Wednesday, May 27, 2009

How to lose a battle and stay cool at the same time

I must admit the unpleasant business of the police harassing people and detaining them is beginning to get to me. Imagine detaining the vendors who were hired to put up the canopy and the balloon. This is sheer intimidation and abuse of power. It is nothing but a shameful and gutless display of brute force in the service of political masters. Is the ordinary Malaysian to look away and pretend this is really for the good of the nation? Is this how BN hopes to gain lost ground, earn our respect?

No, I think we have long passed the point of no-return. That way is the hard way. Besides it would take too long and asks too much of BN. No, the politicians who hold the levers of power have a new game plan. Better to be feared than to be loved, writes Machiavelli, and it’s his playbook they are following. So they no longer brook any dissent, and they want us to know it. If you ask me, all this clampdown and play tough are nervous convulsions of a creature in the throes of death.

Meanwhile, I am disappointed with Nizar and the Pakatan aduns in Perak. I know you have had the rug pulled from under your feet. Hey, I am on your side. Perhaps I do not understand politics and how one needs to resort to drama and public spectacle to spite your opponents. Maybe I underestimate the appeal of the theatrical as a political tactic.

But don’t you think all this BN-baiting gets tiresome? Fasting. Hunger strikes. Balloons, etc. Perhaps there’s a place for this. But please think about how to behave like a ‘government in waiting’ as Neil Khor wrote. Yes, we need thought-leaders. We need leaders who speak the language of government and not juvenile one-upmanship of the playground. You all still have constituencies to serve. Show some dignity. Don’t be like a yelping dog that’s lost a bone. Be cool. Behave. Be different. You may have lost a battle, but there's a very very good chance you'll win the war.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Rais' pipeline

Here we go again.

Information, Communications and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim feels obliged to let us know (again) that the space for free speech (er, for want of a better description) around us is shrinking. Fast. In a news report, our old, new minister claims there is a 'proposal' by some quarters to register bloggers, that while it's a "good idea" our minister thinks it needs indepth study. Bloggers are grateful for the reprieve.
"Meanwhile, we are studying a new Act, the Multimedia Signature Act, which has been in the pipeline the past three years. This Act is expected to support the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998," he said.
Well, the man is busy busy keeping the pipeline flowing for sure.

If you ask me, all these pronouncements since Rais took office (and in the wake of March 8 too) are part of an ongoing psy-war to put the lid on dissenting voices. A hint here, a dinner there, a meet-the-bloggers session, another comment on acts and laws, a reminder on patriotic songs, etc. They have the cheery disposition of Hannibal Lecter - mildly genial, but laced with menace.

Newspaper editorials are on the offensive - more than ever. TV is unapologetically slathering viewers with propaganda and spin. And no, you're not allowed to mention a certain mongolian. Nor are we allowed to see the poor Perak speaker manhandled and dragged out like a sack of potatoes.

Out on the streets, candlelight and black are ingredients for a night in the slammer. It's amazing what a shiny badge and a loudhailer can do to an otherwise dawdling man in blue. The police are flexing their muscles with new found relish arresting people for illegal assembly - imagine, 40 riot police descending on 16 non-violent protesters. Lawyers are detained for doing their job. So who's minding the streets and keeping us safe from the mat rempits (or samseng jalan, now that these guys no longer enjoy UMNO youth's attention)?

Something is certainly going on, since our new PM heaved upon the stage in a blaze of PR, trumpeting a new national slogan. But it's all ear candy. You can fool some people some of the time, but you can't fool all the people all the time. Malaysians know the 1 thing on PM Najib's mind and the 1 thing on BN's agenda. And it's not about what the people need.

The Empire is striking back.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

SELL OUT sells!

Local indie movies are usually not what I have in mind for entertainment. But I have to admit that SELL OUT tickled more than the proverbial funny bone in unexpected ways. Director Yeo Joon Nam’s first full length feature was actually fun and I dare say, sufficiently entertaining to give Singapore’s Jack Neo a run for his money.

