Saturday, November 04, 2006

I'm not a fan of Kylie Minogue, but...

...I couldn't think of a better song to listen to get into the mood while writing this piece.

Beware of butts and hotpants, bytheway....

You see, the past week or so has been pretty interesting in Malaysian politics and local news in particular. If Sesame Street (or Taman Sesame) were to film an episode for this week, it oughta be brought to you by the word "Spin" and the letter "S" (as in aSS). Spin is particularly prevalent over here when it comes to the fine art of PR, and its used to basically portray events and facts so it will be favorable (hopefully) for your subject, even though it actually isn't.

Say for example, you got into a shitstorm for selecting your brother, sister, 2nd sister, sister-in-law, and 3rd uncle's brother twice-removed to management positions in your huge corporate firm. The shareholders are pissed at this nepotism especially since all of them has zilch experience in the corporate world. You and your Spin Doctors (not the band) can always say that "there aren't anyone else as qualified", or "you believe that so-and-so" has potential. Present facts/excuses to support your stance, while covering up the negatives. In Malaysia, use of ad-hominems and red herrings are accepted.

Of course, even the best Spin Doctors can't match the power of the Newspaper Editor. Having one of these guys as a minion will do a great boost for your image (or lack thereof) than the best PR execs money can buy.

Anyho, I'm gonna recap on three events that happened recently. Like anything nowadays, the amount of PR bullshit can also be summed into a rating of 5-stars max. Instead of using stars, I'm gonna use various pics of washing machines as it would be MUCH more appropriate. Keep in mind these are going by Malaysian standards, which like the cigarettes, are stronger than those used in the EU and US.

No washer: Guy's telling the truth. Corollary: The person is not a politician.

One washer: A little PR bullshitting being used.

Two washers: Your lawyer's doing the talking

Three washers: "Oral sex is not adultery"

Four: Your lawyer's doing the talking, in circles. And you'vehired someone from a Public Relations firm

Five: Full Spin Cycle. Not even Johnny Cochran can save you from this mess, dude...

Event One: Nobody expects the Malaysian Inquisition! Especially at 2AM!

Meet Mr. and Mrs. Randal Barnhart. A retired Caucasian couple from the United States, they've decided to settle down in Malaysia. Were they trying to escape the ever numbing idiocy of the Bush-Dick duo? Doubtful, since Malaysia would least likely be a final destination for anyone fleeing the hairbrained antics of politicians.

Anyway, the Barnharts were rudely woken in the early hours by an unexpected visit... not from the Spanish Inquisition, but from some Islamic officials knocking violently on their apartment door. For those who don't know, Malaysia has a state-sanctioned Islamic Department that sees themselves fit to police the faith and morality of the local Muslims. Something like Saudi Arabia's muttaween, just not as extreme. Part of their work includes going door to door to Muslim households... busting unmarried couples as they go. Their jurisdiction fortunately doesn't apply to nonMuslims, especially Caucasians with the surname Barnhart. Well, upon seeing the very-white Randal who had opened the door after his repeated assertations that they were Christians, the goons must've been shocked to catch a very angry Mat Salleh instead of a Mat Ahmad. But instead of apologizing for the disturbance, they further demanded to "see his woman", and after getting an eyeful of his also-Caucasian wife clad only in a sarong, the goons next wanted to see their marriage cert. I won't be any more surprised if they next wanted the duo to recite the Lord's Prayer to prove they were really Christians, but I guess that would mean exposing themselves to 'kafir' and 'syirik' incantations. Which might mean they may start praising Jesus, Mary, or The Jesus And Mary Chain.

The next few days, the Tourism Ministry got wind of this and are now um... "looking into it". However, the State Religious Department instead turned on their washing machines, claiming their goons were following procedures during the raid. Yes, "we were following procedures..." says they...

Ahem, Memo to the theofascists... Always check beforehand who fucking lives there before you go in for a raid. You can't go around busting nonMuslims as friendly fire who do not fall under your jurisDicktion.

I'm reminded of a similar case where a friend from church was fined by the Selangor religious department for eating during Ramadhan. Although she was a nonMuslim Serani (those of Portugese descent), the theofascists still proceeded to write a summons even after viewing her IC. What the fuck?! Up today she refuses to settle the fine, (and it should remain so) as a little monument to the brainlessness of the religious officials.

Now I wonder if such abuses of power was highlighted only recently since it happened to a white Mat Salleh couple? How many nonMuslims have become "collateral damage" to these roving religious Kempetai, especially those who "look Muslim"?

As for the Barnharts, they've decided to abort their stay in Malaysia after being overwhelmed by such elements as fear and surprise. I'm sure their friends, associates, ex-colleagues, and relatives are keen on visiting Malaysia upon hearing their tales. Guess I can't really fault my pal from Minessota for her being afraid to visit our country...

I've decided to rate this 3 Washing Machines for the excuses coming out from the state of Kedah's religious dept.

