.

We remember Encik Shafie very well until today because it was that Telecom clerk from Gunung Rapat who, in the mid-70s, encouraged my father to ignore conservative opinion in a segment of the nrighbourhood not to 'waste money' to send my eldest sister to university because she is a female. That conservative or even reactionary school of thought opined that females' role is only to get married to rich men and give birth to as many children as possible so as to bring 'honour' and 'wealth' to her parents' families.

Thanks to Encik Shafie's moral support and timely advice, my father finally firmed up his mind to allow her to enrol into the Science Faculty of the then newly-found Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) in Penang. Encik Shafie's own daughter, who also spoke Cantonese, went to Universiti Malaya to study dentistry.

Mr. Loh was a de-commissioned (and utterly disillusioned) soldier of Chinese Republican army in the 1946-1949 Chinese Civil War. Just before the utterly corrupt rightwing Kuomintang regime was defeated in the Mainland and forced to take refuge in Taiwan under American protection, Mr. Loh left for greener pasture in Malaya and became a decent small businessman in Ipoh. He was very well-versed in Chinese classical literature. It was him who first interested me to read books like the Romance of Three Kingdoms (simplified and abridged edition for children, of course) and helped explained to me who were the good or bad guys in different contexts.

Like Encik Shafie, Mr. Loh was a passionate advocate and supporter of women's liberation through modern and secular education. Both of them have long departed.

Mr. Chan, who is still alive (and enjoying his horse-racing bets), was an officer in the Education Department. It was he who helped to transfer my primary school enrollment from the English-medum Anderson to Chinese-medium Sam Tet at the eleventh hour after my father changed his assessment on the future of this part of the world as the result of the 1967 British announcement of its plan to withdraw militarily 'East of Suez' . Like Encik Shafie and Mr. Loh, Mr. Chan also gave many sound advices to my parents on how to make sure that their children got the best out of the modern system of education.

Of course, there were also customers who were swindlers, crooks, bullies, charlatans, pimps and rogues. As long as they kept the peace in our shop and paid for their food and drink, we just treated them as customers. However, sometimes, we had to intervene if and when they preyed on poor women, children as well as physically or mentally disabled persons in front of us.

Above all, it was in that shop and house that I first learnt many real-life paradoxes, contradictions, ironies, nuances, fine balances and gray-area scenarios or situations throught personal experiences and encounters with the bad, the good and the ugly. It has taught me that one can actually be principled without being doctrinaire, and practical and flexible without being opportunistic.

Friday, February 03, 2006

A silent witness to history, changing times

The three-storey building located at the junction of Clare Street and Anderson Road (and opposite my old house) was once the legendary Tong Ah or Oriental Hotel which was a secret hideout of the Kuomintang-Force 136 operatives during Japanese occupation (see Tan Choon Tee's Story of a Resistance Fighter - Force 136, Singapore, Asiapac, 2001; pp.222-245). According to Mr. Tan, the hotel was raided by the Japanese and the incident led to the destruction of the KMT-Force 136 secret operations in Ipoh and the arrest of Lim Bo Seng @ Tan Choon Lim. In his memoirs Alias Chin Peng: My Side of History (Singapore, Media Masters, 2003), Chin Peng reasons that the network were betrayed or sold out by one of the indisciplined KMT operatives, Ah Ng. (pp: 105-106)

When I was a child, my own grandmother used to tell me stories about Tong Ah Hotel being " the grandest hotel" in British Malaya outside Singapore and Penang in the 1930s and 1940s. It was said to be a favorite rest and recreation center for rich and powerful men or women from China, including many top-ranking Kuomintang leaders of both its Left and Right wings (like Hu Hanmin) who visited Perak. Tong Ah Hotel was open for business a few months after my grandparents started their coffeeshop shop business in 1919.

(The photograph at the bottom is said to be taken in 1950 by a former Force 136 operative Yi Tian Song and is reproduced in Tan Chong Tee's memoirs cited above; the hotel in the photograph was exactly the one I saw everyday opposite my shop in the 1960s and 1970s)

By the 1970s when I used to send orders of drinks and food from my shop to its guests (like what our Pizza Hut mobile units do nowadays), the hotel had already degenerated into place where only lumpen-proletarians like swindlers who used the covers of 'Buddhist monks' or 'Taoist priests' or 'intermediary between the living and the dead', loan-sharks, 'snake-oil' salesmen, triad leaders, operators of illegal gambling, rogue police detectives, pimps and regionally mobile prostitutes (many of them regularly travelled to 'Saigon' in 'South Vietnam' to serve the 'Free Market' there) 'dared' to live.

To be very frank now, whenever I sent orders of drinks and food into the hotel rooms those days, especially to some windowless ones at second floor, I carried a pencil-knife in my pocket as a precautionary self-protection measure. Sometimes, I also asked my younger brother to accompany me as a rear guard.

One always well-dressed man was particularly frightening because I saw him frequently kicking the cats in the hotel brutally - with grim smiles- for no reason. Nowadays, this type of abnormal behaviour is most probably described by psychologists as being psychopathic or antisocial.

The hotel ceased to function as a business in the late 1970s or early 1980s. Now, it is a very decent shop selling electrical and electronic ware. However, the architectural structure of the building remains unchanged.

Looking back, my encouters with all kinds of room guests of the Tong Ah Hotel in the 1970s had given me insights into many aspects of what academics now called social psychology and even psychology of abnormal behaviours (like the well-dressed cat-kicking man). Above all, my younger brother and I were taught by our real-life experiences to be less gullible or credulous and more willing to confront crooks and bullies, if well-intentioned engagement is interpreted as cowardice.

The road to schools, 1969-1981

This is the portion of Clare Street which I used to travel to my primary and secondary schools, Sam Tet, from 1969 to 1981.

After I walked or cycled out from my house, the first 'strategic chokepoint' I had to pass through was Ah Xiang's Hor Hee Fish Ball Mee Stall. So, Ah Xiang had been a witness of my growth from a skinny 7-year old primary school boy in 1969 to a more well-built 19-year old First Class Scout and Senior Prefect of the secondary school in 1981.

Of course, when I started going out with female friends (mostly from the Girl Guides circles) after Form 3, we used another road to avoid being sighted by Ah Xiang (back facing photo) who might report to my father.

Besides Ah Xiang's Hor Hee Fish Ball Mee Stall, some of my favorite Indian Mee Rebus & Goreng stalls are still around in the row of shops nearby, although they are now managed by younger generations.

Work as purpose, discipline of life ...

On the Third Day, I went out to Ipoh's New Town and tried to look for as many old working class neighbours as possible along Clare Street to personally convey my family's festive greetings to them. I saw the grandmotherly Ah Xiang still working to prepare cooking materials for her Hor Hee Fish Ball Mee Stall which has been in business, on the same and exact location at No.26, Clare Street, for, at least, the past 70 years.

According to Ah Xiang, the Hor Hee Fish Ball Mee Stall Stall was started by her father before " the War". Hor Hee is a kind of fish-ball noodle prepared with unique recipes and ingredients by a sub-clan of the Hakkas based in Malim Nawar, a suburb of Kampar.

Asked why she still worked during Chinese New Year holidays, she replied that work is her purpose in life that disciplines the body and mind. She added: "Ah On, I think your father was right: work is not only for money but also as part of bodily and mentally healthy lifestyle ... "

Really, I don't know how many people in my generation or below agree with Ah Xiang and my father.