I went into the cinema with fingers-crossed, half expecting a kind of cringe-worthy TV drama in widescreen. The place was half empty, but then I said to myself it’s not Slumdog Millionaire. Yeo has talent to spare (even if this is his debut feature) and he’s out to tell us that yes, he’s a serious contender. Well, at least it did not look like a Petronas TV commercial, and it wasn’t all boring talking heads or meandering scenes in cinema verite.

SELL OUT’s wry take on corporate greed, reality shows, art, and our fixation on pan-Asian faces struck a chord. Some scenes were laugh-aloud funny – not because we’ve never seen comedy like this before, but because they were true-to-life. Minutes into the film, I was sold.

But alas, it’s an uneven film. Billed as a musical, the songs were interesting but it would have been good if they were at least, er, hummable (now this is where Yeo can take a leaf out of Jack Neo’s songbook). I thought the whole thing could have worked just as well without the singing bits, clever as they were.

No, it would be unkind to say the multi-talented director was trying to be too clever (he writes, directs, edits, composes the songs). Well, there were lots of clever ideas and vignettes of contemporary Malaysia. And then some. There were just too many ideas popping up in too many directions that I thought he got carried away as auteurs often do. Goes to show how hard it is to make a funny movie.

Nevertheless, the good parts pretty much make up for these missteps. Yeo’s got a keen eye. It’s not a movie to be ashamed of, and I certainly I have no reservation recommending it. Heck, I'll buy the DVD too. Definitely a talent to look out for. Talking about Jack Neo, SELL OUT could almost be a non-Malaysian movie. You know, 110 minutes, and hardly a Malay or Indian in sight (ok, there was an Indian doctor).

Note: SELL OUT won the Venice Young Cinema Award for Alternative Vision. Visit the official website for more news and reviews.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

It ain't over yet!

Okay, did we speak too soon? Should've known there was going to be an appeal?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Nizar is MB!

This is fantastic news! The Kuala Lumpur High Court declares Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin as the rightful MB of Perak. So, there is hope after all in our Judiciary? It's a small step forward, but what a giant footprint!

Meanwhile, we wait with bated breath to see whether it means the end of the circus or the beginning of another one.

Franky, I'd like to see more decorum, more self-control by Pakatan. I understand the difficulties - everything's stacked against you, the royalty, the police, the federal govt, the courts, the police, the MSM. Their backs against the wall. No point stooping to the BN's whoop-it-up and muscle-flexing ways. There's got to be a real paradigm shift in the way Pakatan politicians confront their opponents.

Anyway. Fresh wind's a-blowing...


Saturday, May 09, 2009

Tired of politics?

Infamy. Debacle. Rape. Black Day. Shameful. Chaos. Bedlam. Mayhem. Shocking. Murder. Unconstitutional. Cavalier. Theatrical. Fiasco. Coup d’√Čtat. WWF. Unlawful. Undemocratic. Death of Honour. Imbroglio. Violent. Unjust. Immature. Harsh. Faces worse than coffin planks. Childish. Disrespectful. Anarchy. Crude. Brutal. Contemptuous. Uncivilised. Unreasonable. Unprecedented. Unfortunate. Dreadful. Political Bigotry. Angry. Sad. Regrettable. Illegal. Colossal error. Misjudgement. Scandal. Hypocrisy. Manipulation. Desperate. Shameless. Disgusting. Cruel. Disaster. War-zone. Ludicrous. Scandalous. Illegitimate. Bleak. Rubbish. Boorish. Disgraceful. Disaster. A new low. Public odium. Unruly. Mockery. Unethical. Orchestrated. Disgraceful. Immature. Spectacle. Bad taste.

Some of the more colourful (but printable) descriptions of the horror that greeted Malaysians on May 7.

But 'tired'? TIRED? "On the streets of Ipoh, many are tired of politics."

It always strikes me as strange that people say they are tired at the way politics is turning out, and that they don't care who is in power because "... I still have to wake up every morning, wash my face and go to work. I just want stability."

Of course it matters who the government is. The one who is in power is the one that will determine whether we get to wake up and go to work, and whether there's a place for all our children to call home. Peace, stability. Cari makan. You can't have that when there's no justice and integrity, when basic civil rights are rubbished with brute force and arrogance.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Malaysia weeps!

Pix: Malaysiakini and Malaysian Insider

Thursday, May 07, 2009