Event Two: "Its 1984 already!" ~ Tun Dr. M

In the latest Livejournal drama between Malaysian Prime Minister Badawi and Mahathir, the latter has accused Badawi of turning Malaysia into a Police State. Also included are accusations that Chief Rempit No.1 @ First Son-In-Law has been receiving business favors. Well, hate to break it to you sir but Malaysia has already been a Police State since the late 70s, or mid-80s at latest. You're just a little 20 years late in your observations. The signs were alrea..... Hey, waaaait a minute! Isn't this the same Mahathir who I remembered, did the following?
  • Ordered Operasi Lallang where scores of social workers, politicians, activists, educators were arrested and detained (including ol-dinosaur Lim Kit Siang)
  • Detained various people under the ISA during his tenure. Criticize the government? Go To Jail. Do NOT pass go and collect RM200
  • Kicked out his dissenting deputy and just like in an Internet Forum (where you're called a fag if you disagree with some 13-year old boy on an online discussion) ... labelled him a homosexual with false charges of sodomy thrown at him.
  • Muzzled the press, controlled its editors, removed anyone who showed the slightest sign of disloyalty, and turned newspapers into his political attack dogs.
  • Helped foster an environment where corporate and political corruption thrived in Malaysia during the 80s to 90s, until in 1997 when the bubble burst.

A lame duck the present PM is, but I doubt folks will easily forget Dr.M's shenanigans above during his tenure. No one's allowed to criticize the PM, perhaps... but that was indeed the case when Mahathir was in power. Anwar, Salleh Abbas, and Old Dinosaur Lim found out the hard way. Hey, at least no one's gonna throw you into ISA like you did with hundreds of folks, and you can still keep your advisory positions...

4 Washing Machines. Malaysia mungkin mudah lupa, but we still remember.

Event Three: Dato. Zak's Palatial Palace of Pandamaran

Klang Bandar Di Raja is known to have one of the richest Municipal Councils in the state. Growing up there, I recall all those annual "beautification projects" repeatedly done always to spruce up the city, where healthy decorative plants, trees and flowers planted last year would be torn up again by the same ol landscaping contractor. However, little cash was spent to help address the ever rising crime rate, poor bus and taxi system, flooding risks in low-lying areas, and the holey roads that were blessed with Immaculate Potholes. Instead, we got:

  • The council building decorated to look like a casino, complete with a green-domed gazebo on the roof. I bet it houses a jacuuzi where the councillor can soak in with a bikini girl or three.
  • A food court built on the hulk of the old Fort Bridge, over the stinking Klang river. Now, I know Malaysians have this notorious trait of eating anywhere even in a crumbling filthy shophouse, but no one was willing to dine over a river polluted with sewage, industrial chemicals, and the occasional drowning/murder victim from upstream. So, the whole project was a waste... several million ringgit in all. Who the hell did they hire as our town planner?!
  • Several horses to... don't laugh... fight crime. RM 250,000 in all. Andrew Sia has a good article on this which he also published in The Star newspaper.
  • And various other pork-barrel projects for their contractors and supporters

Meet Dato Zakaria Md. Deros, the former Councillor of Klang now awaiting re-elec... I mean selection to another term in office. The former railroad crossing keeper and two other relations have been "chosen" to fill various posts in the city council. Tis the year of the in-laws. Not just that, it was also revealed that he had constructed a 4-floor mega McMansion in Pandamaran. Without approval. On government land that had been alienated to his wife. Oh boy!

Dato. Zak's McMansion, complete with penis extension on the roof.
Note: Single floor dwellings of the lowly rakyat of Klang in foreground
(pic from The Star Online)

Oh yea, did I mention he also had a separate satay restaurant built without approval? And illegally on state land?

Not pleased at Zak was the Sultan of Selangor, and he was summoned to explain such nonsense. Zak instead declined, citing health reasons but he was found to be taking a vacation over at his hideaway in Malacca . And any PR bullshitting Zak did was undone by his capos' and minions who assaulted a crowd of protesters that had gathered in front of his McMansion.

BrightEyes: It is claimed racial slurs were tossed about by Zak's minions. [1] [2]

Ok, this really PO-ed the Sultan and Don Zak was this time ordered to the palace where the Sultan had some advice for him. Frankly, the Sultan's advice to the Don could be put this way...

As for his illegal McMansion, the penalty is death... for the house, of course. You see, illegally built structures are by law supposed to demolished. But the Klang Council only tears down building extensions, houses, stalls, built by nobodies, not million buck castles built by Big Men. When confronted about what to do with the mansion, Selangor Chief Minister Dato Dr. Mohd Khir Toyo only had this to say:

“I have been told I must be fair; to act without fear or favour. If so, then these properties and building extensions are also subject to demolition,” Dr Khir told reporters yesterday.

“Such properties include temples and even the headquarters of political parties. If I go strictly by the book instead of taking into account public interest and racial harmony, imagine the outcry if I were to execute the demolition orders.”

Ah yes, a "friendly government" to the rakyat. Would you like some fabric softener before the next spin cycle Dato?

Perhaps Khir Toyo(l) is right. We shouldn't demolish the mansion. Thats a big waste of resources & manpower. Instead, lets take this suggestion from KC Lee, a reader of The Star; Seize the property and turn it to a library for the Pandamaran area. Speaking of libraries (or lack thereof) in Klang, do you know our present City Library is a tiny single floor building opposite the Convent School? I'm sure we could always have another one. Actually, we could have at least 4 total, serving the various areas and housing estates of Klang. Thats better than spending money on useless road decorations, horses, and that non-functional decorative wall by the Klang river.

5 Washing Machines over this pathetic wishy-washy attempt by these Selangor politicians.

PS: A attorney friend of mine was part of a legal team sent to negotiate with Klang council's top-brass. He mentioned that Zak was a very "interesting" character.

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