Birthday Greetings from my friend Terence Netto


May 22, 2014

Din and KamsiahI am deeply  moved by an e-mail message I received a few moments ago from a soulmate in literature, Terence Netto and thank him  warmly for his very kind wishes to mark my 75th Birthday, which falls tomorrow, May 23.

It is indeed a great honour to share the same date as his late father, Christie Netto, whose centenary it will be tomorrow. Two Germinians, a quarter of century apart, Christie and I share a common passion which is the love of reading and literature.

Terence had an excellent role model in his father, and I had an equally wonderful one in my late mother, Hajjah Fatimah Merican. Both he and I were indeed fortunate to have  such unselfish mentors.

Our parents –my mother and his father– did not leave behind great wealth.  But in their separate ways, they exposed us to great literature and taught us the value of reading.

Yes, I love to read history and literary works of antiquity through which I began to appreciate the nobility of a Hamlet and the idealism of a Brutus and despise  the toxic qualities of Iago, the greed of a Shylock and the machinations and temptations of a Lady Macbeth.

So my friend, Terence, allow me to post a poem by William Wordsworth in honour of the long departed Christie Netto. He did his duty for our country. And so did my beloved mother.You and I will now go on, never to quit because we still have plenty to do before we sleep.

My Heart Leaps Up When I Behold (Rainbow)

My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.

Let also us celebrate this auspicious day with this tune by Sammy Davies Jr.–Din Merican

Birthday Greetings from my friend, Terence Netto

Dear Din,

My fond greetings to you on attaining the milestone of three score and 15 years.Ever since I came to know you seven years ago and got to know that your birthday falls on May 23, I have felt a special kinship for you. It is because the date is also the birthday of my father whose centenary is today which makes this day extra special to me.

It is apposite that I should greet you on this day when I feel a deep sense of gratitude to my dad. For without his urging me to read from a young age I doubt I could have forged a friendship with you that I am certain would last for the duration of our remaining years, you being a ripe 75 and I, a mere 14 years to the rear.

You and I have had many occasions when we shared our delight in the stuff we had read in our days of youth and maturity. That reading may not have covered the compendium of what Matthew Arnold meant by the “best that has been said and thought” in this world, but any range that has within its compass a dollop of Shakespeare, a draught of Tolstoy and a distillate of Gibbon would suffice for  the delights that we have shared whenever we met.

 From my father, Christie Netto, I acquired the sheer joy of felicitous statement which led me to devour literary and political stuff, especially when these have been singingly rendered. Combined with the fortune of having a good English teacher in the late Bernard Khoo Teng Swee (whom your website commemorated last week) and the fortuitous friendship of (also departed) fellow journalist, Shaik Osman Majid (who like you had Penang Free School as his alma mater), I learned to read, remember and store my mind with the stuff that will always be a joy forever.

 So on this day when you mark your 75th birthday, I take a special delight in greeting you and in remembering my father to whom I owe such a lot. If in the “brief candle” of our life the knowledge of how this world works and of how human beings are constituted could be available to us, it is almost certain such powers would only be acquired through comprehension of the great works of literary and philosophic merit.

It has been no small pleasure that through the mentoring of Christie, a humble accounts clerk who knew Shakespeare, Tolstoy and Marx, Netto junior acquired some of the wherewithal that must have made him, I figure, a companion of some value to Din Merican to whom the Latin greeting – Ad multos annos – is most appropriate on this auspicious day.

 

 

 

On Chin Peng: Who is Lying?


September 21, 2013

Side Views

@ http://www.themalaysianinsider.com

Chin Peng deserves a place in his country – Kee Thuan Chye

Kee TCThe pettiness of the Government has not been so clearly exposed as it is now over the issue of whether the former Communist leader Chin Peng’s ashes should be allowed into Malaysia to be buried in the land he loved and fought for. Even the police – who should have better things to look out for like the increasing incidences of crime – are putting out alerts to prevent the ashes from being brought back from Thailand, where he died. As if these ashes were lethal and could, by some preternatural means, maim the Malaysian populace.

Imagine this. Police personnel stationed at every entry point into Malaysia from Thailand, including at airports, going through the bags of everyone coming in. As if they have nothing better to do. But then, for all we know, the ashes might have been sent to someone in, say, Indonesia instead, and this person comes into Malaysia with it, unchecked. How stupid can it get?

Meanwhile, the authorities still quibble over the trivia that Chin Peng was not Malaysian because he could not produce the necessary documents to prove he was so, but it seems more likely that they did not want to let him return, full stop.

He first applied, under the guarantees of the peace agreement, to resettle in Malaysia in 1990, but his application was rejected the following year. In 2004, he wrote to then Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, but got no reply. That year, he received instead a letter from the Home Ministry’s secretary-general saying that his request to enter Malaysia had been rejected. No explanation was given.

He took the matter to the courts. But in 2005, the High Court rejected his application to enter Malaysia on the grounds that he had to show identification papers to prove his citizenship. Chin Peng, however, said he could not do so because his birth certificate was seized by the Police in 1948. In 2008, the Court of Appeal upheld the ruling.

