Thursday, November 15, 2007

Looking back to the past to build our future

I am incredibly heartened by 30-year old Fahmi Reza and his documentary 10 Tahun Sebelum Merdeka about the pre-independence nation-wide hartal. It was first brought to my attention by Rachel, and in the aftermath of the Oct 11 march, Tricia asked if we ought to screen it (there’s this group that meets in my home to watch lesser known movies). Why not? I would love to see it on a wide screen.

I felt a deep sense of gratitude and pride that a new generation of thoughtful Malaysians was finding its voice and speaking up for Malaysia, and not narrow communalism. His own research into our recent past has shed light on a little known nationalistic struggle that has been conveniently usurped by the construction of a mythic narrative more suited to the vested interest of UMNO. In his interview, he said,

It’s true that our school history books, for the most part, highlight the role that is played by just one party or group. Other groups are mentioned but are not given focus or are labelled anti-government or anti-something. For me, this happens because, any history at all, and this can probably be applied to any country, history is always written by those in power.

So, if we look at our history, the people in power are Umno and the Barisan Nasional. So, they are the ones who write the history of our nation. So, of course, they will present a historical narrative that sheds a positive light on them. I think this happens in any regime or government. Firstly, in order to legitimise their current position, there is a need to create this myth about their history.

So, if we look at our historical narrative about independence, it’s focused on creating this myth about Umno’s struggle to gain our independence. How Umno was born and how Umno fought for our independence. It’s understandable that there’s this narrative.

So, any other narrative that doesn’t support the (dominant) narrative will of course be left out, because it would challenge or counter their narrative.

Many regimes do one of two things. You absorb the other narrative and claim it as your own. Or you leave out.

Umno’s problem is, because they were there at the same time, they cannot claim that their struggle was part of the left’s because they were on the opposite side. So, the only way left to them is to silence (the other narrative). So, history books are written that way.

Fahmi isn’t the only one, of course, to question this historical oversight (there’s also fellow film maker Amir Muhammad, among others), but notably his work is one more vote for a more fully realized Malaysian Malaysia, one where our shared history is acknowledged and celebrated. We live in interesting times; there is a stirring beneath the surface fueled in equal parts perhaps by a sense of grief and anger at our fraying society, and an unquenchable hope that the tide can still be turned.

I predict Fahmi’s effort is going to gain an even wider audience in the very near future. For those who try to pull the wool over our eyes saying demonstrations are not a part of our culture, or who are deliberately rewriting history to serve myopic ends, this documentary is an eye-opener.

Fahmi's blog: 10tahun
Tricia's take on 11/10 "BERSIH: Democracy Malaysian style"
Bobjots 'The Other History of Malaysia'

Monday, November 12, 2007

Yellow Dawn

"We have broken the climate
of fear and intimidation
as well as overcome
our public apathy.
A new dawn has arrived."
Din Merican

"Credit to a monarch who has
demonstrated that
he has the well-being
of his people at heart."
Haris Ibrahim

"The king symbolises the fountain of justice in Malaysia and it is
completely within constitutional norms for Malaysians who are shut out
from all avenues of redress to seek justice to appeal to the king for intervention."
Lim Kit Siang

"This has been quite an unprecedented experience for people
who believe in New Media, and want to pierce through the blackout by the
mainstream media, which pretended as if nothing has happened. "
Jeff Ooi

“I think these pics speak well more than 4,000 words.”
Nathaniel Tan

"What a bad mistake it is for withholding information to the public.
A warning: they are no longer being kept in dark anymore as
the level of awareness has gone better than ever.
More people are getting aware of what is happening in Malaysia."

"The rain did not dampen the spirit of the people
who wanted a message sent to the Agong, and to the increasingly detached
and arrogant leaders of this nation."

"As a Malaysian, I believe the only thing that was broken today
was my camera lens. Kaput! But who cares. "
Sheih (After being hit by a chemical laced shower)

"The fact is, its not ended. It has only just begun.
Ensure that you take the next step to claim your right to vote.
No to corruption. No to illegal mansions.
No more cover ups. We want the truth."
Tony Yew

“Malaysians should be proud to say that they are
in the process of reclaiming the state
and demanding their country back.”
Farish Noor

"I have never seen such an unbreaking long moving crowd,
amazing as it seems that they all wear the same colour,
and moving in the same direction. The sight of it, was breathtaking!
It was classic "V for Vendetta" phenomenon!"

