Karpal Singh: A Political Man of his times

April 23, 2014

Karpal Singh: A Political Man of his Times

Bridget Welsh@http://www.malaysiakini.com

TRIBUTE: Much has been written about the recently deceased Karpal Singh.

His skills as a lawyer, his fight for basic rights and contributions to the law, his commitment to his family and his struggle for ordinary people as a humanitarian are just some of the themes raised in the many eulogies and reflections in the past few days since he and his friend and assistant Michael Cornelius lost their lives.

Karpal had never insulted hudud. He had only said that it was against the Constitution.

Karpal had never insulted hudud. He had only said that it was against the Constitution.

The reactions from ordinary Malaysians have reaffirmed the spirit of dignity and humanity that are an integral part of the national character and stand in stark contrast to the uncouth provocative remarks of a handful of individuals who, blinded by insecurity and hubris, revealed how far they have deviated from common decency.

I knew Karpal Singh as a politician, and the remarks that follow are some of my observations on his important role in Malaysian political life and his political legacy.

A true Malaysian nationalist

Karpal’s entry into politics in 1969 coincided with a tumultuous time in Malaysian politics. He had been socialised in the exciting decade of the 1960s, when student politics was active and universities were centres to discuss and debate ideas – sadly an era now long gone.

He was among a generation of early Malaysian nationalists deeply committed to the country and the very principles that were the bedrock of the nation at independence, particularly the Federal Constitution.

His staunch defence of the legal foundation of Malaysia throughout his lifetime was an extension of his deep love for Malaysia and the ideals (and idealism) of a decade where rights were fought for and protected.

The 1960s was an era where a son of a watchman from any race could become a lawyer with hard work and skill. Karpal Singh emerged in public life to embody the promise of a new nation in a time of high social mobility and opportunities across ethnicity.

The other side

In making the decision to join and stay with the Democratic Action Party (DAP) after the wake of the May 1969 riots, Karpal chose a difficult path. Many leaders of his generation (and some parties at that time, including PAS and Gerakan) opted to join the Barisan Nasional, to work from inside the system to address the challenges of country, particularly ethnic tensions and development.

Karpal opted for the brave road of opposition, the political margins. He once shared with me the reasons for doing so, highlighting the importance of a loyal opposition for effective national governance. As a lawyer, he explained, it was necessary to have the other side, someone to offer a different point of view and to safeguard the system from potential abuses. I recall that he laughed when he stated that he also loved a good battle, even as the underdog.

Karpal Singh embraced his role as an opposition Member of Parliament, and used his knowledge of the law to shape debates. The Hansard of parliamentary debates of the 1970s reveal his rich contributions, where he questioned laws from the Universities and University Colleges Act to the Internal Security Act.

He avidly opposed many of the Bills that curtailed human rights at a time when legislation was introduced to limit political activism and freedom, and although many of these efforts were not successful, some amendments were adopted and importantly, issues of concern were put into the public arena.

His political statements in Parliament were not popular among some, but the contribution to the national debate in building Malaysia cannot be understated. An opposition has an important role to play in any political system, and Karpal was an integral leader in this effort.

Grudgingly, this consistency and commitment won him the respect of many in the system, many of whom he befriended. When the parliamentary debate was over, he often left those battles for the legislature behind and put aside differences to share a joke or banter.

This pattern of shared comradeship across the political aisle was shaped by his practice as a lawyer, where the legal fraternity focused their differences for the courtroom.

This practice of a quiet coffee became more difficult after Karpal’s tragic accident of 2005, but many across the political divide, in his generation in particular, recognised his practice of agreeing to disagree and appreciation of a shared fraternity of leaders working for Malaysia.

This was a time in Malaysian history where statesmanship in leadership was expected, sadly another era also gone.

A Defender of Democracy

It’s Dr Mahathir, not Karpal, who belittled hudud.

It’s Dr Mahathir, not Karpal, who belittled hudud.

Karpal’s role in political life expanded in the 1980s during Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s tenure as prime minister, when Karpal took on battles to protect democratic governance. As the former prime minister weakened institutions and corruption became entrenched, Karpal took to the courtroom to challenge these practices.

One of the ironies of Karpal Singh’s role in politics is that he fought so hard to defend and strengthen an independent judiciary and was on the receiving end of its weaknesses and political co-option.

In this decade, his role in the 1988 North-South Expressway case was a landmark for public interest litigation.His challenges to corruption, abuse and the use of the ISA pitted him directly against Mahathir, who centralised political power and emphatically responded against opponents.

Among those Karpal challenged was also Anwar Ibrahim, then in Mahathir’s government, all on the grounds of checking the excesses of increasing executive centralisation.

The price to pay for challenging those in power is high in Malaysia, particularly so in the Mahathir (right) (and Najib Abdul Razak) years. Karpal spent years in prison, separated from his family after his arrest in Operation Lallang and his second passion in life, his work.

This opposition warrior was demonised, as another pattern in Malaysian politics set in – the more you challenge those in power, the tougher the response.

Mahathir’s era was the beginning of a nastiness of Malaysian political life, where mutual respect was not practised and the bounds of decency crossed. Personal attacks became commonplace – even among the opposition – as politics became deeply personalised and polarised.

The highest costs were absorbed by the individuals on the opposition frontline who challenged the system.

This was clearly evident in the 1999 trial of Anwar Ibrahim, where Karpal Singh played a role as part of the legal team. To stand in opposition was portrayed as the enemy of the state when in fact the opposite was true, as the efforts to insure justice was carried out were to protect the country’s integrity and fabric.

The Anwar trials have split Malaysia, as injustices have been carried out for the incumbent’s political survival. The prices that have been paid for taking Malaysia down this road of polarisation are blatantly evident in the loss of faith of the country’s institutions, the heightened use of racism and deep-seated anger that is an acid of pain among many in the country today.

Karpal fought the good fight in the courtroom and legislature, throughout hoping for justice with the knowledge of the difficult odds in the process. He remained committed to protecting the rule of law, even as many in the general public were losing their own faith.

His belief in the law as a means of protection for rights and justice never wavered, even as those in office and position failed in their responsibilities to act as the national guardian.

A secular constitutional champion

From the 1990s onwards two important themes emerged from Karpal Singh’s political activism. The first was a steadfast commitment to a secular Malaysia. This was tied to his deep-seated belief in religious freedom across the faiths.

He believed in the right of all citizens, including Muslims, to choose how they practised their religion and deeply worried about government regulation of these choices. As a member of a minority race, he was acutely aware of the effect of religious regulation, and worried about the constraints placed on the choices of ordinary citizens.

As a lawyer, he witnessed first-hand how the courtroom has become the battleground for religious rights, with the Constitution caught in the war. As I understood his explanation to me, his opposition to hudud was not against any faith but against giving the government authority to control and regulate faith.

A similar argument was made when he offered to defend the Singaporean Muslim girls in 2002, who were denied the right to wear the tudung (head scarf).

Karpal was one of the few in the political landscape who were willing to openly oppose the use of religion for political ends, and, as indicative of the viciousness of some of the responses when he passed on, he paid a price for it.

He was mistakenly portrayed as the main obstacle in Pakatan Rakyat to the implementation of Islamic law, but in reality, he was only one of those who was brave enough to voice his concerns publicly, as the debate over religion has become so politically poisonous and devoid of real, shared religious principles.

He believed in practising faith in his everyday life, and opposed the power of the government to take away the choice of citizens on how to practice their faith.

Another area where Karpal Singh was on the forefront was in calling for a responsible constitutional royalty, a call that led to his most recent conviction for sedition – for effectively stating a legal opinion. His political ally in this area was ironically initially Mahathir, who checked the powers of the royalty.

Since Mahathir’s formal departure from politics in 2003, the powers of the royalty have grown and it has become intertwined in political battles, from Perak to Selangor. While the royalty is the political institution that receives the highest respect among ordinary Malaysians in polling, it is also facing a battering among some in the general public who differ with the political positions and positioning in a highly polarised polity.

The 2014 sedition conviction of Karpal does not strengthen the royalty as an institution, and in the longer term, will open it to greater discord as it undermines the important role the royalty plays in representing the nation as a whole.

A loyal Opposition Voice

Some differ with the political positions Karpal took over the decades. Even among those sympathetic there were those critical of the timing and approach of his engagement. Yet, others were in full support of his steadfastness and defence of Malaysia’s national constitutional roots, and this admiration has been evident in the last few days.

He was the voice for the views that many in Malaysia’s silent majority, across the races, are afraid to state publicly. No one can question the pivotal role he has played in shaping Malaysian politics over the last four-and-a-half decades.

After 2008, it became harder for an opposition lawmaker to be purely an opponent, given the compromises needed for being in government at the state level and the challenges of an ideologically divided opposition coalition.

The current decade of Malaysian politics offers new obstacles in much muddier and murkier waters. The Najib government has not led in the areas of fairness and statesmanship, as shown in the examples of the efforts by the prosecution to put Karpal in jail.

Karpal stayed consistently principle-rooted in the muck that Malaysian politics has become today, and his role in fighting against injustice came to the fore again in his resistance to the political manipulation of institutions and violation of rights that have become part of Najib’s era.

Whether in the courtroom or in Parliament, Karpal’s contributions were a valuable national service that made the country stronger. He embodied the term loyal opposition in the interest of Malaysia.

B. Welsh

DR BRIDGET WELSH is Associate Professor of Political Science at Singapore Management University. She can be reached at bwelsh@smu.edu.sg.


Honour Sdr. Karpal Singh by realising his aspirations for Justice, Integrity and Freedom

April 20, 2014

Let us therefore mourn Karpal Singh, and at the same time, honour him by celebrating his accomplishments and realising his aspirations for justice, integrity and freedom.–Lim Guan Eng, Chief Minister of Penang

Let us honour Sdr. Karpal Singh by realising his aspirations for Justice, Integrity and Freedom


EULOGY by Lim Guan Eng : We mourn the untimely and unexpected passing of DAP national chairperson and Member of Parliament for Bukit Gelugor, Saudara Karpal Singh.Karpal is an eight-term MP, for Bukit Gelugor and Jelutong, as well as a three- term state assemblyman in Penang, first elected in 1978.For 40 years, Karpal dedicated his life to the legal profession, fighting for justice, upholding our constitutional rights to freedom and human rights. His landmark cases are textbook references for lawyers.

A devoted father and husband to his wife Gurmit Kaur, both of them brought up five children who are all successful practising lawyers, except for the youngest who is an accountant. The eldest, Jagdeep is at present a Penang state executive councillor, while the second eldest Gobind is the Member of Parliament for Puchong.

Karpal Singh was known as a man with principles and this was the very value that he imparted to his children and grandchildren.

Karpal Singh was known as a man with principles and this was the very value that he imparted to his children and grandchildren.

With his life suddenly cut short at 74 years, following the tragic accident on the highway on April 17, Penang has lost an upstanding and outstanding leader and lawyer. The rakyat lost a fearless “tiger” with an indomitable spirit who stood up for the poor, weak, defenceless and dispossessed.

Karpal’s fighting spirit stands out

But it his fighting spirit that stands out. You can detain Karpal physically, but you can never detain his spirit. I saw this myself, when we were both detained without trial under the now repealed Internal Security Act (ISA) in 1988, at the Kamunting Detention Camp. He suffered from severe spinal back pains, but refused to yield.


This refusal to yield was evident even after Karpal suffered an unfortunate accident in 2005, which paralysed him waist-down. Not only did he overcome this paralysis, but he continued his brilliant legal and political career. Karpal became the first disabled person in Malaysia to be elected twice to Parliament, both times with huge majorities.

In seeking both rule of law and a better Malaysia, Karpal practised what he preached – refusing to take fees for cases of gross injustices, even from the famous VIPs like parliamentary Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim and Lim Kit Siang, and even from the poor Malay, Indian or Chinese.