Just a few days ago, Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Khalid Abu Bakar reiterated that Chin Peng was never a Malaysian citizen and, as such, the question of his being buried in Malaysia should not arise.

Hours after former Communist Party of Malaya leader Chin Peng died in Bangkok, police are on alert to prevent his remains from entering Malaysia.But documents are only stuff on paper. They are no match for what a person feels for his country and the things he does in respect of that feeling. Whatever you call that feeling – patriotism if you like – it is far and above more meaningful than a piece of paper.

The fact is, Chin Peng fought against the Japanese when they invaded Malaya and the British retreated. If this alone does not automatically qualify him to be Malaysian, what will? Entering the country illegally and agreeing to vote for Barisan Nasional, like the immigrants in Sabah who have been given identity cards for doing just that? In the latter case, in fact, having documents doesn’t mean diddly squat.

More tangible than this, the Malaysian Government signed a peace treaty in 1989 with the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM), of which Chin Peng was its head. And in that agreement, the CPM agreed to disband and cease all armed activities while the Government agreed to allow the CPM’s members to settle down in Malaysia. Since then, many have been allowed home, including leaders like Rashid Maidin and Shamsiah Fakeh. But why not Chin Peng? Why was he discriminated against?

The other favourite argument of the Government’s against Chin Peng’s return to Malaysia is that he was a terrorist and the head of a terrorist organisation that had caused the deaths of thousands. But when you hold this up against the terms of the agreement, you can straight away see that the argument is unfair. The man and his comrades had given up the fight, they would no longer “terrorise”. It was time for both sides to put the past aside and move on. For the sake of peace. That’s what an agreement is about. So how could the Government sign an agreement and still call the other signatory a villain? Might as well not sign the agreement in the first place!

Why does the Government want to behave in such bad form over this? Because it thinks maintaining Chin Peng as a bogeyman is worth its tarnishing its honour?

But even on the issue of Chin Peng being a terrorist, the lines are not clear-cut. To some, he was one, but to others, he was a freedom fighter. When he served the British cause in fighting against the Japanese, he was awarded the OBE (Order of the British Empire), but when he consequently fought against the British to gain independence for Malaya, he was a terrorist.

True, his Communist ideology was not everyone’s cup of tea and the CPM did kill many people to fulfil its mission, for which it should be condemned, but Chin Peng has also taken responsibility for the CPM’s taking of thousands of lives. In an interview with History Professor Cheah Boon Kheng in 1998, he said, “This was inevitable. It was a war for national independence.”

That this was so is affirmed by our first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, in his book Lest We Forget: “Just as Indonesia was fighting a bloody battle, so were the Communists of Malaya, who, too, fought for independence.”

The Japanese, on the other hand, were invaders, and they tortured and killed thousands more of our countrymen during their invasion, and yet we have forgiven them their atrocities. In fact, the Japanese are now our friends, and they are a people we look up to, thanks to ex-premiere Mahathir Mohamad’s Look East Policy. So why is it that we cut them slacker?

Is the Government hard on Chin Peng because it feels embarrassed that UMNO, the party that it has heaped so much credit on for winning independence, did not fight any bloody battles for it, like Chin Peng and the CPM did? And that, also, one of UMNO’s revered leaders of the past, Abdul Razak Hussein, actually worked for the Japanese?

Well, in the book Tun Abdul Razak: Potret dalam Kenangan, a collection of reminiscences by people who knew the country’s second Prime Minister, there is a mention of his having been an administrative officer for the Japanese. It is in the chapter entitled ‘Saya Mendayung, Dia Mengemudi’ (I Rowed, He Held the Helm), written by former Cabinet Minister Ghazali Shafie.

And in a study called ‘Sejarah Penubuhan Universiti Teknologi Mara UITM’, there is a photograph of Razak with three others dressed in Japanese uniform with the rising sun insignia pinned on their shirt pockets. This apparently depicts the time he was being trained by the Japanese.

To be sure, Ghazali also mentions in his chapter that he and Razak were actually nationalists. “We felt that since we had known the British much longer … it was easier to stand up to them than the Japanese, whom we had not got a full measure of yet … Therefore, we felt we had to master [the] Japanese [language] and at the same time, we had to look for channels to contact the British … so as to obtain their assistance in fighting the Japanese.”

From his account, it looks like the strategy adopted by him and Razak was a pragmatic play-both-sides one that is different from the direct warfare approach opted for by Chin Peng.

In view of this, do we still say that Chin Peng doesn’t deserve to even have his ashes brought home to the country he wanted to return to and die in?

Well, I would say that he has more right to be buried in Malaysia than many people I could name. For example, those who have been behind the giving of illegal identity cards to illegal immigrants in Sabah are certainly not as worthy as Chin Peng in claiming this country as their home. He never sold out his country; in fact, he wanted it to be free. His problem was, his ideology was not accepted. And he was on the wrong side of history.

I think it’s time to set the history right. – September 21, 2013.

*  Kee Thuan Chye is the author of the new book The Elections Bullshit, now available in bookstores.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.

On Chin Peng: Who is Lying?

by Aidila Razak and Tan Juin Wuu@ http://www.malaysiakini.com

Najib PMContrary to Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s claim, Chin Peng’s former comrades and family members have insisted that the late Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) leader had applied to return home following the 1989 Hatyai Peace Accord.

