Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Shim Sung-min executed

South Korea has confirmed that a second hostage has been killed by the Taleban in central Afghanistan.

The foreign ministry identified the latest victim as 29-year-old Shim Sung-min, a former IT worker.

His body was found at the side of the road in the village of Arizo Valley in Ghazni province. He had been shot. [More]

Death is nothing at all
I have only slipped away into the next room
I am I and you are you
Whatever we were to each other
That we are still
Call me by my old familiar name
Speak to me in the easy way you always used
Put no difference into your tone
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow
Laugh as we always laughed
At the little jokes we always enjoyed together
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was
Let it be spoken without effort
Without the ghost of a shadow in it
Life means all that it ever meant
It is the same as it ever was
There is absolute unbroken continuity
What is death but a negligible accident?
Why should I be out of mind
Because I am out of sight?
I am waiting for you for an interval
Somewhere very near
Just around the corner
All is well.
Nothing is past; nothing is lost
One brief moment and all will be as it was before
How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!

Canon Henry Scott-Holland, 1847-1918,
Canon of St Paul's Cathedral

'The King of Terrors', a sermon on death delivered in St Paul's Cathedral on Whitsunday 1910, while the body of King Edward VII was lying in state at Westminster

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Bae Hyng-Kyu executed!

EXECUTED: South Korea has identified the hostage killed in Afghanistan as Bae Hyung-kyu, a Christian pastor who was the leader of the group of 22 other church volunteers kidnapped by Taliban insurgents.

Bae's bullet-riddled body was found on Wednesday, the day South Korean media said he would have turned 42.

The Taliban said the South Korean government had not been acting in good faith and threatened to kill more of the Korean hostages if its demands were not met.

Bae, a married man with a nine-year-old daughter, was from a devout Christian family from the island province of Jeju. He went to theology school and became a pastor about six years ago. [More]


Death be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not soe,
For, those, whom thou think'st,
thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill mee.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee,
much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings,
and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
And poppie, or charmes can make us
sleepe as well,
And better then thy stroake;
why swell'st thou then?
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.

John Donne

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

South Korean hostages

TALIBAN HOSTAGES: The ministry said 19 from the Saemmul Community Church south of Seoul were among the Korean abductees held by Taliban gunmen in the southern province, some 175 kilometers south of Kabul.

They are Bae Hyung-kyu (43), Lee Sun-young (37), Seo Myung-hwa (29), Cha Hye-jin (31), Seo Kyung-seok (27), Ko Se-hun (27), Kim Ji-na (32), Kim Kyung-ja (37), Yoo Jung-hwa (39), Je Chang-hee (38), Shim Sung-min (29), Lee Joo-yeon (27), Yoo Kyung-sik (55), Song Byung-woo (33), Lee Young-kyung (22), Han Ji-young (34), Kim Yun-young (35), An Hye-jin (31) and Lee Sung-eun (24).

Two more South Korean nationals from a non-governmental organization operating in Afghanistan were also abducted along with the church members, said ministry spokesman Cho Hee-yong. There were not identified. [More]

KILL THREAT:The Taliban who have threatened to kill 23 South Korean hostages unless an equal number of their own fighters are released, extended on Sunday the deadline of their ultimatum by 24 hours, according to a man identifying himself as a spokesman for the insurgent group. [More]

SWAP DEAL: The Taleban delayed a threat to kill 23 South Korean hostages yesterday while increasing their demands for a prisoner swap. But President Karzai of Afghanistan is under pressure to refuse to release Taleban fighters in exchange for the Christian aid workers.

Mulavi Attiullah Luddin, a member of parliament from Nangarhar, said of a possible swap: “It will only encourage the Taleban to take hostages. It’s opening a market for all Taleban, criminals and al-Qaeda”. [More]


Monday, July 23, 2007

Watch the camel.


Chandra Muzzafar wrote that labels are not helpful or necessary as Malaysia is neither strictly one or the other.