His departure will leave an immense void, not only in his family’s lives, but also in those of all Malaysians whose lives have been inspired by his principled cause. To Karpal’s family, we share your grief in this time of bereavement with deepest sympathies and condolences.

Thomas Jefferson said that when the government fears the people, there is liberty; when the people fear the government, there is tyranny. Throughout his life, Karpal showed us how not to fear the government. Let us therefore mourn Karpal Singh, and at the same time, honour him by celebrating his accomplishments and realising his aspirations for justice, integrity and freedom.

Thank you, Karpal. Rest in Peace.

This is the State Eulogy presented by Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng during the public funeral conducted by the Penang State Government for Karpal Singh at Dewan Sri Pinang at 10.15am on April 20.

LIM GUAN ENG is Chief Minister of Penang and DAP Secretary-General.


Penang to give Karpal official send-off

The Penang government will provide veteran lawmaker Karpal Singh an official send off.
The Penang government will provide veteran lawmaker Karpal Singh an official send off.

April 17, 2014

A Tribute to The Tiger of Jelutong:

Legacy of the ‘Tiger of Jelutong’ will endure

by Aimee Gulliver @www.malaysiakini.com

  • Cowards die many times before their deaths;
    The valiant never taste of death but once.
    Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,
    It seems to me most strange that men should fear;
    Seeing that death, a necessary end,
    Will come when it will come.

    • Julius Caesar Act II, scene 2, line 33.

Karpal Singh’s story may have come to an abrupt end this morning, but the author of his biography says the legacy of the ‘Tiger of Jelutong’ will endure in Malaysia, where he was a warrior in the fight for equality and justice.


New Zealand journalist Tim Donoghue first met Karpal in Penang in 1987 and spent nearly 30 years researching the biography he wrote on the fearless lawyer and advocate, titled “Karpal Singh – Tiger of Jelutong”, which was published in 2013.

“I’ve done a few things in journalism, but I’m particularly proud of that because this man was the ultimate scrapper, but he had a sense of humour,” Donoghue said.

“The things he had to deal with, the life and death issues that he had to deal with, he smiled his way through them all, and he helped a lot of people out along the way. There was always that great twinkle in his eyes, and you just knew that no matter what anyone was ever going to throw at that guy, he was never going to kow-tow to any man.”

Karpal and his aide Michael Cornelius Selvam Vellu, 39, were killed in a road accident about 1.10 this morning near Kampar in Perak. The former DAP chairperson’s sudden departure has shocked the nation, and elicated a flood of eulogies from both sides of the political divide.

His death comes as the 74-year-old was gearing up to appeal his recent conviction for sedition that was cross-appealed by the government, which is seeking have the wheelchair-bound politician jailed.


“I don’t think the legal system has brought any great credit upon itself by convicting this man of sedition.“I think that is something that those in the ruling political and legal establishment of Malaysia do need to think about.”, Donoghue said.

The government’s persecution of the man who stood up and fought for human rights in Malaysia had made a martyr out of him, Donoghue said.

“Now that Karpal has gone to his death under threat of imprisonment for this sedition charge, I think he will be a great rallying point come the next election – there will be a huge groundswell of support among the opposition parties in the country.”

A long line of challenges

Karpal’s conviction for sedition was just the latest in a long line of challenges for the “Sikh warrior in legal attire”. “Back when he was 65, after the car accident, most people said he was gone. Even his best friends, with the best intentions in the world, were saying it would have been a far more merciful end if he had died at that time.”

“But the Tiger of Jelutong had a message for those who doubted him.

“He suffered a huge amount of pain as a result of that accident, but he vowed, with the help of his family, to get back out there into the realm of both politics and the law in Malaysia and to keep challenging those in power.”

“Karpal continued his work, and some of his most notable achievements came in the years following his debilitating accident”, Donoghue said.

“After his car accident, his life was totally shattered. But I do think he did his best work, both in the law and in politics, in the seven or eight years that he had after his accident. He did some amazing things in his life. “He would say to me, ‘retirement is not a word in my dictionary’. And the reason I think he hung on was as a result of the pain he suffered because of that accident.”

Donoghue said the manner of Karpal’s death could be considered a merciful release in some ways, but his family would not agree.

Backed by family, every step of the way

“Every step of the way they backed him, they fought with him, and they lifted and laid him. They fought to keep him going.” It was with the support of his family, and his devoted assistant Michael Cornelius Selvam Vellu, 39, who was also killed in this morning’s accident, that Karpal was able to continue his work after the 2005 accident.

“Michael gave his life for this man. He worked around the clock, 24 hours a day, just to support Karpal, and the whole family is very, very, grateful for the job he has done.

“Everything Karpal has done in the last few years has been with the support of (his wife) Gurmit Kaur and Michael. They’ve kept him going, really.”

When he came to Malaysia to launch Karpal’s biography in 2013, Donoghue said he could tell Karpal was extremely proud of what he had achieved in his life.

“Basically, his legacy is one of uncompromising challenge to human rights on a number of fronts throughout his 40-plus years in legal practice.

“I suppose what endeared him to me was he challenged, he challenged, he challenged – and he did it in such a way that everybody enjoyed the trip.”

Although he was an eminently patient man, Donoghue said, Karpal would occasionally get frustrated with him, and ask when the book would be completed.

“I would tell him we would finish when he gave me an ending. We had the final ending this morning, and I think Karpal Singh will go down as one of the great warriors of the Malaysian legal and political fraternities.”

“He was a man who, as long as he had breath going into his lungs, was always going to fight. And in the wake of this man’s life, the fight will go on in Malaysia.”

AIMEE GULLIVER is a New Zealand journalist interning with Malaysiakini for six weeks, courtesy of the Asia New Zealand Foundation.

RIP Karpal Singh

Karpal killed in accident near Kampar
By Radzi Razak and Susan Loone

Veteran opposition MP and lawyer Karpal Singh was killed in an accident near Kampar in Perak this morning.

His long-time personal assistant Michael Cornelius Selvam Vellu, 39, was also killed.

Karpal’s son Ram Karpal and the driver were believed to be injured in the accident which occurred at 1.10am near 301.6km northbound marker along the the North-South Highway.

Malaysiakini learnt that Karpal and his son, who is also a lawyer, were heading north for a court case later today.

Contacted later, an Ipoh police spokesperson told Malaysiakini that it is believed the MPV collided with a lorry which switched lanes without indication.

Karpal’s other son and Puchong MP Gobind Singh Deo (left) told The Star that his father had died on the spot.

“My brother Ram is slightly injured but we are trying to get through to him,” he added when the daily contacted him at 3.30am.

According to a police statement later, Ram and driver of the ill-fated car, C Selvam, were not injured. However, Karpal’s Indonesian maid suffered severe injuries and she is warded at Ipoh’s Hospital Permaisuri Bainun.

The driver of the lorry involved in the road accident that killed Bukit Gelugor MP Karpal Singh this morning has tested positive for drugs.

The driver of the lorry involved in the road accident that killed Bukit Gelugor MP Karpal Singh this morning has tested positive for drugs.

The driver of the lorry, which was hit behind by Karpal’s car, and its three passengers escaped without injury.

The police said the MPV carrying Karpal and four others hit the slow moving lorry at a hilly stretch of the highway.

The five-tonne lorry was carrying a load of cement, steel and mosaic tiles.

Karpal, 74, was involved in a previous car accident in 2005 where he was paralysed and wheelchair-bound.

The vocal politician graduated from University of Singapore and started his law practice before running for Parliament in 1978.

His long tenure as Jelutong MP and fiery speeches in the Dewan Rakyat earned him the moniker “Tiger of Jelutong”.

Karpal had recently relinquished his post as DAP chairperson pending the disposal of his appeal against a sedition charge.

Last month, the High Court found him guilty of uttering seditious words against the Sultan of Perak at the height of the constitutional crisis in 2009.

PM offers condolences


Meanwhile, Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak conveyed his condolences via Twitter.

“I have just landed at Ankara when I heard the news that YB Karpal Singh died in a road accident. My condolences to the family,” read the premier’s tweet.

May his family be brave and steadfast in this trying times. Malaysia has lost another fighter for the people.

May his family be brave and steadfast in this trying times. Malaysia has lost another fighter for the people.

Other netizens also expressed condolences and shock over Karpal’s passing.

“Shocked and sad news! DAP chairman Karpal Singh passed away in accident tonight. Malaysia has lost a truly patriotic son,” wrote Taiping MP Nga Kor Ming.

“Our dear Mr Karpal is no longer with us… I just can’t accept it…,” said Kulai MP Teo Nie Ching.

The bodies of the two deceased, Karpal and Michael, arrived at the Ipoh general hospital at 7.20am.

Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng (right) and his deputy Mohd Rashid Hasnon, and former Perak menteri besar Nizar Jamaluddin were there.

They conveyed their condolences to Karpal’s sons Gobind and Jagdeep. Karpal’s wife was seen crying, while a relative tried to prevent photos from being taken. The bodies were sent for post-mortem.

BN's Langkawi MP Nawawi Ahmad and also the Chairman of KTMB posted an insensitive collage which he made light of the death of Bukit Gelugor MP Karpal Singh, claiming that it was “not serious”. He however deleted the posting after it became viral.

BN’s Langkawi MP Nawawi Ahmad and also the Chairman of KTMB posted an insensitive collage which he made light of the death of Bukit Gelugor MP Karpal Singh, claiming that it was “not serious”. He however deleted the posting after it became viral.

Gobind said that the family expects the post-mortem to finish at 10.30am, after which they will bring the body back to their family home in Penang by 1pm.

He added that he was informed about the accident at 2.15am, and together with his wife, rushed to the scene. Gobind and his mother, Gurmit Kaur, managed to see Karpal’s body.

The funeral for the veteran politician is expected to be either on Saturday evening or Sunday morning, he added.

“Mr Karpal has family and friends overseas and we are waiting for them to return for his funeral,” he said.

“His body will be kept in our ‎family home along Jalan Utama (Penang),” he added.

Gobind said Ram, who sustained slight bruises, is well.

He also thanked all well-wishers for their support and requested the public to give the grieving family some privacy.

“We will be keeping everyone informed with regular updates,” he added.

At about 8.30am, a man believed to be Karpal’s driver, Selvam, was seen approaching the forensic department in the hospital. He was sobbing but was taken away by several people from the scene.

It is learnt that Karpal’s body will be cremated at the Sikh cremation hall at 11am on Sunday.

The DAP has lost an upstanding and outstanding leader, the nation lost a brilliant legal mind and the rakyat a fearless “tiger” with an indomitable spirit who stood up for the poor, weak defenceless and dispossesed.

The DAP has lost an upstanding and outstanding leader, the nation lost a brilliant legal mind and the rakyat a fearless “tiger” with an indomitable spirit who stood up for the poor, weak defenceless and dispossesed.

Thai Princess, retired generals pay their respects to Chin Peng

September 20, 2013

Thai Princess, retired generals pay their respects to Chin Peng

by Aidila Razak @www.malaysiakini.com

A wreath of orchids from Thai Princess Chulabhorn Walailak placed in front of the coffin of former CPM leader Chin Peng tells a story the Malaysian government is not likely to agree with.

Chin Peng3

In Wat That Thong, one of the more famous temples in Bangkok, it is this story that retired Thai generals, who came to pay their respects to Chin Peng this afternoon, will remember him by.

chin peng funeral 200913 Kitti RattanachayaAccording to retired General Kitti Rattanachaya (left), who was given the honour of spraying holy water on Chin Peng’s body before it was placed in the coffin, Chin Peng should be remembered as a hero, not as a terrorist.

Through signing the Hatyai Peace Agreement of 1989, Kitti said, Chin Peng “played a key role in maintaining peace” along the Thai-Malaysian border.