“The lawyers requested three documents from the Home Ministry when Chin Peng first filed the case (to return home) in the Penang High Court. The first was a list provided by CPM of those who have applied to go back (to Malaysia), the second a list of those rejected by the government and third, a list of those approved.

“Chin Peng’s name was in the first document, proving he had applied,” his ex-comrade Nan Jin told the media at the sidelines of the second day of Chin Peng’s wake in Bangkok today.

Chin Peng’s nephew, Lee Chung, added that a news article in 1991 also quoted then Inspector- General of Police Haniff Omar that his uncle had applied towards the end of the one-year stipulated application period.

He also pointed out that then Police Special Branch Chief Zulkifli Abdul Rahman was quoted in the same year as claiming that Chin Peng’s application was being processed.

“So what (Prime Minister) Najib Abdul Razak said is not the truth because logically, the 1991 statements show that an application was made,” he said.

Najib said the remains of Chin Peng – or his real name Ong Boon Hua – would not be allowed on Malaysian soil as he did not apply within the one-year period after the Peace Accord and that the family can sue the government if it disagrees.

Chin Peng lost his case in 2008 when he could not produce identification documents to prove his citizenship to the Court of Appeal.

‘We’ll bring him home with dignity’

Meanwhile, Lee Chung’s brother Lee Suvit said the family would “do their best” to fulfill his wish to have his remains returned to his hometown of Sitiawan, Perak.

“We will try to bring him back with dignity,” said Suvit, whose sister cared for Chin Peng until he died of cancer on September 16.

Chin Peng at 1955 Baling TalksThe Thai national said that despite dying in exile, Chin Peng died “calm and happy”, having spent his twilight years with family, writing and taking walks, “just like any other old man”.

While the rest of the world may focus on Chin Peng’s political role, for the family, it would be his jokes and kindness which would be missed the most.

Painting a picture of a much-loved patriarch, he said that Chin Peng would play his harmonica at family gatherings and his favourite tune was the song “Red Flag”.

chinpeng01Suvit said that even Chin Peng’s absence in his children’s life was an act of sacrifice to “protect them”. Both children are Malaysians and shy away from the public eye to avoid possible reprisals.

Suvit said that his daughter, now only a year younger than Chin Peng when he became CPM secretary-general at 23, grew very close to him.

Yet, he said, Chin Peng’s grandnieces and grandnephews, who were seen at the wake, do not know much about their granduncle’s political significance.

Born and bred in modern Thailand, their lives are a far cry compared to Chin Peng’s who joined the resistance at 15.

“Mine, too, is very different. He used to say ‘times were tough in my days’ and we’d brush him off. Maybe (his grandnephews and grandnieces) know some stories about him from us, but I think they just know that their granduncle is a good man, and whatever his struggle was, it was for a good cause,” he said.

Suvit, who now owns a factory in Shanghai, said his own grandchildren would know even less about Chin Peng.  “There is no need to pass down stories about his struggle to the coming generations. They can read about his role in Malaysia’s Independence and Southeast Asia in books. He is part of history,” he said.

Malaysia: Together in Poetry and Song


September 8, 2013

Malaysia: Together in Poetry and Song

by kerry-ann@nst.com.my

A national laureate’s most important lesson to his daughter is also a message for the whole nation, writes Kerry-Ann Augustin

AT the ultimate hipster haunt in Publika, I sit next to journalists from othermalaysia-at-50-Malaysia-Day_129_100_100 publications, all looking for their leads on Petronas’ big project — The Malaysia Day 2013 Campaign.

I’m here for Project#Tanahairku, a programme designed to drum some national pride into the consciousness of young Malaysians. After a string of questions from everyone else, I decide to pipe up: “How did your father pass down the importance of what Merdeka means, to you?”

Almost immediately, there is a glaze across Haslina Usman’s kind eyes. At a blink, her tears trickle down as she tries to compose herself. I am gripped with an awkwardness as everyone around the table goes silent — should I not have asked that question? But I had to. The eldest daughter of the national laureate was the only one who could tell us about what her father could teach us all.

She clears her throat, dabs her smudged eyeliner with tissue, smiles and answers: “Through his work”.

THE PEOPLE’S POET

Usman AwangThe only thing I recall, from a textbook or two, is a photo of a middle-aged man clad in blue baju Melayu, black songkok and lips pursed to form a small smile. Next to his picture, neatly cropped into a box with a thin, black outline, lies a poem in print. We were 17 and to most of us in class, it was just another person, another poem on another page.

I don’t think I realised how tragic this perception was till I started sieving through the late poet’s works over the last few weeks. Despite my now rusty Malay, every word, every stanza from many of his poems resonated within my Malaysian heart. But I feel goosebumps as I see the dates at the end of the poems — 1950, 1979, 1956, 1959 and so on. My eyebrows meet in the middle. I am hooked and slightly shocked all at once. How is it possible that these poems are still relevant to what we are feeling today?

