The passing of a good friend and fellow Malaysian, Bernard “Zorro” Khoo


April 4, 2014

The passing of a good friend and fellow Malaysian, Bernard “Zorro” Khoo

I was deeply saddened to learn from  another good friend and great Malaysian sportsman and former All England Badminton Champion, Dato’ Yew Cheng Hoe, of the passing of my dear friend and fellow blogger, Bernard Khoo this afternoon of cancer.

Bernard and I became close friends when we, Haris Ibrahim, and Raja Petra Kamaruddin were active civil society activists in the 2007-2008 period with our friends in Pakatan Rakyat; we participated in the first BERSIH protest in early November, 2007, travelled throughout the country except Sabah and Sarawak during the 2008 Election campaign and kept in touch on regular basis, exchanging views and ideas which I often used for my blog.

A very special man, that great English teacher from La Salle, Sentul, Kuala Lumpur is today no longer with us; but to those who were privileged to know him Bernie will remain in our hearts. According to one of his former pupils, Nelson Fernandez who owns and runs his own advertising and PR agency, Bernie was an excellent English and History teacher and an outstanding football coach who bonded well with his wards.

Bernie-Zorro

I was among the first to know from him personally of his health problem. He endured his suffering with dignity, and was always optimistic about the future of our country and ever willing to help the underdog. He never ceased to remind me that we must never give up.

“Do it for our grandchildren, Din”, he said. Well, Bernie, we will soldier on, although you have returned to the Lord, because like you, we cannot allow our wonderful and great country go to waste because of incompetence, corruption and abuse of power.

image

My wife, Dr. Kamsiah and wish to express our sincere condolences to his wife and bereaved family. We intend to attend his funeral services on Monday, April 7, 2014 at the St Ignatius Church, Taman Plaza, Petaling Jaya, Selangor.–Din Merican

Irene In Memorium


April 2, 2014

Irene Fernandez: Champion of the Helpless and the Explioted

by Steve Oh (April 1, 2014)@http://www.malaysiakini.com

OBITUARY: A beacon of hope is extinguished and Malaysia is a darker place for its irreplaceable loss. News of the passing of Tenanganita Co-founder and Director Irene Fernandez was not what I had expected to read in Malaysiakini yesterday.

Irene F

I am saddened by the death of a remarkable and irreplaceable woman, a towering and selfless Malaysian who devoted her life to helping the helpless, comforting the exploited and soothing the wounds of the tortured in a once bright place that is blackened by corruption and that has lost its way.

Often she faced insurmountable odds against the might of the powers-that-be and its institutions of persecution. The political tyrants made life unfairly difficult for this intrepid, irrepressible and humble Malaysian ‘Joan of Arc’ of maltreated migrants and repressed refugees in her country.

It is incredible how such an amazing woman who spoke out for the voiceless and right-less can be charged in court for doing good for others, and it is an indictment of ourselves that we allowed the good to be called evil and the evil good and Irene to be bullied by those who abuse their powers and disgrace their humanity and country.

It is hard to speak of Irene without recalling the hostile environment where the authorities are unwilling to be scrutinised and held accountable for their deeds. She overcame the untold hardships she suffered at the hands of the overbearing authorities that had harassed her.

I first learned of this amazing woman some years ago when news of her court case emerged in the local newspapers and Malaysiakini. This unassuming and soft-spoken woman had been unfairly persecuted and prosecuted for her role in highlighting the plight of migrant workers.

It was the irony of her plight and her unwavering commitment to her cause and forbearance under unfair persecution that earned her a place in my heart. She was my hero not found among men in her ‘jihad’ for the unjustly treated. When proud men pursued gain and glory,  this woman of women chose to side with the poor and oppressed.

Twisted persecution

Malaysiakini co-founder Steven Gan, then a reporter for The Sun, and his colleagues had in 1995 written an incriminating report of the government on 59 primarily Bangladeshi inmates who had died of preventable and treatable diseases such as typhoid and beri beri at the Semenyih immigration detention camp.

The Sun had refused to publish the damning report so Gan turned to Irene who published information from it under the title, ‘Abuse, Torture and Dehumanised Conditions of Migrant Workers in Detention Centres’ and for that she was hounded for the rest of her life by the government.

She was arrested and charged in 1996 with “maliciously publishing false news” and found guilty in 2003 after a seven-year trial. But her trials, courtesy of the government, continued outside the court. They are well-documented in local newspapers and even some outside.

In this sort of twisted persecution when politicians abuse their powers in government to prosecute the innocent who help others against the politically connected, Irene is no different from Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng when he was jailed for not dissimilar reasons.

As with Opposition leaders Anwar Ibrahim and Karpal Singh, what Irene’s political enemies could not achieve in the popularity stakes, they did by using the court to hamper her attempt to attain political office by turning her into a criminal, thus disqualifying her from running for Parliament.

While the wielders of power in darkness tried to tarnish her name, the enlightened world saw differently, and she was chosen in 2004 to receive a Right Livelihood Award, also referred to as the ‘Alternative Nobel Prize.’

A woman not filled with bitterness

I have met Irene twice, and regrettably, not more. The first was when my wife and I saw her in her office in Petaling Jaya when we visited Kuala Lumpur. My wife, a medical doctor, had always been interested in the plight of sex slaves and wanted to find out more from her about the subject.

Some months later, Irene and her husband and son were sitting in front of me as we shared dinner in a Chinese restaurant in Perth. I had asked her to give me a call when she visited her son in Perth and she did. Then I noticed that Irene had looked frail and had trouble walking and used a walking stick as aid.

During our dinner, my wife and I learned more about her work. I got a greater insight into her work and role and I remember a woman not filled with bitterness or one would expect to be full of acrid remarks for her cruel persecutors and political enemies after all the injustices she had been put through.

Instead she merely stated what was true regarding the plight of the migrants, what they were up against, and even in such normal discourses, it is difficult not to note the injustice of all she had undergone. But Irene had shown no ill-will toward her cruel persecutors and our conversation was about those who she helped.

She overcame what her persecutors had dished out to her and with her passing, the plight of the refugees becomes more urgent with the need for more people to stand behind the work of Tenanganita she began.

I had learned much from our brief time together and if I have regrets in life, surely one must be in failing to follow up with Irene because we were overtaken by other pressing things and soon lost touch with her.

As I write, I recall the strength of this remarkable woman in whose stoic countenance were etched the sufferings of a saintly woman, sufferings not the fruit of personal making but from helping the helpless in their pitiful plight. The troubles and sorrow of the suffering became as much hers. I was with greatness and regret not having realised it.

A life of many trials

Malaysia came to its senses when on November 24, 2008, justice Mohd Apandi Ali overturned Irene’s conviction of ‘maliciously publishing false news’.

For 13 years since her arrest and charging in 1996, Irene had lived a life of many trials, her passport was held by the court, she could not stand for parliament in 2004, and was the subject of many police visits to her office and questioning.

Yet I had observed she had not been shy in making timely and relevant comments when needed on the plight of migrant workers and refugees. In a place where many are cowed and timid, Irene roared like a lioness without fear and favour, and political correctness was not in her vocabulary.

In her quiet dignified manner, she seemed a tower of insurmountable strength on an unshakeable urgent mission. In fact, I see in her a regal quality that only great  people like Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa display. Such people of conviction are rare these days.

Malaysia has many women of noble character who make their country a better place. They are the salt of the nation. Irene stood tall among them, if not above most, and has left a legacy that will be a challenge to match, if at all possible.

With other Malaysians and those who have been beneficiaries of her compassion and commitment, I share the grief of the passing of a great Malaysian and I know would have been a great friend had we had not let that opportunity slip.

My wife and I pass on our condolences to Irene’s family. Good night, Irene, good night – see you in the morning.

The Passing of Nelson Mandela


December 6,2013

The Passing of Nelson Mandela

I sent the following message to the Nelson Mandela Foundation this morning upon hearing on the wires of the passing of this great South African:

I am sad to learn this morning of the passing of this great man, Father Madiba. Like Gandhi, his precursor in South Africa, he will live forever in the memories of men who love freedom, justice and non-discrimination.  To Machel (Graça Machel), his family and descendents, my wife, Dr Kamsiah and I wish to express our sincere condolences.-Din Merican, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Nelson Mandela: Obituary

Nelson Mandela, who has died aged 95, was the architect of South Africa’s transformation from racial despotism to liberal democracy, saving his country from civil war and becoming its first black President

Nelson Mandela 'loves US beauty pageant reality TV show'

 
 11:02PM GMT 05 December 2013

Read the story of Mandela’s tempestuous life, filled with hardship and struggle and crowned by a singular triumph, in the Telegraph’s seven-part obituary.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/nelson-mandela/10115323/Nelson-Mandela-obituary.html

David Frost dies aged 74


September 2, 2013

David Frost dies aged 74

Journalist and broadcaster famed for interviewing US president Richard Nixon in the 1970s dies after suffering heart attack

by Peter Walker

The Guardian, Sunday 1 September 2013 11.42 BST

Sir David Frost, the journalist and broadcaster whose lengthy career stretched from cutting-edge 60s satire to heavyweight interviews and celebrity gameshows, has died of a heart attack on a cruise ship, his family said.

The 74-year-old, whose programmes included That Was The Week That Was and The Frost Report, was to have given a lecture on board the Queen Elizabeth, which had just set sail on a Mediterranean cruise.

Frost boarded the ship at Southampton on Saturday afternoon, and had been due to speak to passengers en route to Lisbon.

Frost, who was knighted in 1993, helped establish London Weekend Television and TV-am. He was famed for his political interviews, most notably with Richard Nixon in 1977, in which the US president conceded some fault over Watergate for the first time.

A family statement said: “Sir David Frost died of a heart attack last night aboard the Queen Elizabeth where he was giving a speech.

“His family are devastated and ask for privacy at this difficult time. A family funeral will be held in the near future and details of a memorial service will be announced in due course.”

David Frost and Richard Nixon in 1977 David Frost and Richard Nixon in April 1977. Photograph: John Bryson/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Image

David Cameron, who sent a tweet of condolence, released a statement expressing his sympathies to Frost’s widow, Carina, and his wider family.

He said: “Sir David was an extraordinary man – with charm, wit, talent, intelligence and warmth in equal measure. He made a huge impact on television and politics. The Nixon interviews were among the great broadcast moments, but there were many other brilliant interviews. He could be, and certainly was with me, both a friend and a fearsome interviewer.”

Michael Grade, who knew and worked with Frost for more than 30 years, called him “a huge figure in the history of British broadcasting”.

Grade told the Guardian: “He was the first real superstar of the screen who was purely and simply a product of television. Secondly, he had an amazing business skill. He was a performer, a journalist, an impresario and an entrepreneur. That’s given to very, very few people.”

Grade added: “He was kind of a television renaissance man. He could put his hand to anything. He could turn over Richard Nixon or he could win the comedy prize at the Montreux Golden Rose festival. It was just extraordinary.”

Peter Jay, who founded TV-am alongside Frost, told BBC News: “On the screen he was a very talented and original performer, but it was his talent off-screen, his quality as a human being, his capacity for friendship and loyalty, that were in my opinion the thing that raised him to quite an exceptional level.”

Sir David Frost David Frost in 1964. Photograph: George Konig/Rex Features

Greg Dyke, the former BBC director general who worked with Frost, rescuing the initially struggling TV-am, described him as “a great, great friend”. He said: “He understood the whole breadth of television, so he wasn’t just a news and current affairs man, he could also be an entertainment man, so he knew it all.”

Loyd Grossman, who worked with Frost on TV-am and then on the long-running ITV gameshow Through the Keyhole, called him irreplaceable.

