Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Happy Malaysia Day! (What's that???)

Another year goes by and this Day is stiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiill not recognised nationwide. And today I found out even Sarawakians are working!! WTF???!

We gotta change this....

I add this story by a probable Sabahan and taken from the Nut Graph (thanks guys):

One Malaysia, two halves

16 Sep 09 : 8.00AM

By Yasmin Masidi

(Festive image by ba1969 /

THE build-up to Malaysia's 46th birthday began this year, for me, with an argument between two acquaintances. A West Malaysian acquaintance said the prevailing notion that Malaysia is 52 years old, versus its actual birth in 1963, is a matter of interpretation. An East Malaysian acquaintance angrily pointed out that this was an erasure of history and, by extension, the erasure of the lived reality of entire peoples in this country.

My parents were just about in their teens when the then-North Borneo attained self-governance. This was just over two weeks before Donald Stephens, later known as Tun Mohammad Fuad Stephens, put pen to paper to make Sabah part of a new nation. Sarawak had become independent about a month earlier, on 22 July 1963.

In the popular imagination, the birth of this country is sepia-tinted and distant, as in the famous Merdeka ad. But 1963 isn't very far into the past. There would have been many in the generation prior to mine who were old enough to have doubts and questions over Malaysia. Yet they chose to believe that this new federation would give life to their hopes and dreams. From Banggi Island to Kangar, we took that step into a brave new world not as colonial subjects, but as free and sovereign peoples.

Of course, the truth is that even as we thought we could shape ourselves and this nation into a grand beacon of the postcolonial world, there remained unfinished business and conveniently ignored questions. The multiplicities of identities and the pressures of politics within and without were always going to be difficult to handle for an emerging nation. 46 years later, grappling with parts of our history we are told to look away from, are we any closer to the best we could be?

Who are we?

I initially thought of revisiting the question that ended my Malaysia Day piece last year, and expand the question to include the entirety of Malaysia: Who are we? It seems to me, insofar as the West-East Malaysia relations are concerned, we are still a nation of two halves. This year's Merdeka celebrations continue to proclaim that Malaysia is 52, and Malaysia Day remains unrecognised federally.

Sabahans and Sarawakians shake their heads over Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarnor's whipping sentence and what's now known as the cow-head protest, and say, "My God, how barbaric. That would never happen here." They ignore the creeping fundamentalism and Muslim personal status laws that, for example, criminalise apostasy (to a tune of RM3,000 and/or imprisonment of no more than two years). Rightly or wrongly, they regard these as the sensibilities of the embarrassingly intolerant that have little bearing on everyday lives.

And yet, there are issues that seem to unite both sides of the South China Sea. The sexual violence perpetrated against Penan girls and women, slow-burning initially, now seems to be one of these issues. Unfortunately, not many people in Peninsular Malaysia are aware of the Sarawak state government's efforts to discredit the people and non-governmental organisations that sought justice for the women, and to bury the issue entirely.

Few in West Malaysia grasp the context in which the violence occurred, with the exception of Orang Asli, who understand only too well. Few grasp how Penan communities have become so vulnerable and disempowered. But then, given the prevailing political climate, how do we expect West Malaysians to be properly informed of what goes on in East Malaysia?

So, here we are. Were I to answer the question of "Who are we?" by looking back at the past year, the only answer I could give is that we are above all united by fear. Fear of the Internal Security Act (ISA), fear of the authorities, fear of the Other, fear of the unknown, fear of being taken for a ride, fear of caring enough to act. The injustices in this country are too close, too much to bear.

Who do we want to be?

Perhaps, as in 1963, the more important question is: Who do we want to be? Looking back, we could piece together some answers, or at least the beginnings of an answer. We could, perhaps, say:

  • The tens of thousands of anti-ISA protesters who marched on 1 Aug 2009 wanted to be the kind of people who live their lives free from draconian laws and the last vestiges of colonialism.

  • (Pic by Nitin Ale /
    The people in Baram running blockades against loggers and plantations companies want to be the kind of people who are agents of their own destiny.
  • The people who voted for transformation on 8 March 2008 wanted to be the kind of people for whom change can no longer be equated with terror and the shadow of 13 May 1969.
  • The Muslims, Christians, Buddhists and people of other faiths in Kota Kinabalu who continue to run food stalls next to each other want to be the kind of people who believe in what unites rather than what divides.
  • The people who hold candlelight vigils despite police violence, who write letters, who visit temples not of their faith — perhaps they want to be the kind of people who remember that an individual's suffering counts for something in this world.

Here too, one could ask: Who do the people who support the caning of Kartika want to be? Who do the people who dismiss the Penans as backward liars want to be? Who do the people who think that women deserve violence for not acceding to demands want to be? Who do the people perceiving those who do not fit into certain norms as threats, and act accordingly, want to be?

I will not presume malice on their part any more than I will refuse to acknowledge that our lives are complex. But in the end, intentions are just that: intentions, not the outcomes of actions. For me, I want to be the kind of person guided not by approval from a higher authority. I'd rather be guided by what my actions mean for someone already marginalised or who is not in a position buffered by privilege. I want to be the kind of person who remembers that violations of any individual's human rights affect me, no matter how distant I may feel I am. Every violation makes this world a more dangerous place, makes people more fearful, and brings about an environment that makes it so much harder for me to claim my rights as a human being.

I am tired of seeing 46-year-old promises unfulfilled. There is so much more that we can be.

I came to explore the wreck.
The words are purposes.

The words are maps.
I came to see the damage that was done
and the treasures that prevail.