Usman’s 1956 gem, Tanahair, couldn’t have resurfaced at a better time. In a country increasingly divided by political preferences, the poem echoes the sentiments of many Malaysians I’ve interviewed over this Merdeka month — deep down we are all the same.

As Haslina explains, her father’s words were simple, understood by all. The appeal of his work lays partially in his prose — simple not bombastic, direct not abstract and soulful not patronising. And most importantly, razor-sharp yet delicate. Perhaps this is what makes his work accessible to the ones he was so passionate about, the rakyat. But the other part of what makes Usman a true artiste was his fearlessness.

Professor Madya Dr Mohamad Mokhtar Abu Hassan, a lecturer of Malay Studies at University Malaya, in an interview years ago said of Usman Awang: “His strength lay in the way he weaved in his unabashed opinion of the system into elements of his poetry or short stories. He used his work as a platform to criticise leaders who were dishonest”.

The pen is mightier than the sword, they say. Usman’s principle as a writer was just that. The man who never had an education past primary school once said that writers are the mouth-pieces of the people.

MELAYU

Melayu itu orang yang bijaksana
Nakalnya bersulam jenaka
Budi bahasanya tidak terkira
Kurang ajarnya tetap santun
Jika menipu pun masih bersopan
Bila mengampu bijak beralas tangan.

Melayu itu berani jika bersalah
Kecut takut kerana benar,
Janji simpan di perut
Selalu pecah di mulut,
Biar mati adat
Jangan mati anak.

Melayu di tanah Semenanjung luas maknanya:
Jawa itu Melayu, Bugis itu Melayu
Banjar juga disebut Melayu,
Minangkabau memang Melayu,
Keturunan Acheh adalah Melayu,
Jakun dan Sakai asli Melayu,
Arab dan Pakistani, semua Melayu
Mamak dan Malbari serap ke Melayu
Malah mua’alaf bertakrif Melayu
(Setelah disunat anunya itu)

Dalam sejarahnya
Melayu itu pengembara lautan
Melorongkan jalur sejarah zaman
Begitu luas daerah sempadan
Sayangnya kini segala kehilangan

Melayu itu kaya falsafahnya
Kias kata bidal pusaka
Akar budi bersulamkan daya
Gedung akal laut bicara

Malangnya Melayu itu kuat bersorak
Terlalu ghairah pesta temasya
Sedangkan kampung telah tergadai
Sawah sejalur tinggal sejengkal
tanah sebidang mudah terjual

Meski telah memiliki telaga
Tangan masih memegang tali
Sedang orang mencapai timba.
Berbuahlah pisang tiga kali
Melayu itu masih bermimpi

Walaupun sudah mengenal universiti
Masih berdagang di rumah sendiri.
Berkelahi cara Melayu
Menikam dengan pantun
Menyanggah dengan senyum
Marahnya dengan diam
Merendah bukan menyembah
Meninggi bukan melonjak.

Watak Melayu menolak permusuhan
Setia dan sabar tiada sempadan
Tapi jika marah tak nampak telinga
Musuh dicari ke lubang cacing
Tak dapat tanduk telinga dijinjing
Maruah dan agama dihina jangan
Hebat amuknya tak kenal lawan

Berdamai cara Melayu indah sekali
Silaturrahim hati yang murni
Maaf diungkap senantiasa bersahut
Tangan diulur sentiasa bersambut
Luka pun tidak lagi berparut

Baiknya hati Melayu itu tak terbandingkan
Segala yang ada sanggup diberikan
Sehingga tercipta sebuah kiasan:
“Dagang lalu nasi ditanakkan
Suami pulang lapar tak makan
Kera di hutan disusu-susukan
Anak di pangkuan mati kebuluran”

Bagaimanakah Melayu abad dua puluh satu
Masihkan tunduk tersipu-sipu?
Jangan takut melanggar pantang
Jika pantang menghalang kemajuan;
Jangan segan menentang larangan
Jika yakin kepada kebenaran;
Jangan malu mengucapkan keyakinan
Jika percaya kepada keadilan.

Jadilah bangsa yang bijaksana
Memegang tali memegang timba
Memiliki ekonomi mencipta budaya
Menjadi tuan di negara Merdeka “

umno-tikam-belakangThe 21st Century Malay UMNO Style

“My dad… he died a sad man,” Haslina says later, over the phone. There is no need to see her facial expressions because her pain is transmitted by her voice. “He was upset at muscle building politicians. People are losing faith in our country but when you read his poems you remember your motherland,” she says.“My father wrote his works to instil semangat (the spirit) in us. And of course, I am protective of my father’s works. It’s not just because the copyright belongs to his children but also because his work belongs to the nation,” she explains.

FATHER FIGURE

Haslina now runs UA Enterprises, her late father’s publishing house. “There are lots of sacrifices to make financially, and…,” she breaks, and with a harrowing sigh continues “but his work needs to be preserved.” She explains her efforts in keeping her father’s legacy alive, which included a stage production of Uda Dan Dara The Musical.

She admits she took his work for granted when he was alive.“You know when you come home and see your father working, you only see him as a working dad. I never bothered, till he passed on, to really understand his work,” she says with an air of regret clouding every inflection of her tone. But Haslina admits that they rarely saw their father who was constantly drowned in work.