“He fought for the independence of his country, just like (Vietnam leader) Ho Chi Minh, but he did not succeed. It is proper to allow his ashes to be returned to Malaysia. Forgive and forget, let bygones be bygones. Once someone dies, everything is finished,” Kitti told members of the media.

As a former military man who led troops against the CPM guerillas, he said, he viewed Chin Peng – who spent a third of his life in exile in Thailand – as an elder brother.

“(The Malaysian position) is just politics. When a peace agreement is signed, there is no longer animosity,” Kitti said, stressing that this was his personal view and not that of the Thai government.

Forgiveness the only solution

Agreeing with him, Akanit Muansawad, a general who retired from the Thai army last year, said that for him, forgiveness was the only way to bring peace.

As the first Thai army officer to broker talks with Chin Peng in August 1973, Akanit said he made the decision to do after losing many of his men.

“I was a captain then and in one year, I lost 50 soldiers – 30 died and 20 were wounded. I got malaria 13 times from going in and out of the jungle.

chin peng funeral 200913 Akanit Muansawad“I forgave because I couldn’t see any other way to solve the problem,” Akanit (right) said.

The Princess’ wreath was just one of many in memory of Chin Peng today.

Among them was a wreath of yellow flowers from his children, with a message simply reading: “In loving memory of our dear father.”

Of the 50-odd family members and friends who came to the quiet and sombre affair today, many were seen in tears.

According to Anas Abdullah, a family friend who helped arrange the wake and funeral, more than 100 former CPM guerilla fighters are expected to pay their respects in the next two days, before Chin Peng’s body is cremated on Monday.

The son of a CPM leader and the son-in-law of one of the oldest surviving Malay CPM members Abdullah CD, Anas said his father-in-law was not able to make the 10-hour drive to Bangkok from the Sukhirin peace village, near Narathiwat.

“But about 10 people from the village will be driving over tomorrow,” Anas said of the village that is home to former 10th Regiment fighters, who are mostly Muslims.

Outsource the Altantuya Case to Us, says DAP Legal Bureau

August 25, 2013

DAP Legal Bureau to The Attorney-General: Outsource the Altantuya Case to Us

http://www.malaysia-chronicle.com (08-24-13)

The DAP legal bureau today offered its services to prosecutors in the high-profile murder of Mongolian Altantuya Shaariibuu, suggesting that an overworked Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) may have led to the acquittal of two former Policemen previously convicted of the killing.

The shocking outcome of the Altantuya murder appeal in the Court of Appeal has the effect of bringing further and total disrepute to the Malaysian criminal justice system.

The shocking outcome of the Altantuya murder appeal in the Court of Appeal has the effect of bringing further and total disrepute to the Malaysian criminal justice system.

This comes as Segambut MP and bureau member Lim Lip Eng lodged a police report in Jinjang here over the Court of Appeal’s decision to free ex-police commandos Azilah Hadri and Sirul Azhar Umar of their conviction in 2009 of the gruesome murder.

“Give DAP legal bureau the fiat (authorisation order), we will make sure the correct person is prosecuted and convicted,” Lim said in a statement here. Lim said the bureau was offering its help to the AG-C due to the high-profile nature of the case.

“Maybe the AGC is short-handed. We just want to offer our help; together we can solve the case,” he said.

Take a leaf from Appointment of Shafee in Sodomy II

He pointed out that the move was permissible by law, citing the recent appointment of lawyer Datuk Seri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah as public prosecutor in the appeal against Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s Sodomy II acquittal.

Datuk Seri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah as public prosecutor in the appeal against Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s Sodomy II acquittal.

Datuk Seri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah as public prosecutor in the appeal against Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s Sodomy II acquittal.

Muhammad Shafee was given the authority by the Attorney-General to lead the prosecution team in its appeal against Anwar’s acquittal on a charge of sodomising his former aide Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan.

Anwar’s defence team, however, filed a motion in the Court of Appeal in Putrajaya yesterday to disqualify the appointment.Earlier today, PKR’s R. Sivarasa criticised the Court of Appeal over the two former policemen’s acquittal, saying it should have ordered a retrial instead.

The Subang MP stressed that the appellate court was empowered to do so, especially when there were a number of key witnesses who were not called during the High Court trial that led to the duo’s conviction in 2009.

“There is ample power under the law in section 60 of the Courts Judicature Act 1964 to order a retrial which is regularly done in appeals,” Sivarasa said.

Acquitted instead of Retrial

In a decision that stirred controversy yesterday, a three-man panel of the appellate court unanimously allowed Azilah and Sirul’s appeal.

Azilah and Sirul, both formerly with the Police’s Special Action Unit (UTK), had been found guilty in 2009 of the murder of Altantuya in Mukim Bukit Raja in Klang between 10pm on October 19, 2006 and 1am on October 20, 2006.

The Mongolian model’s murder trial had been surrounded by political intrigue due to links drawn from the personalities involved in the case.

Azilah and Sirul had been part of a security detail for then-Defence Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak while Abdul Razak Baginda, who was charged with and later acquitted of abetting the duo, was a former adviser to Najib.

During the course of their trial, it was revealed that Altantuya was shot and her body blown-up with explosives in a jungle clearing on the night of October 19.

The duo had been charged under section 149 of the Penal Code, which carries the mandatory death sentence upon conviction.

Sirul and Azilah were both released from Tapah Prison yesterday after the Court of Appeal overturned the decision.



Pascal’s Tribute to Hussain Najadi

July 31, 2013

Young Hussain with TunkuYoung Hussain Najadi with the Tunku

My friend, Hussain Najadi was laid to rest at the Bukit Kiara Muslim cemetery yesterday. May he find eternal peace. Al-Fatihah. I received this e-mail from his son, Pascal who is in Moscow and could not come to his father’s funeral. He has asked me to post his tribute to his father and my friend, Hussain.

Well, Pascal, Hussain’s friends and associates and I are saddened by his untimely demise under tragic circumstances. He was in good health and, as usual, he was optimistic and hopeful for Malaysia when I last talked to him on July 18, 2013 at the well organised ALSI/CPSS ASEAN Leadership Forum. I look forward to see you, Pascal, when you are next in Kuala Lumpur. It is my honour to post your tribute to your dad on my blog. I am also sharing your e-mail to me with my readers, and friends and associates of the late Hussain. –Din Merican

Moscow, July 30, 2013

Dear Din,

This is Pascal Najadi, the only child of Hussain and my mother Heidi, writing to you from Moscow where I feel very safe now. I read your lines and have tears in my eyes. I wish to meet you soon. Please help me to bring those last words read out today on my behalf in Kuala Lumpur from me here in Moscow at the burial of my father and your good friend Hussain.

Please help me and my dad to make sure all those lines I chose for him today get read as widely and high possible, printed in the Malaysian Press. It’s all about peace and kindness.The Great Russian writer Leo Tolstoy spot on!

It’s such a shock. I do not know yet if all is upside down or lateral….too numb I am. I want Malaysian Agencies to track and bring them to Justice the whole world will watch this process now. We love Malaysia, a great nation and great people of peace;, those killers must be aliens.

Warm regards,


PS: It will be more than a honour to give you  father’s book which I may dedicate to you.

Pascal Najadi’s Tribute to His Father, Hussain Najadi

At the burial ceremony of Mr Hussain Najadi – the final words of his son Pascal Najadi …read on his behalf by Shahrum Shah :

Pascal NajadiOn this blackest day of my life I have the painful duty and honor to convey my greatest sorrow and horror that I – and all of his friends –  some of whom are present here today – are now all forced to accept that my father, Hussain Najadi is no longer with us anymore.

He has been unexpectedly taken away from all of us by cowardly killers in this country that he loved and held dear so much and which he called home.

He was a man with a great heart bigger than life itself. He was my best friend and he was a great friend to all those people who were lucky enough to have had their paths in life cross with his.  

Rest in peace my beloved father in the paradise  that you now find yourself in and let all our memories of you linger forever in our hearts. Hussain Najadi – you will forever be terribly missed.

With this I would like to express my father’s indescribable kindness to all the people that he encountered in his remarkable life. It is about peace and love and how Hussain looked upon life and his journey through it with the people that he met. In the words of Leo Tolstoy which best exemplifies Hussain’s philosophy in life :

“Every man comes into the world with a consciousness of his dependence on a mysterious, all-powerful Source which has given him life, and a consciousness of his equality with all men, the equality of all men with one another, a desire to love and be loved, and a consciousness of the need of striving to perfection”–Leo Tolstoy

Thank you all for your being here today and giving your blessing and support to my family and me in this most testing moment of our lives.

God bless you dearest father and friend, and thank you all again.

Pascal Najadi

Bishop of London’s address at Margaret Thatcher’s funeral – full text

April 17, 2013

Bishop of London’s address at Margaret Thatcher’s funeral – full text

Right Rev Richard Chartres says funeral service is ‘place for ordinary human compassion’, not debate over legacy


After the storm of a life lived in the heat of political controversy, there is a great calm.

The storm of conflicting opinions centres on the Mrs Thatcher who became a symbolic figure – even an “ism”. Today the remains of the real Margaret Hilda Thatcher are here at her funeral service. Lying here, she is one of us, subject to the common destiny of all human beings.

There is an important place for debating policies and legacy; for assessing the impact of political decisions on the everyday lives of individuals and communities. Parliament held a frank debate last week – but here and today is neither the time nor the place. This, at Lady Thatcher’s personal request, is a funeral service, not a memorial service with the customary eulogies.

And at such a time, the parson should not aspire to the judgments which are proper to the politician; instead, this is a place for ordinary human compassion of the kind that is reconciling. It is also the place for the simple truths which transcend political debate. And above all it is the place for hope.

It must be very difficult for those members of her family and those closely associated with her to recognise the wife, the mother and the grandmother in the mythological figure. Our hearts go out to Mark and Carol and to their families, and also to those who cared for Lady Thatcher with such devotion especially in her later years.

One thing that everyone has noted is the courtesy and personal kindness which she showed to those who worked for her, as well as her capacity to reach out to the young, and often also to those who were not, in the world’s eyes, “important”.

The letter from a young boy early on in her time as prime minister is a typical example. Nine-year-old David wrote to say: “Last night when we were saying prayers, my daddy said everyone has done wrong things except Jesus and I said I don’t think you have done bad things because you are the prime minister. Am I right or is my daddy?”

Now perhaps the most remarkable thing is that the Prime Minister replied in her own hand in a very straightforward letter which took the question seriously. She said: “However good we try to be, we can never be as kind, gentle and wise as Jesus. There will be times when we do or say something we wish we hadn’t done and we shall be sorry and try not to do it again.”

She was always reaching out, she was trying to help in characteristically un-coded terms. I was once sitting next to her at some City function and in the midst of describing how Hayek’s Road to Serfdom had influenced her thinking, she suddenly grasped my wrist and said very emphatically, “Don’t touch the duck paté, bishop – it’s very fattening.”

She described her own religious upbringing in a lecture she gave in the nearby church of St Lawrence Jewry. She said: “We often went to church twice on a Sunday, as well as on other occasions during the week. We were taught there always to make up our own minds and never take the easy way of following the crowd.”

Her upbringing of course was in the Methodism to which this country owes a huge debt. When it was time to challenge the political and economic status quo in nineteenth century Britain, it was so often the Methodists who took the lead. The Tolpuddle Martyrs, for example, were led not by proto-Marxists but by Methodist lay preachers.

Today’s first lesson describes the struggle with the principalities and powers.

Perseverance in struggle and the courage to be were characteristic of Margaret Thatcher.