That would be Law Professor Shad Faruqi’s position too. The constitutional law expert has on several occasions described Malaysia as neither wholly Islamic nor secular but a “democratic secular federation with Islam as its official religion.” In a more recent update, the good prof reiterates that it’s “not something to be ashamed of.” That suits me fine. Other folks more knowledgeable than me call Malaysia a guided democracy, a constitutional monarchy, a qualified secular nation. Again I can live with that.

Chandra Muzzafar wrote in Malaysiakini that the shared destiny of all Malaysians is already enunciated in 3 vital documents:

If we reflected upon the Malaysian Constitution, the Rukunegara and Vision 2020, it would appear that they represent a trajectory in the evolution of the nation’s identity and character. It is as if the three documents embody the steady maturation of the Malaysian state and society…

This is why as we observe the 50th year of our Merdeka, we should reiterate our trust and confidence in the three documents that speak to the spirit of the Malaysian people and their shared destiny. To embroil ourselves in the unending controversy about whether we are a secular state or an Islamic state is to forfeit our future.

That's wise advice.

But DPM Najib has seen fit to push the envelope and pronounce us Islamic. Hishammuddin has issued his signature threat to MCA not to dispute it. And infamous son-in-law Khairy has reportedly expressed his view that Malaysia is neither secular (as in separation of church and state) nor theocratic (like Iran), but a ‘negara Islam.’ Evidently there is a dearth of genuine Islamic models in the world, and UMNO politicians, it seems to me, are trying to win the holier-than-thou Islamic state sweepstake.

You just have to watch it when the camel gets its nose in your tent.

The pluralistic and multicultural character of Malaysia has served us well for 50 years. To unravel the delicate fabric of Malaysia’s character is beyond me.

Why so, and why now?

The concerted attempt to undermine the integrity of the Federal Constitution merely shows a denial of history and a blatant disregard for the social contract that was birthed at Merdeka. It’s what Prof Shad Faruqi has referred to as a “silent rewriting” of the nation’s constitution.

I think the vitriol of UMNOputra Hishamuddin, Khairy, et al, in defense of DPM Najib’s statement leaves no doubt now what the intent of UMNO is. There is not only a deliberate assault on the Federal Constitution, but an outright contempt of BN component parties and a total disrespect of their views as partners in a coalition government. It was never an equal partnership to begin with and few people in Malaysia imagine otherwise.

Everyone knows the BN dacing is disproportionately weighted, its aesthetically balanced logo notwithstanding. With the latest threat by Education Minister Hisham – certain to be echoed by the party’s minions – are we, again, going to see our venerable ministers in MCA, MIC, and Gerakan tails between their legs whimpering politely and gesticulating tamely?

Malaysia is not and has never been secular. Malaysia is an Islamic state.

What a timely rallying cry for Merdeka.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Malaysia Boleh

I know, I know.

We’re way past mouth-agape and eye-rolling surprise at the shabby way our politicians and officials treat us. The media ban on comments regarding DPM Najib’s Islamic state pronouncement is just one in a string of recent tragic-comic weirdness. It’s fine if our elected officials create tension - as long as the rest of us don’t fan it. Makes me want to laugh but it hurts too much.

While we’re on the subject, take a look at some of these reports. What are we to think about these? Who's running the country? Why so many reversals? Who makes the rules and why?

MyKad: No MyKad No Vote?

16/07 More than 84,000 Malaysians with blue identity cards may have to sit out the next general election unless they change to the MyKad.

Election Commission secretary Datuk Kamaruzaman Mohd Noor said the commission had decided to remove their names from the electoral roll.

He said this was because the old ICs had been the cause of problems during elections.

"The move would standardise the roll, besides helping the National Registration Department get all Malaysians to change to the 12-digit MyKad. [More]

19/07 The cabinet has decreed that the Election Commission cannot drop voters who have not changed their old identity cards to MyKad from the electoral roll.

Home Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Radzi Ahmad said the cabinet viewed the move as a violation of a citizen's right to vote. [More]

Nuris: After the Crash
The remaining Nuri helicopters of the armed forces will still be used for transportation pending a report on the Genting Sempah crash.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said he expected investigations into the crash to be completed and the report ready in a month’s time. [More]

19/07 The government will phase out the ageing fleet of Sikorsky S-61 Nuri helicopters within three years.