“He sacrificed family time for his country. In his latter years, he tried to make up for it,” she adds.“But my father would ask his friends to come over to our house or sometimes he would take me to his workplace, so I was exposed to all the goings on. And there would be all kinds of people — students, academicians, activist. All sorts! I even visited his friends in prison!” she says animatedly.

I ask what her father’s most valuable lesson to her was.“You know, when I said earlier that there were all sorts of people, I meant all sorts. There was no distinction in race or religion for my father. He welcomed everyone. We had friends of all races and now, when some people play up race issues I just don’t get it, you know?”

If you read any of his works, you will know this to be true.In July this year, an award in honour of his work that promoted unity of races was launched by the Federation of Chinese Associations Malaysia (Huazong). Aptly called the Usman Awang National Integration Award, it will be presented to individuals or societies who can bring communities of different ethnicities together for an activity that will help change things for the better.

In the raucous of racial card-playing of this era, it is a beautiful tribute to a man who truly believed and embraced a multicultural Malaysia.

OUR NATION, OUR FAMILY

“Nowadays, children in school seem to be segregated. Like this race gangMalaysia-- Endless Possibilities and that race gang kind of thing,” says Haslina as she relates her observations about families. “It all starts with the family — we should be instilling love for everyone. A family is like a community, we build character through our relationships, a sense of understanding.”

“Why can’t we be happy for each other?” she asks as she launches into stories of her father’s childhood. She relates how her father and brother had little choice but to fend for themselves when their mother passed on at an early age. But the people in their village were kind and they would help whatever they could. “I believe these hardships was part of what made my father really love his family and his country,” she says, adding that nature played a big part in his work, metaphorically as well.

HERE COME THE DRUMS

“Part of the poem is about the struggles of war. But young people may not be able to relate to this because we are not living in a war-torn country,” explains Mohd Suhaimy Kamaruddin, general manager of strategic communication at Petronas, during the discussion in Publika. He goes on to say that the oil giant’s intent is to convey the message of unity through music.

“We are turning this poem into a song to resonate with younger generation,” he adds.Two weeks after Mohd Suhaimy’s revelation, I waited patiently for the release of Tanahair. Infused with a new lease of life through renowned composer, Audi Mok, Twitter was abuzz with positive feedback on his pop interpretation of the poem. Even Haslina was thrilled.

“At first I was afraid. It might attract negative remarks as this is considered a national treasure you know?” she says, clearly delighted with the results. “But it’s more important that the younger generation can relate to the message in the poem,” she adds.

It is ironic that Usman Awang’s lost legacy is found in the toughest of times. But it is way more important that we keep it alive. As Haslina puts it: “Finally my father’s work is out there for the nation”.I’m glad I asked her that question.–The New Straits/Sunday Times

The Lahad Datu Standoff: Another Point of View


February 27, 2013

http://www.nst.com.my

The Lahad Datu Standoff: Another Point of View

by Lt Gen (Rtd) Datuk Seri Zaini Mohd Said  | panglima_sauk70@hotmail.com

Sulu armyLIKE many happenings in the realm of national security, the ones often thought unlikely and even impossible to happen will. Old military hands had already learned this and will constantly remind themselves to expect the unexpected to occur, somehow.

Long ago, the United States experienced Pearl Harbour and then the 9/11 attack. We had among others, things like the Al Maunah arms heist at our military camps, the two-person samurai sword attack in Putrajaya and now the incursion and entrenchment in Sabah of armed soldiers of the Sultanate of Sulu on Feb 12. All of these were mostly unexpected.

Those in the business of defence and security are conscious of threats that can emanate from outside or from within the country. However, they can never predict and picture fully the actual and detailed form these threats can manifest themselves. These, therefore, can still surprise.

We were surprised by the incursion of the soldiers and their demand forHome Affairs Minister2 Sabah to be handed back to the Sultanate of Sulu or else they would fight — to the death if necessary. It was also some surprise to many as to the manner they made their demand, with more than 100 armed men, in Sabah, and, headed by a royal member from the sultanate.

Not unexpectedly, many are questioning why they were able to land in the first place and why it is taking so long to evict or apprehend them, forcibly if need be.

Understandable, questions from reasonable minds but since the operation and delicate process of urging them to leave is ongoing, it is best to let the authorities go about doing their job and wait for the complete answers to come once there is full closure of the matter.

In the meantime, there is little need for worry or cause for alarm. Indications are that the authorities and Police are on top of the situation and are prepared for any eventuality.

The Sulu soldiers are also reported to begin to lose their nerve and tiring fast. Even our military is close by and ready to come in if needed. It should not be too difficult for the security forces to end the standoff by use of force at all.

We should, however, pray that this will not be necessary. It would certainlyRajah Muda Agbimuddin Kiram affect and jeopardise the effort and our role as the facilitator towards getting the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Manila peace accord finalised and the establishment of the Bangsamoro state in southern Philippines.

If force were to result in many casualties on the Sulu side, then Malaysia’s plans and prospects of helping and participating in the development in the land of the Moros will diminish. It cannot be easy when there are to be vengeful and angry people from within the population there.