In a setting like this, in the presence of the leaders of the nations, or any representatives of nations and countries throughout the world, it is easy to forget the immense hurdles she had to climb. Beginning in the upper floors of her father’s grocer’s shop in Grantham, through Oxford as a scientist and, later, as part of the team that invented Mr Whippy ice cream, she embarked upon a political career. By the time she entered parliament in 1959 she was part of a cohort of only 4% of women in the House of Commons. She had experienced many rebuffs along the way, often on the shortlist for candidates only to be disqualified by prejudice against a woman – and, worse, a woman with children.

But she applied herself to her work with formidable energy and passion and continued to reflect on how faith and politics related to one another.

In the Lawrence Jewry lecture she said that: “Christianity offers no easy solutions to political and economic issues. It teaches us that we cannot achieve a compassionate society simply by passing new laws and appointing more staff to administer them.”

She was very aware that there are prior dispositions which are needed to make market economics and democratic institutions function well: the habits of truth-telling, mutual sympathy, and the capacity to co-operate. These decisions and dispositions are incubated and given power by our relationships. In her words: “The basic ties of the family are at the heart of our society and are the nursery of civic virtue.” Such moral and spiritual capital is accumulated over many generations but can be easily eroded.

Life is a struggle to make the right choices and to achieve liberation from dependence, whether material or psychological. This genuine independence is the essential pre-condition for living in an other-centred way, beyond ourselves. The word Margaret Thatcher used at St Lawrence Jewry was “interdependence”.

She referred to the Christian doctrine, “that we are all members one of another, expressed in the concept of the Church on earth as the Body of Christ. From this we learn our interdependence and the great truth that we do not achieve happiness or salvation in isolation from each other but as members of society.”

Her later remark about there being no such thing as “society” has been misunderstood and refers in her mind to some impersonal entity to which we are tempted to surrender our independence.

It is entirely right that in the dean’s bidding there was a reference to “the life-long companionship she enjoyed with Denis”. As we all know, the manner of her leaving office was traumatic but the loss of Denis was a grievous blow indeed, and then there was a struggle with increasing debility from which she has now been liberated.

The natural cycle leads inevitably to decay, but the dominant note of any Christian funeral service, after the sorrow and after the memories, is hope.

It is almost as perplexing to identify the “real me” in life as it is in death. The atoms that make up our bodies are changing all the time, through wear and tear, eating and drinking. We are atomically distinct from what we were when we were young. What unites Margaret Roberts of Grantham with Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven, what constitutes her identity? The complex pattern of memories, aspirations and actions which make up a character were carried for a time by the atoms of her body, but we believe they are also stored up in the Cloud of God’s being.

In faithful relationships, when two people live together, they grow around one another and the one becomes a part of the other. We are given the freedom to be ourselves and, as human beings, to be drawn freely into an ever closer relationship with the divine nature. Everything which has turned to love in our lives will be stored up in the memory of God. First there is the struggle for freedom and independence and then there is the self-giving and the acceptance of inter-dependence.

In the gospel passage read by the prime minister, Jesus says “I am the way, the truth, and the life”. That “I am” is the voice of the divine being.

Jesus Christ does not bring information or mere advice but embodies the reality of divine love. God so loved the world that he was generous: he did not intervene from the outside but gave himself to us in the person of Jesus Christ, and became one of us.

What, in the end, makes our lives seem valuable after the storm and the stress has passed away and there is a great calm? The questions most frequently asked at such a time concern us all. How loving have I been? How faithful in personal relationships? Have I discovered joy within myself, or am I still looking for it in externals outside myself?

Margaret Thatcher had a sense of this, which she expressed in her address to the general assembly of the Church of Scotland when she said: “I leave you with the earnest hope that may we all come nearer to that other country whose ‘ways are ways of gentleness and all her paths are peace’.”

TS Eliot, in the poem quoted in this service sheet, says: “The communication/Of the dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of the living.”

In this Easter season death is revealed, not as a full stop but as the way into another dimension of life. As Eliot puts it: “What we call the beginning is often the end/And to make an end is to make a beginning./The end is where we start from.”

Rest eternal grant unto her O Lord and let light perpetual shine upon her.

Borneo’s Ecotourism Problem

August 28, 2012

Le Monde Diplomatique: Borneo’s Ecotourism

Borneo’s Ecotourism Problem

The idea was to use tourism to protect Borneo’s remaining virgin jungle and its wildlife, and reward locals for abstaining from illegal logging. It isn’t working out quite that way
by Clotilde Luquiau

“Borneo stays true to nature, far from the modern world.” “A soft adventure tour to meet the people and see the jungle wildlife of untamed Borneo.”

Copy like this and photos of animals with gentle eyes against a jungle backdrop are how French travel agent Asia entices tourists to the Malaysian part of the island of Borneo.

Once they get there, they understand the inherent contradictions of “authentic tourism”. Traditional shacks of rattan and palm leaves have been replaced by houses with zinc roofs and walls made of wood or (worse still) breezeblocks. Ecotourism is supposed to generate revenue for local populations, limit environmental impact and make everyone more environmentally aware. But the money spent by tourists who come to admire Borneo’s virgin forests and unspoiled landscapes helps to modernise the place; and what the locals gain in comfort and security, the tourists lose in picturesqueness. Because Malaysia is targeting higher-spending tourists, the modernisation is set to increase. But who will really benefit?

“Politicians are always talking about ecotourism. They say it will bring development, so it’s not surprising the villagers have high expectations,” said Annie (1), a consultant in charge of developing a new tourism plan in Sabah, a state in northern Borneo. The authorities consider economic, socio-cultural and environmental “sustainability” a must.

So the money tourists spend is supposed to help preserve the environment in the areas they visit; yet the very presence of tourists and hotels increases the pressure on the environment. “We must stop this promotion of natural areas, which brings in greater numbers of visitors,” said Annie. But restricting numbers to reduce the environmental impact of tourism would also mean less revenue.

The dilemma is clearest in the Lower Kinabatangan area, in Sabah. The presence of orang-utans, proboscis monkeys, pygmy elephants and hornbills along the lower reaches of the River Kinabatangan led to the development of wildlife tourism during the 1980s.

Since 1997 the area has been protected by law with the support, first of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and, later, of other local and international NGOs such as Hutan (France) and Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP, US-Malaysia). In 2005 the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary was established. It covers 27,000 hectares, divided into 10 non-contiguous lots spread out over 200km.

There are two problems. The geographical fragmentation makes it difficult for wildlife to move between lots, and their genetic diversity and health are under threat from increasing consanguinity. And because the 1997 Wildlife Conservation Enactment prohibits hunting and harvesting in the sanctuary without special authorisation, the locals find that environmental protection benefits urban travel agents more than them. Many prefer to convert their land into small-scale plantations, deriving only a minimal income from tourists, through a homestay programme.

The sanctuary includes four villages that receive visitors: Abai, Sukau, Bilit and Batu Puteh. The sanctuary and the presence of major corporations make their inhabitants feel doubly dispossessed. Because of their indigenous status, the villagers are entitled by law to a small amount of land (while the big companies are able to buy up large tracts and create plantations covering several hundred hectares) but it’s too little for their children to be able to live off; those who have no land and depend on fishing, or temporary jobs in the city or on plantations, are even worse off.

Ecotourism was supposed to be their salvation. Villagers could offer accommodation, get jobs in hotels, put on traditional culture shows, or sell local crafts. Easier said than done.

Untrained, with little English

It’s hard to grow fruit and vegetables when monkeys, wild pigs and elephants raid crops; ordinary fences will not keep them out and only the big plantations can afford electric fences. Few villagers still have weaving and carving skills; rattan baskets were replaced by plastic housewares a long time ago. Traditional events are hard to organise when young people are losing interest in local culture. And in any case tourists are more interested in the wildlife.

The villagers run just two (basic) bed & breakfasts. The hotels, which the guidebooks and brochures call “ecolodges”, generally rent the land they occupy, which gives a dozen families a significant income. But just two or three employ only local staff: most find it cheaper to hire Filipino or Indonesian immigrants.

Mary, a former ecotourism coordinator for the WWF, was in charge of a bottom-up project that was supposed to take the villagers’ needs into account. She described the situation in the late 1990s, when there were still only five ecolodges: “The operators felt they had offered the locals an opportunity, but the locals hadn’t taken it up. They hired a few villagers, but complained that they didn’t turn up for work when there was a wedding to go to. …  The villagers say they are entitled to jobs because they are natives. But they should only get a job if they deserve it. Otherwise, someone better qualified should get it.” Untrained and with little English, the villagers rarely meet the job requirements, even if they are knowledgeable about nature. They complain about the working conditions and the lack of freedom that comes with being an employee. Many said they would rather be their own boss, even if it meant living off fishing alone.

It seems the benefits of ecotourism are not as great as the authorities suggested when they invited the villagers to help protect and commercialise Borneo’s natural heritage. “If tourism doesn’t bring us any benefits,” said a villager in 1996 (2), “we’ll kill the last few proboscis monkeys so the travel agent won’t have anything to show.” There was already a sense that the authorities were more concerned with protecting the animals from any inconvenience the villagers might cause them, than the other way around.

Protecting the environment has had many benefits for the tourist industry. Over 70,000 people visit the sanctuary each year and the number is rising steadily: new hotels are being built. But to get to the sanctuary, they must make a 150km journey through oil palm plantations, most of which belong to major corporations. “When my customers see the plantations, they burst into tears,” said Albert, who owns a travel agency in Kota Kinabalu and an ecolodge in Sukau.

The official line is that, over the last 15 years, illegal plantations have been destroyed, poachers have been arrested or dissuaded, and wildlife has been studied and protected. The elephant population density is rising and the areas of forest felled since the 1950s are growing back. Around the sanctuary and along the riverbanks, the landscape is starting to look the way the tourists expect, to the delight of the travel agencies. A sign of success is that tourist accommodation has evolved from a few basic tents in 1990 to around 340 hotel rooms, an annual capacity of over 200,000 person/nights. The 15 accommodation centres are concentrated around the villages of Sukau (population over 1,000) and Bilit (less than 200).

Martin is the initiator of the homestay project in Kinabatangan. An engineer by training, he fell in love with Borneo and has been working in tourism in Sabah since 1991, when he was shocked to find that some operators took tourists around villages without giving the villagers any share of the profit. If villagers demanded a share, the operators would move on: “There are plenty of villages, so it was easy to find another one.” This had no impact on the popularity of the tour. “The tourists were not naïve, but they didn’t know the history of the tour, and it all seemed so perfect.” So they continued to believe they had chosen a package that benefited the locals.

From the late 1980s, over-exploitation of the forest meant the natives of Kinabatangan were no longer able to get work as loggers in forest reserves, and they were criticised for resorting to illegal logging near their villages. Tourism was seen as an alternative to a way of life that was dying out. “In 1996,” said Martin, “I heard that the government was planning to fund some of the conservation work in Kinabatangan and was talking about village tourism projects. So I contacted the WWF. They had donors, and I had a village that wanted to try a different way of life, based on community development: Batu Puteh. Our plan did involve protecting biodiversity, but, from the villagers’ point of view, the aim was to find an alternative to illegal logging.”

The homestay idea seemed straightforward: a dozen villagers could simply club together, show that their area would be of interest to tourists, and convert their houses to comply with health and safety regulations. After discussions and training, the programme got under way. Batu Puteh served as a model and between 1997 and 2004 four such groups were set up in Kinabatangan, 16 in Sabah. Now all they needed was tourists, and the villagers would benefit from tourism directly.

Neat little houses with a TV

But things have not gone to plan. The poorest villagers can’t afford to improve their houses to the necessary standard. The training is free, but it is held near Kota Kinabalu, the Sabah state capital, 400km from Kinabatangan; it can cost a month’s income for a couple to travel there. And only one Australian agent specialising in adventure tourism and one Bornean agency, set up by the inhabitants of Sukau, will actually work with the homestays.