"Throughout the whole rally, Malaysians were well-behaved.
It is certainly strange that a Certain Somebody could say
rally will "never be peaceful".
From what I learnt, only police used water cannons and tear gas
on the peaceful BERSIH participants @ Rakyat."

"It was really cool. you look around and you see all these CIVILIANS!
your neighbours, people you pass on the streets daily,
the guy who sells you your morning newspaper,
the uncle from the kopitiam,
your bus driver, your former schoolmates…
all clapping each other on the back
and smiling and congratulating each other
for being there that day. sigh. so nice. i swear to you it was
the most patriotic situation i have ever been in
. "
Su Ann

"I’m a voter. I can walk with my fellow Malaysians
in a peace marchto convey our thoughts and misgivings
about the state of our country, to our ruler. "

"How about wearing yellow every Saturday?"
Ronnie Liu

BERSIH takes on Mr Clean

Photo from Jinggo's Fotopage

Read the spin in NST and STAR regarding Bersih’s massive Nov 10 rally, and you have a pretty good idea how PM Pak Lah deals with issues: deny, deny, deny. But first you preface your response with threats, threats, threats.

The fact is, dozens of websites, blogs and youtube posts are collectively telling the whole world how underdressed the emperor and his increasingly arrogant party are. Clearly the whole event – relatively incident-free and orderly – was a slap on the face of the coalition dominant partner, particularly its leader who faced down the rally with a “saya pantang cabar” challenge.


KUALA LUMPUR: A crowd of about 4,000 gathered for an illegal march close to Dataran Merdeka yesterday, causing massive traffic jams across the city.

Police had to use tear gas and water cannons to disperse the demonstration, organised by the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections or Bersih, a grouping of opposition parties and non-governmental organisations.

The crowd converged on Masjid Jamek and the National Mosque to march towards Dataran Merdeka but failed to do so when police cordoned off the area.

"Police had to resort to such actions because the protesters refused to disperse when ordered to do so," Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan said.

He said 245 people were arrested and later released after their statements were taken.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, speaking to reporters in Pekan, Pahang, said those involved in the protest had caused difficulties to the people, especially traders and businessmen who had to close their shops and offices.

I say, were mainstream media reporting on some other protests when they put the figure at 4,000? And were these protestors the cause of the lock-down in the city? The truth is, the chaos arose because of police action to keep potential protestors away from the city centre. The use of tear gas and water canons on protestors at Masjid Jamek were totally uncalled for, but the intimidation and aggression on the part of police or FRUs distracted attention away from marchers who were converging at the Istana. While the cops were havimg their fun, thousands upon thousands were waiting for Bersih leaders to hand their petition over to the Agung's representative.

Inthe aftermath of what was probably the largest public demonstration in a decade since the Reformasi outbreak, PM Pak Lah changes his tune, while official numbers turn mysteriously from 4,000 to 10,000:


PENAMPANG: The opposition-led illegal rally to deliver an election reform petition to the palace on Saturday was an attempt to force the Yang di-Pertuan Agong into taking sides, the prime minister said.

"Obviously, the action was tantamount to dragging the institution of the monarchy, and the king, into politics," Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said at a press conference after he opened the Parti Bersatu Sabah 22nd annual congress here.

A memorandum calling for changes to the electoral process was handed by opposition stalwarts Lim Kit Siang of the DAP, Pas president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang and Parti Keadilan Rakyat adviser Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to an official at the gates of Istana Negara.

The king, Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin, was away in Terengganu.

The coalition of opposition parties and non-governmental organisations, calling itself Bersih, had organised a rally of some 10,000 people, according to an official police estimate, to march to the palace with the petition. Police had denied the assembly a permit.

"I believe the king is wise and mature and would not fall into their (the opposition's) political trap," Abdullah said.

Meanwhile Information Minister Zam gives his bumbling two sen when interviewed by Al-Jazeera on the phone here. "Protests are illegal because we have elections every 5 yrs - no point having protests –we are not like Myanmar, like other countries," said the erudite Minister. Right.

rakyat is tired. We can't take it anymore. The time for words is over. It's time for "Mr Clean" to act before he is himself taken to the cleaners.

But the big question is, what is the Agung going to do with the petition?