'May You Live in Interesting Times'
By YL Chong
This is my maiden article for Harakah, and I will try to make it as interesting as possible, in more than one sense of the word "interesting". Those who know me as a journalist for some 30-plus years and later, as a blogger the past decade, will detect that journalistic writing is more objective and serious -- with governing rules pertaining to sources and ethics -- as an important objective is to inform and educate in news reporting, and in commentary, add on an onjective "to persuade". Meanwhile, blogging is less rigid and free-style and allows room for experimentation, but still ethics prevails, so some exuberant bloggers take to entertaining themselves with no regard to third parties' interests, and find themselves recipients of defamation suits!
I will always hold my readers in both the old and new media -- referred to popularly as the Fourth and Fifth Estates respectively -- in high esteem, and it's always in the spirit prompted by Voltaire's credo, "I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend, to the death, your right to say it," or rendered another way, "Let's be agreable in our disagreement."
I hope very few of my readers had occasion to part company with their conversationalists and the departing party in a raised tone bade you: "May you live in interesting times!" I hope you had not then felt "flattered"! Instead of getting into trouble by calling your enemy "UMNO celaka!" as did happen with one Penang Wakil Rakyat addressing hispolitical enemy, he could have complimented them with this "interesting times" greeting instead. And the episode of the UMNO youths storming the august house of the Penang State Assembly would have been avoided.
I think many honourable members who make up the state assemblies and the national Parliament are lacking in language command and humour, hence you have many who made crass and often sexist remarks more befitting the inmates of Zoo Negara now made more civilised by two imported Chinese pandas. The pandas pander to human curiousity, while sexual innuendoes often emitting from an East Malaysian Menmber of Parlaiment pander to the low taste of the speaker and his nincompoopfellow MPs who often thump the table as a show of ape-like support. But I apologise to the monkey species if I demean them using this metaphor, but I learnt that description at primary schoold when the teacher would reprimand naughty pupils: " Don't behave like monkeys!"
If I may recall --I hope correctly! -- that once the honourable Mr Opposition Dr Tan Chee Koon had in a session asked of the fellow members, "Who among you have not committed a similar sin? Then you please stand and cast the first stone!" No one else stood up -- only two persons were standing at that moment in time -- then Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman, in replying to a question by Dr Tan himself.
Malaysia's First PM was proud of being the "happiest" leader alive
The politics during the first PM's era was tranquil and not quite arresting as the present times -- no constant harping by politicians and the media of corruption or homosexuality, transvestite or sodomite. The down-to-earth Tunku was a little "colourful" leader beloved by the people, who hardly thought in terms of race or colour or religion then. When accusations were hurled at his "wayward" hobbies of playing cards with the Chinese towkays and owning prize-winning horses from Australia, I believe his answer to the critics was that those pursuits were his personal and privte ones, and it's between him and his God, an answer which I salute!
So modern Malaysians now live in more "interesting times". I sometimes wonder had it been a curse levelled on beautiful Malaysia as a whole by foreign parties that we have become victim to the unannounced curse of ''May you live in interesting times''? Our leaders often choose to bury their heads in the sand like the proverbial ostrich, so they return from overseas trips narrating the "high praises" heaped on Malaysia by the generous host-nations.
Well, quoting Alice in Wonderland, it can get "curiouser and curiouser" when there are enough enemies out there wishing that Malaysians continue to live in interesting times.
How could the murder of a Mongolian beauty on Malaysian soil take place, and now there has been no offender serving time for this heinous crime? Malaysia broke records by allowing two accused persons to be hooded and faces covered up throughout the trial -- why the privilege? Do you blame the man in the street for thinking that the Government has covered up many aspects of this crime, and the two accused now set free were just scapegoats for show only? Since no criminal has been brought to account for Altantuya's death, could the Mongolian people have been saying daily prayers that Malaysians be visited by "interesting times"? Maybe there is a connection between their greetings and the Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 vanishing into thin air?
For the record, immigration records of the entry of Altantuya's two relatives/friends into Malaysia also disappeared into thin air. So when the MAS flight to Beijing about three months ago just "vanished into thin air", do you blame Malaysians for being "sceptical" and generally disbelieving of the accounts given by the nation's high officals, right up to the acting Transport Minister and his boss, the Prime Minister? Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim did not surprise when he stated that Singapore was wrong in was praising Malaysian for a job well done. Anwar said that Singapore -- a nation always promoting "meritocracy" -- was endorsing "mediocrity" for the Malaysian government's less than creditable and competent handling of the high-profile MH370 incident.
Of course, several international media poured scorn on the Malaysian leaders' abiliity and competence to manage the international efforts to unravel the tragic mystery. Instead of showing humility, the few government leaders concerned have berated news agencies like the CNN for their uncomplimentary covearge, alleging "biased" reporting and commentary. But one of CNN respected business commentators, Richard Quest, did say many good things about the Malaysian handling of the MH 370 issue, which lends credit to the foreign news network that their staff were allowed to hold "dissenting" views. Did we or do we see any such contrasting perspectives in reporting and commenting in our local mainstream media on the MH 370 and other national issues? Yes, someone whispered: "Suara Keadilan and the Harakah." My thinking allowed: "They are not yet mainstream. Nyet!"
"There are no permanent friends or foes in politics. Only permanent interests."
NOTE: YL CHONG has been a Journalist -- in print, online and diplomatic media -- for some 30 years, and is now working on a novel which he hopes may attract enough attention like Flight MH 370 so he can retire in comfort as he rides into the Malaysian sunset. He also runs a blog at desiderata2000.blogspot.com.