There is also a problem with the gap between the Malaysian city-dwellers who run the project and believe in comfort, and the western tourists, who want authenticity and adventure. Visitors who would like to play at being Indiana Jones find themselves put up in neat little houses where a television set takes pride of place in the living room. They can sit on the ground and eat with their hands; sometimes their mattress will be laid on the floor and, at night, wild pigs may forage among the stilts on which the houses are built. If they are lucky, the monkeys will put on a little show by stealing food from the kitchen, or elephants may show the tips of their trunks in the garden. But mostly it’s nothing like the image they have of life in the jungle — it’s a brave new world of washing machines, electric fans, mixers, karaoke machines, zinc roofs and cars.

The ecolodges are built of wood, close to the edge of the forest, and blend into the trees. They are some distance from villages, which limits the scope for commercial transactions between the tourists and the local population. The ecolodges’ skilful marketing and networks make them serious competitors for the homestays.

In 2008 the WWF encouraged five ecolodges to set up an association for environmental protection, by including an eco-tax in their charges. “The aim is to protect our investment,” said the association’s president. The jungle, the wildlife and the river are the ecolodges’ raw materials: without them, there would be no tourism. With the money raised through the tax, they intend to pay for security patrols, set up a common code of social and environmental best practices, and take part in local reforestation.

So even if the attempt at community development through ecotourism is founded on misunderstandings, it has involved a wider circle in the defence of the natural environment, by creating an economy that depends on it: everyone I met agreed that the banks of the Kinabatangan are better protected today than before the tourists arrived.

*Clotilde Luquiau is a geographer

(1) The names of people interviewed have been changed at their request.

(2) Heiko K L Schulze and Suriani Suratman, Villagers in Transition: Case Studies from Sabah, Sabah University of Malaysia, 1999.

Remembering the Greatest Golfer of his Generation

December 11, 2011

Remembering the Greatest Golfer of his Generation: Seve Ballesteros

This evening I watched the Final Round of the 2011 Dubai World Championship. The championship was won by Spain’s Alvaro Quiros (left) who secured 19-under with an eagle on the 18th Hole.  Scotland’s Paul Lawrie came in second with a score of 271 followed by Luke Donald in third place.

Luke won the 2011 Race to Dubai title to become the first golfer in history to top the money list in both Europe and the United States in the same calendar year.He needed to finish in the top nine of the season-ending Dubai World Championship at the Jumeirah Golf Estates today to add the European title to the PGA Tour crown he secured last month. And he achieved that target comfortably, carding three birdies in his final six holes to shoot a second successive six-under-par 66 — the joint best round of the day — for a 72-hole total of 272 (-16).

A new group of young and exciting golfers have taken over and the field is open, although a few years ago Tiger Woods was dominant. Tiger is still a true champion whose willpower very few can match. He is expected to be back to his winning ways in 2012. But it won’t be easy for him with the likes of Luke and Rory and others of the new generation providing the challenge. 

While on the subject of golfing personalities of the modern era, I wish to remember Seve Ballesteros of Spain who died in May this year. Seve, as he was affectionately known to his friends and fans, will go down in the pantheon, with 87 worldwide victories and five major championships, along with being the galvanizing force in the modern Ryder Cup.

Let us watch these youtube videos and reflect on the life of this great Spanish golfing matador whose exploits on the golf courses around the world are of epic proportions. --Din Merican

Farewell Socrates: The Philosopher in Shorts

December 6, 2011


Farewell Socrates: The Philosopher in Shorts

by Bob Holmes

He did not merely live up to his illustrious moniker, he made you think that if his ancient Greek namesake had ever deigned to kick a ball, he would have done so in the manner of the Brazilian midfielder – spraying passes conceived on Mount Olympus

WITH a name like his, he simply could not have been a journeyman defender. Up-ending opponents and hoofing it into Row Z just would not have done for Socrates Brasileiro Sampaio de Souza Vieira de Oliveira. A lesser man may have taken refuge in one of his other titles but not the Brazilian. He knew he would write football philosophy.

The legend that left us on Sunday did not merely live up to his illustrious moniker, he made you think that if his ancient Greek namesake had ever deigned to kick a ball, he would have done so in the manner of the Brazilian midfielder – languid, elegant and spraying passes conceived on Mount Olympus.

It was a simpler football age that Socrates adorned. The pressing game had not been invented and nor had Prozone stats. Players were not pilloried for failing to run a marathon before halftime or hauled off for losing possession; they had more time on the ball, time to think and no one did more thinking than Socrates.

Blessed with two feet that were in sync with his intellect, he was the towering fulcrum of Brazil at two World Cups – two that they didn’t win.

The 1982 vintage is generally acclaimed as the greatest team never to capture the ultimate prize although John Cruyff & Co may dispute that. In the 1986 side, Socrates missed a penalty in the shoot-out defeat to France – one of the greatest matches ever played.

In an age when we are so keen to knock the living off their pedestals only to go overboard with tributes to the dead, Socrates is already being deified. He was undoubtedly a genius, but a flawed one – on and off the field.

Loved more than Pele, who had fewer flaws but three World Cups, he was second only to Garrincha in the affections of the Brazilian public. Above all else, he was a man of his time.

Unlike Garrincha, he was born on the right side of the tracks. If not with a silver spoon, comfortably middle class. He was well-educated and qualified as a doctor before getting serious about football. If Bjorn Borg invented cool, Socrates added a dash of samba to it, grew a beard but kept the headband. And like Borg, he never hurried yet was always in command. He was also an enigma.

A practising GP, he smoked 60 a day and drank himself under the table. Although well-off, he was a committed communist, naming one of his sons Fidel after his hero Castro. Other rebels he admired were Che Guevara and John Lennon. He even visited Gaddafi.

He sometimes chose the wrong option on the field, too, misplacing passes, missing penalties and casually giving away possession with a suicidal back-heel.

Such sins are deemed Cardinal in today’s Telestrator game and would have Roberto Mancini rearranging his coiffure. Sam Allardyce would never have picked him. Tony Pulis might because of his six feet three inches but the perception that he might not have relished a wet Wednesday night in Wigan would have counted against him. As would his philosophy.

“To win is not the most important thing,” he maintained. “Football is an art and should be showing creativity. If Vincent van Gogh and Edgar Degas had known when they were doing their work the level of recognition they were going to have, they would not have done them the same. You have to enjoy doing the art and not think, ‘will I win?’ ”.

Thanks to ambitious owners, neurotic managers and rabid fans, it is a view that has gone the way of the Olympic motto, “It’s not the winning but the taking part”.

And the dodo. But one look at YouTube and you’ll begin to see the magnitude of what we’ve lost. Socrates may have had the lungs of Chernobyl but his legs could have graced the Bolshoi Ballet.

He may have thought he was Van Gogh when he took that fateful penalty in Mexico. Not for him the straightforward side-foot to the stanchion or the blast into the roof of the net. Even a little deception was not enough. With 150 million Brazilians holding their breath, he opted for an approach of no more than two steps and a delicate flick into the top corner. Art? You bet. Audacious? Arrogant? Sublime? It was all of those things and the execution was near-perfect. The only problem was… it didn’t go in, the keeper somehow reaching it.

He could never have realised what the consequences would be. After two successive failures with supposedly unbeatable teams, Brazil again rejected the beautiful game. It was now four flops in all since the great 1970 side had triumphed – and far too long for a nation that lives, eats and hyper-ventilates football. Art, sadly, was out and organisation and discipline were in. The barbarians were no longer at the gates, they were picking the team.

It took them until 1994 to end their drought and they have of course won it again (2002) but have offered only fleeting glimpses of the kind of football that Socrates played. The last edition under Dunga was the most Allardycean of all but happily their inglorious demise has also brought a reversion to a more artistic style. Ronaldinho – the most Socratic of the current generation – has been restored and it is to be hoped that they put on a show worthy of their former great as hosts in 2014.

In a glowing tribute to the star of the 1980s, Pele once said: “Socrates can play football backwards better than most can play facing forwards.” Indeed. Never one to bother with a simple side-foot when he could pirouette and back-heel through three pairs of legs, he passed the ball as if using Van Gogh’s paintbrush. And made even the smudges look good.

Although several millennia separated the Brazilian from the Greek, there were similarities between the two Socrates. The philosopher never left any writings, passing his wisdom down to pupils, particularly Plato. The footballer, although eschewing management, espoused his views as a pundit. And tragically as it turned out, they can both be said to have ended their lives by drinking poison. But the biggest similarity of all will surely be in that as long as football is played, the Brazilian, like the Greek, will be remembered down the ages. For he was nothing less than a philosopher in shorts.

A Sister’s Eulogy for Steve Jobs: “Follow your Heart and your Intuition”

October 31, 2011

A Sister’s Eulogy for Steve Jobs

By Mona Simpson (10-30-11)*

I grew up as an only child, with a single mother. Because we were poor and because I knew my father had emigrated from Syria, I imagined he looked like Omar Sharif. I hoped he would be rich and kind and would come into our lives (and our not yet furnished apartment) and help us.

Later, after I’d met my father, I tried to believe he’d changed his number and left no forwarding address because he was an idealistic revolutionary, plotting a new world for the Arab people.

Even as a feminist, my whole life I’d been waiting for a man to love, who could love me. For decades, I’d thought that man would be my father. When I was 25, I met that man and he was my brother.

By then, I lived in New York, where I was trying to write my first novel. I had a job at a small magazine in an office the size of a closet, with three other aspiring writers. When one day a lawyer called me — me, the middle-class girl from California who hassled the boss to buy us health insurance — and said his client was rich and famous and was my long-lost brother, the young editors went wild.

This was 1985 and we worked at a cutting-edge literary magazine, but I’d fallen into the plot of aDickens novel and really, we all loved those best. The lawyer refused to tell me my brother’s name and my colleagues started a betting pool. The leading candidate: John Travolta. I secretly hoped for a literary descendant of Henry James — someone more talented than I, someone brilliant without even trying.

When I met Steve, he was a guy my age in jeans, Arab- or Jewish-looking and handsomer than Omar Sharif.

We took a long walk — something, it happened, that we both liked to do. I don’t remember much of what we said that first day, only that he felt like someone I’d pick to be a friend. He explained that he worked in computers.

I didn’t know much about computers. I still worked on a manual Olivetti typewriter.I told Steve I’d recently considered my first purchase of a computer: something called the Cromemco.

Steve told me it was a good thing I’d waited. He said he was making something that was going to be insanely beautiful.

I want to tell you a few things I learned from Steve, during three distinct periods, over the 27 years I knew him. They’re not periods of years, but of states of being. His full life. His illness. His dying.

Steve worked at what he loved. He worked really hard. Every day.That’s incredibly simple, but true. He was the opposite of absent-minded. He was never embarrassed about working hard, even if the results were failures. If someone as smart as Steve wasn’t ashamed to admit trying, maybe I didn’t have to be.

When he got kicked out of Apple, things were painful. He told me about a dinner at which 500 Silicon Valley leaders met the then-sitting president. Steve hadn’t been invited.

He was hurt but he still went to work at Next. Every single day. Novelty was not Steve’s highest value. Beauty was.

For an innovator, Steve was remarkably loyal. If he loved a shirt, he’d order 10 or 100 of them. In the Palo Alto house, there are probably enough black cotton turtlenecks for everyone in this church.He didn’t favor trends or gimmicks. He liked people his own age.

His philosophy of aesthetics reminds me of a quote that went something like this: “Fashion is what seems beautiful now but looks ugly later; art can be ugly at first but it becomes beautiful later.”

Steve always aspired to make beautiful later.He was willing to be misunderstood. Uninvited to the ball, he drove the third or fourth iteration of his same black sports car to Next, where he and his team were quietly inventing the platform on which Tim Berners-Lee would write the program for the World Wide Web.