An open international tender will soon be called to replace the Royal Malaysian Air Force’s workhorse.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said yesterday the cabinet had decided to call for the tender.

"It has also come out with a proposal to replace the helicopters." [More]

Malay immigrants?
According to Deputy Home Affairs Minister Datuk Tan Chai Ho, some 106,000 Malaysians had given up their citizenship between 1996 and April this year.

Of the figure, 70% or 79,100 were Malays, 25,107 Chinese, 1,347 Indians and 350 of other races. Marrying a foreigner was the main reason given by women while most men cited better career options.

Umno information chief Tan Sri Muhammad Muhammad Taib said the high number of Malays emigrating was not a cause for concern but it would be good to know why they wanted to leave their homeland. [More]

20/07 Only 1,720 Malays have migrated.

Only 1,720 Malays have surrendered their citizenship to migrate to other countries between 1996 and April this year, Home Affairs Minister Datuk Mohd Radzi Sheikh Ahmad said.

He said the total number of Malaysians who had left the country since Independence was 106,003, of which 10,411 were Malays, 86,078 Chinese, 8,667 Indians and other races 847.

“I want to clarify the figures given by my deputy (Datuk Tan Chai Ho) who said recently that more than 79,000 Malays have surrendered their citizenship to live abroad,” he said. [More]

MCMC Directive: Opposition politicians banned from TV and Radio?
07/06 "Adalah dimaklumkan bahawa pihak Kerajaan mendapati bahawa beberapa stesen-stesen TV dan radio swasta telah menyiarkan ucapan dari pemimpin parti pembangkang. Sehubungan dengan itu, pihak tuan adalah diminta untuk tidak lagi menyiarkan ucapan sedemikian di masa akan datang." [More]
03/07 The Energy, Water and Communications Ministry has instructed the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) to withdraw a letter prohibiting private television stations from broadcasting speeches of opposition elected representatives in Parliament.

Minister Datuk Seri Dr Lim Keng Yaik said the MCMC should not have issued such a directive because it was contrary to the policy of the ministry. [More]

Thursday, July 19, 2007



Malaysiakini newsflash: The Internal Security Ministry has directed all mainstream media not to publish any news on Malaysia being Islamic.

No news. No discussions. No reactions from MCA and MIC. No reactions from NGOs. No dissent. No response. No report.

Why? "Because discussion will cause tension."

However, it's ok for Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and his deputy Najib Abdul Razak to be quoted that the country is an Islamic state.

No to Najib.

In 2001 then PM Mahathir declared that Malaysia was an Islamic state. Tragically, BN component parties thought it was nothing but a clever ploy and chose instead to play along. It was their naïve belief that as long as the Federal Constitution stood, Malaysia would remain secular.

Well, yes and no.

Yes, because the Constitution remains a paper-thin hedge against a growing Islamic onslaught. And no, precisely because some religious groups backed by bankrupt politicians think said Constitution is no more than toilet paper unworthy of a nation (whose faith apparently rests on divine revelation), and therefore totally irrelevant, thank you. All this in spite of the fact that over 40% of the nation’s population do not bow in Mecca’s direction.

Six years after Mahathir’s infamous declaration, the Islamist agenda is writ large, steamrolling across a 50-year old social contract leaving in its wake broken families, grave snatches, detention of apostates, harassment of pub singers and waiters, mob threats, book bans, alarmist smses, and demolished churches and temples.

Today, it’s DPM Najib’s turn playing the Islamist card. No, Najib. Malaysia is a nation with a Muslim majority, but it’s not Islamic by a long stretch and I stand alongside clear-minded Malaysians who stoutly defend a secular Malaysia. We cannot allow an individual to hijack the nation’s secular-plural character and unilaterally pronounce it Islamic. Ronnie Liu writes of an encounter with ex-PM Mahathir where he denounces Malaysia being labeled Islamic:

I once pointed out to the former prime minister Dr Mahathir at a forum in Shah Alam one year after he unilaterally declared Malaysia as an Islamic State, that he may be the most powerful man in this country but he has no rights to declare Malaysia as an Islamic state.