Adrienne Rich, Diving into the Wreck

Yasmin Masidi works for an international NGO based in Kuala Lumpur. She spends her time doing as much as she can.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


I had forgotten how much I love the rain at night and how much I enjoy being alone. Heck, when I was 13 my siblings designated me Loner '88. Back then I would walk at night down the main road and if was raining it was a wonderful plus!!

Don't get me wrong, I am quite the social butterfly and when I say that I just really mean I like people and I like hanging out with them.

I once spent a Summer in NZ without my flatmates as they had all gone back to their kampungs but I enjoyed it. It was a time to rebuild my strength from my 1st breakdown (as they were more in my future, now my past, to come).

I took walks, I drove, I moved the lawn, "reheated" food, and of course I had K-2 too!! He was always a wonderful cat. I swear the are really special and know when you are not well and need some cuddling. K-2 would come sleep on your (well my) chest when I was sickly or down. Feet all snuggled under his body, nosey down and all purring. Sweet...miss the tubby bugger.

He died in 2001 or 2002. I do remember it was a Friday afternoon when Yvonne called me after she found out. It was devastating. I remember every bit of the conversation and I remember slumping under my table at work...

Back to that summer, I also found old friends who suddenly reappeared! Ingrid actually, and I meet and got to know Bevan. I remember going to the cliffs near Sumner Beach with Ingrid and pretending to push her off the cliff. Ingrid survived and now has two kiddies with Bevan and they live in Norge and I've had a f*&^(*% good life!!!

Today, I am watching the rain. I would love to go for a walk in it but now days I can't do that cause I get sick all the time. Funny I was always a sickly kid but never from the rain. It was always, always, lovely, refreshing, cleansing, rejuvenating.

Not so now, so I sit here watching it, missing the feel of it but (unfortunately) knowing better I don't go out and walk, play, immerse in it.

Still it is a beauty to watch.

These are the nice things I will remember about home qurantine. But yes, I do miss certain little people that I can cuddle and play with. Still I am fortunate as heck to see them for a bit when their kind mom drops by with food for me. Yes, I am fortunate indeed.


Sunday, November 30, 2008


Yup, another tumble...Budu!
It was at Elie's Futsal Bday Party, I was in for all but two freaking minutes, touched the ball no but one of my favourite kids of all time accidentally steped and crunched my foot and I heard it go crack 1 way then another. Poor kid didn't even notice as he ran off after the ball. And stupid me shouldn't have told him so coz he felt bad, told him I would have tumbled anyway!

But, this time I went to the sing-sang the next day (2day) and got it "fixed".

Now, normally I would not be a fan of going to a sing-sang as I grew up with a sing-sang for neighbour. It was quite common to see "horrific" (in my mind) things there as he twisted people wrists, arms and legs back into place!

But in Dec 2005 I had a small tumble with major hurt which saw me head to Kuching Hospital for an x-ray. Four days later, Judith's mum was kind enough to force me to go see this sing-sang. Of course, I screamed my head off but while I walked in with crutches I walked out without them!

So, yes I went back to Jason the sing-sang in Damai. This time his son, Nelson worked on my foot while the kind people who brought me there waited outside. Needless to say I screamed again at one point and 1 of my friends was about to rush in to rescue me but 80 year old Jason came in instead (thank gawd).

His son tried his best but when I stood up my foot was worse than before I went in! But never fear, the old sing-sang with his Kim Jung Ill glasses sat down and worked on my foot. He just spent a total of 30 seconds on my ankle and viola when he asked me to stand up and it was HEAPS better!

A quick bandage of really hot brown paste and a bandage and sent me off my merry way! So, its okay la now...but perhaps no more futsal for me...perhaps...

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

One for September...

Actually heaps of stuff has been happening, good mostly, minor bad ones. But I realise I have been awfully terrrrible at keeping this current (but that's okay, whose been reading!). "Hari Raya" resolution is to keep this current! Haha.

The most awesome thing (not to be confused with awesome day) I did in September was an afternoon spent following Marc's "girlfriend" Juliana and her baby girl (big pic above).

This past two weeks was the first time Azman and his team saw this orang-utan with a baby which has yet to be named. That honour goes to the guys who first spotted the baby. Azman said he would name the kiddo "Haji" after me, to which I replied it would be cruel thing to do to the kid (as if, she would actually use the name herself!).

Anyhoo, Raya holiydays came around and Juliana and her baby are not being tracked this week so she will probally be gone by the time the guys return to the site.

By the way, that afternoon I fell down about 5 times but hey it was soft secondary forest ground.

I was also sleeping on the job....

Other (interesting) September happenings:
Freedom Film Fest in Kuching organised by Komas (and Elaine) was quite interesting as was Kuching!

Elaine doing her FFF impressionation...

One of Kuching's downtown Chinese Temple

Another cool thing about Sarawak was they know how to count...

Yup...September was also Malaysia's 45th year in existence and not 51st!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Riina visited KK twice in d past month and guess what she did heaps of whilst here....

Not only did she eat her way through KK so also made me eat through KK!!

Every meal we had ended with both of us lethargic and ready for snoozing...

Seems to happen everytime Riina visits by the looks of it...from Little Italy, to dim sum (then some), to The Med, to the kopi shop....

Riina, Riina, Riina...Good thing you only drop by a once every three years or so!

Ps-besides eating Riina also did a bit drinking... here is a shot of Riina "having a shot" of Smirnoff while watching the olympics...

Well I'm finally doing this blog thingie, gawd only knows how long it will last!

So what's up with me? I'm enjoying work and getting back into the groove of life la.

Watched the sunset 2day with Han's Solo, it was something we both needed. Of course Ms.Ham didn't turn up...(typical)!

Ps-Simon this is the type of sunset you missed...