Steve was like a girl in the amount of time he spent talking about love. Love was his supreme virtue, his god of gods. He tracked and worried about the romantic lives of the people working with him.

Whenever he saw a man he thought a woman might find dashing, he called out, “Hey are you single? Do you wanna come to dinner with my sister?”

I remember when he phoned the day he met Laurene. “There’s this beautiful woman and she’s really smart and she has this dog and I’m going to marry her.”

When Reed was born, he began gushing and never stopped. He was a physical dad, with each of his children. He fretted over Lisa’s boyfriends and Erin’s travel and skirt lengths and Eve’s safety around the horses she adored.

None of us who attended Reed’s graduation party will ever forget the scene of Reed and Steve slow dancing.

His abiding love for Laurene sustained him. He believed that love happened all the time, everywhere. In that most important way, Steve was never ironic, never cynical, never pessimistic. I try to learn from that, still.

Steve had been successful at a young age, and he felt that had isolated him. Most of the choices he made from the time I knew him were designed to dissolve the walls around him. A middle-class boy from Los Altos, he fell in love with a middle-class girl from New Jersey. It was important to both of them to raise Lisa, Reed, Erin and Eve as grounded, normal children.

Their house didn’t intimidate with art or polish; in fact, for many of the first years I knew Steve and Lo together, dinner was served on the grass, and sometimes consisted of just one vegetable. Lots of that one vegetable. But one. Broccoli. In season. Simply prepared. With just the right, recently snipped, herb.

Even as a young millionaire, Steve always picked me up at the airport. He’d be standing there in his jeans.

When a family member called him at work, his secretary Linetta answered, “Your dad’s in a meeting. Would you like me to interrupt him?”

When Reed insisted on dressing up as a witch every Halloween, Steve, Laurene, Erin and Eve all went wiccan.

They once embarked on a kitchen remodel; it took years. They cooked on a hotplate in the garage. The Pixar building, under construction during the same period, finished in half the time. And that was it for the Palo Alto house. The bathrooms stayed old. But — and this was a crucial distinction — it had been a great house to start with; Steve saw to that.

This is not to say that he didn’t enjoy his success: he enjoyed his success a lot, just minus a few zeros. He told me how much he loved going to the Palo Alto bike store and gleefully realizing he could afford to buy the best bike there.

And he did. Steve was humble. Steve liked to keep learning. Once, he told me if he’d grown up differently, he might have become a mathematician. He spoke reverently about colleges and loved walking around the Stanford campus. In the last year of his life, he studied a book of paintings by Mark Rothko, an artist he hadn’t known about before, thinking of what could inspire people on the walls of a future Apple campus.

Steve cultivated whimsy. What other C.E.O. knows the history of English and Chinese tea roses and has a favorite David Austin rose?

He had surprises tucked in all his pockets. I’ll venture that Laurene will discover treats — songs he loved, a poem he cut out and put in a drawer — even after 20 years of an exceptionally close marriage. I spoke to him every other day or so, but when I opened The New York Times and saw a feature on the company’s patents, I was still surprised and delighted to see a sketch for a perfect staircase.

With his four children, with his wife, with all of us, Steve had a lot of fun. He treasured happiness. Then, Steve became ill and we watched his life compress into a smaller circle. Once, he’d loved walking through Paris. He’d discovered a small handmade soba shop in Kyoto. He downhill skied gracefully. He cross-country skied clumsily. No more.

Eventually, even ordinary pleasures, like a good peach, no longer appealed to him.Yet, what amazed me, and what I learned from his illness, was how much was still left after so much had been taken away.

I remember my brother learning to walk again, with a chair. After his liver transplant, once a day he would get up on legs that seemed too thin to bear him, arms pitched to the chair back. He’d push that chair down the Memphis hospital corridor towards the nursing station and then he’d sit down on the chair, rest, turn around and walk back again. He counted his steps and, each day, pressed a little farther.

Laurene got down on her knees and looked into his eyes. “You can do this, Steve,” she said. His eyes widened. His lips pressed into each other.He tried. He always, always tried, and always with love at the core of that effort. He was an intensely emotional man.

I realized during that terrifying time that Steve was not enduring the pain for himself. He set destinations: his son Reed’s graduation from high school, his daughter Erin’s trip to Kyoto, the launching of a boat he was building on which he planned to take his family around the world and where he hoped he and Laurene would someday retire.

Even ill, his taste, his discrimination and his judgment held. He went through 67 nurses before finding kindred spirits and then he completely trusted the three who stayed with him to the end. Tracy. Arturo. Elham.

One time when Steve had contracted a tenacious pneumonia his doctor forbid everything — even ice. We were in a standard I.C.U. unit. Steve, who generally disliked cutting in line or dropping his own name, confessed that this once, he’d like to be treated a little specially. I told him: Steve, this is special treatment.He leaned over to me, and said: “I want it to be a little more special.”

Intubated, when he couldn’t talk, he asked for a notepad. He sketched devices to hold an iPad in a hospital bed. He designed new fluid monitors and x-ray equipment. He redrew that not-quite-special-enough hospital unit. And every time his wife walked into the room, I watched his smile remake itself on his face.

For the really big, big things, you have to trust me, he wrote on his sketchpad. He looked up. You have to. By that, he meant that we should disobey the doctors and give him a piece of ice.

None of us knows for certain how long we’ll be here. On Steve’s better days, even in the last year, he embarked upon projects and elicited promises from his friends at Apple to finish them. Some boat builders in the Netherlands have a gorgeous stainless steel hull ready to be covered with the finishing wood. His three daughters remain unmarried, his two youngest still girls, and he’d wanted to walk them down the aisle as he’d walked me the day of my wedding.

We all — in the end — die in medias res. In the middle of a story. Of many stories. I suppose it’s not quite accurate to call the death of someone who lived with cancer for years unexpected, but Steve’s death was unexpected for us. What I learned from my brother’s death was that character is essential: What he was, was how he died.

Tuesday morning, he called me to ask me to hurry up to Palo Alto. His tone was affectionate, dear, loving, but like someone whose luggage was already strapped onto the vehicle, who was already on the beginning of his journey, even as he was sorry, truly deeply sorry, to be leaving us.

He started his farewell and I stopped him. I said, “Wait. I’m coming. I’m in a taxi to the airport. I’ll be there.”

“I’m telling you now because I’m afraid you won’t make it on time, honey.” When I arrived, he and his Laurene were joking together like partners who’d lived and worked together every day of their lives. He looked into his children’s eyes as if he couldn’t unlock his gaze.

Until about 2 in the afternoon, his wife could rouse him, to talk to his friends from Apple. Then, after awhile, it was clear that he would no longer wake to us.His breathing changed. It became severe, deliberate, purposeful. I could feel him counting his steps again, pushing farther than before.

This is what I learned: he was working at this, too. Death didn’t happen to Steve, he achieved it. He told me, when he was saying goodbye and telling me he was sorry, so sorry we wouldn’t be able to be old together as we’d always planned, that he was going to a better place.

Dr. Fischer gave him a 50/50 chance of making it through the night. He made it through the night, Laurene next to him on the bed sometimes jerked up when there was a longer pause between his breaths. She and I looked at each other, then he would heave a deep breath and begin again.

This had to be done. Even now, he had a stern, still handsome profile, the profile of an absolutist, a romantic. His breath indicated an arduous journey, some steep path, altitude.

He seemed to be climbing.But with that will, that work ethic, that strength, there was also sweet Steve’s capacity for wonderment, the artist’s belief in the ideal, the still more beautiful later.

Steve’s final words, hours earlier, were monosyllables, repeated three times. Before embarking, he’d looked at his sister Patty, then for a long time at his children, then at his life’s partner, Laurene, and then over their shoulders past them.

Steve’s final words were:


Mona Simpson is a novelist and a professor of English at the University of California, Los Angeles. She delivered this eulogy for her brother, Steve Jobs, on October 16 at his memorial service at the Memorial Church of Stanford University.


The Passing of Dato’ Syed Ahmad Jamal

July 31, 2011

The Passing of Our Dear Friend, Dato’ Syed Ahmad Jamal

Dr. Kamsiah and I are saddened to learn early this morning of the passing of a dear friend, Dato’ Syed Ahmad Jamal. We wish to express our most profound condolences to Y.Bhg Datin Hamidah Md Noor and family.

We had looked forward to meeting Dato’ Syed Ahmad Jamal and Datin Hamidah again on August 18, 2011 at the KL Lifestyle Gallery, Jalan Ma’arof, Bangsar Baru, Kuala Lumpur. 

It has been quite a while since we met this loving and devoted couple at Balai Seni Lukis Negara (see picture above). He was a dear friend to us, and a respected intellectual with a number of books on Art and Art History to his credit.

For all his many achievements and contributions to the development of Malaysian Art and the welfare of local artists, Dato’ Syed Ahmad Jamal remains an unassuming renaissance man. He will be sadly missed by all of us who have been blessed and privileged to know him. Al-Fatihah–Dr Kamsiah and Din Merican

National Art Laureate Dato’ Syed Ahmad Jamal passes on

BERNAMA reports:

National Art Laureate 1995 Dato’ Syed Ahmad Syed Jamal died at his residence in Gombak here at about 10pm tonight. He was 82. He is survived by his wife, Datin Hamidah Mohd Noor and two sons.

His death was confirmed by the National Art Gallery’s Public Relations Unit when contacted by Bernama.

Born in Muar, Johor, Syed Ahmad received his early education at Sultan Abu Bakar English College, Johor Bahru. His higher education was gained abroad – Birmingham School of Architecture (1950-1951), Chelsea School of Arts, London (1951-1955), Institute of Education, University of London (1955-1956), School of Art Institute, Chicago (1963-1964), a masters degree from University of Hawaii (1973-1975).

Syed Ahmad had served as Universiti Malaya director of cultural centre (1979-1982, a lecturer at the Malayan Teachers Training College, Kirkby, England (1958-1959) and director of the National Art Gallery (1983-1991). He had won accolades and art prizes locally and internationally.

Syed Ahmad will be buried at the Kampung Pusu Muslim Cemetery, Gombak before Zohor prayer tomorrow (July 31, 2011).

In Retrospect


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Melihat Karya Seniman Negara SYED AHMAD JAMAL

 Dalam memperkatakan dan melihat hasil karya SAJamal, kita terpesona akan kehebatan beliau dalam mengolah serta memainkan warna dan bentuk-bentuk tiga segi yang berpaksikan semangat ‘fiction’ kisah lagenda puteri gunung Ledang, Gunung Fujiyama dan sebagainya. Disamping memaparkan unsur jiwa keislaman dalam tampak wadah ‘contemporary’, sebagaimana kenyataan beliau “My works have an Islamic soul and a contemporary form.” – Syed Ahmad Jamal – (Ooi Kok Chuen, 2009 Sunday Times).

Antaranya juga, Syed Ahmad’s landscape and (early) portrait paintings were stamped with his personal input and style, with traces of analytical Cubism and Abstract Expressionism, before his art matured into a kind of sublimal Symbolism.

Terutama semasa beliau memulakan langkah awal sebagai ‘Specialist Teachers Training Institute as principal (1965-73) before he did his master’s in Art History at the University of Hawaii, Honolulu, in 1973. He studied Philosophy in Islamic Art at Harvard in 1974 and that led to the subtle infusion of Islamic elements in his art, helped in part by the resurgence sparked by Ayatollah Khomeini in the early 1980s. Examples of such works are Tawaf (1986), Ruang Qiblat (2004) and Arafah (1999). (Ooi Kok Chuen, dalam SundayTimes Oct 4, 2009).