I also pointed out to him that since he did not seek the approval from the Cabinet and the Parliament, I would regard his proclaimation as null and void and purely his personal opinion. [More]

Farish Noor doesn't like what he hears and warns that the direction that Malaysia's politicians are taking will turn the country into another failed state, Pakistan:

Today, after decades of Islamisation at the hands of Pakistan’s Mullahs that went unchecked by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and later Zia ul Haq, Pakistan has become an outcast state there religious politics has proven to be divisive and detrimental to the plight of women, non-Muslim minorities and minority sects among Muslims. All of this could have been avoided by sticking to the secular principles of the Pakistani constitution, but that same constitution has been torn to shreds by successive politicians – including Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif – who found it expedient to play the ‘Islamic card’ whenever it suited them, just to garner some cheap votes at the elections. The rest, as they say, is history and that history now weighs heavily of Pakistan and its people. [More]

As Farish noted in his article, Pakistan's slide into the abyss of sectarian religious politics was the work of secular leader Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, and not conservative mullahs.

I'm heartened that more groups are voicing their distress and strong opposition to Najib. According to news reports, MCA's Ong Ka Chuan has waded in, as haveThe Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) , the Bar Council, and the redoubtable DAP. Haris Ibrahim whose untiring defense of the Federal Constitution has been an inspiration posts old newspaper clippings and challenges Najib to furnish proof that Malaysia has been Islamic all along.

The future of Malaysia is at stake. Those who do not speak up now in her defense will lose the right to speak if and when the curtain falls.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Leaving Malaysia

The recent disclosure of immigration figures cited by Deputy Home Affairs Minister Datuk Tan Chai Ho in the Star (11 July) is interesting. It appears that 106,000 Malaysians surrendered their citizenship between 1996 and April this year. 70% or 79,100 were Malays, 25,107 Chinese, 1,347 Indians and 350 of other races.

Initially I thought that figure too small, but on second thought it’s probably correct because many Malaysians who immigrated have been known to maintain dual citizenships. However the ethnic composition of those who have given up citizenship is revealing. The perception has been that the majority of those uprooting were non-Malays, primarily Chinese. Not anymore. At least according to official stats, Malays make up a big chunk of the total.

The news report also mentioned that the top five destinations of ex-Malaysians were the United States, Australia, Taiwan, Singapore and Indonesia.

So why do people leave? For greener pastures of course.

For non-Malays, usually it’s the desire to live in a country where there’s greater personal freedom, more opportunities, no institutionalised racism to speak of. This list of preferred destinations alone is a hint. That Islamic countries (btw, Indonesia is secular) do not figure at all in most people’s consideration – including and especially the Malays – can only hint at the unmentionable.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Perak Mufti weighs in

There does not seem to be any letting up by some quarters to advance moral policing in the country. The Siti Noor Idayu incident is ratcheting up with the latest report. There is an agenda in the works, and it is aimed at changing the way we live, although it appears to be an internal issue of the majority population. Again, words in bold are highlighted by me to indicate where Malaysia may be headed if people of goodwill do not speak up or take a stand.

IPOH: Muslims should not work in nightclubs, not even as clerks or cashiers, Perak Mufti Datuk Seri Harussani Zakaria said yesterday.

He said this also applied to places where immoral activities were likely to take place, such as massage parlours and entertainment outlets.

It is a sin for a Muslim, whether man or woman, to work in places that serve alcohol as they are considered to be abetting illicit activities,” he said yesterday.

He was commenting on the case of nightclub singer Siti Noor Idayu Abd Moin, 22, who was detained by the Perak Religious Department (JAIP) at a nightclub in Tambun here on Tuesday.

The department had ordered the singer to explain why she had “exposed her body” during a performance and “encouraged immoral activities” by working at that outlet.

However, Siti Noor Idayu said she was not even drinking and was wearing a white sleeveless top and long pants when JAIP officers raided the nightclub.

