October 30, 2015
Thanks, Dean for the pleasure of your intellectual company
Some time has lapsed since I last posted Dean Johns’ articles which are featured in Malaysiakini on this blog. I know Dean has been very critical of UMNO-BN regime politics and its leader, Najib Razak. His observations and comments, of course, resonate with me. While he, like the rest of us, may be very blunt and brutal at times in his comments about the regime, there was no doubt in my mind at least that Malaysia has been good and kind to him and his latest piece says it all. He makes me a little homesick.
Malaysia has plenty to share with the world about its history, culture and cuisine, and diverse peoples. What is spoiling everything is its racist politics which is a mixed cocktail of muddled Islamism, racism, corruption, and administrative dysfunction and inept leadership. Dean has written most eloquently about them in his books. This Australian civil society and human rights activist has not abandoned hopes for change in Malaysia. Having invested much intellectual energy here, he is not someone who thinks that Malaysia is basket case, not yet I think.
All I can now say is thank you, Dean for your many contributions to our discourse. I enjoyed reading your writings and look forward hearing from you in Australia. –Din Merican
My thanks to Malaysia
by Dean Johns
This week I thought I’d take a break from my customary attack on the members, cronies and supporters of Malaysia’s ever-ruling UMNO-BN regime, as I’ve been vividly reminded of why I bother boring myself and my readers almost to tears by writing columns criticising these lying, thieving scum year after weary year.
There are times, I have to confess, when this seemingly endless round of apparently fruitless repetition and resultant frustration causes me to lose sight of what has so long inspired me in this project.
Which, very simply, is the fact that I have so much to be thankful to Malaysia for that the very least I can do to express my gratitude and try and diminish my debt is to try and help rid it of the curse of its criminal and incompetent government.
My first recent reminder of the depth of my debt to Malaysia came just days ago in an email from an old friend and former colleague and also employer there asking me for personal recollections for a book that somebody is writing about him.
Then came another even more powerful blast from my Malaysian past in the form of an invitation to a reunion dinner with the man who, along with his wife, first introduced me to Malaysia and so many good friends like the one who is having his biography written, by hiring me to work in KL back in 1985.
If it seems odd, as it must, that I am obviously avoiding mentioning any names here, let me hasten to explain that, assuming or at least hoping that my name is mud with the ruling regime, I am keen to avoid besmirching others’ reputations by identifying them as associates.
But they and others who similarly matter will recognise who they are, and no doubt feel much about them as I do. Suffice, then, to say that my old friend who is the subject of the aforementioned book project is one of the most talented writers and indefatigable workers it has ever been my privilege to know.
And that the man for whom we both worked back in 1985 was and remains not only one of nature’s natural gentlemen, but one of the two best managing directors I was fortunate to work for in my long and chequered career in advertising.
Seeing him again last night at the reunion dinner brought back an absolute flood of three-decades-old happy memories of Malaysia.
Starting with the venue, the Kopitiam Café in the inner-Sydney suburb of Ultimo, whose authentic menu and cheap prices recalled the countless hours I spent eating with friends and colleagues back in the old days at now long-gone stalls like the so-called Hilton Drive-In behind Wisma Stephens and The Drains out on Jalan Ampang.
Then there was the fact that the guest of honour and his wife both, unlike myself, seemed to have hardly aged a week, let alone 30 years, since I first knew them back when they lived in a lovely old house, these days, they told me, converted to a fancy restaurant, on Changkat Kia Peng, not far from the Golden Triangle.
A sadder and deeper reminder
But let me leave such reminiscences for now and proceed to a sadder and even deeper reminder this past week of my abiding indebtedness to Malaysia, what would have been the 91st birthday of my beloved father-in-law, who died just last year.
I will forever be grateful to this lovely man and his wife and family for the whole-hearted welcome he and they gave me when I, not only a gweilo, but an ageing Australian one to boot, met and fell in love with one of his daughters.
This daughter is a citizen of Australia these days, and so is her – our – now 20-year-old daughter, but I am forever grateful to their motherland, Malaysia, for so blessing me with them.
And, as I recall writing in the introduction to one of my books of collected Malaysiakini columns, I am similarly grateful to them and their mother, late father, brothers and sisters for so generously accepting me as a Malaysian-in-law.
An identity that I figure gives me almost as much of a right, indeed duty, as any natural-born Malaysian has to criticise and combat the blighting of a beautiful country by the kleptocrats that have so long robbed and repressed it.
There has been a great deal of conjecture lately about bringing a motion of no-confidence against Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak for his squandering, misappropriation and alleged embezzlement if not outright theft of countless billions of ringgit in public funds.
But for the sake of the country we love and whose bounty we all have so much cause to be thankful for, it is incumbent on all of us, Malaysians and Malaysians-in-law alike, to express no-confidence in and thus rid the nation of not just Najib, but also every single one of his UMNO-BN accomplices and supporters in crime.
DEAN JOHNS, after many years in Asia, currently lives with his Malaysian-born wife and daughter in Sydney, where he coaches and mentors writers and authors and practises as a writing therapist. Published books of his columns for Malaysiakini include ‘Mad about Malaysia’, ‘Even Madder about Malaysia’, ‘Missing Malaysia’, ‘1Malaysia.con’ and ‘Malaysia Mania’.