Beliau telah didedahkan dengan pendidikan dari dunia barat iaitu di Britain, at the Birmingham School of Architecture (1950) and the Chelsea School of Art (1951-55) dan di Amerika Utara “where he studied sculpture at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, from 1963 to 1964. There, he was struck by the works of Clyfford Still (1904-80), Mark Rothko (1903-70) and Hans Hoffmann (1884-1966) (Ooi Kok Chuen dalam Sunday Times, October 4, 2009).

Berlandaskan akan latarbelakang tersebut sudah pasti beliau mempunyai pengalaman luas dalam selok belok senilukis samada pada peringkat negara dan antarabangsa. Retrospektif beliau kali ini merupakan kemuncak kerjaya senilukisnya sebagai seorang seniman yang begitu komited mengenai visi seninya.

Walaubagaimanapun, apa yang tertariknya di sini, saya ingin mengambil akan ungkapan Ismail Abdullah bahwa jika melihat karya SAJ adakah kita menikmati kepuasan daripada bentuk dan warnanya yang garang dan berseri sahaja? Sebagai contoh, sebuah karya lukisan SAJ Gunung Ledang, walaupun dalam bentuk abstrak. Namun memiliki simbol melalui warna dan bentuk geometri yang cuba dikaitkan dengan legenda puteri gunung ledang di Melaka. Lukisan abstrak ini mempunyai elemen visual yang menyatakan pandangan pelukisnya melalui aspek tampakan yang diadun secara halus dan bijaksana.

Karya lukisan abstrak expressionisme ini berjaya membayangkan perasaan seseorang yang hendak meminang puteri berkenaan dalam kisah lagenda sultan Melaka. Lukisan ini memaparkan mesej yang berfokus kepada kisah berkenaan. Namun pembacaan terhadap mesej ini amat sukar difahami memandangkan karya ini adalah sebuah karya abstrak yang rupa bentuk visualnya amat arbitrari dan kabur, tidak jelas ikon dan simbolnya. Lukisan ini tidak memaparkan kod atau indeks visual yang mempunyai rujukan yang jelas dalam sistem perlambangan budaya Melayu. – (Ismail Abdullah 2009 – Seni Budaya Media dan Konflik JatiDiri)

Kenyataan Ismail Abdullah (IA) membawa kepada persoalan yang jelas mengenai penggunaan kodifikasi serta pemaparan representasi SA Jamal mengenai seni yang ingin dibawanya. Mengikut SAJamal, “As a painter, I want to capture the essence and immortalize it in painting.” Soalannya, bagaimana beliau membina permasalahan ‘the essence’ dalam suatu permukaan catan yang terhad, daripada suatu lagenda melayu yang besar. Adakah ‘the essence’ yang diucapkan oleh beliau hanya sekadar membina fakta-fakta teks yang berlambangkan bentuk tiga segi (gunung) yang diimaginasikan dapat membina sebuah naratif visual yang tepat? Benarkah fakta-fakta teks visual tersebut bersifat begitu? Kalau benar, bagaimana fakta teks dari filem Puteri Gunung Ledang, karya Tiara Jacquelina dengan simbol visual yang dimainkan oleh SAJamal. Apa lebih dan apa kurangnya, sebagai suatu karya visual?

Adakah karya maha agong SAJamal berupaya membina sejarah seninya berbanding cereka Tiara dalam wadah visual yang lebih efektif? Adakah sudah cukup lambang-lambang yang digunakan SAJamal sebagai suatu essence bagi keseluruhan penceritaan teks melayu yang besar itu?

Jendela diAngkasa (1969)

Tetapi apa yang dapat dilihat dari rencana visualnya, SAJamal begitu mahir dalam memercikan lapisan pelbagai warna-warni dalam dimensi formasi visual yang boleh dianggap sebagai ‘immortalize’ pada setiap karyanya. Mungkin dalam kaedah ini beliau berjaya, terutama dalam karya beliau yang awal, kerana pengaruh Rothko.M, Clyfford Still dan Hans Hoffmann begitu jelas diadaptasinya sebagai suatu perencanaan visual seperti catan Jendela di Angkasa (1969).

Warna sebagai subjek yang meliputi seluruh ruang kanvas berjaya menangkap perspeksi dalam formasi kotak empat segi melintang, lantas membentuk perimbangan visual serta dilorek dengan fragmen-fragmen yang terapong memberi ‘myth’ dan tanda tanya secara saikologikal, seperti Rothko dan kawan-kawanya dalam aliran abstrak ekspressionisme.

Mungkin dalam kontek ini SAJamal berupaya membawa aliran tersebut kedalam jiwanya dan mampu diterjemahkan sebagai seorang melayu! Tetapi dalam bahasa yang lebih universal. Sebagaimana kenyataan beliau, “I found American paintings bolder and of a larger scale, and they have no reference to any discernible objects, like a tree. It was ground-breaking, not only in terms of size, but I was able to handle the space. I managed to overcome the fear of (big) space, and juggled to find a balance between forms and space,” (Ooi Kok Chuen, 2009).

Namun apa yang kita dapati daripada kenyataan nya, beliau seolah masih berpegang kepada aturan bentuk mujarad yang diadunkan secara formal. Kejelasan beliau mengenai kodifikasi fragmen-fragmen mujarad tersebut masih tidak jelas samada dalam konteks abstrak ekspressionismenya atau jiwa melayunya, terutama nada islam yang dijelaskan. “My works have an Islamic soul and a contemporary form.” (Ooi Kok Chuen, 2009).

Bagaimana beliau menterjemahkan tanda-tanda tersebut, lebih-lebih lagi dalam cerekarama visualnya melalui siri-siri Gunung Ledangnya? Bagaimana pula semangat beliau dalam teks Rupa dan Jiwa dalam hal ini? Adakah teks tersebut hanya sekadar sebagai suatu dokumentasi objek sejarah yang mengagongkan rupa bendanya sahaja atau daripada rupa jiwanya? Lebih lagi dalam kaitan beliau pada aliran Abstrak Ekspressionism?

Bagaimana SAJamal melihat akan perkara tersebut? Terutama dalam nada kontemporari yang diucapkan? Apa bezanya karya beliau yang dahulu kepada yang terkini. Adakah SAJamal masih mahu meretrospektif dalam gaya yang serupa?

Elizabeth Taylor dead (1932-2011)

March 23, 2011

Farewell Miss Taylor, we will miss you

Farewell Miss Taylor; you were great and ravishingly beautiful and talented. Our representative in Bronx, New York, Mongkut Bean originally from Bakaq Bata, Alor Staq, Kedah, will be there with some flowers.–Din Merican

Elizabeth Taylor (1932-2011)

Fan Yew Teng: A Public Intellectual

January 24, 2011

A Daughter’s Fond Farewell to her Public Intellectual Father, Fan Yew Teng (dec. December 7, 2010) in Bangkok, Thailand, December 16, 2010

“Where the Mind is without Fear and the Head is held high” — Rabindranath Tagore

by Lilianne Fan (edited by Din Merican)

He (Fan Yew Teng) would have wanted each of us to keep fighting against the balant inequality and discrimination that has been institutionalised in our legal, political, social and economic institutions; to resist and uproot the decay in our political culture; to keep on walking the long road to justice and true democracy…–Lilianne Fan

Finding words after the loss of a parent is one of the hardest things to have to do. Any yet, our family has been receiving a healing river of words from near and far, from my father’s many friends and men and women whose lives he had touched throughout his life. These words have brought us comfort though our grief, and for this we are deeply grateful.

A Blessing, An Inspiration and An Absolute Joy

My father (Fan Yew Teng) was a blessing, an inspiration and an absolute joy. He was deeply loving and devoted to our family. While he had a tendency to sometimes be protective as a father, he was also persistently provocative, incesseantky reminding my sister and me to live boldy, to never be afraid of pushing boundaries in the name of our principles and dreams.

A Principal Source of Cultural Exposure

Since we were very young, Papa was our principal source of cultural exposure. He introduced us the music of Edith Piaf and Umm Khaltum, the writings of Rabindranath Tagore and Hannah Arendt. His mind was epic and encylopedic, philosophical and poetic; his historical memory is impressive as his passion for justice was inextinguisable. The  shelves, tables and floors of his bedromm were always overflowing with books, the walls, adorned with portraits of his many heroes–Bertrand Russell, Frantz Fanon, Leo Tolstoy and Nelson Mandela.

A Public Intellectual

Because he and my mother raised us in a very intellectually, politically and social-engaged household, we were exposed early to both humanity’s creativity, as well as the realities of oppression and injustice. Papa was through and through a public intellectual. Concepts like justice, freedom and democracy were not abstrat utopian ideals; rather the philosophers for the concrete advancement of living human societies.

Like the philosophers of Ancient Greece, Papa believed that the hallmark of the citizen was versatility in knowledge and a constant striving for the advancement of one’s political community. He disdained material wealth and believed that, in the words of the Stoic Philosopher Seneca, “it is the mind which men rich”. He was deeply concerned with the dilemmas of his time, first and foremost in Malaysia, but also internationally. He was fiercely independent and preferred to stand outside of society’s institutions to raise ethical questions and critique from a position of total impartiality.

Papa  would often read us drafts of his socio-political articles, fresh off the carriage of his beloved manual typewriter, and this was a significant source of our education on local and international politics. his tireless solidarity with struggles for justice and democracy around the world deeply influenced my own work on peace, human rights and international humanitarian law, as it was he who taught me that each of us has a responsibility to speak up against injustice in every manifestation. When I began working with refugees from Aceh in 1999, Papa was strongly supportive, always ready to participate in a campaign, or offer strategic advice and lessons in political history, just as he was when my work later took me to Burma and Haiti.

A  Man of Faith

Even as he mastered the power of the spoken and written word, Papa also grew increasingly to respect the power of the sacred word and prayer. In this sense, he became a spiritual mentor whose daily practice taught us in a very direct way the meaning of Faith.

I know that I will always miss every detail of the moments we shared. But what I will certainly miss most are the moments of simplicity, when words were not necessary. With each day since Papa’s passing, I am coming to realise that surviving the death of a loved one is not about being left behind by the one who has died. Rather, it constitutes the binding of the living and the dead to each other, and to the past, present and the future through a continuous act of love. “Survival”, in the words of the late Jacques Derrida, “is at once the essence, the origin, and the possibility..(it is) the life beyong life, the life that is more than life…the most intense life possible.”

Vision of a Malaysian Malaysia: The Mind is  without Fear and the Head is held high

I miss Papa more than words could ever express. I know it would have been his hope that everyone of us to continue working towards a Malaysian Malaysia, a nation founded on justice, democracy and accountability to each and every one of its citizens, compassionate to those who seek refuge upon our shores, a model of pluralism in an increasingly divided world. He would have  wanted each of us to keep fighting against blatant inequality and discrimination that has been institutionalised in our legal, political, social and economic institutions; to resist and uproot the decay in our political culture; to keep on walking the long road to justice and true democracy; to become a nation, “where”, in the words of Tagore, “the mind is without fear and the head is held high”.

Pauline Fan’s Eulogy

January 4, 2011


Pauline Fan’s Touching Eulogy to her Dad, Fan Yew Teng

It has not been easy to bid farewell to my father, a man who touched so many not just by his tenacious commitment to social justice and through his incisive political writings, but also through his warm, radiant, playful personality.

Papa was a wellspring of strength and joy for the family; he was the deepest source of joy and laughter in my life. He loomed large in our lives; his presence was indelible, his charisma unmistakable. He was always a kind of hero figure for me and my sister. When we were young, we would watch him with awe working among his books, listen to him incessantly typing away on his old manual typewriter, and the scent of pipe tobacco that filled his study is still my favourite scent in the world.

As I grew older, I began to understand that Papa’s work, his continuous engagement in politics and social issues, was inseparable from his life. He did not simply have a ‘job’; he lived out his uncompromising principles through his writings and actions, and was driven by his deep-seated ideals to fight for social justice and human dignity. For Papa, politics was the natural arena where citizens could exercise their rights and obligations in modern society. In the words of Papa’s literary hero George Orwell: “In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics’. All issues are political issues . . .”