Harussani said even if Siti Noor Idayu had her parents’ consent to work at the entertainment outlet, it was still a sin.

“If your parents told you that you could drive on the highway at 120kph, is it still right to do so?

A Muslim should stay with her family or look after her children rather than be in these places drinking,” he said.

For a bit of laughs, MindaCergas offers the Perak Mufti some help with moral policing effort in a 7th July post.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Shrinking space

Here’s another example of what I meant when I referred to 'Islamisation by attrition' in an earlier post.

BN MP Badruddin Amiruldin whose “bocor” comment inflamed women not too long ago aims his cudgel at artistes in tight-fitting and skin-baring clothes. "Can the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim), Energy, Water and Communications Ministry, Information Ministry and the media discuss guidelines on dress code for the entertainment industry to suit Malaysian viewers?" he asked in Parliament.

According to NST, minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Dr Abdullah Md Zin replied that Jakim had already issued 40 guidelines for the entertainment industry based on Islamic values, which included a dress code. These were just ‘guidelines’ however and action could not be taken against artistes who did not adhere to them.

Today we read about the Perak Religious Department (JAIP) acting against a Malay singer “exposing her body” and “encouraging immoral activities” in an entertainment outlet in Ipoh. Did the notorious MP’s question galvanize JAIP into action?

Here’s the report in STAR. Words in bold have been highlighted for what I think are evidence of increased policing of our Malay friends’ public behaviour (justified on religious grounds), and the portent of an ever-widening chasm in Muslim/Malay-non-Muslim relations.

IPOH: The Perak Religious Department (JAIP) has ordered a singer to appear before the Syariah Court for “exposing her body” during a performance and “encouraging immoral activities”.

However, an indignant Siti Noor Idayu Abd Moin, 22, said she was wearing a sleeveless top and long pants when JAIP officers raided an entertainment outlet in Sunway City where she was performing on Tuesday.

“Our band had just finished and it was a little past midnight when they came in and rounded up all the Muslims.

“They asked to see our MyKad but one officer refused to touch the cards, referring to them as najis (unclean),” she said.

Siti Noor Idayu said the JAIP officers later detained seven people, including four employees of the outlet, and brought them to the department office.

“They put us in a tiny room and turned up the air-conditioner. I heard one officer tell the other: Bekulah dia orang (Let them freeze),” she said.

Siti Noor Idayu also said the male officers kept taking photographs of her, adding that she was made to stay overnight in that room until 10am.

She said the officer who finally came to record her statement at 8am, accused her of consuming alcohol and drugs, being involved in immoral activities, and that her MyKad was a fake.

“I took the breathalyser test twice and when the reading remained at zero, the officers looked frustrated.

“I heard one tell the other: Tapi dia tak minum lah (But she did not drink),” she said.

Siti Noor Idayu said an officer even told her that the money she earned working in the outlet was duit haram (illicit money) and that her parents, children and future generations would all be tainted for using such money.

“They finally wrote me a notice accusing me of dressing sexily and encouraging immorality just because I sang there,” she said.

The notice ordered her to appear before the Syariah Court here on Aug 6.

When contacted, JAIP director Datuk Jamry Sury said he was confident that his officers had not acted outside of their jurisdiction in issuing the notice.

“According to Islamic laws, a Muslim woman is not allowed to serve or entertain a man who is not her husband in a place where immoral activities usually take place,” he said.

As I have been saying, all it takes is a statement, a question, and amity loses a little more space. Going by the rationale offered in the report above, would it not follow that a non-Muslim's MyKad (not to mention food and property) is also unclean? And how long before a Muslim woman is forbidden to "serve or entertain a man who is not her husband" in Malaysia the way she is forbidden to be seen in public without a relative or husband like Saudi Arabia and Iran? And haven't non-Muslim women been already 'advised' to dress so as to not offend Muslim sensitivity?

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Transformers rocks!

Now, this is what we call a summer blockbuster - it has all the requisite ingredients and then some. We’re talking about The Transformers. Heavy. Metal. We caught the movie at IMAX, which was undeniably the place to view it, since the 5-storey screen made these giants robots more, well, gigantic. I mean, people in the back row clapped when the movie ended, besides singing along to “What I’ve Done.”