Grossman told Sky News: “He was almost the most variously talented journalist in British broadcasting history. His loss will be immense to all of us. He was also an incredibly generous broadcaster to work with.”

Other tributes stressed the same point, that Frost’s sometimes mocked and seemingly cosy interviewing style was in fact one of his strongest attributes.

Tony Blair said: “He had an extraordinary ability to draw out the interviewee, knew exactly where the real story lay and how to get at it, and was also a thoroughly kind and good-natured man. Being interviewed by him was always a pleasure, but also you knew that there would be multiple stories the next day arising from it.”

Sir Michael Parkinson, a friend for 40 years, said Frost was “an extraordinary guy”. He said: “When you think of all the stuff he was responsible for, never mind the Nixon interview and the two television companies he helped set up too, it’s remarkable.

“But it’s not right to say he was a ‘soft’ interviewer. He had a totally persuasive interview style which led to the unmasking of a scoundrel.”

In a Guardian interview in 2008, Frost discussed his style. “I think there’s a danger when you adopt an immediately hostile position without having the goods, without having the smoking gun. I think that’s a real mistake,” he said. “You shut people up instead of opening them up. You can ask just as tough a question in a softly spoken way.”

Sir David Frost Sir David Frost in 1966 on The Frost Programme. Photograph: ITV/Rex Features

Blair was among an unbroken line of British Prime Ministers from Harold Wilson to David Cameron interviewed by Frost. Frost interviewed every US President from Richard M Nixon to George W Bush.

The Kent-born son of a Methodist minister, Frost turned down a possible football contract with Nottingham Forest to attend Cambridge University, where he was active in student journalism and secretary of the Footlights theatrical revue. From there he became a trainee at independent television before finding fame as the host of That Was The Week That Was, the pioneering TV political satire show.

The programme ran on the BBC during 1962 and 1963, before being cancelled over worries it could unduly influence an upcoming general election. Frost then hosted a US version.

From then on, Frost was a regular TV figure on both sides of the Atlantic, with shows including The Frost Report and Not So Much a Programme, More a Way of Life. Frost’s distinctive delivery of his catchphrase, “Hello, good evening and welcome,” became instantly recognisable and much mocked.

In later years, Frost hosted the Frost on Sunday talkshow on ITV, before returning to the BBC in 1993 for the first time since the early 1960s for Breakfast with Frost, which ran until 2005.

For many years he also hosted Through the Keyhole, which by coincidence returned to ITV on Saturday night in a revamped format. After Breakfast with Frost ended, the broadcaster made a surprise move to al-Jazeera, where he interviewed political figures.

http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/sep/01/david-frost-dies-74-heart-attack

An Alternative View of Thatcherism


April 12, 2013

All is not Rosie about Maggie: An Alternative View of Thatcherism

Medhi Hasan
Political Director of The Huffington Post UK

The fighting ladyThe reactions and tributes to Margaret Thatcher’s death have, perhaps above all else, illustrated the way in which modern conservatives have emptied the words ‘freedom’ and ‘liberty’ of all meaning and import.

“The world has lost a true champion of freedom and democracy,” declaimed Nancy Reagan.

“She believed in the power of liberty, individual freedom and the rule of law,” argued former Tory Minister Virginia Bottomley.

“The freedom of the individual stood at the core of her beliefs,” claimed Germany’s very own Iron Lady, Angela Merkel, while Poland’s foreign minister, Radoslaw Sikorski, called Thatcher a “fearless champion of liberty”.

The Economist magazine hailed the late Tory leader’s “willingness to stand up to tyranny” and “bet on freedom”.

And it wasn’t just card-carrying conservatives who lined up to laud ThatcherObama as an unflinching defender and promoter of democracy; self-professed liberals joined in with the encomiums too. Echoing Nancy Reagan, US President Barack Obama, for instance, described Britain’s Iron Lady as “one of the great champions of freedom and liberty”.

I suspect, however, that the citizens of countries such as Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Iraq, South Africa and Chile might disagree. The inconvenient truth for Thatcher fans is that the freedom-loving, democracy-defending British premier was a close friend and admirer of the thugs, thieves, despots and racists who ruled over those nations in the 1980s.

“In Pakistan, Margaret Thatcher was best known for supporting General Zia ul Haq’s military dictatorship,” tweeted Time magazine’s Pakistan correspondent Omar Waraich yesterday, referring to the Iron Lady’s anticommunist alliance with the country’s vicious, Islamist dictator. In a speech at a banquet hosted by Zia in 1981, Thatcher praised the general’s “courage and skill” and toasted “the health and happiness of His Excellency”. She made no reference to the need for democracy or elections in the self-styled ‘Islamic Republic”.

Consider also the case of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Remember the infamous Al Yamamah arms deal with the corrupt and totalitarian Saudis, signed by the Thatcher government in the mid-eighties and described by the Campaign Against The Arms Trade (CAAT) as “the largest ever UK arms contract with a foreign customer” and by the Financial Times as “the biggest [UK] sale ever of anything to anyone”? Well, she was just batting for British business, right? Wrong.

Thatcher shamelessly praised the Saudi regime, an absolute monarchy and exporter of Islamist terror, as “a strong force for moderation and stability” at a Chatham House conference in 1993, three years after leaving office. “I am a great admirer of Saudi Arabia,” she proclaimed, adding: “I have no intention of meddling in that country’s internal affairs.” How the repressed women of Saudi Arabia, denied not just the right to vote but the right to drive, must have cheered this supposed feminist icon back in 1993.

How about General Suharto of Indonesia, whose 32-year dictatorship was rightly described by the New York Times as “one of the most brutal and corrupt of the 20th century”? Suharto’s military coup in 1965 was followed by the torture and killing of around 500,000 suspected Communists in Indonesia; his invasion and occupation of East Timor in 1975 resulted in the deaths of around 250,000 men, women and children on the island – yet the liberty-loving Thatcher later celebrated this blood-soaked Indonesian tyrant as “one of our very best and most valuable friends”.

How about the bloodiest dictator of them all, Saddam Hussein? According to investigative reporters David Leigh and Rob Evans, it was on Thatcher’s watch that “£1bn of Whitehall money was thrown away in propping up Saddam Hussein’s regime and doing favours for arms firms”.

In fact, we now know that the Thatcher government began selling arms – sorry, “non-lethal equipment” that just happened to include spare parts for tanks and fighter jets – to Iraq as early as 1981. A letter from junior minister Thomas Trenchard to the PM in that same year explained how a meeting with Saddam would represent “a significant step forward in establishing a working relationship with Iraq which … should produce both political and major commercial benefits”. Thatcher’s response? “Very pleased” she scribbled by hand at the top of Trenchard’s letter.

Seven years later, after the Baathist dictator deployed chemical weapons in his now-notorious attack on the Kurdish town of Halabja, Thatcher did not merely turn a blind eye to the atrocity; she and her ministers actively played down reports that the Iraqi regime had used poison gas against its own people. “Within a month of the Halabja attack,” wrote US investigative journalist Barry Lando in his book on Iraq, ‘Web of Deceit‘, “Thatcher’s trade secretary, Tony Newton, was in Baghdad to offer Saddam 340 million pounds of British export credits.”

This, I guess, is how liberty is championed and freedom is secured. Then there’s apartheid South Africa, where millions of black people were denied the most basic of liberties – and yet this British champion of liberty had little to offer them by way of support. “Thatcher resisted global efforts to isolate apartheid-era South Africa, including by vetoing sanctions,” wrote the Washington Post’s foreign affairs blogger Max Fisher yesterday. “Though she opposed apartheid as a policy, she still supported the government that implemented it…”

In fact, in 1984, Thatcher defied tens of thousands of anti-apartheid demonstrators and invited P.W. Botha to Chequers: the first South African premier to visit the UK since his country’s departure from the Commonwealth in 1961.

Oh, and who can forget her despicable description of Nelson Mandela’s ANC as a “typical terrorist organisation”? Is it any wonder then that Dali Tambo, son of the former ANC President Oliver Tambo, told the Guardian that “it’s quite likely that when Margaret Thatcher reaches the pearly gates, the ANC will boycott the occasion”. It’s a shame, he noted, “that we could never call her one of the champions of the liberation struggle”.

Apologists for the Iron Lady tend to excuse such shameful and anti-democratic behaviour by their heroine by invoking realpolitik and citing the backdrop of the Cold War and the struggle against Soviet communism.

Maggie and Augusto of ChileSuch arguments are both disingenuous and unconvincing. They don’t, for a start, explain Thatcher’s close, personal friendship with Augusto Pinochet, which continued long after the Cold War had ended and long after both leaders had left office? The Chilean general presided over a 17-year reign of terror in which a minimum of 3,000 people were killed or ‘disappeared’, tens of thousands were imprisoned and tortured and hundreds of thousands were forced into exile.

Yet in 1999, when Pinochet was arrested and detained in London on a Spanish warrant, Thatcher – who, in the words of Virginia Bottomley, believed in “the power of liberty” and “the rule of law” – visited Pinochet at the former dictator’s rented Surrey mansion to thank him for “bringing democracy to Chile” and to denounce his arrest as “unjust and callous”. There was no mention of the ‘desaparecidos‘ (disappeared) from our former prime minister on that particular occasion.

“She recognised… the benefits of the military government,” declared retired Chilean general and Pinochet underling Guillermo Garin yesterday, adding: “President Pinochet always had tremendous admiration for her, they had a very close relationship highlighted by the visit she made to his place of detention in London.”

Forget the row over who gets credit for the fall of the Soviet Union – Mikhail Gorbachev or Reagan and Thatcher. If (wo)man is judged by the company (s)he keeps, then Thatcher – self-professed friend to generals Pinochet, Suharto and Zia, ally of Saddam Hussein, admirer of the Saudi royals, soft on apartheid – must be judged a champion of despotism and dictatorship, not of freedom or liberty. The historical record is so clear and indisputable that to believe otherwise is wilful blindness.

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/mehdi-hasan/was-thatcher-a-chamoion-o_b_3042342.html

Margaret Thatcher dies of stroke aged 87


April 8, 2013

Margaret Thatcher dies of stroke aged 87

By , and Steven Swinford

12:57PM BST 08 Apr 2013

Mrs Thatcher

Baroness Thatcher, Britain’s greatest post-war Prime Minister, has died at the age of 87 after suffering a stroke, her family has announced.

Her son, Sir Mark, and daughter Carol confirmed that she died this morning. Lord Bell, her spokesman, said: “It is with great sadness that Mark and Carol Thatcher announced that their mother Baroness Thatcher died peacefully following a stroke this morning.A further statement will be made later.”

Known as the Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher governed Britain from 1979 to 1990.She will go down in history not only as Britain’s first female Prime Minister, but as the woman who transformed Britain’s economy in addition to being a formidable rival on the international stage.

Lady Thatcher was the only British Prime Minister to leave behind a set of ideas about the role of the state which other leaders and nations strove to copy and apply.

Many features of the modern globalised economy – monetarism, privatisation, deregulation, small government, lower taxes and free trade – were all promoted as a result of policies she employed to reverse Britain’s economic decline.

Above all, in America and in Eastern Europe she was regarded, alongside her friend Ronald Reagan, as one of the two great architects of the West’s victory in the Cold War.

The fighting ladyOf modern British Prime Ministers, only Lady Thatcher’s girlhood hero, Winston Churchill, acquired a higher international reputation.

Lady Thatcher had become increasingly frail in recent years following a series of small strokes in 2001 and 2002. Her daughter Carol also revealed in 2008 that she had been diagnosed with dementia, which had increasingly affected her memory for the last decade.Ill-health had prevented her attending an 85th birthday party in Downing Street arranged by David Cameron in October 2010.