The complex layers of Papa’s personal history revealed themselves to me over time, like the hidden meanings in a poem familiar but not yet understood. When I was about nine years old, Papa took the family on holiday to Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan to visit the various small towns where he had once been posted as a teacher in the 1960s – Kuala Lipis, Temerloh, Kota Bharu and Tanah Merah.

We travelled by train, his preferred mode of transport, and accompanied Papa as he traced the journey he had taken as a young teacher 20 years earlier. He deeply loved his country – its landscape, its people and their customs; and the East Coast remained specially cherished in his memory. We went to the seaside in Marang, then to the rather godforsaken town of Tanah Merah, adopted two kittens at the train station in Manik Urai, named them Manik and Urai and left them with his old friend Gopal in Kuala Lipis.

Only later did I discover that Papa had been posted to teach in these remote areas because of his active involvement in the National Union of Teachers (NUT). He had served as the NUT’s Director of the National Membership Campaign and Assistant Secretary of the Pahang branch and was the editor of ‘The Educator’, the official organ of the NUT. The authorities were particularly irked by his role as one of the co-organisers of the teachers’ strike of 1967, which helped bring about equal pay for women, as well as housing, pension and medical benefits for all teachers.

Similarly, I learnt about Papa’s political career gradually in the course of growing up, as one discovers another piece of a vast, living jigsaw puzzle – about his years with the Democratic Action Party (DAP) and how he served as Acting Secretary-General while Lim Kit Siang was detained under the Internal Security Act; about his terms as Member of Parliament for Kampar and Menglembu; about his sedition case for publishing a speech by Dr. Ooi Kee Saik in ‘The Rocket’; and about how he was disqualified from Parliament and deprived of his Member of Parliament’s pension.

While Papa was campaigning with the short-lived Social Democratic Party in 1986, I remember accompanying him to see his old printer who was preparing his campaign posters and leaflets. I remember too Papa’s disappointment when the SDP failed to win any seats, and how he then withdrew from formal politics and threw himself into writing and activism. Papa’s fighting spirit was irrepressible; even in his hours of political defeat and isolation, he remained convinced that political change was both necessary and possible.

Papa did not deliberately set out to ‘radicalise’ his daughters, but politics was such an elemental part of his being that we inadvertently imbibed his sense that Malaysia’s political landscape left much to be desired. One of the ways my sister and I spent time with Papa was to accompany him on his ‘wanderings’ to second-hand bookshops and coffee shops in Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya, where he would run into friends and ‘comrades’ and engage them in vibrant exchanges of opinion about the latest political scandal or social injustice.

Papa was truly a man of the people; he could establish instant rapport with virtually everyone, from his loyal newspaper man, Balan, to Pak Ali, a devoted member of Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) who owned a restaurant in Taman Tun Dr. Ismail for many years. When my sister and I returned to Malaysia during our university holidays, Papa brought us along to several PAS and DAP ceramah as well as to various talks he was giving at Cenpeace or ABIM, where we witnessed the fiery oratory style that never left him. He also brought us to the Malaysian Sociological Research Institute to meet the intriguing chain-smoking activist and writer, Dr. Alijah Gordon, who was extremely fond of him.

Papa forged friendships that lasted for life. His relentless pursuit of social and political justice for ordinary people, as well as his vivacious personality and well-read intellect, endeared him to many the world over. Among his friends he counted Helen Clark, the former Prime Minister of New Zealand, and Malcolm Caldwell, the British Marxist scholar who was killed by the Khmer Rouge in 1978.

Papa believed in people and principles, not in systems and ideologies. I think this is why he was so fascinated by history, the narrative of humanity itself. Papa’s knowledge of history never failed to astound us. He could talk for hours on the history and politics of India (particularly the dramatic local politics of Tamil Nadu), or Willy’s Brandt’s Oostpolitik, or the fall of the Roman Empire.

And Papa believed in love. His romance with my mother was epic in every sense; turbulent at

At Cambridge

times, but adoring to the end. Shortly after my parents got married, my mother left for Cambridge to pursue her Doctorate. Undeterred by his aversion to air travel, Papa voyaged over land and sea, from Port Klang to Madras, across India by train, then by bus through Pakistan, over the Khyber Pass in Afghanistan, through Iran and Turkey and on to Europe, to join my mother in England in the winter of 1975-76.

Papa’s personal legacy to me is a passion he cultivated in me since childhood, a passion that shaped my life profoundly through young adulthood and continues to this day to mould who I am and how I relate to the world: an undying love of literature.

Papa constantly invoked the spirit of the writers he loved most – George Orwell, James Joyce, and Albert Camus among others. He imbibed and lived, in his own flesh and blood, the writer’s life: he wrote only by hand or on his beloved typewriter, he smoked a pipe in the style of Bertrand Russell, he read voraciously, and his room was a labyrinth of books, newspapers, and magazines.

Papa was urged by an intellectual restlessness that is the mark of all true writers. He believed in the power of the written word to encapsulate the interminable drama of the human spirit, of the individual and society. Like the Russian writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Papa believed that “literature is the living memory of a people.” In fact, one of the last books Papa read from cover to cover was Michael Scammell’s acclaimed biography of Solzhenitsyn which Papa had picked up at a second-hand bookstore in Bangkok. Incidentally, Scammell had interviewed Papa about his sedition case in the 1970s for a write up for the ‘Index on Censorship’, the prominent British journal on political freedom which Scammell founded and edited.

Language and politics were inextricably linked for Papa. His commitment to the written word reflected his conviction that writers had a duty to uphold the integrity of language, to employ it as a weapon of truth against a political rhetoric riddled with lies.

As Orwell remarked: “Political chaos is connected with the decay of language . . . one can probably bring about some improvement by starting at the verbal end”. It is this belief in the ability of language and literature to speak truth to power that urged Papa to read and write to the very end.

I imagine Papa now taking his place among his literary heroes; I imagine him engaging in endless conversations (and arguments) with them, in a place beyond space and time, beyond history, beyond language – a place, in the words of the poet Yehuda Amichai, “where there is time for everything”.

Note: Fan Yew Teng, passed away peacefully on Tuesday, 7 December 2010, at 1:40pm at Bumrungrad International Hospital, Bangkok, Thailand.

Fan is survived by his wife, Dr. Noeleen Heyzer, twin daughters, Lilianne Fan and Pauline Fan, and siblings: brothers, Fan Ken Tang, Farn Seong Than and Fan Chee Tang, sisters, Fan Wai Fong, Farn Fee Leng and Farn Fee Chan.

Fan was Acting DAP Secretary-General from 1969-1970, and had held various important positions in the party, including National Organising Secretary and Editor of the party organ, the Rocket.

Fan was MP for Kampar in 1969, MP for Menglembu and State Assemblyman for Petaling Jaya in 1974. A memorial will be held in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday 5 January 2011 at 8.00pm at the YMCA Hall, Kuala Lumpur.

Tun Lim Chong Eu:The Last of Malaysia’s “Founding Fathers”

November 26, 2010

Tun Lim Chong Eu: The Last of Malaysia’s “Founding Fathers

By Neil Khor@http://www.malaysiakini.com

By now, there is nothing really substantial to add to the many pieces recalling the contributions Lim Chong Eu made when he was Penang Chief Minister. Lim, as readers know, was not only the founder of Parti Gerakan but also the Radical Party, the United Democratic Party and the ruling political coalition, the United Front (better known as Barisan Nasional). He is the last of Malaysia’s “founding fathers”, men who were involved in the writing of the federal constitution and who later contributed substantially to the making of modern Malaysia.

Passion for Knowledge

It was a great privilege to meet and have long conversations with Lim. He was like a philosopher, someone truly passionate about the pursuit of knowledge. He did not suffer fools, and conversations with him, if he liked you, can last several hours. Educated at Edinburgh University, some of the better aspects of the Scottish tradition of aggressive enquiry may have given the impression that Lim was an intellectual bully but nothing could be further from the truth. Most of the time, Lim wanted to know why and how one arrived at a particular conclusion about the subject matter. He would then set you straight and did it without much concern for your ego.

A Model Political Retiree

Unlike most other retired leaders, Lim kept true to his word and retired absolutely from politics. He never said a bad word about his successors. Instead, he constantly alluded to the difficulties and great challenges in managing Penang. It was not difficult for him to leave the political stage because he was more than a politician. This is a rare commodity today where some politicians know of nothing else having little life experience other than in the political arena. Lim was medical doctor, scholar, race-horse owner, and occasionally, enjoyed karaoke.

Lim was very clear at the public lectures he gave that it was not an individual or a “visionary” that gave birth to the industrialisation of Penang. It was a team of people and the circumstances Penang was in that left him with little choice except to travel the world to get foreign direct investments that eventually gave rise to one of the world’s largest electrical and electronic manufacturing hubs outside the United States.

There is no denying that Lim pursued those policies with steely determination but not because he thought he was infallible but because once a strategy to re-model Penang had been agreed upon, the only way the patient could survive would be to allow the treatment to take its course. But he was not a man who banned criticism of his policies. He welcomed criticisms from all parties and this led to a vibrant civil society that characterise Penang society today. A learned man, Lim rose to all types of intellectual challenges when the facts changed, he changed his mind.

There is little doubt that Lim’s dogged pursuit of building a bridge from the island to the mainland has contributed to stronger ties between Penang and Malaysia; it has also contributed to the industrialisation of Seberang Prai and Kulim. Yet, industrialisation gave rise to its own set of challenges and Lim’s last years in office were spent meeting them.

Powerless against BN policies

Those who voted him out in 1990 did not think he was doing a good enough job and he accepted the verdict without much drama. Today, some blame Lim’s policies for our polluted rivers and congested roads. Few recall that in the 1980s, before Lim retired and before Proton, Penang had a relatively good public transport system.

One could ride a bicycle from St Xavier’s Institution back to Tanjung Bungah quite safely. Penang’s roads are congested because there are simply too many cars (with two motorised vehicles to one human being in Penang) and no amount of infrastructure projects can help; there is simply not enough island to go around.

Similarly, there was also little control Lim or Gerakan could exert over the educational policies of the BN. Education was seen as a tool to close the gap between the different ethnic groups but its democratisation led to a downward spiral in terms of standards and quality.

Bayan Lepas, Penang (From the Air)

Perhaps recognising how little the human being can control destiny, Lim kept whatever critical thoughts he may have regarding Penang and Malaysia out of the public arena. But many families look back and recall the dark days of the 1960s, they think fondly about him because he gave Penang leadership and direction. Many middle-class families can say that they benefited from industrialisation and those who did not, look back less nostalgically.

A Promoter of Non-Sectarian Politics

Ultimately, Lim’s real contribution to Malaysia is his determination to promote a non-sectarian approach to politics. He started out on a non-racial platform, joined the MCA to reform it along nationalist lines and left when he could not gain any ground.

He then formed another non-racial party before Gerakan. Whilst many think he made a mistake when he decided to work with Tun Razak in the formation of the Barisan Nasional, his vision was a BN that would eventually become a non-racial platform, an opportunity to build the nation along non-racial lines. Perhaps, one real honour the BN can accord Lim is to adopt his slogan and incorporate it into the new BN logo: “Satu Hati, 1Malaysia”.

Let us all remember Lim not only as a political giant or a towering Malaysian. He was first and foremost, a fallible human being but a man with principles and worked tirelessly for his beloved Penang. In his long retirement, he had the opportunity to leave the political stage and resume normal life. Apart from the occasional public lecture, Lim lived a private life. We would all like to believe that he was a happy man and we are sure that he wished the best for Malaysia.

The writer conveys his sincere condolences to the family of Lim Chong Eu.