In any case, it is believed that they had not come intending to fight us or our security forces. That they came led and dressed in recognisable military uniforms with clear insignias is not to appear intimidating but to be identified as a bona fide and organised military body and not terrorists or common criminals.

map-sabah-intrudersA recognition that would entitle them to be regarded and treated under all the provisions of the international law on land warfare and the Geneva Convention as military combatants. A status they could nevertheless lose if they were to make monetary or other material demands over what has already been stated.

This must have been clear to our authorities and that probably explains the present strategy of urging them to leave peacefully and not giving in to any inappropriate demand, being the most appropriate option to pursue.

Avoid the shooting part at all costs for it will never ever end in that part of the world and not with the Moros.

 

Poetry, You and Me


February 11, 2013

Poetry,You and Me

“Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality. But, of course, only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things.”-T.S. Eliot

Let us use this CNY period to listen to some poetry and reflect on where we are all heading. Bean. et.al are waiting to take that ride on the Kerbau on a journey to a faraway place beyond the crimson sky. Poetry can be fascinating yet amusing.But it is certainly better than politics.–Din Merican

Dedicated to BERSIH2.0 around the World: Locksley Hall


July 9, 2011

To BERSIH2.0 Around the World:  Alfred Lord Tennyson’s Locksley Hall

As of this morning, Kuala Lumpur is a city under blockage, the consequence of Police action to prevent BERSIH2.0’s Walk for Democracy, which is to start at 2pm today.

I wonder what the city’s business community will attribute the loss of business to. Certainly not to the oppressed and peace loving Malaysians who seek to show that they wholeheartedly support the campaign for free and fair elections.

They have to blame the Government and the Police, the oppressors who have over-reacted in this and other instances of peaceful protests in our country.

Fortunately, Malaysian diaspora from New Zealand, Europe  to Canada and the United States are taking to the streets to show us here in Malaysia that in their host countries, it is legitimate to stand up for our democratic rights, in this instance, to inform the people in power that they want free and fair election, the sine qua non for true democracy.

I dedicate Locksley Hall, a poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson, to all Malaysians where ever they may be for standing up for us at home who are being prevented from taking a walk to Istana Negara peacefully in support of BERSIH2.o leaders who wish to hand a petition to our beloved King.

To these BERSIH2.0 leaders, I say don’t be discouraged. The world hears you and I certainly do.  Take heed from my favorite hero of peace, Mahatma Gandhi  who said:

“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible but in the end, they always fall — think of it, ALWAYS.”

Why this poem which talks about love lost and despair? Yes, but I like the latter part of this poem because it is noticeably more upbeat. The poet, Alfred Lord Tennyson  gazes upon the wonder of“the Vision of the World”. There is reunification with society, as “the individual withers, and the world is more and more”, and his focus shifts from away his own dismal personal state This is seen in his vision of “the Parliament of man, the Federation of the world”, and also his glad response to rejoin his comrades at the bugle call.

I am less ambitious. My bugle call is for a Vision of Malaysia as a truly democratic nation and genuine pluralist society where we all can be the best that our God given endowments can take us on a journey of excellence.

In this poem, the barrenness in nature is replaced, as the gloomy moors give way to “heavens fill[ed] with shouting”, the “yonder shining Orient”, and the “heavy-fruited tree” upon Eden. There is a sense of opulence conveyed in the expanse of geographical scope and richness of words.

Most importantly, Tennyson paradoxically reverts to youth. A sense of carpe diem is raised, in the energy of his “wild pulsation”, and his willingness to “take some savage woman”. The verbs are movement oriented now; such as “dive”, “run”, “leap the rainbows of the brooks.”

As one commenator says:  “He (Tennyson) can bid farewell to Locksley Hall, for he has ridded himself of his obsessive concern with the Hall as a symbol of despair.” And indeed, he moves onward: “For the mighty wind arises, roaring seaward, and I go.”

Unlike Tennyson, I won’t go in despair. Instead, I want to go in triumph, believing in our Hall of Parliament as the last hope for freedom, justice and democracy. But our parliamentarians must be chosen in free and fair elections.–Din Merican

Locksley Hall

COMRADES, leave me here a little, while as yet ‘t is early morn:
Leave me here, and when you want me, sound upon the bugle-horn.
‘T is the place, and all around it, as of old, the curlews call,
Dreary gleams about the moorland flying over Locksley Hall;

Locksley Hall, that in the distance overlooks the sandy tracts,
And the hollow ocean-ridges roaring into cataracts.
“>Many a night from yonder ivied casement, ere I went to rest,
Did I look on great Orion sloping slowly to the West.

Many a night I saw the Pleiads, rising thro’ the mellow shade,
Glitter like a swarm of fire-flies tangled in a silver braid.
Here about the beach I wander’d, nourishing a youth sublime
with the fairy tales of science, and the long result of Time;

When the centuries behind me like a fruitful land reposed;
When I clung to all the present for the promise that it closed:
When I dipt into the future far as human eye could see;
Saw the Vision of the world and all the wonder that would be.