You could tell the sleek, fluid movements and even cooler robot transformations were busting the CGI envelope, the kind the movie makers claimed wouldn’t have been possible barely two years ago. Whoa!

Since there’s nothing about the film that you do not already know (especially if you’re one of those geeks who still have a closet full of them figurines and toys) I’ll just skip the perfunctory plot points and reflect on the formula that’s made this movie such a crowd pleaser. Okay – some people were profoundly offended by Bay’s interpretation, but since I never grew up with that monkey on my back I only have this to say: this live version blew my socks off. Anyways.

Make the hero a goofy outsider
That would be Sam. Not just oddball goofy, he’s got to be a lovable, cute bundle of goof, nerdy and needy in the right places. The classic zero to hero formula. You know, someone all of us can root for because that guy on the screen is really Me and You.

Throw in a gorgeous chick
Mikaela Banes' the babe. That’ll match the key audience demographic – largely male, 13-25 years, with disposable income, media satiated, movie savvy, highly excitable, and babe hungry.

Make the gorgeous chick a girl with a dark past
So she has a shot at redemption, and because she’s so hot, you know she deserves it. So her juvie record gets wiped out in exchange for saving the world.

Make the girl smarter than the guy
PC. Well, this hot chick is an auto whiz who knows how to hotwire anything with wheels, and that ought to impress a lot of guys.

3G - Guy gets girl
Guys with big biceps and cars strike out and outsider-hero gets the girl. It’s a given, the cinematic equivalent to heavenly rewards and virgins in paradise .

Make it inclusive, cast minorities as minor heroes
Of course the world-class hacker is a black kid who of course lives a double life in a nondescript neighbourhood, as an overweight teen gamer with a video dance machine in his bedroom.

Slacker geeks save the world
This is where the audience sees how ridiculously out of it the old fogies are in the new world of high-tech intergalactic star wars, and why we should show our slacker sons and daughters some respect.

Show up those self-important government agents
That be John Turturro’s character Agent Simmons. Everyone (and not just postmoderns) loves to see authority stripped down and played out, and nothing does it better when it’s done for laughs. That’ll show those preening men in uniform a thing or two.

Ah, English accents - so sexy
Yeah, we just can’t get enough of the Queen’s English. Besides it makes techno babble that much more real.

* Note: I've since found out that the actress in question is Australian Rachel Taylor. Ah well. Not Queen's English, but Ozzie strine is sexy too.

Robots are sentient beings too
More. They’ve got to have a higher sense of morality, empathizing with puny earthlings who’ve lost theirs. Hmm. But when robots go bad, they’re really Decepticon bad.

Repeat after me: the world’s worth saving
And so it is. In spite of our blighted record and 2000 years of bloodletting, there is still some good in the world. As Optimus Prime says, no one but humans make the choice whether to live or destroy themselves.

Salvation comes from something or someone out of this world
We can’t do squat to save ourselves. Especially from a threat as ominous as Megatron, who could well be a metaphor for every conceivable evil. Only in the movies are we unreservedly told that if we are going to be saved, it has to come from a Higher Intelligence, The Force, a Superior Being, Neo, Optimus Prime. NB: it’s not Jesus.

But give some credit to human effort lah
Oh yes. Humanity, already labouring under a cloud of low self-esteem, needs to know that their die-hard heroics do score points in the final battle between good and evil. Theologically, that would be like synergism (as opposed to monergism).

And finally, finally. If you gotta save the world, play a little rock to go with it.
Not your dad’s music. Linkin Park. Nuff said.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007


Lifted this photo from Gracehill Lodge

Visited Gracehill Lodge Orchard with a few Young Writers Camp committee members. That Saturday was hot, so hot you could taste it. Fortunately, the way up to Grace Hill was a short drive. Now that I’ve seen it up close, I can understand why everyone’s raving about it. Definitely looking forward to the camp.

Nice retreat up in the hills

A swimming pool too, with cool water from a river