It also prevented her attending the Royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton on April 29, 2011 at Westminster Abbey.

Lady Thatcher published two volumes of memoirs. The first, The Downing Street Years (1993), covered her time as Prime Minister, while the second volume, The Path to Power (1995), concerned her early life. She also published a magisterial volume on international affairs, Statecraft (2002).

She is survived by her two children. Her husband Sir Denis died in 2003.

Thatcher on Socialism

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/margaret-thatcher/9978831/Margaret-Thatcher-dies-of-stroke-aged-87.html

Editorial

Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister

By
Published: April 8, 2013

Margaret Thatcher, who died of a stroke on Monday at age 87, transformed Britain more thoroughly than any other prime minister of the past half-century. She was a pathbreaker from the moment she took office in 1979 as Britain’s first, and so far only, female prime minister. And she was the rare conservative leader to come not from the upper echelons of Britain’s class-obsessed society, but from a modest apartment above her father’s grocery.

But much more than that distinguished the 11 years of Mrs. Thatcher’s government, which followed years of tepid leadership, economic stagnation and high inflation. She tamed the power of Britain’s once powerful labor movement by shutting down inefficient coal mines and privatizing state-owned industries. She encouraged an entrepreneurial culture that had grown timid and somnolent. With her powerful, plain-spoken approach to issues large (like Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait) and relatively small (the brief war over the Falkland Islands), she reawakened Britain’s taste for military engagement.

In the process, she revived policy debates among political parties that had grown too comfortable with safe consensus mumbling. As she pushed the conservatives to the right, she pushed the Labour Party to the center. Without Mrs. Thatcher, there probably would have been no Tony Blair.

She had many critics, and her record was not all triumphal. Eventually, Mrs. Thatcher’s relentless negativism on the European Union and her bullying style of leadership pushed her own party to drive her from office in 1990. Over the intervening years, much of the glow has faded from Mrs. Thatcher’s economic achievements.

The capitalist revival she sparked did not slow the over-financialization and deindustrialization of the economy, with clear and negative consequences in the 2008 financial crash. Her weakening of the unions also led to a regressively skewed distribution of wealth and, her critics said, a widening gap between rich and poor.

Arguably, Mrs. Thatcher’s popular military successes made it easier for Mr. Blair to carelessly and recklessly follow George W. Bush into Iraq. But Mrs. Thatcher knew how to stand up to Ronald Reagan when she needed to — for example, over the ill-considered United States invasion of Grenada.

She was one of the first Western leaders to recognize the reformist intentions of Mikhail Gorbachev, showed remarkable foresight on the dangers of climate change, and in general managed Britain’s global role more deftly than her successors.

Mrs. Thatcher was, without a doubt, a divisive political figure in her day. The passage of time has drained much of the old anger and left behind her record of accomplishments.

A version of this editorial appeared in print on April 9, 2013, on page A22 of the New York edition with the headline: Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/09/opinion/margaret-thatcher-prime-minister.html?ref=global-home&_r=0

Op-Ed Contributor

Thatcher’s Divided Isle

By A. C. GRAYLING
Published: April 8, 2013

IT is hard to think of a more divisive figure in British politics than Margaret Thatcher — at least since the days of the predecessor whom she most admired, the early 19th-century prime minister Lord Liverpool.

The high point of Liverpool’s term (1812 to 1827) was the victory over Napoleon at Waterloo; its low point was quickly dubbed Peterloo, the occasion on which British soldiers used their sabers and muskets to disperse workers rallying for better wages, labor conditions and suffrage at St. Peter’s Fields in Manchester in 1819.

Mrs. Thatcher’s 11-year tenure had much in common with Liverpool’s, both in its length and its attitudes toward organized labor.

Her admirers laud her for breaking Britain’s once-powerful trade unions, and liberalizing the City of London’s financial services industry; these acts, they say, halted the country’s economic decline. Her detractors blame her for destroying much of the country’s manufacturing base by refusing to aid struggling industries, and effectively annihilating the mining sector by emasculating the National Union of Miners. Her premiership will always be remembered for the bloody battles between workers and the police, and the high unemployment and sudden appearance of industrial wastelands that followed.

If Argentina hadn’t invaded the Falkland Islands in April 1982, she might not have even won the 1983 election. National pride raised her approval ratings, and the implosion of the opposition Labour Party sustained her party at the polls for nearly another decade.

Mrs. Thatcher’s own downfall was the so-called Poll Tax, a highly unpopular flat-rate levy on every adult, officially known as the Community Charge. The law was passed in 1988 and caused violence in many cities, including the London riot of March 31, 1990, before it was scheduled to take effect. The tax eventually helped precipitate her resignation from the premiership.

Mrs. Thatcher left behind a changed and divided Britain. She dismantled local government structures, leaving London without a unitary authority to manage its affairs, which meant that urban decay and the effects of unemployment were not adequately countered.

Her attitude on how people should live could be described as either Samuel Smiles (“Self-Help”) or Gordon Gekko (“greed… is good”). Despite being a woman who had shattered the political glass ceiling by becoming leader of her party and then prime minister, she did little to advance the cause of women generally, and would not publicly support the feminist movement. She was also unfriendly toward homosexuals, suggesting in her 1987 speech at the Conservative Party Conference that no one had a “right” to be gay.

By the time the Tories were defeated by Tony Blair’s re-branded centrist “new” Labour Party in 1997, she had become a highly toxic liability for Conservatives. The strain of politics she imposed on her own party effectively disabled it for a generation. The Tories now govern again, after more than a decade of Labour Party rule, but only in coalition with a minority party, the Liberal Democrats.

The Conservatives are unlikely to remain in power after the next election, to be held in 2015 or earlier, because the internal party divisions Mrs. Thatcher bequeathed still exist, especially when it comes to further European centralization and integration — a policy she famously denounced with the words “No. No. No.”

Today, Euroskeptics in Parliament are holding the party leadership hostage; they have extracted a pledge from the prime minister to hold a referendum on continued British membership in the European Union, despite the risk that leaving the union could have disastrous economic consequences.

The curious feature of Mrs. Thatcher’s legacy is that although she struck an ax-blow deep into the heart of Britain, it is society, not the political sphere, that remains deeply divided by a widening gap between rich and poor.

By contrast, the country’s politics have almost ceased to be ideological, as if exhausted by the Thatcher era. All the main British political parties now strive for the center ground, and the differences between them are about managerial style, not questions of principle.

The loss of ideology in British politics is neither good nor bad. It was inevitable when Britain became part of the larger political entity of Europe — a political entity Mrs. Thatcher vehemently disliked — which imposes constraints on how far the ideology of any national party can go.

With her contempt for softhearted liberalism, her hatred of trade unions, and her doctrinaire free-market principles, Mrs. Thatcher’s impact in her own day was huge. And its effects remain.

She began the deregulation of banking that led ultimately to Britain’s contribution to the global financial crisis of 2008. She reversed the trend of greater social integration and diminishing of the wealth gap that had characterized Britain in the three decades after 1945. Postwar convergences in class and wealth disappeared and former divisions resurfaced as consumerism and social incivility followed quickly on her brusque reorganization of British society.

In Britain, that is the chief memory of her that will most likely linger once the obsequies are done.

A. C. Grayling, a philosopher, is the master of the New College of the Humanities and the author, most recently, of “The God Argument: The Case Against Religion and for Humanism.”

A version of this op-ed appeared in print on April 9, 2013, on page A23 of the New York edition with the headline: Thatcher’s Divided Isle.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/09/opinion/thatchers-divided-isle.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss#commentsContainer

A Friend’s Tribute to Pak Non


April 7, 2013

A Friend’s Tribute to Pak Non

by A Vaithilingam (04-06-13)@www.malaysiakini.com

Pak Non

OBITUARY: We knew Pak Non as hilarious Zainon Ahmad more than 50 years ago. Last week, journalism in Malaysia lost one who could be a considered a role model not only for journalists but for all Malaysians.

zainon ahmad at kancil awards 2010I have followed with great interest the well deserved accolades showered on my Kedah born friend Zainon, whom I have known from my youth more than 50 years ago and now popularly known as Pak Non by his journalist colleagues.

It is such a relief to note that he has so many fellow journalists writing so many lovely things about him showing him to be the true Malaysian he has always been, long before our PM Najib Razak declared the concept of 1Malaysia.

One may be surprised to note how I came to know him. I believe it was in very early 60s, when he was a young teacher. Many would not believe that he was a liaison officer (LO) in the 1st Asian Youth Football Tournament.

Those days the footballers in international tournaments including Merdeka Tournaments were housed either in school hostels or teacher training college hostels.

He was an LO at the Technical Institute, located just behind the present Maxwell School, KL. It was a multi- racial group of LOs, almost all of whom are now above 70s, with some no more with us.

He was such a jovial chap and so dedicated to his duties which included attending to the needs of teams from about 6.30am until the team went to rest at about 11pm on match days, not forgetting carrying of pails of iced towels for the use of players during half time!

Bundles of energy

Later at night he will still have the energy to entertain us, the officials, with Tamil, Hindi and Malay songs.

During the short period of about two weeks in camp he excelled in his devotion to duties.He was ever ready to sacrifice his time, being the good team man that he was, by covering for his colleagues who were over burdened with demands of the difficult teams.

He probably was only an LO for a couple of years, mainly because of his desire to further his studies. The LOs later missed his hilarious, jovial and entertaining comradeship in a team of LOs who were all volunteers.

Many years later I became very interested in reading his news and comments as a journalist.His feelings for fellow humans of all the divisions of race and religion in his writings impressed me most. Though we have met occasionally saying ‘Hello!’ to each other, I was fortunate to have had an appointment with him in early August 2000.

He was interviewing me before my attendance at the Millennium World Peace Summit, a global inter religious conference held at the United Nations in New York from August 28 to 30, 2000 as President of the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) and also as the president of the Malaysian Hindu Sangam.  Zainon was then the Deputy  Chief Group Editor of the NST Group.

He read my conference paper and was taken up by my quotation of a great ancient Tamil poet Kanniyan Poongkunranar in the “Poorananuru” who sang “Yathum Ooray Yaavarum Kaylir”, meaning “All the world in my village and all its people my kinsmen”.

He later had a journalist in the NST highlight this article on the conference in a full page spread in the NST.

Regular admirer

I have also been following his struggle together with other journalists to get the restrictions on a free press in the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 repealed, and to assist the government in forming a National Media Council instead.  I sincerely hope his partners in this effort will pursue the matter successfully.

malaysian media congress forum 030407 sun newspaperI have always kept up with his progress in journalism and was a regular admirer of his in the Sun column ‘What They Say’ which always gave the pros and cons views provoking the readers to seek unity in diversity in multi-racial Malaysia.

Each time I sent him an article for publication he promptly acknowledged it and had it published within a few days. The last one I sent a few weeks ago received acknowledgement but was not published. I never realised that he was so seriously ill.

His sudden demise is a true loss to all those who believe in a united Malaysia. The Almighty God has His own ways. May Brother Zainon Ahmad’s soul rest in peace.

* A Vaithilingam is former President of the Malaysia Hindu Sangam

The Passing of My Journalist Friend, Zainon Ahmad. Al-Fatihah


March 27, 2013

The Passing of My Journalist Friend, Zainon Ahmad. Al-Fatihah

Bernama

KOTA BARU, March 27 — The Sun Daily’s Consultant Editor Zainon AhmadZainonAhmad_6 died due to liver cancer today. He was 70.

According to his daughter, Zuhailawati, Zainon died at 2.25pm at the Raja Perempuan Zainab II Hospital (HRPZII) here. She said her father was admitted to the hospital after complaining of chest pains at their house in Jalan Bayam here at 1am yesterday.

HRPZII director Datuk Dr Mohd Ghazali Hasni Mat Hassan confirmed Zainon died at the intensive care ward at 2.25pm.

Zuhailawati said her mother Hasnah Abdullah, 65, and two siblings were at his bedside when he died. According to Zuhailawati, her father’s body will be brought to their house in Jalan Bayam here before being laid to rest at the Banggol Muslim cemetery in Kota Baru tomorrow.

Zuhailawati said her father had contracted liver cancer for quite sometime and it began to get serious in October last year. She said before this, her father had been getting treatment at a private hospital in Subang Jaya, Selangor.

Zainon, who was a teacher for three years before joining journalism 35 years ago, was the Assistant Group Editor of The New Straits Times Group. He later joined The Sun as the Editor-in-Chief in 2002.

He was a regular speaker on the role of the media at local and international conferences and was active in various young journalist training programmes.

He was bestowed the Media Personality Award in 2010. Zainon held a degree in History and a Masters’ degree in International Relations from Universiti Malaya. He had also studied newspaper management at the Thomson Foundation, London and was a fellow of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tuft University, Boston in the US. — Bernama

RIP, Barry Wain


February 5, 2013

RIP, Barry Wain

http://asiasentinel.com

Veteran Journalist and Editor dies in Singapore

by Asia Sentinel

barry wain

Barry Wain, who died Tuesday in a Singapore hospital, was one of the finest, most dedicated foreign journalists to have worked in Asia, with a career in the region spanning more than forty years. His last major published work, Malaysian Maverick, a biography of Mahathir Mohamad, is ample testimony to his combination of in-depth research, fair judgment and willingness to confront his subject with some unpalatable truths.

Barry, an Australian from Brisbane, worked for The Australian in Canberra before moving to Hong Kong where he worked on a local newspaper and then on the desk of the Far Eastern Economic Review. He joined the Asian Wall Street Journal when it was established in 1976 and was soon posted as its correspondent in Kuala Lumpur and to Bangkok in the early 1980s. During his time there he wrote, The Refused, a book about the plight of Vietnamese refugees. He later moved back to Hong Kong as Managing Editor of the Journal and subsequently became a roving correspondent and columnist focusing on Southeast Asia.

For the past several years he has been a scholar at the Institute for South East Asian Studies in Singapore. His position as writer in residence enabled him to undertake the research for his book on Mahathir  a work widely praised as the only balanced account of the career of one of Asia’s leading and controversial political figures.

Barry was a fine tennis player as well as an amiable colleague who kept trim and fit. His death followed months of complications from what was supposed to be a routine operation earlier last year.

He is survived by his wife Yvonne and son David. He will be missed by his many former colleagues and by the readers who learned so much from his dedication as a journalist who combined hard work with high principles.

Read Asia Sentinel’s review of Barry’s last book: Malaysian Maverick: Mahathir Mohamad in Turbulent Times

Book Review: Malaysian Maverick: Mahathir Mohamad in Turbulent Times
Written by John Berthelsen
Friday, 04 December 2009
Imageby Barry Wain. Palgrave Macmillan, 363pp. Available through Amazon, US$60.75. Available for Pre-order, to be released Jan 5.In 1984 or 1985, when I was an Asian Wall Street Journal correspondent in Malaysia, an acquaintance called me and said he had seen a US Army 2-1/2 ton truck, known as a “deuce-and-a-half,” filled with US military personnel in jungle gear on a back road outside of Kuala Lumpur.

Since Malaysia and the United States were hardly close friends at that point, I immediately went to the US Embassy in KL and asked what the US soldiers were doing there. I received blank stares. Similar requests to the Malaysian Ministry of Defense brought the same response. After a few days of chasing the story, I concluded that my acquaintance must have been seeing things and dropped it.

It turns out he wasn’t seeing things after all. In a new book, “Malaysian Maverick: Mahathir Mohamad in Turbulent Times,” launched Dec. 4 in Asia, former Asian Wall Street Journal editor Barry Wain solved the mystery. In 1984, during a visit to Washington DC in which Mahathir met President Ronald Reagan, Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger and others, he secretly launched an innocuous sounding Bilateral Training and Consultation Treaty, which Wain described as a series of working groups for exercises, intelligence sharing, logistical support and general security issues. In the meantime, Mahathir continued display a public antipathy on general principles at the Americans while his jungle was crawling with US troops quietly training for jungle warfare.

That ability to work both sides of the street was a Mahathir characteristic. In his foreword, Wain, in what is hoped to be a definitive history of the former prime minister’s life and career, writes that “while [Mahathir] has been a public figure in Malaysia for half a century and well known abroad for almost as long, he has presented himself as a bundle of contradictions: a Malay champion who was the Malays’ fiercest critic and an ally of Chinese-Malaysian businessmen; a tireless campaigner against Western economic domination who assiduously courted American and European capitalists; a blunt, combative individual who extolled the virtues of consensual Asian values.”

Wain was granted access to the former premier for a series of exhaustive interviews. It may well be the most definitive picture painted of Mahathir to date, and certainly is even-handed. Wain, now a writer in residence at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore, is by no means a Mahathir sycophant. Advance publicity for the book has dwelt on an assertion by Wain that Mahathir may well have wasted or burned up as much as RM100 billion (US$40 billion at earlier exchange rates when the projects were active) on grandiose projects and the corruption that the projects engendered as he sought to turn Malaysia into an industrialized state. Although some in Malaysia have said the figure is too high, it seems about accurate, considering such ill-advised projects as a national car, the Proton, which still continues to bleed money and cost vastly more in opportunity costs for Malaysian citizens forced to buy any other make at huge markups behind tariff walls. In addition, while Thailand in particular became a regional center for car manufacture and for spares, Malaysia, handicapped by its national car policy, was left out.

Almost at the start of the book, Wain encapsulates the former Premier so well that it bears repeating here: Mahathir, he writes, “had an all-consuming desire to turn Malaysia into a modern, industrialized nation commanding worldwide respect. Dr Mahathir’s decision to direct the ruling party into business in a major way while the government practiced affirmative action, changed the nature of the party and accelerated the spread of corruption. One manifestation was the eruption of successive financial scandals, massive by any standards, which nevertheless left Dr Mahathir unfazed and unapologetic.”

That pretty much was the story of Malaysia for the 22 years that Mahathir was in charge. There is no evidence that Mahathir himself was ever involved in corruption. Once, as Ferdinand Marcos was losing his grip on the Philippines, Mahathir pointed out to a group of reporters that he was conveyed around in a long black Daimler – the same model as the British ambassador used – that the Istana where he lived was a huge mansion, that he had everything he needed. Why, he asked, was there any need to take money from corruption? Nonetheless, in his drive to foster a Malay entrepreneurial class, he allowed those around him to pillage the national treasury almost at will, which carried over into UMNO after he had left office and which blights the country to this day.

Wain follows intricate trails through much of this, ranging from the attempt, okayed by Mahathir, to attempt to rescue Bumiputra Malaysia Finance in the early 1980s which turned into what at the time was the world’s biggest banking scandal.

In the final analysis, much as Lee Kuan Yew down the road in Singapore strove to create a nation in his own image and largely succeeded, so did Mahathir. Both nations are flawed – Singapore in its mixture of technological and social prowess and draconian ruthlessness against an independent press or opposition, Malaysia with its iconic twin towers and its other attributes colored by a deepening culture of corruption that has continued well beyond his reign, which ended in 2003. Mahathir must bear the blame for much of this, in particular his destruction of an independent judiciary, as Wain writes, to further his aims.

Mahathir, as the former Premier said in the conversation over his mansion and his car, had everything including, one suspects, a fully-developed sense of injustice. He appears to this day to continue to resent much of the west, particularly the British. Wain writes exhaustively of Mahathir’s deep antagonism over both British elitism during the colonial days and the disdain of his fellow Malays (Mahathir’s parentage is partly Indian Muslim on his father’s side), especially the Malay royalty. That antagonism against the British has been a hallmark of his career – from the time he instituted the “Buy British Last” policy for the Malaysian government as prime minister to the present day.

Robert Mugabe, in disgrace across much of the world for the way his policies have destroyed what was one of the richest countries in Africa, remains in Mahathir’s good graces. Asked recently why that was, an aide told me Mugabe had driven the British out of Zimbabwe and was continuing to drive out white farmers to this day, although he was replacing them with people who knew nothing of farming. That expropriation of vast tracts of white-owned land might have destroyed Zimbabwe’s agricultural production. But, the aide said, “He got the Brits out.”

For anybody wishing to understand Mahathir and the nation he transformed, Wain’s book is going to be a must – but bring spectacles. The tiny type and gray typeface make it a difficult read. And a disclaimer: Wain was once my boss.

Fond Farewell to My Favorite Jazzman, Mr. Brubeck


December 6, 2012

http://www.nytimes.com/music

Fond Farewell to My Favorite Jazzman, Mr. Brubeck

Dave Brubeck | 1920-2012

His Music Gave Jazz New Pop

by Ben Ratliff (12-05-12)

Mr. BruebeckDave Brubeck, the pianist and composer who helped make jazz popular again in the 1950s and ’60s with recordings like “Time Out,” the first jazz album to sell a million copies, and “Take Five,” the still instantly recognizable hit single that was that album’s centerpiece, died on Wednesday in Norwalk, Conn. He would have turned 92 on Thursday.

He died while on his way to a cardiology appointment, Russell Gloyd, his producer, conductor and manager for 36 years, said. Mr. Brubeck lived in Wilton, Conn.

In a long and successful career, Mr. Brubeck brought a distinctive mixture of experimentation and accessibility that won over listeners who had been trained to the sonic dimensions of the three-minute pop single.

Mr. Brubeck experimented with time signatures and polytonality and explored musical theater and the oratorio, baroque compositional devices and foreign modes. He did not always please the critics, who often described his music as schematic, bombastic and — a word he particularly disliked — stolid. But his very stubbornness and strangeness — the blockiness of his playing, the oppositional push-and-pull between his piano and Paul Desmond’s alto saxophone — make the Brubeck quartet’s best work still sound original.

Outside of the group’s most famous originals, which had the charm and durability of pop songs ( “Blue Rondo à la Turk,” “It’s a Raggy Waltz” and “Take Five”), some of its best work was in its overhauls of standards like “You Go to My Head,” “All the Things You Are” and “Pennies From Heaven.”

David Warren Brubeck was born on Dec. 6, 1920, in Concord, Calif., near San Francisco. Surrounded by farms, his family lived a bucolic life: his father, Pete, was a cattle buyer for a meat company, and his mother, Elizabeth, was a choir director at the nearby Presbyterian church. When Mr. Brubeck was 11, the family moved to Ione, Calif., where his father managed a 45,000-acre cattle ranch and owned his own 1,200 acres.

Forbidden to listen to the radio — his mother believed that if you wanted to hear music you should play it — Mr. Brubeck and his two brothers all played various instruments and knew classical études, spirituals and cowboy songs. He learned most of this music by ear: because he was born cross-eyed, sight-reading was nearly impossible for him in his early years as a musician.

Playing for Local Dances

When Mr. Brubeck was 14, a laundryman who led a dance band encouraged him to perform in public, at Lions Club gatherings and Western swing dances; he was paid $8 for playing from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m., with a one-hour break. But until he went to college he was an aspiring rancher, not an aspiring musician.

At the College of the Pacific, in Stockton, he first studied to be a veterinarian but switched to music after a year. It was there that he learned about 20th-century culture and read about Freud, Marx and serial music; it was also there that he met Iola Whitlock, a fellow student, who became his wife in 1942.

He graduated that year and was immediately drafted. For two years he played with the Army band at Camp Haan, in Southern California. In 1944 Private Brubeck became a rifleman, entering basic training — first in Texas, then in Maryland — and was then sent to Metz, in northeast France, for further preparation for combat.

When his new commanding officer heard him accompany a Red Cross traveling show one day, Mr. Brubeck recalled, he told his aide-de-camp, “I don’t want that boy to go to the front.” Thereafter, Mr. Brubeck led a band that was trucked into combat areas to play for the troops. He was near the front twice, during the Battle of the Bulge, but he never fought.

Finished with the Army at 25, Mr. Brubeck moved with his wife into an apartment in Oakland, Calif., and, on a G.I. Bill scholarship, studied at Mills College there with the French composer Darius Milhaud. Milhaud asked the jazz musicians in his class to write fugues for jazz ensembles, and Mr. Brubeck played the results at a series of performances at the college. Mr. Brubeck had such admiration for his teacher that he named his first son, born in 1947, Darius.

An Instant Partnership with Paul Desmond

Mr. Brubeck first met his most important musical colleague, Mr. Desmond, the altoThe DB Quartet saxophonist, in an Army band in 1943. Mr. Desmond was a perfect foil; his lovely, impassive tone was as ethereal as Mr. Brubeck’s style was densely chorded. In 1947 they met again and found instant musical rapport, fascinated by the challenge of using counterpoint in jazz.

Mr. Brubeck’s first group, an octet formed in 1946, contained several of Milhaud’s students, and played pieces influenced by his teachings, using canonlike elements. The group’s earliest recorded work predated a much more famous set of similarly temperate jazz recordings, the 1948-50 Miles Davis Nonet work later packaged as “Birth of the Cool.”

In the late 1940s and early ’50s Mr. Brubeck also led a trio with Ron Crotty on bass and Cal Tjader on drums. It was around this time that he started to develop an audience. He was given an initial boost by the San Francisco disc jockey Jimmy Lyons, later the founder of the Monterey Jazz Festival, who plugged the band on KNBC radio and helped secure it a record deal with Coronet.

In 1951 the trio expanded to a quartet, with Mr. Desmond returning. (The permanent lineup change was perhaps inevitable, as Mr. Desmond was desperate to join his old friend’s increasingly popular band, but it may also have had to do with physical necessity: Mr. Brubeck had suffered a serious neck injury while swimming in Hawaii, limiting his dexterity, and he needed another soloist to help carry the music.)

Quickly the constitutionally different men — Mr. Brubeck open, ambitious and imposing; Mr. Desmond private, high-living and self-effacing — developed their lines of musical communication. By the time of an engagement in Boston in the fall of 1952 they had become one of jazz’s greatest combinations.

The next part of the equation was a record label, and for that Mr. Brubeck had found another booster: Fantasy Records, just started by the brothers Max and Sol Weiss, who owned a record-pressing plant and had little interest in jazz apart from wanting to make a profit from it.

They did, eventually, with Mr. Brubeck. But Iola Brubeck also played a role in the growth of his audience. Before Mr. Brubeck became a client of the prominent manager Joe Glaser, she handled her husband’s business affairs. In 1953 she wrote to more than a hundred universities, suggesting that the quartet would be willing to play for student associations. The college circuit became the group’s bread and butter, and by the end of the 1950s it had sold hundreds of thousands of copies of its albums “Jazz at Oberlin” and “Jazz Goes to College.”

In 1954 Mr. Brubeck became only the second jazz musician (after Louis Armstrong) to beDave Brubeck on Cover of Time Magazine-1954 featured on the cover of Time magazine. That year he signed with Columbia Records, promising to deliver two albums a year, and built a house in Oakland.

For all his conceptualizing, Mr. Brubeck often seemed more guileless and stubborn country boy than intellectual. It is often noted that his piece “The Duke” — memorably recorded by Miles Davis and Gil Evans in 1957 on their collaborative album “Miles Ahead” — runs through all 12 keys in the first eight bars. But Mr. Brubeck contended that he never realized that until a music professor told him.

Mr. Brubeck’s very personal musical language situated him far from the Bud Powell school of bebop rhythm and harmony; he relied more on chords, lots and lots of them, than on sizzling, hornlike right-hand lines. (He may have come by this outsiderness naturally, as a function of his background: jazz by way of rural isolation and modernist academia. He was, Ted Gioia wrote in his book “West Coast Jazz,” inspired “by the process of improvisation rather than by its history.”)

It took a little while for Mr. Brubeck to capitalize on the greater visibility his deal with Columbia gave him, and as he accommodated success a certain segment of the jazz audience began to turn against him. (The 1957 album “Dave Digs Disney,” on which he played songs from Walt Disney movies, didn’t help his credibility among critics and connoisseurs.) Still, by the end of the decade he had broken through with mainstream audiences in a bigger way than almost any jazz musician since World War II.

In 1958, as part of a State Department program that brought jazz as an offer of good will during the cold war, his quartet traveled in the Middle East and India, and Mr. Brubeck became intrigued by musical languages that didn’t stick to 4/4 time — what he called “march-style jazz,” the meter that had been the music’s bedrock. The result was the album “Time Out,” recorded in 1959. With the hits “Take Five” (composed by Mr. Desmond in 5/4 meter and prominently featuring the quartet’s gifted drummer, Joe Morello) and “Blue Rondo à la Turk” (composed by Mr. Brubeck in 9/8), the album propelled Mr. Brubeck onto the pop charts.

Initially, Mr. Brubeck said, the album was released without high expectations from the record company. But when disc jockeys in the Midwest started playing “Take Five,” the song became a national phenomenon. After the album had been out for 18 months, Columbia released “Take Five” as a 45 r.p.m. single, edited for radio, with “Blue Rondo” on the B side. Both album and single became hits; the album “Time Out” has since sold about two million copies.

Standing Up to Racism

In 1960, realizing that most of the quartet’s work centered on the East Coast, the Brubecks, with their children, Dan, Michael, Chris, Darius and Catherine, moved to Wilton, where they stayed. They later had one more child, Matthew.

Genial as Mr. Brubeck could seem, he had strong convictions. In the 1950s he had to stand up to college deans who asked him not to perform with a racially mixed band (his bassist, Gene Wright, was black). He also refused to tour in South Africa in 1958 when asked to sign a contract stipulating that his band would be all white. With his wife as lyricist, he wrote “The Real Ambassadors,” a jazz musical that dealt with race relations. With a cast that included Louis Armstrong, it was released on LP in 1962 but staged only once, at that year’s Monterey Jazz Festival.

When Mr. Brubeck’s quartet broke up in 1967, after 17 years, he spent more time with his family and followed new paths. In 1969 he composed “Elementals” (subtitled “Concerto for Anyone Who Can Afford an Orchestra”), a concerto grosso for 45-piece ensemble. He later wrote an oratorio and four cantatas, a mass, two ballets and works for jazz combo with orchestra. Most of his commissioned pieces from the late ’60s on, many of them collaborations with his wife, whose contributions included lyrics and librettos, were classical works.

As a composer, Mr. Brubeck used jazz to address religious themes and to bridge social and political divides. His cantata “The Gates of Justice,” from 1969, dealt with blacks and Jews in America; another cantata, “Truth Is Fallen” (1972), lamented the killing of student protesters at Kent State University in 1970, with a score including orchestra, electric guitars and police sirens. He played during the Reagan-Gorbachev summit meeting in 1988 and he composed entrance music for Pope John Paul II’s visit to Candlestick Park in San Francisco in 1987.

Another Quartet

DB with MulliganIn 1968 he formed a quartet with the baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan, and later he began working with his musician sons Darius (a pianist), Chris (a bassist), Dan (a drummer) and Matthew (a cellist). He performed and recorded with them often, most definitively on “In Their Own Sweet Way” (Telarc, 1997). The classic Brubeck quartet regrouped only once, in 1976, for a 25th-anniversary tour.

Mr. Brubeck’s son Michael died in 2009. In addition to his other sons and his daughter, Mr. Brubeck is survived by his wife; 10 grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

Mr. Brubeck resumed working with a quartet in the late 1970s — finally settling into a long-term touring group featuring the saxophonist Bobby Militello— and thereafter never stopped writing, touring and performing his hits. To the end he was a major draw at festivals.

In 1999 Mr. Brubeck was named a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts. Ten years later he received a Kennedy Center Honor for his contribution to American culture. He gave his archives to his alma mater.

Despite health problems, Mr. Brubeck was still working as recently as 2011. In November 2010, just a month after undergoing heart surgery and receiving a pacemaker, he performed at the Blue Note in Manhattan. Nate Chinen of The Times, noting that Mr. Brubeck had already “softened his pianism, replacing the old hammer-and-anvil attack with something almost airy,” wrote that his playing at the Blue Note “was the picture of judicious clarity, its well-placed chordal accents suggesting a riffing horn section.”

Mr. Brubeck once explained succinctly what jazz meant to him. “One of the reasons I believe in jazz,” he said, “is that the oneness of man can come through the rhythm of your heart. It’s the same anyplace in the world, that heartbeat. It’s the first thing you hear when you’re born — or before you’re born — and it’s the last thing you hear.”

Daniel E. Slotnik contributed reporting.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: December 5, 2012

An earlier version of this obituary erroneously attributed a distinction to Mr. Brubeck.  He was the second jazz musician to be featured on the cover of Time magazine, not the first.  That version also misstated the name of a song at one point. It is “Take Five,” not “Time Out.” (“Time Out” is the name of the album on which “Take Five” first appeared.) It also said that “Take Five” was the first jazz single to sell a million copies, instead it was the album “Time Out” that sold over a million copies.

A version of this article appeared in print on December 6, 2012, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: His Music Gave Jazz New Pop.

Cambodia’s His Majesty Samdech Euv passes on


October 15, 2012

Cambodia’s His Majesty  Samdech Euv passes on

To HRH Prince Norodom Sirivudh, Cambodian Ambassador to Malaysia HRH Princess Norodom Arunrasmy, my other friends and associates in Phnom Penh,

Please accept our sincere condolences on the passing of His Majesty Preah Bat Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk Varman of Cambodia in Beijing this morning.

In your moments of grief, I know you will reflect on His Majesty’s love for his country and his many achievements, trials and tribulations as Prime Minister, Head of State,and King.

May Cambodians continue his legacy and prosper in peace in the years to come. That is the best way to remember His Majesty as Protector and Defender of your proud nation.

I had the pleasure of meeting His Majesty at a private luncheon in honour of departing Malaysian Ambassador Dato Deva Ridzam at the Royal Palace on October 26 (?), 1996. He was a superb host and an excellent conversationalist with a deep understanding of history as he recounted his days under the Khmer Rouge. He also talked about his contemporaries in Cambodia, Southeast Asia and the rest of the world.

His Majesty  fondly remembered Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai, who he called ” a Mandarin and an Intellectual”. It was because of the Chinese Premier that the Khmer Rouge did not harm him and his Queen Monineath.

I remember that His Majesty was particularly critical of President Richard M. Nixon and Secretary of State, Henry A Kissinger for their secret bombing of Cambodia which led to the rise of extreme nationalism of the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot’s reign of terror. .–Din Merican

____________

http://www.sbs.com.au

Former King Norodom Sihanouk dies

by Ron Sutton (10-15-12)

One of the enduring names of the past seven decades in South-East Asia is gone.Former King and Prime Minister of Cambodia, Norodom Sihanouk has died just two weeks short of his 90th birthday.Ron Sutton has the story.

“Nobody is capable of wiping them out. They exist.” Norodom Sihanouk was speaking of the Khmer Rouge, but it just as easily could have been others describing his own fingerprints on power in 20th-century Cambodia.

As his personal biographer, Chilean-born Australian Julio Jeldres, once wrote, Sihanouk is Cambodia. The King-Father of Cambodia, as he became known after abdicating as King eight years ago, has died at age 89 in Beijing.

Norodom Sihanouk juggled allegiances and titles so often that the Guinness Book of World Records eventually named him the politician who had held the widest array of offices.

His moves were deeply controversial at times, especially his alliance with the Khmer Rouge, who would go on to rule over the Cambodian genocide of the 1970s. But close followers of regional politics have largely praised the man who would be King twice, Prime Minister 10 times and Head of State twice.

Professor David Chandler, responsible along with Julio Jeldres for a collection of the King’s personal material at Monash University, says his opinion has changed over time.

“There were times that I didn’t admire him very much at all when certain things were happening. But now as I look back on those 70 years, I think, probably, on balance, one has to take — given the circumstances and the choices he had — a more positive view than I might have taken, say, 20 years ago.”

Emeritus Professor Carl Thayer, of the University of New South Wales and the Australian Defence Force Academy, has published work on Cambodia’s tangled politics. He says, after Vietnamese troops withdrew from the country in 1989, the former King played a vital role in negotiations that led to Cambodia’s first democratic elections in 1993.

“Without the role of Norodom Sihanouk, there would have been no peace settlement. He managed to open up the Hun Sen government. So, in other words, he was able to shift very adroitly, diplomatically. And, yes, he could be criticised for some of his alignments, but I mean his motivation was not just to preserve himself, but to preserve the monarchy as a heritage of stability for Cambodia — and that’s still an open question, but the Paris Peace Agreements restored the monarchy — and to keep Cambodia independent and not being dominated by outside powers.”

Norodom Sihanouk’s life of political power began in 1941 after French colonial authorities made him King at age 18. Those seven decades ago, they thought he would be compliant, but he soon began to prove that wrong.

By 1953, he had gained independence for Cambodia, and he soon turned over the throne to his father to pursue a political career.

He would, in all, serve 10 terms as Prime Minister, because he kept abandoning the position in theatric displays of anger, only to return. When his father died in 1960, Norodom Sihanouk settled in as, officially, Head of State, and Cambodia settled into a rare decade of stability.

But in 1970, as the Vietnam War spilled into his country, he lost power in a coup by General Lon Nol and went into exile in Beijing.It was there that he made his most controversial move, aligning himself with the communist guerillas who would emerge as the deadly Khmer Rouge.

Carl Thayer says that decision has to be seen in context.”The context would be that, when he was overthrown in 1970, China brokered an Indochinese front of Lao, Vietnamese and Khmer communists. The Khmer Rouge not only attacked the Lon Nol regime, the right-wing group of militarists that overthrew Sihanouk, but they also began killing his own supporters. So it was difficult for him as to What path do you tread?”

“And aligning with communist Vietnam wasn’t a possibility. So it’s difficult times, and one can find fault with some of the alliances that he’s made, but the Khmer Rouge were just a monstrous force. And he not only survived, he went on, really, in a sense, to broker an agreement that marginalised them. So in the end, when I add up the plusses and minuses, I give a plus side on the ledger.”

Professor Chandler suggests Norodom Sihanouk has to accept some of the blame for the Khmer Rouge connection, though. He suggests that, in a different twist on the biographer Julio Jeldres’s line that Sihanouk is Cambodia, the King and Prime Minister saw it that way to the country’s detriment.

“Having felt that Cambodia was him, he felt, when he was deposed by Lon Nol in the 1970s, that he simply had to come back to power, and the way to come back to power that was given to him, offered to him, was an alliance with a variety of governments and factions, especially the Khmer Rouge. Now he didn’t realise what the Khmer Rouge would be like, but he stayed on with them, I think, rather longer than he should have. He realised where they were going after a while.”

Norodom Sihanouk returned to Cambodia when the Khmer Rouge took the capital in 1975 and temporarily remained Head of State.But they forced him to resign the next year and kept him under house arrest in the royal palace.

Five of his children — who numbered at least 13 — died during the genocide that killed well over a million Cambodians by 1979.

After Vietnamese troops and Khmer Rouge defectors ousted the government, he fled to Beijing and stayed there until the negotiated deal with Hun Sen’s government.

He returned to the throne as King until abdicating in 2004, then remained a moral force for Cambodians as he used his personal website to comment on political matters.

Julio Jeldres, his biographer, who had served on his personal staff in the 1980s, told the ABC that Norodom Sihanouk was often misunderstood.

“His ambition in life was to keep his country free, independent, and with its territorial integrity protected, because that was the main concern that he had, that if he didn’t protect the territorial integrity of Cambodia, it was going to be lost to the neighbours as it had happened in the past already. And so that was his main ambition in life was to protect Cambodia and to give a reasonable standard of living to the people.”

Professor Chandler says the former King was a rare example of a long-term leader who did not use his position to gain financially. It is a point that a distant relative in Australia’s Cambodian community, Piphal Engly, says differentiates him from other national heroes or icons, as she puts it.

“Everyone else earned a salary and has a house, has a car, has everything … at least, has a few thousands in his bank. But this King, former King, my former King, has nothing for himself. You know, he doesn’t have a house, doesn’t have money left in the bank. He ate everything on the charity of the country and friends and of the people who provided for and supported him.”

The Passing of Eric J. Hobsbawm, Marxist Historian


October 5, 2012

New York Times–Tribute by William Grimes

The Passing of Eric J. Hobsbawm, Marxist Historian

by William Grimes (published: October 1, 2012)

Eric J. Hobsbawm, whose three-volume economic history of the rise of industrial capitalism established him as Britain’s pre-eminent Marxist historian, died on Monday in London. He was 95. The cause was pneumonia, said his daughter, Julia Hobsbawm.

Mr. Hobsbawm, the leading light in a group of historians within the British Communist Party that included Christopher Hill, E. P. Thompson and Raymond Williams, helped recast the traditional understanding of history as a series of great events orchestrated by great men. Instead, he focused on labor movements in the 19th century and what he called the “pre-political” resistance of bandits, millenarians and urban rioters in early capitalist societies.

His masterwork remains his incisive and often eloquent survey of the period he referred to as “the long 19th century,” which he analyzed in three volumes: “The Age of Revolution: 1789-1848,” “The Age of Capital: 1848-1875” and “The Age of Empire: 1874-1914.” To this trilogy he appended a coda in 1994, “The Age of Extremes,” published in the United States with the subtitle “A History of the World, 1914-1991.”

“Eric J. Hobsbawm was a brilliant historian in the great English tradition of narrative history,” Tony Judt, a professor of history at New York University, wrote in an e-mail in 2008, two years before he died. “On everything he touched he wrote much better, had usually read much more, and had a broader and subtler understanding than his more fashionable emulators. If he had not been a lifelong Communist he would be remembered simply as one of the great historians of the 20th century.”

Unlike many of his comrades, Mr. Hobsbawm, who lived in London, stuck with the Communist Party after the Soviet Union crushed the Hungarian uprising in 1956 and the Czech reform movement in 1968. He eventually let his party membership lapse about the time the Berlin Wall fell and the Eastern bloc disintegrated in 1989.

“I didn’t want to break with the tradition that was my life and with what I thought when I first got into it,” he told The New York Times in 2003. “I still think it was a great cause, the emancipation of humanity. Maybe we got into it the wrong way, maybe we backed the wrong horse, but you have to be in that race, or else human life isn’t worth living.”

Eric John Hobsbawm was born in 1917 in Alexandria, Egypt, where a confused clerk at the British consulate misspelled the last name of his father, Leopold Percy Hobsbaum, an unsuccessful merchant from the East End of London. His mother, Nelly Grün, was Austrian, and after World War I ended, the family, which was Jewish, settled in Vienna. The Hobsbawms were struggling to make ends meet when, in 1929, Eric’s father dropped dead on his own doorstep, probably of a heart attack. Two years later Nelly died of lung disease, and her son was shipped off to live with relatives in Berlin.

In the waning months of the Weimar Republic, Mr. Hobsbawm, a gifted student, became a passionate Communist and a true believer in the Bolshevik Revolution. “The dream of the October Revolution is still there somewhere inside me, as deleted texts are still waiting to be recovered by experts, somewhere on the hard disks of computers,” he wrote in “Interesting Times,” a memoir published in 2003.

Mr. Hobsbawm, a cool introvert, found exhilaration and fellowship in the radical politics of the street in Germany. As a member of a Communist student organization, he slipped party fliers under apartment doors in the weeks after Hitler’s appointment as chancellor and at one point concealed an illegal duplicating machine under his bed. Within weeks, however, he was sent to Britain to live with yet another set of relatives.

Forbidden by his uncle to join either the Communist Party or the Labour Party (which Mr. Hobsbawm hoped to subvert from within), he concentrated on his studies at St. Marylebone Grammar School in London and won a scholarship to Cambridge. There he joined the Communist Party in 1936, edited the weekly journal Granta and accepted an invitation to join the elite, informal society of intellectuals known as the Apostles.

“It was an invitation that hardly any Cambridge undergraduate was likely to refuse, since even revolutionaries like to be in a suitable tradition,” he wrote in “Interesting Times.” He described himself as a “Tory communist,” unsympathetic to the politics of personal liberation that marked the 1960s.

Mr. Hobsbawm graduated from King’s College with highest honors in 1939 and went on to earn a master’s degree in 1942 and a doctorate in 1951, writing his dissertation on the Fabian Society. In 1943 he married Muriel Seaman, a civil servant and fellow Communist. That marriage ended in divorce in 1950. In 1962 he married Marlene Schwarz, who survives him. In addition to his daughter, he is survived by his son Andrew; another son, Joss Bennathan; seven grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.

Mr. Hobsbawm served in the British Army from 1939 to 1946, a period he later called the most unhappy of his life. Excluded from any meaningful job by his politics, he languished on the sidelines in Britain as others waged the great armed struggle against fascism. “I did nothing of significance in it,” he wrote of the war, “and was not asked to.”

He began teaching history at Birkbeck College in the University of London in 1947, and from 1949 to 1955 he was a history fellow at King’s College.

Mr. Hobsbawm and his colleagues in the Historians’ Study Group of the Communist Party established labor history as an important field of study and in 1952 created an influential journal, Past and Present, as a home base.

The rich dividends from this new approach to writing history were apparent in works like “Primitive Rebels: Studies in Archaic Forms of Social Movement in the 19th and 20th Centuries,” “Laboring Men: Studies in the History of Labor” and “Industry and Empire,” the companion volume to Christopher Hill’s “Reformation to Industrial Revolution.”

During this period, Mr. Hobsbawm also wrote jazz criticism for The New Statesman and Nation under the pseudonym Francis Newton, a sly reference to the jazz trumpeter Frankie Newton, an avowed Communist. His jazz writing led to a book, “The Jazz Scene,” published in 1959.

If his political allegiances stymied his professional advancement, as he argued in his memoir, honors and recognition eventually came his way. At the University of London, he was finally promoted to a readership in 1959 and was named professor of economic and social history in 1970. After retiring in 1982 he taught at Stanford University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cornell University and the New School for Social Research in Manhattan.

The accolades for works like his “Age of” trilogy led to membership in learned societies and honorary degrees, but to the end of his life the Communist militant coexisted uneasily with the professional historian.

Not until his 80s, in “The Age of Extremes,” did Mr. Hobsbawm dare turn to the century whose horrific events had shaped his politics. The book was an anguished reckoning with a period he had avoided as a historian because, as he wrote in his memoir, “given the strong official Party and Soviet views about the 20th century, one could not write about anything later than 1917 without the strong likelihood of being denounced as a political heretic.”

Mr. Hobsbawm continued to write well into his 90s, appearing frequently in The New York Review of Books and other periodicals. His “How to Change the World: Tales of Marx and Marxism” was published last year, and “Fractured Times,” a collection of essays on 20th-century culture and society, is scheduled to be published by Little, Brown in Britain in March 2013.

Although increasingly on the defensive, and quite willing to say that the great Communist experiment had not only failed but had been doomed from the start, Mr. Hobsbawm refused to recant or, many critics complained, to face up to the human misery it had created. “Historical understanding is what I’m after, not agreement, approval, or sympathy,” he wrote in his memoir.

In 1994, he shocked viewers when, in an interview with Michael Ignatieff on the BBC, he said that the deaths of millions of Soviet citizens under Stalin would have been worth it if a genuine Communist society had been the result.

“The greatest price he will pay is to be remembered not as Eric J. Hobsbawm the historian but as Eric J. Hobsbawm the unrepentant Communist historian,” Mr. Judt said. “It’s unfair and it’s a pity, but that is the cross he will bear.”

Al-Fatihah for Our Friend,Dr. Mahadzir Khir


September 6, 2012

http://www.nst.com.my

Al-Fatihah for Our Friend, Dr. Mahadzir Khir

Former Deputy Education Minister Dato’ Dr Mahadzir Mohd Khir passed away at 5pm today (September 5) from a heart attack. He was 67.

Former Deputy Education Minister Dato’ Dr Mahadzir Mohd Khir passed away on Sept 5 2011 from a heart attack. According to UMNO Online, his body will be taken to his home in Section 14, Petaling Jaya and is expected to be buried tomorrow morning (September 6).

The portal said Party President Datuk Seri Najib Razak, his deputy Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, and UMNO Supreme Council members offered their condolences to his family.

Mahadzir was born in Kedah on May 16 1945, and was Member of Parliament for Sungai Petani after winning the seat in the 1999 general elections.

Al-Fatihah for Tan Sri Hamzah Abu Samah


September 5, 2012

Al-Fatihah for a Sports Icon and Minister, Tan Sri Hamzah Abu Samah

My wife, Dr. Kamsiah and I extend sincere condolences to the family and relatives of the Late Tan Sri Hamzah Abu Samah. Semoga Allah mencuri rahmat keatas roh Allahyarham.Al-Fatihah.

I was privileged to know the Late Tan Sri who served our country with dignity and honour. He was a keen sportsman. Men of his generation are fading fast, leaving us with very fond memories of their selfless service to our King and country.–Din Merican

Bernama reports:

Seremban: National sports icon and the Olympic Council of Malaysia’s Honorary Life President Tan Sri Hamzah Abu Samah passed away at 3.30pm today (September 4, 2012) at his house in Staffield Country Resort, Mantin, Negeri Sembilan, due to old age.

The death of Hamzah, 88, was confirmed by his second son Zulkelim, 54. Hamzah leaves behind wife Toh Puan Zainon Hussain, who is the sister of the country’s second Prime Minister, the late Tun Abdul Razak, and seven children.

Apart from being a cabinet minister who headed various ministries until his decision to quit in September 1980, Hamzah was the President of the Olympic Council of Malaysia from (1976-1998); Vice-President of the Islamic Solidarity Sport Federation (1985-1994); Vice-President of the General Association of the Asian Sports Federation (1988-1998); Vice-President of the Olympic Council of Asia (1982-1986); Vice-President of the Commonwealth Games Federation (1982-1998); Honorary Life President of the Southeast Asian Games Federation since 1977.

He was also President of the Football Association of Malaysia (1976-1983); Honorary President of the Football Association of Malaysia since 1983; President of the Asian Football Confederation (1978-1994); Honorary President of the Asian Football Confederation since 1994; Vice-President of FIFA (1982-1990); Honorary Executive Member of FIFA since 1990; President of the Malaysian Cricket Association (1969-1990); President of the Malaysia Taekwondo Association (1987-1999).

He was a member of the International Olympic Committee from 1978 to 2004 and was appointed Honorary Member since 2004.

Born in Pekan, Pahang in 1924, Hamzah a Malay College (Kuala Kangsar) student who pursued a law degree at the Gray’s Inn in England in 1953, started his political career as Raub Member of Parliament (1967-1978) and Temerloh (1978-1980).

He was Sports Minister from 1971-1973, Defence Minister (1973) and Minister of Law (1974). During Queen Elizabeth’s visit to Malaysia in 1972, Hamzah was the Minister assigned to accompany the Queen of England. He will laid to rest on September 5, 2012.

The Passing of a Malaysian Badminton Icon


August 15, 2012

BREAKING NEWS: The Passing of a Malaysian Badminton Icon–Dato’ Punch Gunalan

Mr. Hamid Ahmad and Mr. Qadeer Ahmad of Car & Co, the well known Malaysian sporting goods company, and I have just returned from Section 12, Petaling Jaya where we paid our last respects to the Late Dato’ Punch Gunalan, All England Champion and Thomas Cupper, who passed on this morning of serious illness.  He was my colleague in Sime Darby, where he headed Sime’s Sports  Division.

Punch was a talented right-hander who spent what might have been some of the best years of his playing career competing only sporadically as a student in England. Punch did not represent Malaysia in Thomas Cup  until the 1970 series in Kuala Lumpur at the comparatively late “rookie” age of 26.  Malaysia relinquished its title to Indonesia in the final, 2–7, but with Ng Boon Bee as partner he won one of the two points.

In 1971 he and Boon Bee were the leading men’s doubles team in the world, winning the prestigious All England title, as well as the Danish, Canadian, and U.S. Open titles.

Though perhaps less consistent in singles than he was in doubles, Punch was capable of playing it at the highest level. He reached the All-England singles final in 1974, losing in three close games to Rudy Hartono of Indonesia.

He won singles at the quadrennial Asian Games in 1970 and at Commonwealth Games  in 1974.  Since his retirement from competitive badminton, he has served as coach of the Malaysian team and as an official in the Malaysian Badminton Association and the Badminton World Federation.

Despite his outstanding achievements in world class badminton, he remained down to earth, humble. and focused in all his undertakings. He will be sadly missed by his family, friends and fans. I hope the Malaysian Government and the National Sports Council will recognise his contributions to the nation, and find ways to assist his family.–Din Merican

Gore Vidal Remembered


August 5, 2012

Ny Times: Gore Vidal

Gore Vidal Remembered

by Charles McGarth (August 1, 2012)

Gore Vidal, the elegant, acerbic all-around man of letters who presided with a certain relish over what he declared to be the end of American civilization, died on Tuesday July 31, 2012) at his home in the Hollywood Hills section of Los Angeles, where he moved in 2003 after years of living in Ravello, Italy. He was 86. The cause was complications of pneumonia, his nephew Burr Steers said.

An Augustan Figure

Mr. Vidal was, at the end of his life, an Augustan figure who believed himself to be the last of a breed, and he was probably right. Few American writers have been more versatile or gotten more mileage from their talent. He published some 25 novels, two memoirs and several volumes of stylish, magisterial essays. He also wrote plays, television dramas and screenplays. For a while he was even a contract writer at MGM. And he could always be counted on for a spur-of-the-moment aphorism, put-down or sharply worded critique of American foreign policy.

Perhaps more than any other American writer except Norman Mailer or Truman Capote, Mr. Vidal took great pleasure in being a public figure. He twice ran for office — in 1960, when he was the Democratic Congressional candidate for the 29th District in upstate New York, and in 1982, when he campaigned in California for a seat in the Senate — and though he lost both times, he often conducted himself as a sort of unelected shadow president. He once said, “There is not one human problem that could not be solved if people would simply do as I advise.”

Mr. Vidal was an occasional actor, appearing in animated form on “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy,” in the movie version of his own play “The Best Man,” and in the Tim Robbins movie “Bob Roberts,” in which he played an aging, epicene version of himself. He was a more than occasional guest on talk shows, where his poise, wit, good looks and charm made him such a regular that Johnny Carson offered him a spot as a guest host of “The Tonight Show.”

Television was a natural medium for Mr. Vidal, who in person was often as cool and detached as he was in his prose. “Gore is a man without an unconscious,” his friend the Italian writer Italo Calvino once said. Mr. Vidal said of himself: “I’m exactly as I appear. There is no warm, lovable person inside. Beneath my cold exterior, once you break the ice, you find cold water.”

“Love is not my bag”

Mr. Vidal loved conspiracy theories of all sorts, especially the ones he imagined himself at the center of, and he was a famous feuder; he engaged in celebrated on-screen wrangles with Mailer, Capote and William F. Buckley Jr. Mr. Vidal did not lightly suffer fools — a category that for him comprised a vast swath of humanity, elected officials particularly — and he was not a sentimentalist or a romantic. “Love is not my bag,” he said.

By the time he was 25, he had already had more than 1,000 sexual encounters with both men and women, he boasted in his memoir “Palimpsest.” Mr. Vidal tended toward what he called “same-sex sex,” but frequently declared that human beings were inherently bisexual, and that labels like gay (a term he disliked) or straight were arbitrary and unhelpful. For 53 years, he had a live-in companion, Howard Austen, a former advertising executive, but the secret of their relationship, he often said, was that they did not sleep together.

Mr. Vidal sometimes claimed to be a populist — in theory, anyway — but he was not convincing as one. Both by temperament and by birth he was an aristocrat.

A Child on the Senate Floor

Eugene Luther Gore Vidal Jr. was born on October 3, 1925, at the United States Military Academy at West Point, where his father, Eugene, had been an All-American football player and a track star and had returned as a flying instructor and assistant football coach. An aviation pioneer, Eugene Vidal Sr. went on to found three airlines, including one that became T.W.A. He was director of the Bureau of Air Commerce under President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Mr. Vidal’s mother, Nina, was an actress and socialite and the daughter of Thomas Pryor Gore, a Democratic senator from Oklahoma.

Mr. Vidal, who once said he had grown up in “the House of Atreus,” detested his mother, whom he frequently described as a bullying, self-pitying alcoholic. She and Mr. Vidal’s father divorced in 1935, and she married Hugh D. Auchincloss, the stepfather of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis — a connection that Mr. Vidal never tired of bringing up.

After her remarriage, Mr. Vidal lived with his mother at Merrywood, the Auchincloss family estate in Virginia, but his fondest memories were of the years the family spent at his maternal grandfather’s sprawling home in the Rock Creek Park neighborhood of Washington. He loved to read to his grandfather, who was blind, and sometimes accompanied him onto the Senate floor. Mr. Vidal’s lifelong interest in politics began to stir back then, and from his grandfather, an America Firster, he probably also inherited his unwavering isolationist beliefs.

Mr. Vidal attended St. Albans School in Washington, where he lopped off his Christian names and became simply Gore Vidal, which he considered more literary-sounding. Though he shunned sports himself, he formed an intense romantic and sexual friendship — the most important of his life, he later said — with Jimmie Trimble, one of the school’s best athletes.

Trimble was his “ideal brother,” his “other half,” Mr. Vidal said, the only person with whom he ever felt wholeness. Jimmie’s premature death at Iwo Jima in World War II at once sealed off their relationship in a glow of A. E. Housman-like early perfection, and seemingly made it impossible for Mr. Vidal ever to feel the same way about anyone else.

After leaving St. Albans in 1939, Mr. Vidal spent a year at the Los Alamos Ranch School in New Mexico before enrolling at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire. He contributed stories and poems to the Exeter literary magazine, but he was an indifferent student who excelled mostly at debating. A classmate, the writer John Knowles, later used him as the model for Brinker Hadley, the know-it-all conspiracy theorist in “A Separate Peace,” his Exeter-based novel.

Mr. Vidal graduated from Exeter at 17 — only by cheating on virtually every math exam, he later admitted — and enlisted in the Army, becoming first mate on a freight supply ship in the Aleutian Islands. He began work on “Williwaw,” a novel set on a troopship and published in 1946, while he was an associate editor at the publishing company E. P. Dutton, a job he soon gave up. Written in a pared-down, Hemingway-like style, “Williwaw” (the title is a meteorological term for a sudden wind out of the mountains) won some admiring reviews but gave little clue to the kind of writer Mr. Vidal would become. Neither did his second book, “In a Yellow Wood” (1947), about a brokerage clerk and his wartime Italian mistress. Mr. Vidal later said it was so bad, he couldn’t bear to reread it. He nevertheless became a glamorous young literary figure, pursued by Anaïs Nin and courted by Christopher Isherwood and Tennessee Williams.

In 1948 Mr. Vidal published “The City and the Pillar,” which was dedicated to J. T. (Jimmie Trimble). It is what would now be called a coming-out story, about a handsome, athletic young Virginia man who gradually discovers that he is homosexual. By today’s standards it is tame and discreet, but at the time it caused a scandal and was denounced as corrupt and pornographic. Mr. Vidal later claimed that the literary and critical establishment, The New York Times especially, had blacklisted him because of the book, and he may have been right. He had such trouble getting subsequent novels reviewed that he turned to writing mysteries under the pseudonym Edgar Box and then, for a time, gave up novel-writing altogether. To make a living he concentrated on writing for television, then for the stage and the movies.

Politics Onstage, and for Real

Work was plentiful. He wrote for most of the shows that presented hourlong original dramas in the 1950s, including “Studio One,” “Philco Television Playhouse” and “Goodyear Playhouse.” He became so adept, he could knock off an adaptation in a weekend and an original play in a week or two. He turned “Visit to a Small Planet,” his 1955 television drama about an alien who comes to earth to study the art of war, into a Broadway play. His most successful play was “The Best Man,” about two contenders for the presidential nomination. It ran for 520 performances on Broadway before it, too, became a well-received film, in 1964, with a cast headed by Henry Fonda and a screenplay by Mr. Vidal. It was revived on Broadway in 2000 and is now being revived there again as “Gore Vidal’s The Best Man.”

Mr. Vidal’s reputation as a script doctor was such that in 1956 MGM hired him as a contract writer; among other projects he helped rewrite the screenplay of “Ben-Hur,” though he was denied an official credit. He also wrote the screenplay for the movie adaptation of his friend Tennessee Williams’s play “Suddenly, Last Summer.”

By the end of the ’50s, though, Mr. Vidal, at last financially secure, had wearied of Hollywood and turned to politics. He had purchased Edgewater, a Greek Revival mansion in Dutchess County, N.Y., and it became his headquarters for his 1960 run for Congress. He was encouraged by Eleanor Roosevelt, a neighbor who had become a friend and adviser.

The 29th Congressional District was a Republican stronghold, and though Mr. Vidal, running as Eugene Gore on a platform that included taxing the wealthy, lost, he received more votes in running for the seat than any Democrat in 50 years. And he never tired of pointing out he did better in the district than the Democratic presidential candidate that year, John F. Kennedy.

Mr. Vidal also returned to writing novels in the ’60s and published three books in fairly quick succession: “Julian” (1964), “Washington, D.C.” (1967) and “Myra Breckinridge” (1968). “Julian,” which some critics still consider Mr. Vidal’s best, was a painstakingly researched historical novel about the fourth-century Roman emperor who tried to convert Christians back to paganism. (Mr. Vidal himself never had much use for religion, Christianity especially, which he once called “intrinsically funny.”) “Washington, D.C.” was a political novel set in the 1940s. “Myra Breckinridge,” Mr. Vidal’s own favorite among his books, was a campy black comedy about a male homosexual who has sexual reassignment surgery. (A 1970 film version, with Raquel Welch and Mae West, proved to be a disaster.)

Perhaps without intending it, Mr. Vidal had set a pattern. In the years to come he found his greatest successes with historical novels, notably what became known as his American Chronicles: “Washington, D.C.,” “Burr” (1973), “1876” (1976), “Lincoln” (1984), “Empire (1987),“Hollywood” (1990) and “The Golden Age” (2000).

He turned out to have a gift for this kind of writing. These novels were learned and scrupulously based on fact, but also witty and contemporary-feeling, full of gossip and shrewd asides. Harold Bloom wrote that Mr. Vidal’s imagination of American politics “is so powerful as to compel awe.” Writing in The Times, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt said, “Mr. Vidal gives us an interpretation of our early history that says in effect that all the old verities were never much to begin with.”

But Mr. Vidal also persisted in writing books like “Myron” (1974), a sequel to “Myra,” and “Live From Golgotha: The Gospel According to Gore Vidal” (1992), which were clearly meant as provocations. “Live From Golgotha,” for example, rewrites the Gospels, with Saint Paul as a huckster and pederast and Jesus a buffoon. John Rechy said of it in The Los Angeles Times Book Review, “If God exists and Jesus is his son, then Gore Vidal is going to hell.”

In the opinion of many critics, though, Mr. Vidal’s ultimate reputation is apt to rest less on his novels than on his essays, many of them written for The New York Review of Books. His collection “The Second American Revolution” won the National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism in 1982. About a later collection, “United States: Essays 1952-1992,” R. W. B. Lewis wrote in The New York Times Book Review that Vidal the essayist was “so good that we cannot do without him,” adding, “He is a treasure of state.”

Mr. Vidal’s reputation as a script doctor was such that in 1956 MGM hired him as a contract writer; among other projects he helped rewrite the screenplay of “Ben-Hur,” though he was denied an official credit. He also wrote the screenplay for the movie adaptation of his friend Tennessee Williams’s play “Suddenly, Last Summer.”

Mr. Vidal also returned to writing novels in the ’60s and published three books in fairly quick succession: “Julian” (1964), “Washington, D.C.” (1967) and “Myra Breckinridge” (1968). “Julian,” which some critics still consider Mr. Vidal’s best, was a painstakingly researched historical novel about the fourth-century Roman emperor who tried to convert Christians back to paganism. (Mr. Vidal himself never had much use for religion, Christianity especially, which he once called “intrinsically funny.”) “Washington, D.C.” was a political novel set in the 1940s. “Myra Breckinridge,” Mr. Vidal’s own favorite among his books, was a campy black comedy about a male homosexual who has sexual reassignment surgery. (A 1970 film version, with Raquel Welch and Mae West, proved to be a disaster.)

Perhaps without intending it, Mr. Vidal had set a pattern. In the years to come he found his greatest successes with historical novels, notably what became known as his American Chronicles: “Washington, D.C.,” “Burr” (1973), “1876” (1976), “Lincoln” (1984), “Empire (1987),“Hollywood” (1990) and “The Golden Age” (2000).

But Mr. Vidal also persisted in writing books like “Myron” (1974), a sequel to “Myra,” and “Live From Golgotha: The Gospel According to Gore Vidal” (1992), which were clearly meant as provocations. “Live From Golgotha,” for example, rewrites the Gospels, with Saint Paul as a huckster and pederast and Jesus a buffoon. John Rechy said of it in The Los Angeles Times Book Review, “If God exists and Jesus is his son, then Gore Vidal is going to hell.”

In the opinion of many critics, though, Mr. Vidal’s ultimate reputation is apt to rest less on his novels than on his essays, many of them written for The New York Review of Books. His collection “The Second American Revolution” won the National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism in 1982. About a later collection, “United States: Essays 1952-1992,” R. W. B. Lewis wrote in The New York Times Book Review that Vidal the essayist was “so good that we cannot do without him,” adding, “He is a treasure of state.”

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: August 3, 2012

 An obituary about the author Gore Vidal in some copies on Wednesday included several errors. Mr. Vidal called William F. Buckley Jr. a crypto-Nazi, not a crypto-fascist, in a television appearance during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. While Mr. Vidal frequently joked that Vice President Al Gore was his cousin, genealogists have been unable to confirm that they were related. And according to Mr. Vidal’s memoir “Palimpsest,” he and his longtime live-in companion, Howard Austen, had sex the night they met, but did not sleep together after they began living together. It is not the case that they never had sex.

A version of this article appeared in print on August 1, 2012, on page A1 of the National edition with the headline: Prolific, Elegant, Acerbic Writer.

The Passing of Azah Aziz (1928-2012)


July 10, 2012

The Passing of Azah Aziz (1928-2012): Al-Fatihah

My classmates and I of the Class of 1963 at the University of Malaya wish to express our heartfelt condolences to our Professor and Mentor, Royal Professor Ungku A. Aziz and his family on the passing of Puan Azah Aziz yesterday.

We remember Mak Ungku most fondly as that beautiful, gracious and talented lady and writer who was seen on the campus of the University of Malaya always in the company of Professor Pak Ungku during our days as students at the Department and later Faculty of Economics and Administration. Semoga Allah mencucuri rahmat keatas roh Allahyarmah Mak Ungku. Al-Fatihah.–Din Merican, Class of 1963, University of Malaya.

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Azah Aziz’s passing robs  our nation of a Malay culture expert

by Bernama (07-09-12)

Malaysia has lost a renowned and respected Malay culture expert with the demise of Azah Aziz today.

The 83-year-old former journalist and wife of Royal Professor Ungku A. Aziz passed away at about 10am today following a stroke.

Born on August 21, 1928 in Singapore and raised in Johor Baru, Azah, whose full name had been Sharifah Azah Mohamed Alsagoff, who was also known as Mak Ungku, studied at Sekolah Menengah Convent there.

According to her biography, “Azah Aziz: Kartika di Langit Seni” published in 2002, Azah was still young when her schooling was disrupted by the Japanese Occupation.

After World War II, she intended to continue her studies but Ungku Aziz proposed to her, saying: “Marrying me will be like furthering your studies at the university.”

Azah, the mother of Bank Negara Governor Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz, was also known as an expert on Malay traditional fabrics and attire. Always seen in baju kurung, the soft-spoken and ever-smiling Azah is said to have a collection of Malay traditional attire including baju kebaya and baju Melayu.

She was among the first Malay women journalists, serving Berita Harian in Singapore from 1957 before moving on to Utusan Melayu and a women’s magazine.

Azah, who is also the niece of UMNO founder Datuk Onn Jaafar, was among the founders of the National Writers Association of Malaysia (Pena).She was also the founder and first president of the Women Journalists Association of Malaysia (Pertama) from 1971 to 1978.

While at Berita Harian, Azah handled the women’s pages and wrote on the need for mothers to prepare nutritious food for their family, among other issues.

According to her biography, she held strong to her mother’s advice: “If you want to help the Malays, write about nutrition.” Azah had written more than 10 books on pantun, seloka (short witty poems ending in aphorism), women’s affairs and issues, traditional attire and handicrafts.

In 2008, Azah was conferred the honorary doctorate in the arts and education by Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris (UPSI) for her expertise and contributions to journalism and promotion of culture.She was also honoured as Tokoh Wanita Johor, and awarded the Tan Sri Fatimah Hashim Woman of Excellence Award and Anugerah Jarum Berlian.

Her last posts were as Chairman of Prestige Communications Sdn Bhd and Advisor on Malay culture and traditions. — Bernama