In the Spring a fuller crimson comes upon the robin’s breast;
In the Spring the wanton lapwing gets himself another crest;>
In the Spring a livelier iris changes on the burnish’d dove;
In the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.

Then her cheek was pale and thinner than should be for one so young,
And her eyes on all my motions with a mute observance hung.
And I said, “My cousin Amy, speak, and speak the truth to me,
Trust me, cousin, all the current of my being sets to thee.”

On her pallid cheek and forehead came a colour and a light,
As I have seen the rosy red flushing in the northern night.
And she turn’d–her bosom shaken with a sudden storm of sighs–
All the spirit deeply dawning in the dark of hazel eyes–

Saying, “I have hid my feelings, fearing they should do me wrong”;
Saying, “Dost thou love me, cousin?” weeping, “I have loved thee long.”
Love took up the glass of Time, and turn’d it in his glowing hands;
Every moment, lightly shaken, ran itself in golden sands.

Love took up the harp of Life, and smote on all the chords with might;
Smote the chord of Self, that, trembling, pass’d in music out of sight.
Many a morning on the moorland did we hear the copses ring,
And her whisper throng’d my pulses with the fullness of the Spring.

Many an evening by the waters did we watch the stately ships,
And our spirits rush’d together at the touching of the lips.
O my cousin, shallow-hearted! O my Amy, mine no more!
O the dreary, dreary moorland! O the barren, barren shore!

Falser than all fancy fathoms, falser than all songs have sung,
Puppet to a father’s threat, and servile to a shrewish tongue!
Is it well to wish thee happy?–having known me–to decline
On a range of lower feelings and a narrower heart than mine!

Yet it shall be; thou shalt lower to his level day by day,
What is fine within thee growing coarse to sympathize with clay.
As the husband is, the wife is: thou art mated with a clown,
And the grossness of his nature will have weight to drag thee down.

He will hold thee, when his passion shall have spent its novel force,
Something better than his dog, a little dearer than his horse.
What is this? his eyes are heavy; think not they are glazed with wine.
Go to him, it is thy duty, kiss him, take his hand in thine.

It may be my lord is weary, that his brain is overwrought:
Soothe him with thy finer fancies, touch him with thy lighter thought.
He will answer to the purpose, easy things to understand–
Better thou wert dead before me, tho’ I slew thee with my hand!

Better thou and I were lying, hidden from the heart’s disgrace,
Roll’d in one another’s arms, and silent in a last embrace.
Cursed be the social wants that sin against the strength of youth!
Cursed be the social lies that warp us from the living truth!

Cursed be the sickly forms that err from honest Nature’s rule!
Cursed be the gold that gilds the straiten’d forehead of the fool!
Well–‘t is well that I should bluster!–Hadst thou less unworthy proved–
Would to God–for I had loved thee more than ever wife was loved.

Am I mad, that I should cherish that which bears but bitter fruit?
I will pluck it from my bosom, tho’ my heart be at the root.
Never, tho’ my mortal summers to such length of years should come
As the many-winter’d crow that leads the clanging rookery home.

Where is comfort? in division of the records of the mind?
Can I part her from herself, and love her, as I knew her, kind?
I remember one that perish’d; sweetly did she speak and move;
Such a one do I remember, whom to look at was to love.

Can I think of her as dead, and love her for the love she bore?
No–she never loved me truly; love is love for evermore.
Comfort? comfort scorn’d of devils! this is truth the poet sings,
That a sorrow’s crown of sorrow is remembering happier things.

Drug thy memories, lest thou learn it, lest thy heart be put to proof,
In the dead unhappy night, and when the rain is on the roof.
Like a dog, he hunts in dreams, and thou art staring at the wall,
Where the dying night-lamp flickers, and the shadows rise and fall.

Then a hand shall pass before thee, pointing to his drunken sleep,
To thy widow’d marriage-pillows, to the tears that thou wilt weep.
Thou shalt hear the “Never, never,” whisper’d by the phantom years,
And a song from out the distance in the ringing of thine ears;

And an eye shall vex thee, looking ancient kindness on thy pain.
Turn thee, turn thee on thy pillow; get thee to thy rest again.
Nay, but Nature brings thee solace; for a tender voice will cry.
‘T is a purer life than thine, a lip to drain thy trouble dry.

Baby lips will laugh me down; my latest rival brings thee rest.
Baby fingers, waxen touches, press me from the mother’s breast.
O, the child too clothes the father with a dearness not his due.
Half is thine and half is his: it will be worthy of the two.

O, I see thee old and formal, fitted to thy petty part,
With a little hoard of maxims preaching down a daughter’s heart.
They were dangerous guides the feelings–she herself was not exempt–
she herself had suffer’d”–Perish in thy self-contempt!

Overlive it–lower yet–be happy! wherefore should I care?
I myself must mix with action, lest I wither by despair.
What is that which I should turn to, lighting upon days like these?
Every door is barr’d with gold, and opens but to golden keys.

Every gate is throng’d with suitors, all the markets overflow.
I have but an angry fancy; what is that which I should do?
I had been content to perish, falling on the foeman’s ground,
When the ranks are roll’d in vapour, and the winds are laid with sound.

But the jingling of the guinea helps the hurt that Honour feels,
And the nations do but murmur, snarling at each other’s heels.
Can I but relive in sadness? I will turn that earlier page.
Hide me from my deep emotion, O thou wondrous Mother-Age!

Make me feel the wild pulsation that I felt before the strife,
When I heard my days before me, and the tumult of my life;
Yearning for the large excitement that the coming years would yield,
Eager-hearted as a boy when first he leaves his father’s field,

And at night along the dusky highway near and nearer drawn,
Sees in heaven the light of London flaring like a dreary dawn;
And his spirit leaps within him to be gone before him then,
Underneath the light he looks at, in among the throngs of men:

Men, my brothers, men the workers, ever reaping something new:
That which they have done but earnest of the things that they shall do:
For I dipt into the future, far as human eye could see,
Saw the Vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be;

Saw the heavens fill with commerce, argosies of magic sails,
Pilots of the purple twilight dropping down with costly bales;
Heard the heavens fill with shouting, and there rain’d a ghastly dew
From the nations’ airy navies grappling in the central blue;

Far along the world-wide whisper of the south-wind rushing warm,

With the standards of the peoples plunging thro’ the thunder-storm;
Till the war-drum throbb’d no longer, and the battle-flags were furl’d
In the Parliament of man, the Federation of the world.

There the common sense of most shall hold a fretful realm in awe,
And the kindly earth shall slumber, lapped in universal law.
So I triumph’d ere my passion sweeping thro’ me left me dry,
Left me with the palsied heart, and left me with the jaundiced eye;

Eye, to which all order festers, all things here are out of joint:
Science moves, but slowly, slowly, creeping on from point to point:
Slowly comes a hungry people, as a lion, creeping nigher,
Glares at one that nods and winks behind a slowly-dying fire.

Yet I doubt not thro’ the ages one increasing purpose runs,
And the thoughts of men are widen’d with the process of the suns.
What is that to him that reaps not harvest of his youthful joys,
Tho’ the deep heart of existence beat for ever like a boy’s?

Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers, and I linger on the shore,
And the individual withers, and the world is more and more.
Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers, and he bears a laden breast,
Full of sad experience, moving toward the stillness of his rest.

Hark, my merry comrades call me, sounding on the bugle-horn,
They to whom my foolish passion were a target for their scorn:
Shall it not be scorn to me to harp on such a moulder’d string?
I am shamed thro’ all my nature to have loved so slight a thing.

Weakness to be wroth with weakness! woman’s pleasure, woman’s pain–
Nature made them blinder motions bounded in a shallower brain:
Woman is the lesser man, and all thy passions, match’d with mine,
Are as moonlight unto sunlight, and as water unto wine–

Here at least, where nature sickens, nothing. Ah, for some retreat
Deep in yonder shining Orient, where my life began to beat;
Where in wild Mahratta-battle fell my father evil-starr’d,
I was left a trampled orphan, and a selfish uncle’s ward.

Or to burst all links of habit–there to wander far away,
On from island unto island at the gateways of the day.
Larger constellations burning, mellow moons and happy skies,
Breadths of tropic shade and palms in cluster, knots of Paradise.

Never comes the trader, never floats an European flag,
Slides the bird o’er lustrous woodland, swings the trailer from the crag;
Droops the heavy-blossom’d bower, hangs the heavy-fruited tree–
Summer isles of Eden lying in dark-purple spheres of sea.

There methinks would be enjoyment more than in this march of mind,
In the steamship, in the railway, in the thoughts that shake mankind.
There the passions cramp’d no longer shall have scope and breathing space;
I will take some savage woman, she shall rear my dusky race.

Iron-jointed, supple-sinew’d, they shall dive, and they shall run,
Catch the wild goat by the hair, and hurl their lances in the sun;
Whistle back the parrot’s call, and leap the rainbows of the brooks,
Not with blinded eyesight poring over miserable books.

Fool, again the dream, the fancy! but I know my words are wild,
But I count the gray barbarian lower than the Christian child.
I, to herd with narrow foreheads, vacant of our glorious gains,
Like a beast with lower pleasures, like a beast with lower pains!

Mated with a squalid savage–what to me were sun or clime?
I the heir of all the ages, in the foremost files of time
I that rather held it better men should perish one by one,
Than that earth should stand at gaze like Joshua’s moon in Ajalon!

Not in vain the distance beacons. Forward, forward let us range,
Let the great world spin for ever down the ringing grooves of change.
Thro’ the shadow of the globe we sweep into the younger day;
Better fifty years of Europe than a cycle of Cathay.

Mother-Age (for mine I knew not) help me as when life begun:
Rift the hills, and roll the waters, flash the lightnings, weigh the Sun.
O, I see the crescent promise of my spirit hath not set.
Ancient founts of inspiration well thro’ all my fancy yet.

Howsoever these things be, a long farewell to Locksley Hall!
Now for me the woods may wither, now for me the roof-tree fall.
Comes a vapour from the margin, blackening over heath and holt,
Cramming all the blast before it, in its breast a thunderbolt.

Let it fall on Locksley Hall, with rain or hail, or fire or snow;
For the mighty wind arises, roaring seaward, and I go.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson